Earth Friendly Eating

Earth Friendly Eating! Since Earth Day was this week, let’s talk for a bit about being kinder to our Earth through our food and beverage choices.  Organic, natural, free trade, local, humane… there is a long list of terms applied to foods and drinks today that make them sound more natural or earth friendly- but how to choose?  To help clarify this a bit, let’s go over some major categories of foods or beverages.  Hint: it’s not all about buying organic products, or going totally vegetarian!  Meat & Dairy: Buying products that are certified USDA organic can reduce environmental impact because no pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics were used in the animals’ care.  Certified organic meat and dairy can be very expensive or difficult to find, however.  Locally sourced meat and dairy reduces the energy in transporting it to you.  You can also reduce your impact in this area- and save money- by simply choosing to use these products less.  Instead of dairy, try focusing on high calcium plant foods (broccoli, kale) or fortified orange juice or soy milk.  Choose beans and legumes for protein instead of meat sometimes, eat meat only once daily, or have a meatless day once a week.   Poultry and Eggs: Certified organic or humanely raised are good options if available and not cost prohibitive.  You can also just use these items less to reduce your impact, and save money.  Instead of chicken, turkey, or eggs a few times a week, go for nuts or beans for your protein in a meal or snack.  Try a peanut butter sandwich instead of turkey, or have some chickpeas on a salad instead of chicken. Veggies and Fruits: The health benefits of eating more non-organic produce FAR outweigh the marginal risk of increased pollutant exposure, so if organic isn’t available to you, don’t let that stop you from loading your plate!  Keep in mind that almost all of the research that show the tremendous health benefits of a high produce intake studied conventional (non-organic) produce.  You can also buy locally sourced produce to reduce the energy used to transport it.  Wash it, peel it, and eat up! Water:  Don’t be afraid of tap water.  Most experts concur that it is safe and preferable to bottled water- in fact, 25% of bottled water IS tap water.  Tap water saves packaging, saves money, and isn’t transported long distances.  Water bottles are filling landfills and demand more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually!  If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, buy a simple filtration system like Pur or Brita which fits on your faucet, or uses a refillable pitcher.  For water on the go, treat yourself to a nice easy to wash bottle, you can refill it and use it for years. Wesley Homes and Morrison’s Goals:  Our Dining Services partner, Morrison Senior Living, and Wesley Homes are working together on the following goals in order to promote ecologically responsible dining at Wesley: using artificial growth hormone free dairy, poultry produced without human antibiotics, Certified Humane cage-free eggs, social and ecological certified coffee, sustainable seafood, and waste reduction practices. As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to make your meals and snacks a bit more earth friendly.  Don’t stress over them, but try a few and use the ones that work best for you, and feel good about it!   Valerie Rawlinson, RD, CD  

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