Eating right is more than choosing a salad over French fries or bran cereal over sugary puffs. Today, many of us choose foods that are not only good for our body, but also good for our environment. And just as important, we want to support the families who produce our food. Sustainable foods can be easy to find at your local farmers’ market. They can also be surprisingly easy to find at your local grocer. These tips will help you shop sustainably, even if you choose the big-box store over the co-op.
- Stock up on peas and beans. Buying fresh is fantastic, but it’s also good to fill your cupboard with cans and bags of peas, beans and lentils. Legumes are filled with fiber, protein and other nutrients, plus they are good for the environment. Bacteria which live on these plants take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a soil-enriching plant food through a process called nitrogen fixation. This helps reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.
- Choose more fish instead of beef. Experts have identified beef production as a major driver of deforestation. Consider adding more sustainably sourced fish to your diet. Look for the blue Marine Stewardship Council label or opt for U.S.-caught seafood. American fisheries have some of the most stringent ecological rules in the world. And when you do crave a steak, choose a locally sourced, grass-fed option. This is much kinder to the environment than the alternatives.
- Look for palm oil on the label of packaged foods. There’s an easy way to find out if the manufacturer is thinking about sustainability: Check the ingredient list to see what type of oil they’re using. If it’s palm oil, you can add the item to your sustainable shopping basket. Most of the palm oil used in the U.S. is sustainably produced in Malaysia. This eco-friendly country has strict agricultural laws that protect the country’s native rainforests. An amazing 67 percent of the country is under forest cover! Plus Malaysia works hard to ensure its family farmers – who tend more than 40 percent of the oil palm plantations – have a good standard of living. In fact, international experts have credited palm oil production with lifting millions of Malaysians out of poverty.
- Simply buy less. According the USDA, food waste is estimated at between 30 and 40 percent of the American food supply. The resources that went into producing this food such as the land, energy, water and labor, could have been used to benefit society. Instead, this food waste is often sent to landfills where it quickly generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas.