Simple Steps Towards A Sustainable & Nutritious Diet

Is it possible to consume nutritious and delicious food while not harming the planet with manufacturing and packaging processes? Sustainable farming and food production is the answer.

Americans are more concerned about food production and that information influences their grocery purchases. As many as 40 percent of grocery shoppers no longer enjoy food due to quality and safety concerns, which is twice as many people as in 2010. Consumers worry about bacteria, pesticides, improper food handling, high arsenic levels, high mercury levels, contamination and food poisoning.

You don’t need a science or agriculture degree to understand why you should follow these suggestions to include more whole and organic foods into your diet on a daily basis.

1. Eat More of a Plant-Based Diet

You can reduce deforestation and stop contributions to greenhouse gas emissions by choosing a plant-based diet over a meat-based diet. This may not be a welcome full-time change to your family, however swapping out one dinner a week for a meatless supper can make a difference without causing tension at the table.

Going meatless one day a week can contribute to better health for you and make a positive environmental impact by:

  • Reducing heart disease and stroke

  • Limiting cancer risks

  • Fighting diabetes

  • Avoiding obesity

  • Minimizing livestock water usage

  • Reducing greenhouse gases

  • Reducing fossil fuel energy during production

Depending on the amount of meal planning you do before a grocery shopping trip, meatless meals may make a positive impact on your budget as well.

2. Go Local

To ensure your organic fruits and vegetables are grown using sustainable practices, consider shopping at your local farmer’s market. These marketplaces allow you to meet the farmers and ask questions about fresh produce. The foods tend to be less expensive, fresher, safer, organic and in season.

The produce shipped to your local grocery store requires the burning of fossil fuels for shipping and transportation as well as the use of fertilizers and pesticides during the commercial agriculture process that may prove harmful.

You also contribute to a boost in your local economy by supporting small farming businesses.

3. Choose Beans and Lentils

Beans and lentils are an inexpensive way to eat meatless at least once a week. Beans are valuable sources of micronutrients that our bodies need such as iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium, manganese, copper and nickel. Legumes are also high in soluble and insoluble fiber, low in fat, and contain 20 to 25 percent protein and 45 to 50 percent of slowly digestible starch.

These crops do not require nitrogen-based fertilizers to grow, which reduces fossil fuel usage and you can avoid packaging pitfalls if you purchase your beans and lentils from bulk bins.

4. Switch to a Different Meat

If meat is a staple in your household, consider switching from beef and lamb to poultry or fish. Chicken, turkey and fish contain less saturated fat than red meat. The fat found in fish can actually be beneficial to your health, according to the American Heart Association. The omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, whereas beef, pork and lamb can be high in cholesterol and saturated fat.

Beef, pork and lamb leave the highest carbon footprint of all of the meats, according to the Environmental Working Group. Organic cooked and skinless turkey and chicken are better meat choices. Try to purchase pasture-raised and/or antibiotic-free poultry whenever possible.

5. When You Have to Have a Steak, Choose Grass Fed

Sometimes you just have to have a steak or someone in your family is a die-hard fan. Choose grass-fed options when you purchase beef to ensure you are receiving the best nutrients. Grain-fed cows are sometimes given hormones to grow at a rapid pace to keep up with the demand for red meat. Grass-fed cows are never fed the soy and corn feed and graze on grassland.

The composition of the fatty acids found in the cows varies between grain-fed and grass-fed cows. This includes saturated and monounsaturated fats, omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

6. Give in to Clean Packaged Foods

You may find that packaged foods offer a convenience factor, but you want foods that are nutritious and sustainable. Consider choosing fresh fruits, dried fruits and nuts as portable snacks. 

While shopping for clean packaged foods, look for items:

  • Low in sugar or less than 10 grams of sugar

  • Containing no artificial ingredients or synthetic ingredients

  • Containing organic, sustainably sourced and non-GMO ingredients

  • Packaged inside of toxin-free or eco-friendly containers

  • Containing no excess sodium

These foods can include sprouted bread products, quinoa, pasta, oatmeal and more. Read the labels to ensure you are receiving the best quality.

As you search for additional ways to add sustainable foods to your family’s dinner table, look for whole and organic foods, check for biodegradable packaging and research the farming practices of each brand. Once you have a list of nutritious foods your family loves, you will know what to purchase on your next shopping trip.