9 Ways to Eat for a Healthier Planet
Sascha Kilmer / Moment / Getty Images
By Danielle Nierenberg
The food system accounts for more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent study published in Nature Food.
But with every meal, consumers have the opportunity to make climate-friendly decisions that reduce their carbon footprint. From eating seasonally to adopting a plant-forward diet, Food Tank is highlighting nine ways to eat well and support the environment.
And tune in at 2:00 p.m. EDT on April 28 for Food Tank and Compass Group’s Stop Food Waste Day. Chefs, policymakers, food system experts, and more will share impactful ways that everyone can reduce food loss and food waste and support the environment. Learn more and register here.
The best foods are the ones we don’t waste at all. Most of us only eat the florets from vegetables like broccoli, but the leaves can be tasty as a side dish instead of spinach; they can be roasted with the florets; or sautéed with olive oil and salt and pepper. Or Chef Haile Thomas of The Happy Org suggests making pesto of almost anything that is wilting in your refrigerator—including surprising veggies like lettuce. Blended with walnuts or pine nuts and olive oil, lettuce pesto can be a delicious spread or used on pasta. You can hear more tips like this one from the Compass Group and Food Tank Stop Food Waste Day event.
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food
Locally and regionally grown foods give eaters a chance to know who grows their food and the farming practices they use. Because regional food choices are not shipped hundreds or, even, thousands of miles, they tend to be more delicious. They have the extra benefit of contributing to the local economy. Let’s not forget that local and regional farmers were able to pivot during the pandemic and were able to keep many of us fed.
Perennial, those that don’t need to be planted from year to year like annuals, have several benefits. According to The Land Institute perennials do not require annual plowing or herbicide applications to grow so they’re better for the environment. Asparagus, grapes, artichokes, rhubarb and grains like Kernza are delicious ways to incorporate perennials into your meals and there’s even a beer made from Kernza!
Most of us are used to getting whatever foods we want at any time of year—whether it’s strawberries in November or blueberries in February. According to FoodPrint in-season produce usually tastes better. And they say that seasonal food can be more nutritious than food consumed out of season.
From Meatless Mondays to Veganuary, there are a lot of campaigns encouraging eaters to consume less or no meat. And while going vegan or vegetarian may not be for everyone, there are lots of benefits to eating less eat a few days week. Chefs and advocates like Dan Barber have been advocating for years to make vegetables the centers of our plates with meat used sparingly, more like a condiment.
Supporting BIPOC, Asian, and Women-Owned Businesses
It’s no secret that the pandemic has unveiled a lot of painful truths about inequity in the food system. Now is the time to recognize businesses that have lacked support and attention. Guides from Esquire, Vice, and Spoon University can let eaters know how to support these businesses.
Avoiding Big Meat, Dairy, and Eggs
The Double Pyramid created by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition highlights that foods that are the worst for human also can hurt planetary health. And industrial animal products are not only high on the pyramid, but they have a huge impact on workers—from those who work in factory farms to processing plants. Grass-fed and organic meat and dairy tend to have more Omega-3s and again, can support local economies.
Ditching Ultra-Processed Foods
While many of us have found comfort in cookies, chips, and other ultra-processed foods over the last year, these foods are high in fat, sodium, and sugar and low in nutrients. According to a recent study in JAMA Network Open, those of us who were under shelter-in-place orders gained about half a pound every 10 days or roughly two pounds per month. But not all processed foods are bad—canned foods, especially those made from produce from our gardens, can be a healthy and delicious way to save produce. And dehydrating and drying herbs and veggies can make our harvests last a long time.
Escape From the Cult of Fresh
While fresh fruits and vegetables are nutritious and delicious, overzealous buying at the grocery store or farmers market can mean that much of them go to waste. Frozen food sales, including vegetables, soared during the pandemic—they’re convenient, easy to use, and because they’re typically harvested and frozen at their peak, they maintain their nutritional value.
Danielle Nierenberg is the president of Food Tank and an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She has written extensively on gender and population, the spread of factory farming in the developing world and innovations in sustainable agriculture.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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