COMPLETE FOOD GUIDE FOR YOUR GREENEST SELF

Alright tree huggers! If you’re ready to take your diet to expert green level, follow these simple tips about how to eat, stock your kitchen, store your food, and save it from going bad or heading to the landfill.

The life cycle of food includes the production, processing, transportation, storage, retail, and consumption and disposal of that given food. Coming up are tips for each of these practices.



How to eat


1. Eat less overall – in developed countries like the US it’s not uncommon for us to overeat. This leads to weight gain that could lead to obesity, which increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Many resources go into growing, processing, and transporting foods – water use, land use, potential fertilizer and pesticide use, hard work by farmers and farm workers, tractors and farm equipment, gas and oil, refrigeration of foods on farms/trucks during transport, trucks/planes/boats for moving food, vitamins and minerals to potentially fortify foods (like refined grains, milk and plant “mylks”, specialty bars & powders, some snack foods), store space, food packaging… By eating food that meets your needs most of the time, you are contributing to a healthier body and planet.


2. Eat less meat, eggs, seafood, and dairy foods – these foods are responsible for more greenhouse gases, more land use, more water use, and more nitrogen and phosphorus application per serving compared to plant protein sources like nuts, seeds, beans, and peas. Watch your seafood consumption as many areas are being overfished, affecting the food chain overall. You can get your protein from these foods in plants (like beans, nuts, seeds, and peas) as well as other nutrients from a balanced primarily plant-based diet.


3. Eat more legumes and tree nuts – these foods offer healthy fats, fiber, protein, and often more vitamins and minerals per gram compared to meat. Plus they use much less water, land, fertilizer, pesticides, and energy than beef.


4. Eat less processed foods and more whole foods – processed foods usually have added salt, preservatives, sugar and/or food colorings. Plus the processing in itself tends to remove natural vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibers that are naturally present in food. Try to eat whole foods instead or foods that are not refined. Try making your processed favorites at home if you can.

How to shop


1. Buy less processed foods – energy goes into processing of foods – just one more step added to the resources used in order to make food. Processed foods also tend to come in lots of packaging. And it’s not good for you typically so limit these foods.


2. Buy more whole foods – they’re better for you, undergo less if any processing, and can often be found package-free (in the produce section if you use your own bags or in the bulk section)


3. Buy foods in bulk with your own cloth/mesh bags – or your reused plastic produce bags from a previous trip. If you don’t have bulk bins accessible to you, try buying bigger bags or cans of essentials to you (rice, pasta, dry beans, frozen fruit/veggies, meats) – just try and make sure you buy the amount you will be sure to use before it goes bad. That way you will not waste food or money you spent on that food!


4. Buy things you know you will eat – sometimes we want to try new foods or recipes and that is all good and well! If you end up not liking that food or recipe, gift it to a friend or if its unopened you can donate it to a food bank, church, or food drive. On the other hand, if you know you don’t like broccoli and you keep buying broccoli but it is laid to rest in your veggie crisper, maybe stop buying that pesky broccoli!


5. Buy local – try to buy in your country, even in your state or county if possible. You can try to connect with local farmers at farmers markets and sometimes smaller grocery stores that connect with local farmers. This is becoming more mainstream as farmer’s markets and buying local popularity is growing.


6. Buy in-season – Buying in season means the food tastes better, looks better, and the price is better! Supporting in-season allows food to be grown the way it would grow out on it’s own in nature, where the temperature, rainfall, wind, and climate overall is just right for the perfect yield. We have all bought strawberries out of season at some point…and they aren’t great. That’s because they are best in spring and summer!


7. Buy organic when possible – it’s more pricey and there is usually not as big of a selection, but it’s the better option for the environment. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides aren’t allowed, so alternative means for pest control and soil health are used instead which is better for our planet in so many ways.


