by: Kelli Wood, MS, RD, LDN, Carolina Dining Services
Did you know that what you eat can contribute to a healthy environment? Our food system has been put under the microscope in recent years, and as a result Americans have become more attentive to where their food is coming from. Here are some tips on how to eat a healthier diet for a healthier environment.
The closer the distance from the farm to your fork, the more nutrition you can get from your food. From the time it takes for fruits and vegetables to be transported to grocery stores around the country, they lose some of their nutrients. By visiting a local Farmers’ Market you can not only support local farmers, but get the most nutrition out of the produce that you eat. Also, the less distance food has to travel means less fuel used by trucks and less emissions.
You can further support your local community and farmers by eating seasonable foods available near you. Seasonal foods are those which are able to grow in your local community during a particular season. Eating seasonal is not only a more natural way to eat but an opportunity to experience new varieties of food within your limitations.
Eating food grown free of artificial fertilizers, chemicals, and alterations promotes the health of soil and other plant life in the environment. While organic options may be higher in cost, it is important to realize the long term benefits eating organic can have on all organisms.
Choose Sustainable Foods
Choosing grass-fed beef and free-range chicken can make a huge impact on the environment in addition to your health. Conventionally raised cattle are fed a diet of grains in order to meet their weight for slaughter at a cheap price and faster rate. As a result the beef product tends to be higher in fat and lower in nutrients than what you would find from all-natural, grass- fed cattle.
Monitor Portion Sizes
Monitoring portion sizes is one of the easiest ways you can simultaneously support your nutritional and environmental well-being. By choosing only enough food to satisfy your hunger, you can:
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Ease digestion and reduce overeating and bloating
- Eliminate food waste
- Decrease landfill growth rates
Taking more frequent trips to the serving line for smaller portions can help you monitor how much food you are actually taking and what is left over.
Recycling plastic utensils, cups, and plates used during meal times is a huge opportunity towards reducing unnecessary waste. Many operations with repeat-customer populations offer reusable containers. These containers can be returned and reused over and over again verses paper or Styrofoam alternatives. Be sure to read all labels and signage on recycling bins to dispose of recyclable materials appropriately. For example, plastic bottle tops, paper cups, cardboard and glass objects all have a specific places in which to recycle.