The way food is produced, distributed, and eaten plays an important role in our health, our society, and our environment.

As societies have urbanized, there has been a shift from more traditional eating patterns (plant-focused) to a more “Western diet” (focused on animal protein), typically followed in high income countries like Canada. This change in diet pattern is not only affecting our environment but also our health.  

There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that moving towards sustainable diets doesn’t only provide health benefits related to reduced mortality and chronic disease risk, but also have the potential to reduce negative impacts on our environment.  

Ready to Start Eating a Sustainable Diet?  

The food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines sustainable diets as “…those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable, nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy, while optimizing natural and human resources”.  

You don’t have to go full vegetarian or vegan to have a positive impact on our planet!  Remember, it is not about restricting intake of meat products and suffering through the process. It is about minimizing animal products but keeping them in your diet – think of it as a flexitarian dietary pattern! Now you may be asking, where do I begin? And we’ve got a SMART way to start off.  

Setting “SMART” goals is a great way to make sustainable positive change.  

“SMART” stands for goals that are:  

  • Specific 
  • Measurable  
  • Achievable  
  • Relevant 
  • Time-bound 

Here are 3 “SMART” goals to inspire you:   

  1. Animal products require much more agricultural land use and freshwater consumption than non-animal products. Interested in minimizing your meat consumption? Try planning your meals around plant-based proteins more often.
    • Try this goal:  I will switch meat proteins with plant-based proteins such as legumes, lentils, or tofu, at least once a week.  
  2. Fruits and veggies produce lower greenhouse emissions than animal products. Interested in increasing your veggie intake?
    • Try this goal: I will make sure one half of my plate is filled up with vegetables at each meal, at least one day each week.
  3. Non-refined cereals generally require less resources to produce than refined ones. Interested in increasing your whole grain intake?
    • Try this goal: I will include more whole grains such as whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, buckwheat, quinoa and oats, at least once a week.  


Bottom line

Being mindful of our eating habits and by trying to adopt a varied and balanced diet, we can promote our health while reducing our environmental impact. 


(1) Aleksandrowicz, Lukasz et al. “The Impacts of Dietary Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Health: A Systematic Review.” PloS one vol. 11,11 e0165797. 3 Nov. 2016, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0165797  

(2) “Plate and the Planet.” The Nutrition Source, 7 July 2021, 

(3) “Population and Environment: A Global Challenge.” Curious, 7 Nov. 2017, 

(4) “Shifting to Sustainable Diets.” United Nations, United Nations, 

(5) “Towards more sustainable diets Last Updated : 19 April 2018. 19 April 2018, 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 in ,
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