8. Buy the ugly produce and products with damaged packaging (as long as it isn’t open and exposing food contents) – many people won’t and those foods may end up unsold and thrown out by the stores. It tastes the same, I promise! Consider subscribing to “ugly food boxes” if they’re available in your area.


How to stock your kitchen and store your food


1. Buy kitchen tools and appliances secondhand – secondhand shops and garage sales are almost always full of them. You can also check out online sale groups, like Craigslist or Facebook marketplace – even Ebay (but shipping charges may eat your money up).


2. Buy kitchen appliances energy-efficient – if you are in the market for something shiny and new with hopes of a lower electric bill, invest in newer energy-efficient appliances like a fridge, microwave, or stove/oven combo. Ask yourself what appliances you really even need. A toaster, a full size oven with 6 burners on the stovetop, a blender? Buy what is right for you/your family and leave the rest behind.


3. Consider these tips for saving energy in the kitchen – Unplug appliances when you are finished using them since sometimes they still use electricity. Also try to keep a full fridge as it helps the fridge use less power to keep everything cold inside. Don’t lower the temp too much or you will waste energy that way too.


4. Learn proper storage of foods – learn whether foods should be stored in the fridge, in the dark, away from certain foods, in water, in closed containers, or in bags with holes. That way you aren’t having food go bad prematurely and will have less food waste.


5. Eat leftovers – some people are not fans of leftovers and I will never understand why! If it stores well in the fridge, eat it within day or two. Just make sure you are following proper food safety guidelines by cooling and reheating foods properly. Freeze them if you don’t plan on eating leftovers within 48 hours. You can also repurpose your leftovers into a whole new recipe – shows on the Food Network has had chefs do some pretty cool remakes of leftovers!

BONUS ROUND! Your last attempt at keeping it green.

How to save food from waste


1. If fruit and veggies are on the verge of going bad, throw them in a smoothie or a soup.


2. If you know you won’t be able to use all the fruit and veggies that are on the verge of going back, stick them in the freezer for another time or dry/dehydrate them (for chips or dried fruit snacks).


3. Give your leftovers to someone who you know will eat them if you won’t be able to before they spoil.


4. Donate unopened foods you know you won’t use or didn’t like to a food pantry, food bank, food drive, family in need, or church/other center that organizes the such.


5. If all else fails, COMPOST! That way the nutrients in the food are recycled back into soil to nourish the earth and future plants for new food growth.

Missing something from the list? Drop a comment or email me at s_morris1066@yahoo.com so I can keep the list growing!

Written by Stacy Ramirez, MS, RDN, LD

PHOTOS COURTESY OF WWW.PIXABAY.COM

HOW DIETITIANS CAN IMPROVE PLANETARY HEALTH

Nutrition has been an interest of mine since adolescence, but passion for well-being of the environment has always been there in the background. Being in nature provides a kind of peace and joy that can’t be found anywhere else, and I want that to be preserved for my children and their children just like I remember it as a child myself. In order to act upon two of my greatest passions in life, I find myself here advocating for planetary and human health combined.

For this dietitian, planetary health has always made sense. No healthy planet, no healthy people.

Our population is growing quickly and future generations have to be fed too! Those people are our kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, and other loved ones to come.

There is a growing community of dietitians and other health professionals that really give a damn about health and nutrition beyond the human body, on a global level. Planetary health is about being inclusive of all other bodies and the earth body as a whole.

After all, the sad reality is our climate is changing as much as is the science we fundamentally stand beside. Some reports say we only have 12 years to address climate change, most particularly by reducing carbon emissions.

Like with any grave diagnosis, many dietitians are inclined to spring into action with preventative interventions rather than treating the symptoms when the 12 years is up. Right? Prevention first, treatment of symptoms for better quality of life to follow if preventative measures fail.

As a profession, we can all agree that wellbeing and health through nutrition is our vibe. Whether it’s as a NICU dietitian, foodservice manager, anti-diet dietitian, or private practice dietitian, we are all connected with food probably a little more than the average person.

