Good for you - and the planet

British chef Anna Jones. Photo: Matt Russell
British chef Anna Jones. Photo: Matt Russell
While British chef Anna Jones may have always encouraged eating more plants, in her latest book she is also urging people to change the way they shop, eat and cook to help save the planet.

In One: Pot, Pan, Planet, Jones says eating a mostly plant-based diet and ensuring the food you buy does not go to waste are the most impactful things people can do to help save the planet.

As well as her usual flavoursome recipes, Jones includes information on some of the challenges people face when it comes to the connection between food, our bodies and the planet.

THE BOOK
One: Pot, Pan, Planet, by Anna Jones, published by HarperCollins, RRP $54.99
THE BOOK One: Pot, Pan, Planet, by Anna Jones, published by HarperCollins, RRP $54.99
In this edited extract she looks at health and sustainability.

"Sometimes we make eating more complicated than it needs to be. The section of the Venn diagram where food, health and sustainability intersect, where we would all like to be, can seem impossible to reach. But when it comes to food, common sense is more useful than we realise.

"I have long been an advocate of a diet of seasonal fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, pulses and legumes, and a healthy scattering of treats. But now, a landmark study by Oxford University has proven that this is the best way to eat, for our health as well as for the planet.

While studies like these are really helpful as a guide, it’s important to take an interest in the products you’re buying, as there is much more to consider. Consider the following questions: Am I eating too much of one thing? Where is this food from? Was it produced responsibly?

Much of the power we have to affect the climate crisis, and our health and wellbeing, comes from the food choices we make. Another study by Oxford University on the multiple environmental aspects of food and health has linked the two, finding that healthy foods are almost always best for the environment, as well as best for us. That study found that poor diets threaten society by seriously harming people and the planet. Hopefully, this research can help inform better choices.

The researchers assessed the health and environmental impacts of 15 foods common in Western diets and found fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains were best for both avoiding disease and protecting the climate and water resources. Conversely, eating red and processed meat excessively causes the most ill-health, emissions and pollution.

There were a small number of foods that bucked the trend, however. Fish is considered by some a healthy choice but has a bigger environmental footprint on average than plant-based diets. High-sugar foods - such as biscuits and sweetened drinks - have a relatively low impact on the planet but are bad for health.

So while environmental measures such as our carbon footprint and water use are important in considering food choices that are better for environmental health, we need to take a common-sense approach and create a balance of foods that benefit our own health, too.

Of all the foods studied, a daily serving of processed red meat is associated with the largest increase in risk of mortality and incidences of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and strokes.

Ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods are foods that are altered so much that it can be hard to recognise the underlying ingredients. Made from cheap vegetable oils, flours, whey proteins and sugars, they are whipped up into something more appetising with the help of industrial additives and emulsifiers.

Ultra-processed foods (or UPFs) now account for more than half of all the calories eaten in the United Kingdom and the United States, and other countries are catching up fast.

Some UPFs, such as sliced bread or shop-bought cakes, may not seem ultra-processed to us. And that’s why most of us do not get through the day without consuming a UPF.

Here are some examples of UPFs: your morning bowl of cereal or a pot of flavoured yoghurt; crisps, blueberry muffins or vegan hot dogs; a canned diet drink or a protein bar. When eaten on their own, once in a while, these foods are perfectly fine. But evidence now suggests that diets heavy in UPFs can cause overeating and obesity.

What to take from all this information?

I think it’s pretty much where I started at the beginning: eating is complicated. I try to eat as wide a range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, flours, pulses and sweeteners as possible, thus maximising the variety of flavours, colours and nutrients that my body is exposed to.

It’s like betting on every horse in the race and it helps to support smaller farms and organic producers and helps support biodiversity, too.

Things we can do

I want to make it clear that while I eat healthily almost always, I also feel strongly that eating is one part of our brilliantly fallible humanness. So there is always a place for a trashy chocolate bar or a bag of chips.

