Inspiring lifestyles

Learning to eat in a more sustainable way

By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant

The world is changing in positive ways. For example, many people were moved by natural historian David Attenborough’s hard-hitting message in the BBC television series, Blue Planet 2, in which he revealed the extent of plastic waste in our oceans.

Sir David was very clear as to what he wanted to say: We must stop polluting our oceans with plastic because it is seriously harming ocean wildlife. Fish are consuming toxic amounts of micro-particles and the people eating the fish are being affected too.

As a result, it would seem important for each of us to take a long, hard look at our own plastic consumption and what we can do about it – something that can feel difficult when fair trade organic bananas (and many other items) come shrink-wrapped in non-recyclable plastic.

But the good news is there are other packaging options available that are better for the environment. Normal petro-chemical plastic does not degrade at all, and even so-called ‘degradable’ plastic is not great as it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of the same toxic stuff.  

Biodegradable plastic, which is often made from plant-based materials, is better, although it may still take years to disintegrate too. So your best bet is compostable plastic, which actually biodegrades in your compost heap. 

Now that Sir David has sounded the alarm though, a lot of big companies are starting to look at how they can catch up with demand from supermarkets and fast food chains to start using natural, non-harmful packaging. So there is a powerful opportunity for positive change on the horizon.

Because if our children are going to live on a healthy planet, it is vital that we embrace more sustainable approaches. To do so, we need to ask ourselves a few basic questions:

  • Where does my food come from?
  • What practices are employed to create this food? For example, what chemicals have been used to grow it, what energy and resources were required in using the necessary farm machinery, what food miles did it rack up?
  • What un-recyclable or un-reusable materials were used in the packaging and transportation of this food?
  • Are there more sustainable ways to provide for our food needs?
basket of vegetables

Sustainable, locally-sourced food

The answer to the last question is a resounding ‘yes’. For example, transporting food around the world is a large contributor to global pollution levels, but home-produced or locally-sourced food has low, or even zero, food miles.

As for the issue of sustainable food production and packaging, there are solutions, as I made sure today’s recipe demonstrates. Most of the ingredients came in an organic veg box from Moyns Park Organics in the upper Stour Valley on the Essex/Suffolk border. The packaging consisted of paper only and the food travelled a mere six miles to get to me. 

I also used herbs and a bay leaf from the garden. Maldon Sea Salt, which added some flavour, came from just down the road and the veggies and spices were fried in East Anglian rape seed rather than coconut oil, saving a few thousand food miles in the process. 

But it was when I was looking for protein that I nearly came unstuck. As a vegan, I do not partake of produce from large-scale animal farming, which uses vast amounts of land, water and energy resources. But nuts and seeds are a good substitute as they add essential nutrients and a creamy flavour. 

In looking at their places of origin on the packaging though, I found the following: The hemp seeds came from Romania, the pecan nuts from South Africa and the hazelnuts from Turkey. Which meant that none of them would do for this particular recipe. 

But I remembered that, during a late summer outing, I had bought some walnuts from near the gate of a local garden.  They were still in good shape six months on and so went straight into the soup to complete a locally-sourced, sustainable meal.  

A small confession though – I did add an admittedly optional tablespoon of curry powder and a chilli brought back in a suitcase after my trip to India, but hopefully that does not amount to too much cheating.

Vegetable soup

Local winter soup

2 parsnips  

1 large potato

1 leek

1 onion

1 garlic clove

1 cup of cabbage

1 chilli

1 tsp sea salt

1 tbs rapeseed oil

1 bay leaf

1 litre of hot water

½ cup of hulled walnuts

herbs to garnish

Finely chop all of the ingredients. Heat the oil and fry the leeks, onion, chilli and cabbage with the salt for a few minutes. Add the water and other ingredients, and simmer for at least 30 minutes or until ready.

Juliette Bryant

Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.

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Why go organic?

agriculture basket beets bokeh
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

By Juliette Bryant, nutritional consultant.

