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8 Tips to Go Green When You Eat

Earth Day fell this past week on April 22nd, 2011. To celebrate today and every day, here are Jackie Newgent’s “8 Eco-Rules” and tips for simply and painlessly becoming a greener eater-or an “ecotarian:”

1.     Prepare plant-based meals. Try to include a fresh fruit or vegetable in every recipe. Fill half of your plate with produce when possible.

2.     Be an energy-wise cook. Let small appliances rule. A toaster oven works just like a regular oven, but more energy efficiently-using only about half of the energy of a conventional oven. And due mainly to faster cooking times, the microwave oven can reduce energy use by about 2/3 (maybe more!) compared with the conventional oven.

3.     Eat by season. The United States is a big place, so aim to mostly use produce that’s in-season in your own local area (or, better yet, your own garden!) for the greenest fruit and veggie experience. If a fruit or vegetable is available at your local farmers’ market, that’s a good sign of seasonality.

4.     Enjoy the great taste of fresh foods naturally. Try “earth-style” on for size, too. Use every edible produce part-skin, seeds, and all-whenever possible to create less waste and add eco-flair. Make sure to scrub skins and outer peels well first. And when you want to boost flavor of your cuisine, reach first for fresh ingredients, like grated citrus zest, fresh herbs, even mushrooms (or truffles, if you’re lucky!).

5.     Go organic and eco-conscious when you can. Going organic is an investment into your health-and the health of the planet. It means fewer pesticides and other possibly toxic chemicals end up in the food that you eat-and in the surrounding ecosystem and environment as a whole. To help you decide which foods are most important to choose wisely, check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen produce list.

6.     Buy locally when logical. To get to your table, foods use fossil fuels, contributing to climate changing pollution. Keep this in mind: The average distance a food needs to travel to get to a farmers’ market is less than 60 miles. That’s quite a difference from what the average food travels from farm to plate … about 1500 miles!

7.     Practice the 4R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle. Buy and use only what you need. Wash and reuse what you can-as long as it’s safe to do so. Consider other ways to use something other than how it was originally used. (For instance, a used can of soup may be repurposed as a chopstick holder or pencil container.) Recycle everything allowable … but don’t try to recycle what’s not recyclable. (Ask your local municipality for recycling guidelines for your area.)

8.     Be realistic. Being a 100% sustainable eater is not sustainable. Find your own sustainable “sweet spot.” If you think you’re about 75% green, shoot for 80% as your next goal. Small steps do make a difference.

How do you go green in your kitchen?

Source: Jackie Newgent, RD, CDN, culinary nutritionist and author of Big Green Cookbook.

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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized and award-winning health and nutrition expert, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books. An avid walker, she loves motivating others to #moveitorloseit. A book lover, she recently earned a certificate in children’s literature from Stony Brook Southampton and is currently working on several young adult novels. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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