Why Mostly Eating is a blog about people and planet

by admin on July 25, 2008 · 18 comments

Borlotti beans

Looking at my feed stats took me by surprise the other day (in a happy way). I was initially planning to post a message to say “Hi!” and “Welcome over”, lovely new readers. And then it struck me this was the
perfect opportunity to post a few thoughts about the threads that tie all of these sometimes seemingly random posts together.

For those of you who haven’t got to know me yet, I’m Sophie, a nutritionist working in Oxford, England. Not surprisingly there is a lot of talk about healthy eating on this blog. Glancing back at the last few posts on Mostly Eating we’ve talked about many nutrition related topics; baking healthier muffins, learning to love brussels sprouts and a healthy, fruity rhubarb and tofu recipe. But there’s another strand of thought behind all of this; I’m not just using tofu instead of pork belly because it is lower in saturated fat, but also so that I can afford to buy higher welfare standard pork on the odd occasions I do eat meat, and because eating less meat is kinder to our environment. I’ve learnt to love our homegrown brussels sprouts not just because they are packed with vitamin C but because they are indeed homegrown. And my healthy muffins ideas are just that; ideas to be adjusted by seasons and storecupboard.

Like many of us it was only a couple of years ago that we really started to shop for food in an environmentally conscious way. It was a bit of a shock after many years of happily filling my basket with healthy but air freighted fruits and vegetables.  I found it was incredibly difficult to find balanced information to help make the myriad of eco-decisions sparked by every trip to the shops. It was even more of a struggle to find a resource that presented “green” and “nutrition” side by side.  At that point the seed was sown that grew into this blog.

Mostly Eating sits neatly in a little gap that I have somewhere in between work and play. As a
profession many nutritionists deliberately steer away from discussions about food and the environment because eating in an environmentally conscious way is considered to be ‘a lifestyle choice’ and therefore outside of our remit. But the truth is that green issues are influencing how people eat just as much as their health concerns these days. From a professional practice point of view dietitians and nutritionists need to think about how these ethical beliefs affect what people choose to eat just as much as they pay heed to the more established reasons people give for choosing to follow a particular diet; veganism or specific religious diets for example. Maybe nutrition is coming full circle – at University us budding nutritionists are nearly all taught how the constraints of the environment impact on nutrition in the developing world; our teachers just never thought that this would start to apply to those of us whose countries are plagued by the archetypal nutrition problems of over supply such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

I’m fascinated by those areas where these two driving forces wholeheartedly agree or contradict each other. Happily the broad trend emerging is that what is nutritionally beneficial is also what is kinder to the environment. The most sustainable agricultural system seems to be largely plant based, with a variety of crops rather than a monoculture and a small amount of land given over to keeping animals. Broadly speaking, eating the produce of this agriculture would provide exactly the diet that large-scale nutritional studies are advocating to reduce the risk of major killers such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. But there are areas where the two are at odds with each other; oily fish might be very good for you but any ecologist will tell you that there are only so many fish in the sea, not to mention the trouble we would be in if everybody actually listened to us nutritionists and ate two portions a week.

The simple premise behind Mostly Eating is to think about what we eat in relation to what is good for us and what is good for the planet. There are no right and wrong choices in all this; in the end it is all down
to personal priorities. I’ll always try my best to present information in an even-handed way so that you can make up your own mind (OK, except perhaps when it comes to the chickens).

All of this is making Mostly Eating sound rather grand, but in reality each post is based on something practical to do – usually a tasty dish to make for dinner or a tip to help you choose what to eat.

So back to those “Hellos” again

  • Hi to anybody who came to check out Mostly Eating after reading about it in Kathryn’s fab article on Online Health in Wellbeing Magazine (issue 115 in the shops now if you are reading this from Australia)
  • A big hello to those of you who wandered over here from design sites Smiley Cat, CSS Drive and CSS Charm and decided to stay for a while. Don’t be shy now!


Jeremy July 25, 2008 at 09:18

Nice to see you tying it all together. One thing that intrigues me, where you say that eating the produce of a more mixed and more sustainable farming operation is likely to be healthier.
Do you think that eating “for the planet” as it were might do more for people’s health than all those five-a-day campaigns? As far as I can tell, their impact has been zero.
And when do you think that more nutritionists are going to promote diversity of diet for its own sake rather than because different things contain different quasi-magical active ingredients?

Sophie July 25, 2008 at 17:19

Hi Jeremy, thanks for the very thoughtful comment
The Five-a-day campaign has worked out a bit oddly – it is unusually successful in terms of the number of people who recognise the message, but er, I don’t think it has made many people eat many more vegetables. I suspect that you are right, there would be a certain type of person who would be much more motivated to eat better for the environment than for their own health (and then there are all the others who can’t be bothered to recycle *or* eat vegetables!).
There is a certain sector of nutritionists who promote a different superfood each week but I really hope they are in the minority. It’s sounding like dietary dversity is just as important for people and the environment!

nicole July 25, 2008 at 20:22

Hi Sophie! Just wanted to stop by and say how much I love your blog. The recipe’s are fantastic and the pictures always make me drool. I’ve been cooking for years but never with any purpose, just the easy stuff. In the last year I’ve been trying to lose weight the right way by healthy eating and I found all these wonderful food blogs that I never even knew existed. Yours is one of my fave’s. I’m a youngen, only 22, and I hope to one day be able to throw together a quick dinner that looks, tastes and is as earth friendly as much as yours. Thanks!

