8 Ways To Make Your Diet More Planet-Friendly
Spoiler: you can have great food while being planet-friendly. And this comes from someone who lives for food.
I don’t play around when it comes to food and there are few things that I value more than a good meal.
I’m the kind of person who likes to try out everything, who loves digging into local food when traveling and who never leaves a bite on the plate.
5 years ago I decided to cut red meat switching to options that would be lighter for the environment and for my health. I am not vegan nor fully vegetarian, but I try to choose a plant-based option whenever I can.
The effects current agriculture is having on the planet are massive and need to be addressed.
But, even if it’s true that a vegan diet has the lowest impact and is planet-friendly, there are several options in between which can significantly reduce your impact and are worth considering.
According to the World Resource Institute, the average American could cut their diet-related environmental impacts by nearly one half just by eating less meat and dairy.
By cutting your meat and diary consumption by 40%, which basically means choosing a plant-based option every other meal, we would save an area of land twice the size of India and avoid 3 times the GHG emissions released in one year.
Keep in mind, that the diet you choose to follow has to be sustainable for the planet but also for yourself. Making radical choices is not for everyone and it might be wiser to go for less drastic changes but that you are able to commit to over time. It does not have to be black or white.
You can be a bacon lover but still do your part in reducing emissions.
How to make your fridge more planet-friendly
1. Buy more plant-based protein
What you eat depends (mostly) on what you buy at the grocery store. Once you’ll have it home, you’ll eat it. Some great plant-based protein sources can be chickpeas, lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, chia seeds, oats and almonds. Give it a try!
2. Discover new recipes
If you are not used to some ingredients, you may not know how to make the best out of them. Make sure your meals are tasty and full of flavor: no need to eat boring. Youtube and IG are full of super tasty recipes for vegan/vegetarian meals, make sure you check them out.
3. Plan your meals
One of my resolutions for 2021 was to limit my animal proteins to 3 meals a week. To actually start writing down what you eat and when, can help you a lot. You’ll be more aware of how you nurture your body and it will force you to plan the week ahead, making it easier to follow your schedule.
4. Read the label
It may sound obvious, but it’s not. Pay attention for two things: origin and certifications. Does it make sense to choose Peruvian-grown asparagus over upstate NY chicken? Is it really more planet-friendly? Sometimes, the environmental cost of shipping goods is higher than their harvesting one. You might be surprised to read where those tomatoes have been flew in from.
5. Read the label – PART 2
Look for certifications. The standards to define organic food may vary from country to country but overall, it means that the farmers had to stick to certain rules which protect the soil, promote ecological balance, conserve biodiversity and avoid the use of chemicals. GMOs then are used to increase the size or flavor of the product, or to act as a pesticide for the plant. Choose non-GMO when possible. Some entities then include also social standards as the Fair Trade certification.
6. Eat seasonally
I know it might happen that you crave strawberries in January, but overall try to eat seasonal product as much as possible. Not only it will be most likely local, avoiding long flights and intense harvesting (if you have to, buy it frozen), but it is also what’s best for your body. By eating seasonal foods, you give your body the essential vitamins it needs to go through that season. Winter fruit and vegetables provide you with what you need to face the cold weather without getting sick whereas summer vegetables allow you to contrast the heat refreshing and hydrating yourself. Eating tomatoes in winter might not be helpful for your body as those nutrients are not required and may, on the contrary, be hard to digest.
Also, why would you want to eat the same stuff 12 months a year?
7. Skip on highly processed foods
Most processed foods (snacks, sodas, energy bars, cereals, chips, pre-cooked frozen meals etc…) require a lot of manufacturing steps, many ingredients from different parts of the world and usually a high-water consumption. Plus, it comes with a packaging whether you like it or not. Also, it’s usually not good for your liver, your belly nor your skin.
8. Avoid packaging
It’s not just about the food, most packaging is not really planet-friendly either. Grocery store carts are filled with plastic bags. What’s the point of taking one plastic bag for every apple, carrot and lemon we buy? Can’t we just put them loose in the cart? Can you maybe group all the price stickers on one? Give it a thought next time, I’m pretty sure we all can do better.
Pre-packed items can also be avoided most of the time. Go for the fresh loose salad instead of the one in the plastic box. Does your grocery store have food dispenser? I looked closer and found out mine has food dispenser for nuts, rice, oats and lots of other things. They give you a recycled paper bag and off you go.