These days, it’s not just about eating right, it’s about eating sustainably. If you’re struggling to find ways to help green your grocery shopping, cooking and eating, there are a lot of things you can do that you may not even realize are options and that won’t take too much effort on your part. Whether you’re a college student, parent, or professional, consider some of these tips to make what you eat more sustainable and better for the planet.
These basics will get you well on your way to a more sustainable table.
- Choose local. Local foods haven’t used loads of energy to be transported to your location, so look for local when you can.
- Go organic. Why eat a bunch of chemicals if you don’t have to? Look for foods that are healthy and organic at the store.
- Choose seafood wisely. You always want to make sure your seafood is sustainably harvested so you’re not contributing to over fishing.
- Eat less meat. Producing meat takes a lot more resources and energy than producing plants, so eating less is a better choice for the earth.
- Eat seasonal foods. Choose foods that are in season, as oftentimes, those that are out of season have been shipped in from far away or required a whole lot of resources to produce.
- Forage for food. Food may be only a short walk away. Buy some books and educate yourself on the herbs and fungi you can find in your own backyard.
- Eat in moderation. Don’t want to be wasteful? It can be as simple as just cooking and eating less.
- Focus on plants. Plants should make up the bulk of what you eat if you’re looking to be sustainable.
- Buy fresh, not processed. Processed foods require additional time, money and resources to make so stick to fresh when possible.
- Avoid fast food. Fast food, aside from being nutrient poor, is often processed and comes with loads of unnecessary packaging.
- Slow down. Want to eat less and waste less? Slow down, enjoy your food and take time to shop carefully.
- Eat low on the food chain. The higher on the food chain you eat, the more toxins you’ll be exposed to.
- Know when foods are harvested. Not sure when things like corn and tomatoes are in season? Look it up before you plan out what you want to eat.
Consider making your home a greener place to eat with these ideas.
- Plant a garden. There is nothing more sustainable than growing your own fresh foods at home, and a garden can even be grown on a small patio.
- Keep your refrigerator clean and running efficiently. It will use less energy, keep your foods fresher and generally prevent waste.
- Use environmentally friendly pesticides. If you do plant a garden, there’s a good chance some pests will be drawn to it. Instead of breaking out the Raid, use natural remedies to rid your garden of the pests.
- Save seeds. When cutting and preparing raw veggies, wash and save some of the seeds. You can plant them and grow the same kinds of plants in your own backyard.
- Don’t use paper plates and plastic cups. With so many other options there’s no reason to use and throw away paper plates and cups.
- Challenge yourself to produce less garbage. Wasting less means living more sustainably so push yourself to reuse and recycle everything you can.
- Clean with non-toxic materials. You want to keep your kitchen clean and healthy, but you also don’t want harmful chemicals getting into your food. Consider making your own cleaning supplies or looking for green alternatives.
Make sure your food isn’t just delicious but sustainable as well by taking a look at these tips.
- Eat at home. When you eat at home you’ll know exactly what’s going into everything you eat.
- Learn to bake bread. Baking your own bread is a great way to make sure you get whole grains and avoid the heavily processed stuff at the store.
- Make all junk food yourself. Junk food isn’t good for you or the environment, but if you’re craving it make it yourself. It’ll take more effort and ensure you eat less.
- Go raw. Raw foods are nutrient rich and require no energy to cook.
- Buy cookbooks. Cookbooks, new or used, are a great way to learn about sustainable recipes and to try something new.
- Bring your lunch. Making your own lunch will prevent you from eating fast food on your lunch break.
- Be adventurous. Don’t be afraid to try something new when it comes to food. You may find healthy and sustainable foods you love.
- Try tofu. Tofu can be a healthy and green substitute for meat in many dishes.
- Try boxed wine. Boxed wine takes much less energy and resources to transport and these days there are many high quality varieties.
- Add herbs. Adding herbs to a dish can make it more flavorful without making it less healthy. Plus, herbs are easy to grow on your windowsill.
- Try new recipes. You never know when you’ll run across something that will be your new favorite dish.
