5 tips for eating Green

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASt. Patrick’s Day may be all about shamrocks, green clothes and green beer, but it’s also a good opportunity to think about green eating.  And there are two major ways to think about green eating:

  • Foods that are green
  • Foods that are produced in an environmentally “green” way

The green foods part is easy.

Foods that are naturally green tend to be really healthy, from dark greens like spinach or kale to green peppers, broccoli and celery.  In fact, there’s no downside to all those green foods.  Leafy greens and vegetables are loaded with potassium, folate, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin K, fiber, other vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.  Many have significant iron, calcium and vitamin C.  They’re low calorie, low sodium and non fat (unless you could avocados).  They have a high water content, and are filling helping you control appetite and maintain a healthy weight.

Naturally green foods are actually doubly green in one key way: because they’re so healthy, they can help you stay healthy.  And if you stay healthy, you avoid needing medical care for chronic diseases typically linked to our high calorie/sedentary lifestyle.  Medical care, wonderful as it may be, depends on a high input of energy and water to manufacture drugs and equipment, to maintain large hospitals and medical facilities and to manufacture and dispose of all the disposable supplies.

Environmentally ‘green’ food choices are less clear cut.

Environmentally ‘green’ food choices are less clear cut.  The concept has been hijacked by food marketers, who know consumers want to feel good about food choices.  They’ll use green-sounding words like local, natural, fresh, free range and organic on labels to appeal to green-minded shoppers.  So what choices truly are ‘green’.  The answers may surprise you.

My Top 5 Tips for Green Eating

  1. Stop overeating protein, especially from meat.  Animal-source foods are the most environmentally expensive we eat.  The energy and water needed to create a gram of animal protein are vastly more than to create a gram of plant protein.  Overeating protein from large portions of foods meats, fish, cheese, eggs and poultry is wasteful.  Keep portions of animal-sourced foods modest and fill your plate with plant-based foods.
  2. Stop wasting food in general.  Food production, shipping, storage and preparation uses up energy and water.  According to a recent USDA report, 1/3 of the calories that go into our food system are wasted.  Taking too much food and then throwing much of it away is not green.  And food waste isn’t limited to your own kitchen.  If you eat at buffet restaurants, school cafeterias, buffet parties or company cafeterias, taking more food than you will eat is wasteful, and definitely not environmentally conscious behavior.
  3. Buy local fruit and vegetables in season, when possible.  If they’re local, less fuel was used to move them to market, plus they’ll taste better in season.  “Fresh” organic peaches on sale in January aren’t that ‘green’, since they were shipped thousands of miles.
  4. Buy meat, fish and eggs from local producers if possible.  Even if you can’t, buy organic or grass fed products means the animals were not finished on expensive feed grains in feed lots, fed animal by-products or given antibiotics.  One of the naturally ‘greenest’ meats available is bison.
  5. Eat plenty of green-colored food every day, for the health benefits.

Except of course, if you kept something too long, and it’s got green mold growing on it.  In that case, ‘green’ is not good.

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