Eating green is not only good for you, but good for the planet. It’s important we understand how our food is grown, processed, packaged and transported to us to make the best decisions for our health and the environment.
Make a pledge to give your eating habits a green makeover by following these simple steps. This Earth Day, there’s no better time to start.
Get real. Real foods in their most basic form are as “green” and unadulterated as you can go. The only processing and energy utilized is your own – in preparing them at home. We are talking about fresh vegetables, fruit and beans and remember, fresh is best; frozen next best. Steer away from foods processed with extra salt, sugar or fats. Stick with the basics. These more “basic” the food, the more nutrition is preserved, and the more likely your appetite to be satisfied. There’s nothing like fresh and crunchy to satisfy hunger and when it comes to snack time, nuts are an excellent “green” go-to. Pistachios, walnuts, almonds and peanuts are all-packed with disease-fighting nutrients and can add crunch and flavor to nearly any recipe.
Above all, be sure to read food labels carefully and select foods with the shortest and most basic, understandable list of ingredients.
Veggie up. All vegetables start out green, literally and you can’t overestimate the power of adding more greens to your diet. They are chock-full of antioxidants, phyto-nutrient, vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iron, folic acid, copper and zinc and Vitamins A and C. This wealth of nutrients protect the heart, blood vessels, bones, immune system and muscles and prevent heart disease, cancer, hypertension and bone loss. Talk about a great dollar value per nutrient value!
Try cooking your veggies in simple ways – like steaming in your microwave or stovetop – or add a little excitement by roasting your veggies in the oven, sautéing them in a skillet or grilling them on the grill. Try simple olive oil, which encrusts over the vegetable when roasted or grilled, sealing juices. Try spicing them up! Add a little heat by tossing vegetables into a powdery mix of cayenne, curry, ginger or Serrano peppers. Milder flavoring agents like fresh lemon juice, oregano, basil or seasoning blends work wonderfully, too.
Keep it local. On average our produce travels around 1,500 miles to get from the farm to your plate. Cut out the energy used to transport your food and grow your own plant foods or buy local produce at farmer’s markets. Some grocery stores also sell local produce, too, so be sure to ask. Look for “organic” or “sustainable” certifications (labeled). If you have any questions, you can always ask produce-growers at farmer’s markets how they raise what they sell.
Eat up. Most fruits and vegetables come with edible peels or stalks. Don’t toss them out – eat them! This is where most of the important vitamins and minerals are and of course, fiber, too. Making a point to eat all the edible parts of your produce will ensure you have less waste while getting the most nutritionally out of each meal.
Tap your water. Forgo plastic water bottles. They are often over-priced and certainly over-packaged especially when we have access to clean water. What’s more, municipal tap water is often times more strictly regulated (and safer) than bottled water, and contains fluoride, for cavity-resistant teeth. Save the waste and the planet by using a refillable water bottle you can carry with you at all times.
These tips will get you started on simplifying your diet, getting healthier and saving money while preserving and appreciating the earth.
For more ideas on healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.
This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.
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