Editor’s Spot: Sustainable Food Systems
By Judith Riddle
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 24 No. 7 P. 6

The need to develop sustainable food and water systems and practices to improve human and planetary health and combat climate change continues to intensify. Sustainable food systems that focus less on agricultural food production (eg, meat, poultry, dairy) and ultraprocessed foods and more on nutrient-dense plant-based diets that are more environmentally friendly and healthful to humans and the planet is the direction in which global initiatives and food producers are moving.

Shifting global dietary patterns from high animal consumption to sustainably grown whole plant foods potentially can lessen chronic disease (eg, diabetes, CVD) and environmental burdens such as greenhouse gas emissions, air and land pollution, and food waste. The Mediterranean, DASH, EAT-Lancet, and healthy vegetarian diets have been shown to decrease chronic disease while supporting sustainability.

Since sustainability is essential to nutrition and dietetics practice, sustainable food systems training is being incorporated into dietetic internship curricula for the next generation of RDs. Seasoned dietitians in various roles are helping the cause by educating themselves about sustainability, spreading the word about its importance, and incorporating its principles into daily practice. They’re educating patients on how food production and food choices impact nutrition, undernutrition, obesity, and climate change. They’re procuring sustainable products in foodservice, assessing foods for nutrition quality in clinical settings, connecting people in need with community resources, evaluating packaging and ingredient sourcing in business and industry, and working to reduce food waste to help eliminate hunger. According to Feeding America, the largest food rescue organization in the United States, 108 billion pounds of food are wasted each year in America, which equals 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion. This organization works with farmers, retailers, and manufacturers to decrease food waste and get rescued food to those in need.

One of the ways food manufacturers are reducing food waste and impacting climate change is through upcycling, the innovative process of transforming the surplus of food byproducts (ie, the leftover materials that usually are discarded after making the intended product) into ingredients used to create high-quality, nutritious foods and beverages. To learn more about upcycling, what it entails, and the availability of certification, turn to “Upcycling Innovations,” on page 28.

Also in this issue are articles on the whole-foods plant-based diet debate, natural brown sugars and syrup sweeteners, the link between RED-S and eating disorders, and curbing cancer in older adults.

Please enjoy the issue!

— Judith Riddle, Editor