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How to make sustainable food choices

Plant-based chef and author of The 7-day Vegan Challenge Bettina Campolucci Bordi tells us how our food choices can be kinder on the planet...

How to make sustainable food choices

Over the years, I have had many clients that have wanted to make the switch to eating a more plant-based diet, but not known where to start. The 7-day Vegan Challenge is a book for them. It has recipes that are easy, fuss-free but still yummy, and they encourage people to cook from scratch to nourish themselves quickly and easily. I have tried to cover every angle in terms of taste, and made sure that it’s not about deprivation.

I started cooking at a very young age, and grew up in different countries where the mecca of good produce and local sourcing were important, and that has always stuck with me. When I started my plant-based journey eight years ago, it was a turning point: I discovered my passion for seasonality, fresh foods, supporting local and organic farmers, and creating a colour palette on people’s plates.

A good dish doesn’t have to be complicated – using good-quality ingredients can highlight different flavours and textures on their own, which saves you having to add unnecessary ingredients. Cooking from scratch helps you to not only create a tastier dish, but also to connect with your ingredients. Keeping a well-stocked pantry with a variety of grains, pulses, chopped tomatoes and good spices is also key.

Seasonal food tastes better – end of. Anything that is grown in season will taste naturally delicious, with the added benefit of being at its optimum nutrition. There’s also a sort of charm to eating yourself silly with strawberries during the strawberry season, or asparagus, which is another favourite, and then having to wait a whole year until that season comes around again. It allows you to appreciate the natural beauty of an ingredient at its prime, and then encourages you to experiment with different ingredients during their season.

When it comes to living a compassionate life and reducing your carbon footprint, it’s not all black and white – being just vegan is not enough. You can essentially be vegan and live off imported crisps and Oreos. To fully be involved in creating a smaller carbon footprint, it is important to support and source products from brands or suppliers that not only practise good farming methods that nurture our soils, but are actively helping to encourage the flourishing of local ecosystems.

We need to change the way we are treating the environment, and one of the things we can do is to make better food choices. I hate to put labels on things, which is why I think it’s more important to make these conscious decisions, such as choosing local, seasonal and organic (where possible) produce, as well as making vegetables the hero of the plate. Whilst I will always encourage people to incorporate plant-based meals into their week, I like to have a flexible approach so that nobody feels discouraged for not following the rules 100% of the time. If we look at our consumption as a whole and are able to peel off a few layers, then I think there’s hope for a better and more sustainable future.