ON HEALTH AND SUSTAINABILITY: AN INTERVIEW WITH ROSEMARY STANTONI recently caught up with one of Australia’s best-known gurus on nutrition. With over 50 years’ experience, 32 books and over 3000 articles to her name, Rosemary Stanton knows a thing or two about clean living for your body and our planet. Here are some of her expert insights…
What changes have you noticed about food over the course of your career?
Unfortunately, we’ve changed our eating habits for the worse. The biggest changes are the way we eat, how often and what we eat. Food is now available everywhere, in places it previously wasn’t, such as service stations. We no longer eat at the table. Instead we now often eat in front of the screen, and our rushed lifestyles mean we often don’t even eat from a plate. There has also been a huge increase in junk food consumption. Vegetables are being crowded out – only four per cent of Australians eat the minimum recommended amount of vegetables. Packet snacks also crowd out fruit.
What has shocked you most?
We use up a huge amount of fertile land, energy, fertilisers and water to produce junk food that makes people fat!
What are the key linkages between health and sustainability?
In a nutshell, a sustainable diet involves more plant-based food, less packaging and much less food waste. Up to 25 per cent of greenhouse gases come from the production of what we eat and drink. 40 per cent of household waste is made up of food, which is bad because it generates methane – the most powerful greenhouse gas.
Food knowledge is imperative to sustainability; this is about discovering how, when and where food is grown. Skills such as cooking, shopping right and gardening can improve health and reduce waste.
What are some of the solutions?
We need more school, community and home/balcony gardens, as well as fruit or nut street trees and verge gardens. They simultaneously tackle climate change, better food knowledge and health. Access to gardens increases children’s willingness to eat more vegetables and school kitchen gardens improve acceptance and enhance cooking skills in primary school children.
Eating dinner at the table is also very important for all. It has a positive impact on a child’s development as it’s where they learn to share. It also helps develop language skills through table conversation, which you won’t get in front of the screen.
Composting and worm farms are also solutions for food waste.
What impact is packaging having on us and our environment?
Packaging is a huge issue with 65 per cent of all packaging coming from food and drink items. This is usually for packaged snacks, fast food and soft drinks, which are all bad for our health. Packaging makes up 72 per cent of litter, and ends up in our waterways and in landfill. Unfortunately for coastal areas, a lot of the packaging, plastic bags and bottles end up in the ocean too, destroying our local environment.
What are your top three tips for what we can do to reduce waste and improve our health?
Eat fresh unprocessed produce, reserve junk food for occasional use, and use and grow food in gardens.
Waverley Council provides water fountains to reduce plastic bottles, and supports verge and community gardens. Head to www.waverley.nsw.gov.au for locations and more information.