Are You Ready to Go Green?
“Eating green isn’t just about adding kale and broccoli to your diet. It’s an entire lifestyle change committed to eating foods that are both healthy for you and the environment,” says Bryony Crane, Virtua registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. Following this plant-based diet can lower your cholesterol and your weight, improve your heart health and invigorate you.
Crane offers these steps to help you get started:
Organic agriculture strives toward being indefinitely sustainable. So, when you eat organic, don't just picture the healthy food you’re putting in your body, also picture the healthy ecosystems that produced that food. Organic vegetables, fruits, grains, juice, dairy, eggs and meat (and even organic wine and beer), are grown and processed in ways that support healthy people and a healthy planet. For details on the meaning of organic, see the USDA Organics homepage.
Eating local, seasonal food not only supports local farms, it also saves the energy that would be used to refrigerate and transport food. Since most food travels 1,500 miles on average to reach your table, locally sourced food cuts back on emissions, fuel consumption and unnecessary traffic. Local food also generally uses less packaging, is fresher and tastier, and comes in more varieties. The best way to track down local food is at farmers markets or through community-supported agriculture (CSA), which often offer home delivery.
Eat low on the food chain
Humans can eat both high and low on the food chain and be adequately nourished. Meat is the most resource-intensive food on the table and eating less of it can be the greenest change a person can make. Producing meat requires large amounts of water, grain, land, and sometimes hormones and antibiotics, and leads to pollution of the soil, air, and water. Whole foods are nutritionally intact, but refined foods have much of their nutritional value and fiber removed. The average American eats 150 pounds of additives a year, much of which is sugar and salt. By eating locally grown fruits and vegetables, you can opt out of many of these additives and feel better because of it.
Reduce and reuse
Instead of buying foods that come in extensive packaging (most of which is petroleum-based plastics) look for unpackaged or minimally packaged foods. Experiment with bringing your own containers and buying in bulk, and try and recycle or reuse any packaging you end up with.
Plan your portions
Put some extra planning into the amount of food you cook and you cut back on waste. If it's something that will spoil quickly, avoid making more than you or your family can eat. If you have extra, make a friend happy with a home-cooked surprise. If it's a bigger affair, give the leftovers to those who need it more.
Add in, don’t subtract
Start by adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals, not by removing all the foods you love. You will begin to feel healthier and more energized, and that will lead you to want to buy even more healthy foods. Then, when you’re ready, start looking for organic and local options for your “dailies” – milk, bread, eggs.
Whether you are an avid green eater or if you’re just getting started, “Always ask where the food is from and how it was raised.” says Crane. “This will ensure that your greener lifestyle stays healthy and bright.