Energy Diet

The Flaws of a Sustainable Diet

This one is easy. We may get a new badge and all!

So, we buy organic, try to buy as much local fruits and veggies as possible and we follow a non-strict vegetarian and vegan diet. Our flaws are fish and seafood. Go figure why: Living on the Atlantic coast, it would be strange not to like fish… But more on that soon.

We have certain rules at home: no dairy, no broiler chickens or broiler chicken eggs and no ready-made meals. No take-out, also, but we allow ourselves to order a pizza once in a while… We love to cook and some time ago we took several vegetarian cooking courses.

Turning vegetarian is not just about not eating meat. You have to do it right. You have to know what you can substitute for meat and which are the best foods which provide iron, calcium and omega 3. Moreover, it has to be tasty. A plate full of vegetables doesn’t have to mean a sacrifice. On the contrary, it can be one of the best meals you ever had. So, we have learned how to cook tofu, seitan, tempeh and how to diversify our diet with seeds, seaweeds and cereals we hadn’t heard of before.

We seldom cook meat, but when we do, we buy grass-fed meat. The principle is not to eat meat of animals who suffered for all their short life. The only problem is when we are invited by friends or family members to eat with them and they have cooked a tasty broiler chicken. Although my first instinct is to politely refuse it, I think this chicken has already been killed for this meal and my refusal to eat it won’t resurrect it. But, of course, this is the mindset of a wannabe vegetarian, not an I-don’t-eat-meat-for-ten-years one. I’m open to criticism.

Now back to the cold cow: fish and seafood. One of the tasks we have ahead of us is to avoid or eliminate non-sustainable seafood. I carry a pocket guide on the forbidden species, according Atlantic standards, where most of our fish comes from. But I confess I still have a lot to do in that matter. Until recently, I never thought eating fish would have such a huge impact on the environment as it has, and that shellfish were not in the same “cute” category as mammals, so it would be ok to eat it.

But it all depends on the fishing method (well, there are endangered species which should not be caught at all!). Fish caught by trawling or other wild practices is the worst choice because of bycatch of unwanted and endangered species. Fish caught by hook-and-line would be great, but unless you have a fisherman in your family, I don’t see how you can get a cod caught in Iceland by hook-and-line nowadays…

Besides the sustainable seafood issue, we still miss a food-based garden. I don’t think our few pots of herbs qualify… We had, in the past tense, a lettuce plantation containing one lonely lettuce, and a bean tree growing attempt that was just that – an attempt.

So much for the Sustainable Diet badge. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? Our food choices are far more important and we still have a long, long way to go.

And, by the way, don´t forget to take your B12.


  1. Christina Nunez
    July 6, 2011, 11:17 am

    Monia, I felt the same way you did about fish — that it didn’t have as big of an impact — until I started getting into the sustainability issues and realized that choosing a low-impact fish to eat is much harder than one would think. I recently went to a talk where oceanographer Sylvia Earle basically argued that we shouldn’t be eating fish at all. I’m not sure I can go that far, but I’m trying to cut back a little…

  2. Monia
    July 6, 2011, 2:17 pm

    You might be right. Instead of thinking what kind of fish can we eat, we should think about not eating it at all… Reprogramming all our social and eating habits… If we can do it with meat, why should it be more difficult with fish?