1. Eat less meat (especially beef and lamb) and cheese.
In general, calorie for calorie, meat and cheese requires more energy, water, and land than plant-based foods. Meat production also creates more greenhouse gases. Focus on eating smaller portions of these items or less frequently and replacing them with more fruits, veggies, beans, eggs, and nuts.
2. Try new plant foods.
In addition to eating more calories from plant foods, eating a wide variety of plant foods creates a demand for more diverse crops. Crop diversity protects land against drought, pests, and loss of nutrients. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, only 12 species make up 75% of our food crops. Millet and sorghum are a great starting point since they are drought tolerant. Find them near the rice and read Dietitian Sarah’s thought on millet here.
3. Minimize food packaging.
Not only will this reduce frustration when trying to tear through the umpteenth layer of plastic, but it also reduces your trash production. Here are a couple places to start:
Use reusable mesh produce bags.
Bring your own bags or lightweight container and fill them with bulk food.
Avoid buying individually-packaged items.
Tackle the barriers to using a reusable water bottle. Harmons has free water when you stop for a bite!
Skip the straw.
4. Clean your plate (but not really).
An estimated 31% of food in the US is wasted on the consumer level. Although it doesn’t help anyone (or the earth) to overeat by cleaning your plate, you can make a difference by being thoughtful in your food choices–buying only what you need and eating what you buy. Dietitian Jonnell is really passionate about this topic—check out her blog or follow her quest towards more sustainability on Instagram @jdmmrd.
Make a meal plan before you shop to avoid buying food that you won’t prepare.
Be flexible with your meals—eat what needs to be eaten first.
Share restaurant entrees or take leftovers home.
Freeze food before it goes bad.
Keep your refrigerator clean, labelled, and organized so nothing gets forgotten.
Consider how to eat the unconventional parts of the veggies and fruits you buy. Check out my blog on root to stem eating.
5. Choose organic options when you can.
In general, organic food is grown in a way that supports the health of the soil and minimizes water pollution. The majority of produce options at Harmons have an organic counterpart. However, all fruits and vegetables are a healthy choice—eat more of them (see #2).
6. Seek out local foods.
Utah has a vibrant farming community and local food scene. Not only is this food fresher and delicious, it also requires very little energy to transport it to our stores, which reduces the fossil fuels used and carbon footprint. Look for the blue “Local Food” tags throughout Harmons’ stores. As the summer progresses, find more and more local produce.
7. Choose “Good” or “Best” options in the seafood department.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could walk up to the seafood department and see signs that rate how each fish affects ocean health? You can! Harmons uses the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, which makes it easy to choose the “Best Choice” for the earth. Harmons adopted this program three years ago and it’s still going strong.
And when you’re done eating, compost your plant-based food waste. Dietitian Geneieve wrote about why we compost at Harmons and how to start your own.
Leitzmann C. Nutrition ecology: the contribution of vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78(suppl):657S-9S.
Pimentel D, and Pimentel M. Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78(suppl):660S-3S.