Save the world and lose weight

Judith Wills / 06 February 2015

Diet and wellbeing blogger Judith Wills considers a recent report that links obesity and climate change, and wonders what we should be doing about it.

The new report from the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change indicates that the least environmentally friendly people in our country are obese beef-eaters.

Why? Because the obese, by definition, consume more calories than they need for healthy survival, therefore creating more strain than their svelte cousins on global food production, energy consumption and land use. And those who are not only fat but also consume a lot of red meat – particularly beef - can feel doubly guilty because to produce a kilo of beef needs four times more land than the production of a kilo of chicken, and sixty times the amount of land for kilo of fruit, veg or grain.

As a slightly overweight person who enjoys red meat three or four times a week, I guess I should be feeling ashamed of myself, then. Could do better, my ECC report would read. Shouldn't have had the Spag Bol last night.

If we Brits ate 40% less red meat and stuck to no more than 2,100 calories a day, say the authors of the report, we'd be doing the planet a real favour.

And of course, we could also abandon the car and walk or cycle to work and the shops, thus saving even more carbon emission and burning more lovely human calories.

What's not to like? Save the world and get ourselves slim and fit at the same time.

The trouble is, people by and large hate being dictated to by anonymous Government departments, whether it's on smoking, how much exercise we should take, or whether we should eat that nice large rib-eye steak tonight or a meagre brown rice and kale salad instead.

We want our freedom to do what we want, when we want and damn the consequences, as long as it's legal.

My heart agrees – but I still wonder if it might be better to make an effort now, of our own free will, rather than leave it all until our leaders both here in the UK and across the globe decide that what and how much we eat – and where and how much we use private vehicles come to that – should be subject to new restrictive laws.

If we don't fancy the idea of actual real Food Police, maybe we should take the initiative and start loving those meat-free meals. Some of them can be quite lovely, actually. Oh, and don't forget, like I always tell you. Small portions. That's the key to everything, almost.

Ate for lunch:

Quick planet-saving salad

To serve two, open a 250g pack of ready-cooked bulgar wheat, quinoa and chickpea salad (e.g. Sainsburys do one in a long-life pack) and decant into a bowl.

Stir in 1 dessertspoon of sesame seeds, a couple of chopped spring onions or 1 small red onion, 3 tbsp cooked edamame beans (which are fresh green soya beans and are quite nice - you can buy them frozen by Birds Eye) and a few chopped fresh herbs such as mint and parsley if you have any.

In summer you could add fresh tomatoes, but you need to eat in season if you're going to be in true saving planet mode. I chopped in some radishes – they are root vegetables after all, which can be grown here in a mild winter.

Make a dressing by whisking together 2 tbsp olive oil, the juice of half a small lemon, 1 tbsp hummus, black pepper, salt to taste. Combine with the salad and serve.

While eating, do not start a discussion with your partner about whether or not it would have been more planet-friendly to cook the bulgar wheat and quinoa and chickpeas from scratch, and whether frozen beans are OK or whether tinned ones would have been better. You will never agree and it will ruin the meal. It did ours.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.