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.
Find more info, articles and recipes at aurora.org.
About the Author
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.