Most of us do what we can each day to make sure our families eat a healthy diet, but what if there were a way to create healthy meals that not only tasted great but were also good for the environment. Believe it or not, the foods we choose to purchase and eat can have a big impact on environmental factors such as soil, air and water quality; availability of open space; wildlife habitat; and the diversity of plant and animal species.
Read on to discover a few healthy eating tips that can also help the environment that you can use the next time you shop for groceries at your local grocery store or farmers market.
Choose Locally Grown Fruits and Vegetables that Are in Season
We live in a world where we can get apples from New Zealand or grapes from Chile any time we want them, even in the dead of winter, so narrowing our food choices to include only fruits and vegetables that are grown near where we live might not seem to make a lot of sense at first. But when you consider that consuming a product that is grown within a 100-mile radius of your local area uses up to 100 times less fossil fuel than consuming foods shipped by air freight, eating locally begins to seem like a pretty good idea. Not only will you be helping to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality, fruits and vegetables that are grown locally and eaten in season also tend to be fresher, taste better and have more nutrients than food that’s been shipped half way around the world.
Another benefit of eating locally grown food is that you will be supporting local farmers and helping them to stay in business. More local farmers running successful farms means more open space and fewer real estate developers snapping up farmland to build strip malls. Having more open space not only makes our communities more beautiful, preventing the loss of open space can also help stem the tide of global warming, as fields, forests and grasslands are able to absorb heat from the sun rather than reflecting back into the atmosphere the way that buildings and paved streets tend to do.
Eat Only Sustainably Sourced Protein
Most Americans eat a lot of meat, including chicken, beef and pork. Conventionally raised livestock consume a lot of resources, like water and crops. They also produce a great deal of waste that can contaminate water sources and reduce air quality. The land where conventional livestock are raised is often contaminated as well, and often cannot be easily used for other purposes. Sustainably raised livestock, on the other hand, are often grass fed. They live a more natural and sustainable lifestyle on larger tracts of land, which helps to prevent pollution. There is also some evidence that grass fed beef is better for you, containing fewer calories, less unhealthy fat, and more omega 3 fatty acids.
Some producers of sustainably raised livestock, like Blue Nest Beef, are even going one step further and working to turn conventional farm land back into grassland for grazing cattle, and helping to restore bird habitat in the process.
Choose Organic Foods Whenever Possible
Organic produce is not grown using pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers, making it both better for you and better for the environment. Pesticides and herbicides can contaminate water sources and soil, as well as kill insects, animals and birds that are beneficial to the environment. Many chemical fertilizers are made using fossil fuel sources, and contribute to pollution and carbon emissions.
Growing organic produce can also help farmers establish a self-sustaining cycle of resources on their farms, reducing their dependence on outside fertilizers. Organic farms also typically have better soil and water quality than conventional farms, which helps them provide healthy habitat for wildlife and livestock.
Farmers who grow organic food typically rotate their crops to preserve soil quality and to interrupt pest invasions and plant diseases. They also compost plant waste and use livestock manure to add nutrients back to the soil, helping to reduce pollution.
Because it contains no preservatives, organic produce is often fresher. And because they are fresher, organic fruits and vegetables also contain more vitamins and minerals and taste better than those that are conventionally grown. Organic foods are also free of pesticide residue, hormones and toxic metals, and are not genetically modified, making them a healthier choice for you and your family.