AHolistic Approach to Health and Nutrition

Buying Local Produce

Eating a Plant-Based Diet

Eating Organic

Eating Gluten-Free

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NUTRITION

HEALTH and

Developing a green lifestyle requires a holistic approach. Paying attention to health and nutrition is as important as the three R’s—reducing, reusing, and recycling—with

the products we buy and use. We can save energy with ENERGY STAR appliances, insulation, and by reducing the amount of VOCs we breathe in, but what about the food we eat? Living a green lifestyle means making the right decisions to improve our health as well as the environment. Actually, the two are integrated because what is right for our health will also benefit the earth.

For example, organic foods and organic cooking is, by definition, more natural. To produce organic food, farmers grow crops without using synthetic pesticides or petroleum-based fertilizers. They raise livestock without feeding the animals hormones or antibiotics. Food is not irradiated, genetically altered, or coated with preservatives. Most people would be shocked to discover how many chemicals are in the food they eat. Choosing foods just because they are considered nutritious, like vegetables or fruits, is no longer enough. Our foods cannot be selected just because they are supposed to be nutritious. They must also be safe to eat and contribute to environmental sustainability.

Avoiding chemicals is not always easy because they are used systematically in nearly every product we buy. Medical research has discovered that people’s diets are damaging their health rather than protecting it. For example, millions of people suffer from gluten intolerance, and eliminating gluten in the diet could improve their overall health. There is also research, such as The China Study, that shows a correlation between good health and plant-based diets.

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Eating

Organic

What is it?

Organic food is any food grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. In order to be certified as organic by the USDA, products must be produced without synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetic engineering, or irradiation. Organic produce is grown without these methods, and organic certification on animal products indicates that animals were fed organic feed and were not exposed to antibiotics or growth hormones, and that producers maintained certain health and welfare standards. Processed food may be certified if it contains 95% or more certified organic ingredients.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities:

  Fewer synthetic chemicals and pollutants introduced to groundwater systems

Fewer concerns about environmental toxicity

Pros:

Fewer concerns about toxicity of foods (better for your health)

Fewer artificial ingredients

No use of sewage sludge means the risk of food-borne illness is reduced (e-coli, salmonella)

Cons:

Does not improve nutritional content of food

Non-synthetic pesticides are not as effective as synthetic ones, so they have to be applied more often and in greater amounts

Even non-synthetic pesticides are toxic in high concentrations and can still leave residue on produce

Many organic products are more expensive than their conventional counterparts

Maintenance:

Like other lifestyle changes, the maintenance here depends on your way of life. Many conventional grocers carry some organic produce and packaged foods. Specialty grocers, such as Whole Foods, may have a broader organic selection. Organic foods can also be found at farmers’ markets. As an alternative, you could try organic gardening, which would allow you to use homemade pesticides and organic fertilizers/compost.

Timeline:

This change should take no more time than normal grocery shopping, unless a few extra minutes is spent reading the labels.

Steps:

Trade out some conventionally produced foods with their organic counterparts. To get started, here are some easy-to-find organic foods:

Bananas

Beans

Coffee

Mushrooms

Spinach and other greens

Potatoes

Tomatoes

Cherries

Carrots

Citrus

Cost Estimator:

While some organic foods are no more expensive than their conventional alternatives, often there is a 5-20% increase in the unit price.

Quick Tips:

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has identified the 12 most contaminated conventionally grown (non-organic) foods, called the “Dirty Dozen,” as well as the 15 least contaminated conventionally grown foods, called the“Clean Fifteen.”You’ll find both lists on the next page. To reduce your family’s exposure to synthetic pesticides, source the “Dirty Dozen” organically. The least contaminated foods are those that will have the least impact on health when conventionally grown.

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Dirty Dozen

Least contaminated when

conventionally grown

 

 

 

Apples

Asparagus

 

 

Blueberries

Avocado

 

 

Celery

Cabbage

 

 

Cucumbers

Cantaloupe

 

 

Grapes

Corn

 

 

Lettuce

Eggplant

 

 

Nectarines

Grapefruit

 

 

Peaches

Kiwis

 

 

Potatoes

Mangos

 

 

Strawberries

Mushrooms

 

 

Spinach

Onions

 

 

Sweet Bell Peppers

Pineapple

 

 

 

Sweet Peas

 

 

 

Sweet Potatoes

 

 

 

Watermelon

 

 

 

 

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Eating a Plant-Based Diet

What is it?

