We’re all seeing an increase in online news stories, books and magazine articles that address the importance of sustainable eating as a part of being environmentally aware and reducing the burden that we place on our earth’s ecosystem. But taking the steps necessary to change decades of eating habits can be hard – what’s a person or a family to do?
Official Recommendations for Eating Sustainably
This list from Harvard’s School of Public Health is a great place to start:
1. Give plants priority
Can you fill at least half of your plate with fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and grains? Try it! If 50% is easy, go for 75% of your meal being plant-based.
2. Minimize meat
We know that large-scale commercial meat production is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. With so many delicious and innovative vegetarian and vegan meat-substitutes available in grocery stories these days, try swapping that beef burger for a veggie one and see what your taste-buds say.
3. Be cautious with seafood
Fish is often a good choice for those looking to transition to eating less meat, but did you know some fish species are raised in ways that do serious damage to the environment? Take a look at this “avoid” list from Seafoodwatch and plan your shopping accordingly.
4. Buy local
Making the commitment to buy locally produced food at farmer’s markets and through regional CSAs (community supported agriculture) helps you find fresh produce and it helps support your regional farmers. Don’t have a farmer’s market or CSA in your area? Talk to the produce manager at your local grocery store and see what local options are available.
5. Mindful eating
Before you chow-down on your breakfast, lunch, or dinner, take a moment to reflect on the food you are eating, where it came from and how it will nourish your body. Studies show that by practicing mindful eating, you’ll not only develop a greater awareness of the food you consume, but you’ll eat slower and less.
Take Sustainable Eating A Step Further
We at Tommy’s Superfoods completely agree with these recommendations from Harvard’s School of Public Health – but what if you’ve already tackled these five tips and looking to go further in your sustainable eating habits? Here are a few of our favorite ways to take eating sustainably to the next level:
1. Choose USDA organic / Non-GMO Project Verified foods
When you buy foods that are in these two categories you can rest easier knowing the producers and growers practice biodiversity, sustainable growing practices, and soil integrity.
2. Think frozen when it comes to vegetables
Research is increasingly showing that frozen vegetables are not only a healthy and delicious choice, but also a sustainable one too. Because frozen vegetables are picked at their nutritional peak and flash frozen, all of the nutrients are locked in. Fresh vegetables are typically picked at 80% ripeness, meaning they are not at 100% nutritional peak. Besides the nutritional reason to eat frozen vegetables, 40% of fresh vegetables today are thrown away before they are consumed. Choosing frozen vegetables provides you with a nutritious and easy way to add veggies into your diet. There is much less waste with frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables are not just good for you – they’re also good for the planet!
3. Make better meat choices
If you’re buying meat, look for grass-fed, hormone-free and organic choices. Often, farmer’s markets and regional CSAs will have locally raised meat where you can get information from the farmers about their production methods.
4. Avoid packaging or re-use packaging
Rather than purchasing individual boxes of rice, pasta, beans… buy a big bag that can last for many meals. You’ll not only reduce the amount of packaging you throw away, but you’ll also save money in the long run. And don’t forget to keep some re-usable grocery totes in your car – it cuts down on the number of plastic bags you’ll need and at some grocery stores, even save you a bit a money.
5. Look for fair-trade products
Fair-trade-certified products follow economically and environmentally responsible guidelines. Visit FairTradeUSA.org to find a listing of fair-trade-certified products and learn more about the process.
What do you do to minimize your food footprint?
Eating sustainably is something that everyone can do regardless of where they live or how much money is in their weekly food budget. By making small changes you can have a big impact on the future of our earth. Did you find a way to minimize your food footprint that works for you or your family? If so, we’d love to hear about it! Leave us a comment and let us know how you eat more sustainably.