Child sitting at table with food
child with tomatos

Originally written by experts with Clif Bar


What is a Healthy, Sustainable Diet?

“Sustainability” runs deeper than just the information printed on the label. To truly impact the wellbeing of people and the planet, healthy, sustainable diets must embrace principles like the below:

  • Prioritizes a plant-based eating pattern
  • Is accessible and affordable for all eaters
  • Is culturally tailored
  • Emphasizes organic and/or sustainable ingredients
  • Values multiple stakeholders across the food system, treating people fairly and equitably
  • Restores vitality for people and planet

The bottom line? When considering sustainability, understanding a bit more about how a food is grown and made is just as important as where it fits on the plate.


How Do You Know if Foods Are Grown and Made in a Sustainable Way?

When it comes to our own kitchen, things like preparing meals from scratch, choosing in-season fruits and vegetables, and celebrating local foods are valuable steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle. But in those moments, you find yourself seeking convenient, portable nutrition, it’s also good to know that healthy, sustainable diets don’t have to be exclusively homemade or comprised of 100% whole foods to deliver meaningful benefits.

When choosing nutritious packaged foods that fit into a healthy, sustainable diet, here are a few things to look for:

  • Plant-based and whole food ingredients: The Nutrition Facts Label and ingredients list can be useful tools. Look for foods that feature plenty of whole, plant-based ingredients like whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables and/or provide key nutrients like protein and fiber.
  • Sustainable sourcing practices: Ingredient sourcing is another top consideration, and the good news is you don’t have to be an expert to be a catalyst for positive change. Look for companies making commitments around things like environmental, socioeconomic, and nutrition standards in the foods they craft. 
  • Third-party sustainability certifications: Certifications and seals can help consumers easily identify how foods or ingredients are sourced or produced. Some key certifications to look for are USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified and Fair Trade Certification.
  • Public commitments from brands you choose to buy often: Brand actions and values are far more important than marketing messages. Forward-leaning companies understand that sustainability goes beyond the food label; to truly regenerate people and the planet, making commitments around things like zero waste practices, green power, eco-friendly packaging, paying employees a living wage and supporting stronger policies are all key parts to building a healthier and more equitable food future.


How to Get Started? Overcoming Barriers & Tips for Success

Ready to get started? When it comes to putting sustainability into practice, 43% of the roundtable participants agreed affordability is a top concern, while 38% cited a lack of understanding of healthy, sustainable diets. And everyone agreed breaking new habits down into simple, easy-to-follow steps is key. When asked what really, really worked with their own clients or in their own communities, here’s what they shared.

  1. Shop Smart. In addition to loading up on plenty of plant foods, be picky about packaging. Look for products that use sustainable packaging, such as 100% recycled or compostable materials.
  2. Start Small. Change doesn’t have to be all or nothing to have real impact. Starting small may even help boost the odds you stick with it. Choose one meal, or one part of your daily eating routine to get started. How can you make it a bit more nutritious and sustainable? From switching up ingredients in your smoothie, to swapping to a different brand that matches your values, try to make at least one more sustainable choice each day. Remember, progress, not perfection is the key.
  3. Aim for Half. Eating a healthy, sustainable diet starts with plenty of plants. But here’s a pro tip: aim to fill at least half of your shopping cart and half of your plate with plants at meals and snack-time to really bring this to life. The bonus? Cultures from around the world have given us incredible examples of how we might make plant-forward not just fun, but deeply flavorful and relevant to our own stories.
  4. Personalize It. New habits can often feel hard or daunting, but making it feel personal to you is a secret to success. Have a favorite family recipe or cultural dish? Try a plant-based version of it! Finding swaps that replicate the experience or connection you crave is one of the best ways to make new habits last.
  5. Snack with Purpose. On average, about 24% of an adult’s total calories come from snacks, which explains why focusing on snacking is so important. When it comes to making choices that are better for people and the planet, look for snacks made with whole food ingredients and that have certifications such as USDA Organic or Rainforest Alliance Certified.


Originally posted by Clif Bar:

About Feed the Children

At Feed the Children, we feed hungry kids. We envision a world where no child goes to bed hungry. In the U.S. and internationally, we are dedicated to helping families and communities achieve stable lives and to reducing the need for help tomorrow, while providing food and resources to help them today. We distribute product donations from corporate donors to local community partners, we provide support for teachers and students, and we mobilize resources quickly to aid recovery efforts when natural disasters strike. Internationally, we manage child-focused community development programs in 8 countries. We welcome partnerships because we know our work would not be possible without collaborative relationships.

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