Elaine July 25, 2008 at 20:34

A very thoughtful, well-written post, Sophie, and thank you for tying the threads together. As a regular reader, I had come to the same conclusion about the integrity of your blog.
Consider me another nutritionist who shares your philosophy about a more encompassing definition of a “healthy” diet. (ie., It should do no harm to the Earth that sustains us as well as other flora and fauna.)
Wonderful photo, too. Did you grow the beans in your garden?

Johanna July 26, 2008 at 07:05

wholism seems to be a very trendy word at the moment – that you can’t just look at one part of life without recognising the effects on other areas. But in practice it is quite complex and hard to understand. This post gives some useful info to help think more wholistically.

Lucy July 27, 2008 at 23:25

Oooh, I think Jeremy’s on to something significant. Eating for the planet.
Great post, Sophie. A small reminder to me, also, why I began blogging in the first place.

Natalie Richmond July 28, 2008 at 17:52

Hi Sophie, I came across you whilst surfing the the net looking at what people were saying about food and I love what you’re saying. I just opened up a new place with Thierry Laborde called The Kitchen in Parsons Green, as we got so fed up trying to find a way to create everyday healthy meals without hours of time. Come and check us out, if you’re in town. Natalie.

shauna July 28, 2008 at 23:02

bloody brilliant philosophy sophie :)

sue July 29, 2008 at 00:04

Thank you for putting those thoughts out there so succintly.

Julie July 29, 2008 at 03:06

I’m a greenie who came across your blog via Darren Rowse’s profile-sharing experiment. I love that a nutritionist is looking into the eco-impacts of food, especially since what we eat is such a large part of our footprints. Also: that squash and chickpea salad looks tasty! Looking forward to reading more from you.

Sophie July 29, 2008 at 22:57

Hi Nicole – glad you are enjoying Mostly Eating and have found a few tips! Best of luck with your weight loss – it sounds like you have exactly the right approach
Elaine – I thought of you as I was writing this article! We’ve definitely got a similar take on what a healthy diet should encompass (now we just have to work on our a few of our colleagues!)
Thanks Johanna – yes, you’re right, wholism is trendy at the moment. It is an important concept but I think it makes it a little bit too easy for people to make sweeping statements that have little or no evidence to them
Agreed Lucy, Jeremy is on to something! I’ve wondered about this before myself – maybe we would have more success with an ecological rationale to promoting healthy food.
Thanks Natalie – I’m in London at the moment so will definitely try to make it over to you if I can fit it in
Ta Shauna and Sue!
Julie – thanks for dropping by and letting me know how you found me. Darren’s social media love-in was great fun – I found all kinds of new blogs

Annemarie July 31, 2008 at 21:19

Well said Sophie – it’s always encouraging to hear more and more people come out with thoughts you’ve come around to yourself.

lalaine August 1, 2008 at 16:09

Please…what are those beans called? Lovely colors!

Jessica August 1, 2008 at 20:13

Great post! I really wish more dietitians and nutritionists starting tying up what’s good for the planet as well as for our bodies, the way your blog does.
I definitely think it needs to start being addressed in our University classes. Very thought provoking! Thank you!

galleryfang August 5, 2008 at 08:50

Love love your blog. Great post :)

Tonya R August 16, 2008 at 10:51

I did a blog search this morning for “healthy wholegrain recipe” and discovered your yummy salad. I love wholewheat couscous – I’ll have to try this one out. I’m going to keep reading, I love what you’re all about. thanks.

Katherine Kwon August 18, 2008 at 22:32

Hi Sophie,
I think your blog is wonderful! I’m a registered dietitian in California working in the communications department for Bon Appetit Management Company, which is a food service company rooted in sustainable food sourcing. Many of the issues you describe (healthful eating for you and the planet) ring true with me on many levels. I have added your blog to Bon Appetit’s blogroll (www.bonappetit.typepad.com) so come visit us soon!

Oliver May 20, 2011 at 12:51

Yet another sensible informative and (responsible) thought provoking blog-thanks for that. I agree that balance and moderation in nutrition is the key for a healthy sustainable lifestyle (in addition to sensible exercising!) but unfortunately the media presence and food industry influences too many people into making potentially disastrous choices. ‘More is more’ and the wrong choices promoted to a time-poor audience results in the rise in major killers such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and obesity-related issues including syndrome X etc…Keep up the blog!

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