As Earth Day approaches on April 22, it’s a great time to think about how the food we eat can keep our bodies AND the planet healthy.
Simple and healthy meal choices can also do double duty to help fight climate change. Here are a few suggestions from Kathleen Reed, sustainable food program manager at Kaiser Permanente.
Choose local when possible: Eating food that is grown and raised close to where you live reduces the distance it had to be trucked, flown, shipped or otherwise transported. It will have a smaller carbon footprint, and helps support your community’s farmers and small businesses.
Eat less meat: Try going meatless once a week, or even more often! Enjoy fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and plant-based proteins such as beans, legumes and tofu, while cutting down on cholesterol and saturated fat. You’ll also help to reduce pollution: Raising meat and poultry accounts for more than 60 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from food production.
Reduce food waste: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 38 million tons of food is thrown away every year in the U.S. Wasted food wastes the water, fuel, energy, labor and land that went into making the food — and many of these factors contribute to climate change. Making an effort to reduce food waste, and to compost unused food as much as possible, also helps the environment.
Seek out unprocessed food: Stay away from overly packaged, processed foods, which typically have a long ingredient list and pack a punch of simple carbs, sugar, fats and preservatives. Select healthy foods rich in complex carbs, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber your body needs and lower your intake of empty calories, while eating straight from the source — the Earth!
Eating better for your body and the planet doesn’t have to be difficult, and it isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. Try incorporating some of these changes into your meal planning over the coming weeks — and know you’re also doing a favor for the planet.