Despite the trend-bucking exceptions I have mentioned above, the same dietary changes — eating more vegetables, legumes, whole grains — that could help reduce the risk of diet-related diseases could also help us meet crucial sustainability goals.

There used to be a little stall near my house which made these pancakes at the market every Sunday. It has disappeared or migrated to another market, so I resolved to make them myself. These vegetable-packed pancakes are made with rice and chickpea flour, miso and ginger and have a killer dipping sauce. I tend to make them as larger pancakes so everyone gets one each, but you could make them smaller if you prefer.

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied

Korean carrot and sesame pancakes

Serves 4

a small, white cabbage (about 350g)

a small bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced

1 small carrot, peeled and grated

2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

a small bunch of coriander, mint or Thai basil, or a mixture, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp kimchi, roughly chopped (optional)

Batter

200g chickpea flour

1 Tbsp rice flour or cornflour

2 tsp white miso paste

2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped

a small thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce

coconut or vegetable oil, for frying

Dipping sauce

2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce

the zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lime

1 Tbsp chilli oil (depending on the heat of your chilli oil)

To serve

togarashi seasoning

Method

Using a food processor fitted with a slicer attachment, a mandoline or just your knife, shred your cabbage and spring onions. Tip the lot into a large mixing bowl with the grated carrot and the toasted sesame seeds, most of the chopped herbs (reserving a few for later) and the chopped kimchi, if using.

Put all the batter ingredients, except the oil, in a food processor with 300ml of cold water, with the blade attachment fitted, and pulse until the batter is combined, or beat together in a mixing bowl. Pour over the top of the vegetables and mix well. Let your batter rest for 30 minutes, if you can, but if you haven’t got time don’t worry.

Mix the dipping sauce ingredients together with 1 tablespoon of cold water in a small bowl.

Put a small, heavy-based frying pan (about 20cm) over a medium-high heat, add a little coconut or vegetable oil to the pan and a ladleful of batter. This recipe makes 6-8 pancakes, and each should be about the thickness of a $2 coin (about 3mm). Use the back of a spoon to spread it out to the edges if needed. Cook each pancake for 2-3 minutes — until golden underneath and there are bubbles on the top — then flip. The pancakes should be golden brown and the vegetables should be just cooked but still keep some bite.

Serve topped with a little togarashi seasoning and the remaining herbs and dipping sauce on the side.

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied

Miso and caramelised banana rice pudding

 

Rice pudding is the Marmite of desserts: I don’t think there is a pudding that splits opinion more. This rice pudding is cooked like a risotto rather than baked, and it is flavoured with a rich banana caramel which is a hit with a bit of miso. You could leave the miso out if it’s too much of a stretch, or just use a teaspoon of soy in its place: it adds a salty sweetness — think salted caramel.

Serves 4

3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed

100g soft light brown sugar

300g white pudding rice

1 star anise

2 cardamom pods, split open with the side of your knife

800ml oat milk or any milk of your choice

1 tsp vanilla extract or paste

1 tsp sweet white miso paste

juice and zest of an unwaxed mandarin or clementine

To serve

100g toasted sesame seeds

Method

Put the mashed bananas and soft brown sugar into a medium-sized lidded pan over a medium heat and cook for 5-7 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and caramelised. Keep stirring until thick and glossy.

Remove 4 tablespoons of the banana caramel and set aside for later.

Add the rice to the pan and stir through the banana caramel for a couple of minutes. Add the spices, milk and vanilla extract or paste and bring to the boil. Once boiling, place a lid on the pan and simmer gently for 25 minutes, stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick.

Mix the miso and reserved banana caramel with the juice and half of the zest of the mandarin or clementine and combine until you have a thin, glossy caramel.

Once the rice is cooked, divide it between warm bowls, swirl the miso caramel through each one, and top with toasted sesame seeds and the rest of the zest.

 

 

 

 

Comments

Excellent article. The author does a great job in summarising what is good and healthy for us and the planet.

 

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