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May 2022

3 Ways Your Diet Impacts the Environment

You know that what you eat affects your health, but did you know that it can affect the health of the Earth as well?

Huge amounts of food are produced, processed, transported, consumed, and thrown away every day. Each part of this process puts a strain on our natural resources.

But you can take small steps to reduce food’s impact on the environment. Here are 3 ways your diet can impact the planet, and how you can take action:

Eating animal products

Meat is a staple of most diets, but its production is harder on Earth’s resources than any other food group, followed by dairy. Animal agriculture uses a lot of land and water and contributes to global warming via greenhouse gas emissions. And beef production has an even greater impact on the environment than other animal products.

What you can do: Cut back on beef and instead eat more plant-based protein sources—like beans, nuts, and whole grains—and other sources of animal-based protein like chicken and seafood. Doing so in combination with taking steps to reduce your food waste could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food production by up to 50%. 

Wasting food

Whether it’s the mystery leftovers you forgot about in the back of the fridge or extra produce you couldn’t eat before it went bad, you probably don’t think much about throwing away spoiled food.

But about one-third of food is thrown out every year around the world. In the U.S. alone, about 40% of food is wasted each year at an average of more than 20 pounds of food per person each month—and that has a big impact on the environment.

Cutting back on food waste conserves energy and reduces methane emissions from landfills. And as a bonus, wasting less food means you’ll be buying less food, which saves you money.

What you can do: Plan your meals at the start of each week. That way, you only buy what you can and will eat in a week. You can also donate any extra nonperishable items to your local food bank.

Eating too many calories

Consuming more calories than you need isn’t just bad for your health—it’s bad for the environment, too. When you eat fewer calories, you can reduce food waste while also reducing the amount of land needed to support food production. With healthy eating, you can improve your health and lose weight, which cuts back on healthcare resources and costs.

What you can do: Cut back on calories by eating more vegetables, fruit, and dietary fiber, rather than meat and processed foods.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2022
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.