These tips will help you become a master sustainable shopper in no time.
- Check out farmer’s markets. Farmer’s markets are great places to find local and fresh foods.
- Stick to the real thing. Rather than go for chemical laden substitutes, stick to the real thing. Like buying butter instead of margarine, for example.
- Join a local CSA. You’ll get your fill of seasonal produce and you might even save money.
- Buy in bulk. Bulk foods are cheap, have no packaging and are often healthy for you.
- Bring your own bags. Always bring your own cloth bags to the store rather than using plastic bags.
- Look for fair trade. Make sure things like coffee, tea and chocolate are fair trade so you know they haven’t hurt the environment or the people who produced them.
- Read the label. Some foods look healthy and green but really aren’t. Always be sure to know what the label really says.
- Find coupons. Shopping sustainably isn’t always cheap, so look for coupons to help reduce the cost.
- Make a grocery list. When you have a list you’ll be less tempted to buy things you don’t really need.
- Know what foods are important to buy organic. Some foods are much more important to buy organic than others, so know what you should be looking for before you go.
- Look for heirloom varieties. These are not genetically modified and have been the same, delicious products for centuries.
- Look for foods with little or no packaging. Less packaging means less waste, so avoid heavily packaged items.
- Stop buying bottled water. Millions of water bottles used every years means tons upon tons of waste. Stop buying bottled and get your own reusable bottle.
Sustainability isn’t good for the earth but is also great for your health, as these pointers show.
- Avoid additives.They don’t really add much to your food and can harm the environment.
- Buy fewer preservative-laden foods. Stick to fresh foods when you can to avoid eating tons of preservatives.
- Avoid lite or non-fat foods. These often aren’t healthy at all and have tons of chemicals in them. Simply eat less of another, greener food instead.
- Cook whole foods. Unprocessed, whole foods are the best and healthiest for you to eat.
- Know what you’re eating. Always make sure to look at the ingredients on any packaged food to see what’s really in there.
- Make sweets a treat. You don’t have to cut out sweets altogether, but make sure they’re a treat. Sugar often undergoes a lot of processing and isn’t good for you or the environment.
- Focus on colorful foods. By eating a wide variety of colors of food, you’ll get the nutrient and vitamins you need. Plus, these foods are more likely to be fresh and healthy.
- Eat “real” foods. Don’t go for fake, processed and empty foods. Stick to the stuff that comes straight from the farm to your table.
- Bring your own beverages. If you have your own bottle of water you won’t want to buy sugary drinks or bottled water.
- Look for whole grains. Whole grains need less processing and are better for your body.
- Keep an eye on drinks as well. Drinks, even fruit juices, can be loaded up with sugar. Read labels carefully to ensure you’re getting what you really want and nothing else.
Meat production takes a lot more energy and resources than that of veggies. You don’t have to give up meat altogether, but consider these ideas to cut back.
- Look for grass-fed meats. Cows that have been fed grass will be healthier and produce better quality meat.
- Buy meat directly from farms and share. It can be cheaper and more sustainable to buy a large cut of meat directly from a farm and split it up between yourself and other sustainably minded friends.
- Cut back on beef. Cows produce methane which adds to the greenhouse effect.
- Use meat as seasoning. Meat doesn’t always have to be the focus of your meal. Use it as a topping instead.
- Cut meat in half. If you want to eat less meat, simply cut the recommended amount in a recipe in half.
- Cut out meat from one meal a week. Many are embracing the sustainable idea of a Meatless Monday.
- Use FishPhone. Not sure if that fish is a sustainable one? Use FishPhone to find out while you’re at the store.
- Make sure your animal products are chemical free. Look for meats that are labeled organic and hormone free.
- Look for free range. These animals are more likely to have been raised on a smaller farm rather than a factory one. Of course, some labels are misleading, so always research what you’re buying.
These tips will help you live out the old adage, “waste not, want not.”
- Recycle food containers. Those take out containers can have a new life if you use them to store things, put food in them or send leftovers home with friends.
