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How to Eat to Help the Earth

Being healthy is about taking care of your body, focusing on both fitness and food. Today being Earth Day, I wanted to share these ideas on how to eat healthy and help the planet by nutritionist Monica Reinagel at Nutrition Data.


Here are the highlights:

  • Become a "locavore." On average, the food we eat travels 1,500 miles from its source to our plates, guzzling fuel and spewing CO2 emissions all the way. With more and more organic food being imported from South America (and further!) to meet growing demand, buying organic is not necessarily environmentally friendly. Consistently choosing foods from growers close to where you live can significantly reduce the environmental impact of your diet. To find farms and growers near you, visit LocalHarvest.org.
  • Eat seasonally. When you eat foods that are not in season where you live, they have either been stored from another season or transported from another climate. Both consume energy and degrade the nutritional quality of the food. For the freshest, most flavorful, most economical, and most eco-conscious foods, plan your menus around what is being harvested in your area.To find out what's in season where you live, see this guide from SustainableTable.org.
  • There are three other ideas, so read more.

  • Eat fewer packaged and preprocessed foods. Even when they are organic or “all natural,” processed foods consume energy and water, add cost, and create waste at every step of production, packaging, and distribution. To lower your food bill, improve the nutritional quality of your meals, and reduce the negative impact of your diet on the planet, buy whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible.
  • Support small farms. Large industrial farms (whether organic or conventional) generally end up cultivating just one or two crops because it is more efficient for them. But a monoculture is tough on the environment, stripping the land of certain nutrients and overloading it with particular waste products. Small farms are more likely to grow a diverse mix of crops and raise a variety of animals, which creates a healthier, more sustainable ecosystem.
  • Choose organic. Organic foods preserve healthier soil, air, and groundwater by eliminating or strictly limiting the use of pesticides, drugs, hormones, and artificial fertilizers. Organic practices are healthier for farmers, neighbors of farmers, consumers, and the planet than industrial farming practices. But buying organic is not enough to maintain a healthy environment: Choosing foods that are local, seasonal, unprocessed, and sustainably grown is just as important."

I know that putting all these ideas into practice sounds a bit daunting, but so does running a marathon and I still keep running. It is all about baby steps. Adopt the practices you can. I will never be able to give up coffee and it certainly isn't grown anywhere close to my home. However, I wait to buy asparagus and strawberries until they are in season in my area and bear stickers declaring "California Grown" so I know they weren't shipped all the way from South America.

Do you follow any of these practices? Have any tips of your own to share? Tell me in the comments section below.

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