10 Keys to an Eco-Friendly Diet

eco-friendly diet
Credit: Theo Crazzolara, FlickrCC

As knowledge about conservation expands, countless people embrace sustainability. Eco-friendly living is straightforward — more than what people often give it credit for. Those unable to do a lifestyle overhaul still have access to reasonable options for changing how they consume resources. These options also accommodate food consumption. You don’t need to relinquish your favorite meals to eat green. Just make informed decisions about what you buy.

If you need guidance on integrating wise consumption into your current diet, keep reading for 10 essential tips.

1. Buy From Farmers Markets

Locally grown produce is fresher than store-bought and contains more nutrients, such as antioxidants and phytoncides. It bypasses the extensive processing that commercial foods undergo to preserve them for transportation. You also support your community when buying from farmers markets, which enables farmers to grow more goods and maintain their businesses.

2. Consume More Plants

Meat consumption in the U.S. accounts for 42% of greenhouse gases. Vegetables require fewer resources and produce fewer emissions, as beef requires 20 times more farmland than plants do. A flexitarian diet encourages you to eat more veggies while keeping your animal-product consumption low. Beans, nuts and soy offer high-protein alternatives to animal products, and plant-based proteins are often cheaper than animal-based ones.

3. Select Organic Animal Products

If you don’t have plans to give up meat, choose products from animals who’ve only eaten organic feed. Organic feed is free from hormones, antibiotics and other harmful chemicals. It also contains no animal by-products and adheres to USDA-approved organic standards to ensure quality. Organic feed benefits the environment while keeping your body — and the systems of animals you consume — free of pollutants and chemicals.

4. Eat According to Region

Consider your location when it comes to diet — some foods more accessible than others. Align your eating habits with what your local landscape typically grows. The top crops for Illinois are soybeans and corn while Maine specializes in potatoes and dairy. Every state’s top commodities will differ, so always research regional staples.

Supporting regional goods cuts down on fossil fuel emissions, as you avoid food transported from long distances and unknown sources. Source your ingredients from farmers who preserve land through regenerative techniques. Regenerative agriculture promotes biodiversity and soil health for future crops.

5. Buy Seasonal Food

Seasonal buying goes hand-in-hand with considering your region. When you purchase in-season fruits and vegetables, you lower the chances of consuming food that’s traveled across the country. You also spend less money and receive fresher goods that haven’t endured chemical exposure. Alternatively, you can establish a garden and grow your food so you’re never without your favorite meals.

6. Choose Minimal Packaging

Less packaging means less material that ends up in landfills and oceans. Companies produce 78 million tons of plastic annually, yet manufacturers and consumers alike only recycle 14% of it. Some companies have experimented with food packaging made from polymers, bamboo and seaweed. The concept of edible outer wrappings becomes increasingly popular, but it still has a long way to go for mass accessibility.

Do your part in the interim by purchasing unwrapped produce and procuring your meats from a local butcher or deli.

7. Preserve Your Food

Reduce the amount of food you waste by preserving it. Fermentation, dehydration and freezing are conventional and easy methods. This tip also works for making seasonal food last once its harvest time passes. Highly perishable foods create large amounts of waste — reconsider how you eat, prepare and store them to minimize remains. Compost anything leftover.

8. Try Mediterranean-Style Meals

The Mediterranean diet ranks at the top when it comes to health benefits and sustainability. This meal plan includes an array of healthy edibles like nuts, vegetables, olive oil and legumes. Seafood is common to the Mediterranean plate, but research where it comes from before you buy. Pass on endangered or frequently fished species, and use the Seafood Watch app to find eco-friendly options within your state.

9. Pick Reusable Options

Bring reusable bags instead of going for plastic when you shop. Nine million tons of unrecycled plastic appears in oceans every year, and grocery bags contribute to this pollution. Drink water out of reusable containers rather than stocking up on plastic bottles. If you’re concerned about the water quality of your area, invest in a container with a filter installed or add one yourself.

10. Substitute Ingredients

If your favorite meals are high in resource-sucking ingredients, swap unsustainable ingredients for greener options. Nuts, beans and sustainably-caught fish serve as high-protein alternatives to beef. A light vinegar is a delicious stand-in for cream-based salad dressings. Try whole-wheat bread, cereal and pasta in favor of your usual fare.

Sustainable Eating Comes Easy

Keep these tips for your next shopping trip and let them guide you before you pick anything off the shelf. Eating green requires genuine, continuous care for the world and your health. Your efforts pay off when you bring the planet closer to restoration.