We should set the standard for food because we are the food experts. While we may not all work in areas where food is grown, transported, processed, or sold, we talk to people about food almost daily. Scientists and environmentalists are making forecasts and doing their parts, so in order to help save the world dietitians can be part of the solution too.

We as registered dietitians are trusted health professionals with more knowledge about food’s effect on health than any other health professional. Anybody can say their two cents about food (and whatever fad diet they’re promoting for the time being), but what we say about food is the most valued. Our knowledge is based on science and facts.

If we are going to feed everyone on our planet and those to come, I think registered dietitians are critical to the solution. We should desire to be involved and we deserve to be helping with the food solution.

There are some super simple ways we can do just that! All of us can incorporate at least one of the following into our practice or in our own lives.

How dietitians can help combat food waste

1 in every 8 Americans and 1 in every 6 people worldwide face hunger, yet 40% of food produced is wasted. It takes no rocket scientist to conclude that these numbers just don’t add up.

We produce enough food to feed the world but it’s just not always in the right hands. There are 2 categories of food that never make it into our bellies:

– food loss – any food that is lost in the supply chain between the producer and the market.

– food waste – discarding or alternative (non-food) use of food that is safe and nutritious for human consumption.

There’s a slim chance that the average dietitian working in any kind of patient care setting to help with the issue of food loss, unfortunately. But food waste is something we can all help prevent.

When food is wasted, all of the resources that went into that food are wasted. In addition, most food waste goes to landfill where it rots and releases greenhouse gas emissions in return.

What can you do in your one-on-one or group practice today?

As dietitians, we can help combat food waste by teaching our clients about various helpful topics like proper storage of food and understanding food labels like “best by”.

Healthy air, water, and food are all contributors to our overall wellness. Greenhouse gases compromise our air quality.

Dietitians can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging eating less meat (particularly red meat), eating less processed foods, eating local and in-season produce/other foods, and encouraging clients to grow their own food (whether at home or as a community garden). Many of these things we are probably already promoting with little effort as they are also principles we know are better for human health. If you work in foodservice you can’t implement all of these into your own institution!

Some industrial farming and agriculture practices affect our water and food quality. Excessive nitrogen runoff from heavy fertilizer use into local waters can create dead zones, affecting fish and other water life. This can affect fishers and populations that thrive on seafood for nutrition and capital income. Some pesticides have been shown to have adverse effects on our health, especially farm workers and their families.

Organic agriculture practices run like a circular economy, mimicking nature. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are strictly forbidden for organic foods to be called “organic”. Organic farmers are more creative in their growing and pest control measures, which are more environmentally friendly. See my other blog posts about organic farming to learn more about this.

When applicable, we can gently encourage organic foods for the client without shaming them if they can’t afford or don’t have sufficient access to these foods.

Dietitians can help on a broader level by influencing policies; working/volunteering for food banks, soup kitchens, grocery stores and foodservice operations of all kinds; making monetary donations to organizations that work toward improving food systems, food availability, food quality, and food production; get involved with farmers markets to provide education to the public or learn a thing or two from farmers; and study environmental nutrition or sustainable food systems to be a bigger part of the fix.

I know we are all in different niches and have different individual callings and personal interests. Not all of these can apply to everyone, I am very well aware. But small, slow changes do add up. We know that! We can put interventions in place and set goals, monitor and evaluate, then do it all over again. We never give up on our patients/clients and we especially shouldn’t on the biggest one that houses us all – our world.

References:

  1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global Warming of 1.5-degree C. Summary for Policymakers. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
  2. Food and Agriculture Organizarion of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/en/
  3. World Hunger Education Service. https://www.worldhunger.org/hunger-in-america-united-states-hunger-poverty-facts-2018/

Written by Stacy Ramirez, MS, RDN, LD

PHOTOS COURTESY OF WWW.PIXABAY.COM