We are in that time between Christmas and New Year's, that time after all the food has been had, the presents opened and the stress fizzled out. We finally have the opportunity to let our minds wonder, and consider how we would like the new year to be different. Maybe it's the excess Christmas pudding talking, but I wonder if losing those extra five or ten kilos has come up as a new year's resolution yet?
I seriously hope not.
Australians are eating an ultra-processed diet, lacking in nutrients and abundant in calories. Only one in seven people actually manages to reach their daily serve of veggies and almost 50% of the calories come from processed foods. Foods that are made in factories, often transported halfway across the world, available all year round with no regard for seasonality or carbon miles, then wasted at incredible rates, with high personal, social and environmental costs:
Households are responsible for the majority of Australian food waste (2.46 million tones), 70% of which was still edible. In the same year, over 2 million households in Australia (21%) have experienced severe food insecurity.
The amount of CO2 generated through food wasted is equivalent to the annual emissions from Australia's highest emitting coal-fired power station. It contributes to 3% of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Ultra processed foods are associated with a greater likelihood of obesity and metabolic syndrome in adults, as well as some respiratory conditions in adolescents. Higher consumption was also linked with a greater risk of depression and all-cause mortality in adults.
So, although the rate of obesity in Australia is quite high (2 in 3 adults) and nearly 5.5% of the population is living with diabetes - the leading cause for amputations, kidney failure, vision loss and heart disease - simply focusing on losing weight does not even start to address the real issue we are facing.
Thinking back on previous weight loss attempts, how much ultra processed food came onto the scene? Protein bars, slim shakes, veggie crisps... did it leave you any healthier?
I decided to write this manifesto as an environmentalist and a dietitian. My core belief is that the health and wellbeing of individuals, the community and the planet are all linked - and our daily choices matter in making this sustainable and healthy for all involved. To bring about change, it is my new year's resolution - both personal and professional - to work towards:
Zero food waste
Supporting local growers
Eating by the seasons
Consuming more (unprocessed) plants
Maintaining and promoting a positive relationship with food
Making informed decisions based on ethical and environmental concerns
Are you ready to change your world?