- Used boiled water to cook twice. Boiled water can cook the food you boiled as well as something else if you keep the lid on.
- Fill up your freezer. A full freezer is more efficient and uses less energy.
- Don’t peek in the oven. It lets the hot air out and requires more energy to keep it hot.
- Conserve water when doing dishes. Turn the tap off between washing and rinsing your dishes.
- Don’t waste energy or water while cooking. It’s easy to get busy and forget to turn off the tap or keep a burner on too long. Be mindful of your waste in the kitchen.
- Filter your own water. Don’t mess around with bottled water. Instead, filter your tap water with a faucet attachment or pitcher.
- Use fewer paper towels. Most spills and messes can just as easily be cleaned up with a cloth towel.
- Bike to the store. When you’re going shopping, try to bike instead of drive. It’s great exercise and you’ll save the gas.
- Start a compost pile. You’ll throw out a whole lot less when you have a compost pile for all your food waste.
- Use the greens. Greens from plants like beets usually end up in the compost but you can use them in a wide variety of recipes and they’re nutritious.
These ideas will require some elbow grease to get started but can be great ways to get more sustainable.
- Buy or make a lunch box. Making your own lunch box can be simple and fun and will give your lunch a personal and green touch.
- Can your own foods. Canning is a lot easier and a lot less dangerous than you might think (exploding pressure cookers are a thing of the past.) A few supplies can set you on the way to canning fresh produce from your garden.
- Make your own cereals. Buy in bulk and combine to make your own healthy, green cereals.
- Freeze, pickle and dry. There are numerous ways you can preserve fresh fruits and veggies from your own garden or the farmer’s market.
- Make your own grocery bags. Most fabric stores now sell material perfect for sewing your own grocery bags let you make as many or as few as you need.
Eating Less, Spending Less
Here you’ll find some ideas that will help you tighten your belt, literally and figuratively.
- Buy smaller plates and glasses. They’ll help you feel like you’re eating more without actually eating more at all.
- Make your own coffee. Instead of heading to the coffee shop every day, make your own coffee at home. It’s cheaper and less wasteful when you use your own mug.
- Cook simple meals. Simple meals use fewer ingredients and are less likely to end up in waste.
- Leave some leftovers. You don’t have to eat every bite of the meal you make. Leave some for lunch tomorrow and you’ll only have to cook once.
- Reduce your calorie intake. Eating fewer calories not only means using less food but can actually help you live longer.
- Plan meals ahead. By planning your meals, you can help ensure you use everything you buy at the store.
- Try to prevent food waste. Don’t buy foods you know you won’t eat or stock up before you go out of town. You’ll save money and food by being mindful.
- If you’re full, stop eating. There’s no sense in eating when you’re not full. You’ll be healthier and happier and a result.
- Eat more frequent, smaller meals. These will help keep you full and eventually help you eat less altogether.
- Choose nutrient dense foods. When foods are full of nutrients you need to eat less to get full and get the nutrition you need.
Going sustainable doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor. Check out these ways to get social with your sustainability.
- Eat with other people. It will make eating a more social and enjoyable experience and you’re likely to eat less.
- Enjoy food. Take the time to slow down and really enjoy what you’re eating.
- Start a community garden. Get involved in your community and help initiate a community garden movement so that others can eat green too.
- Use the web. The web is a great place to learn about sustainable eating and meet others who share your ideals.
- Find friends who share a desire to eat green. It’s easier to stick to green habits when you have people to support you.
- Support green eateries. If restaurants in your area are trying to go green, check them out and support their efforts.
- Get involved. If there are community groups in your area focused on slow food and sustainable living, see what they’re about and maybe even join up.
- Talk to others. Talking to other people about eating sustainably is a great way to learn more and share ideas.
- Get educated. Don’t feel like you know enough about eating sustainably? Get on the web, read a book, take a class and keep learning.
- Take cooking classes. If you don’t know how to cook an eggplant or how in the world to cut up an artichoke, take some classes. The more you know about cooking the better you’ll be at preparing fresh and healthy foods.