A couple of years ago, colonic hydrotherapist Esther McCulloch contacted me about her vision of creating a pioneering centre that combined food and wellbeing. With my help, she launched the Primrose Juice Bar & Naturopathic Centre in Chelmsford.

One of the important considerations that attracted me to this project was that Esther wanted all of the produce sold in her shop to be organic. When pregnant with my first child 13 years ago, I had started to look more closely at the food I was eating. I was growing a little being inside me that would be affected by what I consumed. From that point on, whenever possible, I have eaten organic food.

But what are the benefits? Is it healthier? Why do most farmers use artificial pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers? Hasn’t the spectre of DDT pesticides faded into the past now? Surely agricultural chemicals have to be tested and safe? What about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) – are they toxic in terms of long-term health?

I have been investigating these questions for some time. My research has included studying Environmental Science at Writtle College, living and working on a conventional farm, growing fruit and veg myself, and talking to experts. So let’s explore some of the issues.

Leading authority on natural health Dr Joseph Mercola writes: “People have been led to believe that industrial farming is the only way to feed the skyrocketing population. Farmers turned to genetically modified organisms to ‘improve’ the quantity and quality of their crops. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where thousands of animals are housed in constricted quarters, have also become the norm.

But although GMOs and CAFOs “make livestock and crops cheaper, while giving farmers higher profits”, Mercola questions “at what cost?” “Widespread pollution, drug-resistant diseases, nutrient deficiencies and animal cruelty are just some of the costs associated with cheap and low quality meat and crops,” he says.

Contrast this statement with that of local producer Phil Mizen from Moyns Park Organics in the upper Stour Valley on the Essex and Suffolk border, who points out: “Growing organically is not a methodology. It’s a philosophy, a way of life. For me, it’s about respecting the soil and the wider environment, while producing nutritious and tasty vegetables in a sustainable way.”

Ecology
Ecology

Ethical growing

Mizen also cites US philosopher and ecologist Aldo Leopold, who once said: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Another local business that follows the organic food philosophy is the Cradle vegan bakery and café in Sudbury. Its take on the subject is that: “Our mission is to produce delicious food grown by ethical growers whose methods encourage healthy soils and biodiversity.” And given how packed their café is, their customers certainly appear to like it.

Esther takes a similar line at Primrose Juice Bar. “We have a sign that says: ‘Don’t panic, we’re organic’, she says. “We firmly believe that everything we take into our body should have a beneficial effect on our whole being.”

She also points out that in her professional work, she has seen the negative effects that eating a conventional diet can have on people’s health. “Consuming organic produce and goods gives us the best chance of a healthy, more fulfilling life. And it is better for the planet too,” Esther says.

Here are also a few statistics that you may find interesting:

Put another way, the message is: ‘When possible, go organic.’

Vegan curry
Vegan curry

Recipe

My 10-veg organic curry:

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

1 chilli

1 tbs of coconut oil

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp garam masala

½ teaspoon of salt

cup of tomatoes

2 cups of cooked vegetables eg red split lentils, sweet potato, carrots

1 cup of fresh vegetables eg courgettes, broccoli, peppers, kale

1 cup of ground almonds

1 cup of hot water

Sautee your onion, crushed garlic clove and chilli in a pan with the coconut oil. Next add the curry powder, garam masala and salt and mix well. Stir in your tomatoes
 and simmer for five minutes. Blend the ingredients together to make a masala sauce.

Add in your cooked and fresh vegetables, before adding the ground almonds and hot water. Mix all of the ingredients together and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Serve with rice and salad.

Juliette Bryant

 

 

 

 

Juliette Bryant is an author, nutritional consultant, superfood chef and presenter who runs courses, talks, workshops and retreats around the world. Her passion is helping people to thrive by showing them how to make delicious and healthy food. Juliette runs a busy practice providing nutritional consultations to individuals and businesses worldwide.

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