Not everyone realizes that sustainable diets are about helping the planet — ScienceDaily

A new study has found that young Brits would be willing to switch to a more sustainable diet, but a lack of understanding of what this really means has prevented many from doing so.

Many people are also undecided about what changes they should make.

Sustainable diets are defined by the UN as “diets with low environmental impact that contribute to food and nutritional security and wellness for present and future generations”.

Previous research has suggested that 20-30% of environmental impacts in Europe and the UK are caused by our diets, including impacts from food production, processing and retailing. It is also now widely accepted that the consumption of meat and animal products typically has a higher environmental impact than plant-based foods.

“When thinking about how to live more sustainably, people seem to understand that this could mean flying less, driving less, recycling more, but not everyone seems to realize the difference that changing their diet can also make. Bournemouth University Professor of Psychology, who led the research. Katherine Appleton explains:

For this new study, researchers from Bournemouth University interviewed twenty-one people, mostly young adults, from various households and with different cooking responsibilities, from cooking for everyone in the household to living with others who cook all the meals for them.

They were asked various questions about their understanding of a sustainable diet and their willingness to make changes.

The findings were published in the journal appetitefound that many participants did not know or were too sure of what a sustainable diet was, and some did not even consider the environment or the planet at all.

Participants were unclear about what would make their food choices more environmentally sustainable. When it came time to make changes to their diet, participants explained that they would be willing to do so to help the environment, but there was considerable uncertainty about what changes they should make.

There was particular interest in making small and easy changes – for example, eating less meat but not cutting it out completely, and being prepared to pay a little more for it, but not significantly more.

The research team recommends that more work is needed to increase public awareness of what a sustainable diet consists of and how people’s food choices can affect the environment and global food security.

“We were surprised by our findings. We initially aimed to look at how we could encourage people to eat more of foods like beans and legumes, but we discovered that people still don’t know enough about why this is important. Increasing their consumption of certain foods goes too far for many,” explained Professor Appleton.

“We need to provide more awareness and information about how changes in eating habits can help the planet, but also offer some recommended changes that are acceptable and likely to be acted upon,” he added.

The researchers conclude that it would be valuable to focus on the likely impact and personal benefit and increase the public’s availability and accessibility to sustainable diets, but it would also be necessary to consider consumer preferences and capabilities.

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materials provided by University of Bournemouth. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.

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