How to eat environmentally friendly

How to eat environmentally friendly

It’s always a good day to take better care of and protect the planet. But did you know that what you eat can help make a difference too?

What we eat can help the environment

Every time we go to the grocery store or to restaurants, the foods we order and put in our grocery cart determine which foods get produced globally. Foods, and therefore our diets, have various water and carbon footprints, and some are better than others. There are several easy food swaps that we all can do to improve not just our health, but to also help the environment.

Go green with your diet

Plant-based diets have much smaller water and carbon footprints compared to animal foods. For example, it takes 39 gallons of water to produce one pound of vegetables. Conversely, it takes more than 1800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Animal foods also generate drastically more carbon emissions than plant foods. One serving of meat releases 330 grams of carbon dioxide into the air compared to just two grams for beans and lentils.

How you can eat environmentally friendly

Cutting out all meat and dairy isn’t realistic for everyone. Instead, there are some simple tweaks to our diets that can improve not just our health, but also the planet’s.

  • Meatless Mondays: If everyone in the U.S. skipped red meat just one day per week for a year, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road. Cutting down on red meat is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint. Try to eat beans, peas and lentils in place of meat at least once per week. Even switching to chicken, pork and fish helps
  • Switch to organic or grass-fed eggs and dairy: It’s less damaging to the environment and more nutritious.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains: Whole grains are better for the environment, because it takes less processing to make them. They are also more beneficial than refined grains and contain several vitamins and minerals that help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Switch to shade-grown coffee: Great taste, less fertilizer and pesticides to produce and pulls carbon dioxide out of the air. Look for certifications such as organic, fair-trade and bird-friendly.
  • Three keys: Waste less food, choose organic fruits and vegetables, and buy local when possible.

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  1. Great article! So many benefits to eating more plant based food. The common denominator with the healthiest populations in the world is that they are at least 80% plant based. I’m excited to see more and more people are moving in this direction. Health transformation begins with what we eat! Highly recommend the documentaries The Game Changers, Forks Over Knives and What the Health for anyone who is ready to begin their transformation to health.

    p.s. You’re worth it!!!

  2. Susan from Chicago May 28, 2021 at 3:13 pm · Reply

    Great article! Love it! Very helpful. Also – maybe an article on composting would be a good follow-on piece. Food waste is a huge issue – but composting is wonderful! All of that food waste can become nutrient rich soil. And there are easy ways to do it. For example, we have a neighborhood tote that we all contribute to. We pay a service to compost it and we get free compost every year. Of course there is a fee for this but we all chip in so it is extremely reasonable. I never knew how much food waste my family produced until I started composting. And walking my compost to our neighborhood tote is a great way to get steps!

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About the Author

Heather Klug
Heather Klug

Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.