Hake: a megafood to teach children to eat a healthy and sustainable diet

The definition of sustainable development described in the Brundtland report states that it consists of “meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the possibilities of future generations to meet their own needs”. In short, we must leave a legacy that, taking the best of our culture and traditions, envisions a prosperous and effortless future.

Food, what and how to eat, is a fundamental pillar for establishing healthy and environmentally friendly habits in future generations. As is logical and natural, during childhood and youth, the concept of life time is relative and not a priority in decision-making.

Introducing the prioritization of healthy foods in the eating habits of children and young people is more difficult. That is why it is a good idea to rely on the protection of the environment as a first derivative: the image of a small polar bear on a piece of drift ice as a symbol of climate change has a great power of conviction, and the relationship of our diet with this fact it can be a determining driving force in the acquisition of new eating habits.

Fishing: culture and sustainability

Fish plays a prominent role in a balanced and healthy diet, such as the Atlantic and Mediterranean diets.

Fishing is not only part of culture and tradition, but is also a fundamental element in achieving food sovereignty.

Obviously, how it is fished directly influences its environmental impact, but, in general terms, fish and shellfish are the food group with the best energy return rate in protein form (ratio between the energy that a food provides us by the energy necessary for that food to reach the table) in relation to its carbon footprint.

Hake as a megafood

Hake is one of our main allies in the task of introducing fish into a balanced diet, as it combines various key factors:

  • Good flavor and texture, with a small number of bones and easy to clean, which makes it an ideal fish to introduce children to the consumption of a healthy and sustainable diet.

  • Culinary diversity, with a wide variety of recipes also suitable for children.

  • High nutritional content and health benefits. Its high protein content stands out, but it is also a moderate source of omega-3 acids (EPA, DPA and DHA) that have been described as important compounds in the development of the nervous system (especially in babies and children) and in the improvement of cardiovascular function.

  • Low carbon footprint and minimum percentage of discards in fishing gear such as the bottom longline (or line with hooks) of the Galician and Spanish fleet.

Nutritional characteristics of a raw hake fillet of 100 g.
Data from FoodData Central, Author provided

Environmental impact of hake caught with bottom longlines

Hake caught with bottom longlines must have a maximum carbon footprint value of 10.82 kg of CO₂ eq/kg and a protein energy return rate (TREprot) greater than 1.4% to be considered sustainable according to ecological requirements. of the label pescaenverde.

A 2021 study carried out with 26 vessels integrated into the Organization of Fishing Producers of the Port of Burela and the Burela Shipowners Association indicates that bottom longline hake is in Gartner’s magic quadrant, which defines the optimum in both variables analyzed (carbon footprint and energy return rate).

file 20220714 32176 prkevj.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Energy return rate and carbon footprint for some foods. The hake data for the bottom longline fleet of the Galician fleet is indicated with the boat symbol.
USC, Author provided

report playing

At the Researchers’ Night held in 2021 in Santiago de Compostela, a memo-game based on the environmental impact of the 63 most consumed foods in Spain was presented, attracting a large number of primary school students who actively participated. The fundamental objective was to convey the message: “What is good for you is also good for the planet”.

file 20220714 32596 prkevj.JPG?ixlib=rb 1.1
Researchers’ night in 2021 with the participation of primary school students in the memo-game.
Gumersindo Feijoo, Author provided

The memo-game consisted of 63 cards with the typical foods found in the shopping cart, where it was identified:

  • Nutrition: on the front of the card, placing the foods in the different groups of the food pyramid.

  • Carbon and water footprint: on the reverse, to highlight each one’s contribution to climate change (Sustainable Development Goal 13) and water management (SDG6).

file 20220714 32419 4ivxxp.JPG?ixlib=rb 1.1
Detail of the front (food and its location, by color, in the food pyramid) and back (carbon and water footprint of food) of the cards used in the memo-game.
Gumersindo Feijoo, Author provided

The children had to choose the foods they liked, and then check the environmental impact they had. Next, they placed the number obtained on a ruler where it was compared with the kilometers traveled by a car. Quickly, they sought to adapt the selection within each food group of the pyramid in order to lower their environmental footprint. Finally, it was observed that the fish, with the hake in the lead, gained positions in the race for their final choice.

Let’s take advantage of the holidays of the little ones to gradually incorporate healthy and sustainable eating habits. It will be our best legacy for their future and that of the planet where they will develop their lives. At the moment, we only have one Earth.

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