January 7, 2019
As you make resolutions and goals for 2019, what’s on your radar? Climate change and our planet’s health are big news stories these days, but if you are like most people, they likely feel unconnected to your daily life, or just plain overwhelming. After all, climate change is a story that began during the Industrial Revolution, as global policies and practices since then have contributed to growing emissions and environmental degradation —and much of that environmental degradation can be attributed to large corporations and businesses. In fact, since 1988 more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions can be traced to only 25 corporate and state producers, according to the Carbon Majors Report. But animal agriculture also plays a major role, with 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gases attributed to the production of animals for food. Clearly, the most significant solutions rest in the hands of policymakers and industry—but there’s a lot consumers can do, too.
Nowhere is this more clear than with how we purchase, prepare and eat our food. Collectively, we can make an important impact, and it makes us healthier too. And for the most part, what is good for the planet is also good for your personal health, lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease, overweight and some cancers.
So without further ado, here are 10 simple steps, backed by science, that you can make to do your part in 2019.
- Eat more plants, especially whole grains, legumes and vegetables, as well as root vegetables and greens. Include them at every meal. Substitute them for sugar, refined grains and processed foods. Challenge yourself to try different ingredients at the store, new recipes and menu items at restaurants.
- Eat less meat and fewer animal products, including dairy, to limit your carbon footprintand environmental impact. Meatless Monday is a good day to start, and the website offers find plant-based recipes, inspiration and a community of people to participate with.
- Choose sustainably sourced animal foods when you do eat animal products: look for cage-free eggs, meat and poultry raised without antibiotics, grass-fed beef and certified humane products.
- Choose more sustainable plant products too, especially those that use less water and energy, and ensure fair labor practices. This means fewer avocados from Mexico (sorry!); and for East Coast denizens, if you find it challenging to find avocados sourced from California, consider eating fewer (again, sorry!). Try purchasing coffee that is shade-grown or certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Consider peanuts over almonds because they are less resource intensive and actually improve the soil by adding nitrogen. Purchase produce in season and locally or regionally sourced. Add more root vegetables to your routine; they use less water and have a longer shelf life, requiring less refrigeration.
- Choose sustainable seafood using the Seafood Watch guide.
- Choose foods with less packaging. Buy loose produce when possible. Do not buy produce packaged in hard plastic; limit single-serving packages, coffee K-cups (As the New York Times reported, some K-cups may be recyclable, but they’re hardly green), and the like. Reuse and recycle packaging, or seek out compostable packaging.
- Avoid take-out cups, single-use containers, straws and plastic utensils. Plan ahead. Use your own containers and bags.
- Throw away less food. Use your leftovers and shop with a list. Maybe even try buying a little less food than you think you’ll need—what’s the worst that could happen?
- Compost and recycle everything you can.
- Support local food producers and ugly produce programs. Shop at farmers markets, join a CSA and look for signs that say “locally produced” at your community grocery store.
Good news! Making these changes may be getting a little easier. More people are getting on board with these changes, and you are not alone! From the National Restaurant Association to the New York Times, 2019 food trends once again predict plant-based meats, transparency, and interesting vegetables, especially those with health and wellness properties such as pre- and probiotics, as top trends. Eater.com compiled all the food trend predictions they could find and summarized, “While some of these predictions may be a shot in the dark, the hordes do seem to agree on a few trends for next year… Vegan food — or as buzzword-wielding publicists refer to it, “plant-based” — will become even more mainstream, along with its cousins “faux meat snacks,” heme protein, and lab grown meat…” In fact, 64 percent of the 650 chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association pointed to plant-based sausages and burgers as a top food trend. This means chefs, restaurants, and food outlets will be dishing out delicious, innovative entrees to taste and try at home!
So, go ahead and be a trendsetter as you enter 2019 and eat your way to a better tomorrow!