Christina Karlsson is one of the experts helping the Lindell family to eat right. She is a dietician and health expert at supermarket chain ICA, working together with chef Leif Grönlund to produce climate-smart yet healthy recipes. We had the chance of a chat just before she departed for Mora to distribute nuts and dried fruit to the exhausted cross-country Vasalopp skiers.
When the Lindell family were selected for One Tonne Life, you reviewed their diet so that the Chalmers University of Technology could calculate a base value for their food-related carbon emissions. How did you do that?
“I spent three days watching what the family ate, two weekdays and one Saturday. The data I acquired formed the baseline for the family’s carbon emissions. It turned out that they eat quite well, they do not need to make any major changes from the health viewpoint, although from the viewpoint of climate we’ll be teaching them a few things on the way. It’s all about small changes that are climate-smart but that also benefit them, for instance eating less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fat. I noticed, for instance, that they always eat cheese in their sandwiches. If they replace cheese with mackerel they’ll be eating both more healthily and more climate-smart.”
How healthily does the average Swede eat?
“The average Swede eats far too much meat, far too few vegetables, and far too little Swedish produce. Both as regards climate and health. Swedes eat a lot of meat, more than 80 kg per person and year. Fish consumption is much lower.”
You recently wrote about meat in one entry on One Tonne Life. How problematic is meat really, from the climate perspective?
“It is largely about shifting from high meat consumption to a more moderate level, at the same time as we increase the proportion of pulses and vegetables we eat, preferably seasonal. We do not advise people to stop eating meat, but rather to think about what meat they are choosing. Meat from animals that chew the cud is at the very top of the climate-impact index. If we choose meat from these animals, we should consider buying meat from animals that fulfil multiple roles, for instance Swedish cows that are also milk producers.”
How about free-range meat?
“With free-range meat we are talking primarily about open fields and biodiversity. If we want to preserve our open landscape then this is the meat we should buy.”
Is it climate-smart to eat sweets?
“Sugar-beet cultivation is not actually such a bad thing, so long as it takes place in Sweden. Having said that, we’re not really built for shovelling the large quantities of sugar into our bodies that we are in the habit of doing. We simply don’t need their fast energy, which speeds us up and perhaps causes us to make poor decisions. I have a feeling that in the long run, what isn’t good for our bodies also isn’t climate-smart.”
Do you have any special tips you’d like to share?
“Buy frozen vegetables in the winter! We’re used to being able to buy fresh vegetables all the year round. That’s not particularly good for the climate. A lot is thrown away because we don’t cook it in time, and a red or green pepper that has been transported from overseas will have lost some of its nutritional value. Frozen vegetables are more nutritional and they are frozen while they are at their very best.”