Did you know that our teeth and digestive systems are actually more suited to a plant-based diet? Humans didn’t always eat meat, and it’s really not natural for us. Adopting a diet of plant-based foods is not only good for your body, but also for your wallet and the environment. There are many ways to reduce consumption of animal products, from going vegetarian or vegan, to adopting

adiet with less meat. A plant-based diet has been shown to be good for heart health, weight loss, and other health concerns. It’s also about seven times more resource- efficient than an omnivorous diet, requiring less land for animals, less grain and water to feed them, and fewer waste emissions.

Why do it?

Pros:

Frees up water and land resources; more carbon efficient

Plant foods are less expensive than meat and dairy

Better for your heart and waistline

Increases physical energy

Fewer worries about food-borne illnesses (such as salmonella)

Cons:

May be a difficult adjustment

May limit your ability to eat at certain restaurants

Maintenance:

Fortunately, this project does not require any more upkeep than regular grocery shopping.

Timeline:

Some people find it easy to adopt a meat-free or plant-based lifestyle immediately, while others prefer a gradual approach. Also, it may take some research to find delicious new foods and brands.

Steps:

1.Decide the extent of your commitment. For some families, abstaining from eating meat or dairy once a week is enough for the first step. You could also go vegan for 30 days to see if it would be a positive permanent change.

2.Make a plan. It’s easiest to stick to a diet change when there is a meal plan in place. Browse the menus of restaurants to see what vegetarian options they have available.

3.Go shopping. To make the transition much easier, stock up on ingredients for meals at home and snacks for when you are on the go.

4.Enjoy! Choose foods that sound good and don’t be upset if there is a slip up. Focus on making daily choices that are better for healthier eating and the environment.

Cost Estimator:

Eating a plant-based diet can be less or equally expensive, depending on your lifestyle. Fresh produce is more expensive than many packaged foods, but it tends to be more filling. However, most plant-based foods will be less expensive than meat or dairy products.

Quick Tips:

✓✓It may be helpful to make the new diet a game for your family. Let the children help identify foods that should be a part of the kitchen, and let each family member pick one new meal that they would like to try.

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Buying

Local

Produce

What is it?

Food from local producers and farmers will usually be fresher and require fewer preservatives. Moreover, the carbon emissions associated with food transport are significantly reduced. Various studies have found that the average North American meal travels anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 miles before arriving at the point of consumption. Along the way, energy is used for processing, temperature control, and transportation.

Why do it?

Pros:

Fewer carbon emissions from travel and conditioning

Fresher, tastier food

You’ll be supporting local business and the economy

Fewer preservatives in the food

You’ll learn about new foods and regional specialties

You’ll know how your food is cared for and where it comes from

Lower likelihood of foodborne illness/food recalls

Cons:

May not be practical for all items

May be hard to find some items

May be more expensive

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Maintenance:

Over time you will get to know local growers and learn how to use regional ingredients.

Timeline:

15 minutes to 1 hour for researching local farmers’ markets, plus shopping time.

Steps:

1.Research farmers’ markets in your area.

2.Consider signing up for a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. This allows you to pay up front at the beginning of the growing season and receive a predetermined “share” of the harvest as it comes in. CSAs may include vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat, mushrooms, flowers, and breads.

3.Learn how to use the new ingredients to make favorite recipes.

4.Consider canning and freezing to preserve spring and summer crops for the winter.

Cost Estimator:

Costs for locally-produced foods are often higher than grocery store items; however, the money goes back into the local economy. Depending on the particular farm and the crops involved, a CSA share ranges from $20 to $60 per week.

Quick Tips:

✓✓It may be helpful to buy only certain products (e.g. eggs, vegetables, etc.) from local producers at first, or to devote at least 10% of your grocery budget to local produce.

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