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6 Tips to Eat More Sustainably

The way that food is produced, how we buy it, and ultimately what and how we eat has a big impact on the environment. There are simple things that anyone can do to eat more sustainably and that can help reduce their environmental impact. 

Often, eating more sustainably also goes hand-in-hand with making healthier food choices, and sometimes, it can even be a way to save on food costs which in an inflationary environment like we’re in now can be important. 

The following are ideas to help you be a more sustainable eater. 

1. Learn and Be Mindful

One of the most important things to be more sustainable in your food choices is simply to learn where your food comes from. For example, learn how animal products are raised. Find out what animal feed products are used and more about the overall production methods of the foods you eat. 

You can also learn about the food supply chain as a whole and be mindful when you make decisions about what you’re going to eat. 

2. Avoid Very Processed Foods

Generally, the more processed a food is, not only the unhealthier it is but, the more of an environmental impact its production has had. 

Highly processed foods have a lot of ingredients, and those ingredients come from all over the world. The food product that’s the end result then is going to have a higher carbon footprint because of traveling, and also manufacturing and distribution. 

When you avoid highly processed foods, you’re also making a choice that’s good for your health. Very processed foods are often high in sugar and other harmful ingredients. 

3. Don’t Buy Out-of-Season Fresh Foods

When you’re food shopping for fruits and vegetables, learn when something is in-season versus when it’s not. 

Foods that are out-of-season usually have to travel long distances to make it to your local grocer, meaning they’re not very sustainable. 

For example, if you’re buying a lot of fruit in the winter, that means it’s been flown in by air, and that creates a high environmental impact. 

In the off-season, you might want to use more preserved foods than you would ordinarily. For example, frozen, dried, and canned foods can be more sustainable. 

4. Eat Organic When You Can

Sometimes organic food is a little more expensive, but not always, and the benefits might outweigh the slightly higher prices. 

When you choose organically-farmed produce, it’s grown with natural fertilizers, and the weeds are naturally controlled, as are pests.

If you choose organic meat, dairy, and eggs, the livestock is given organic and hormone-free feed. Disease is prevented naturally with strategies like rotational grazing and clean housing. 

Organic food means fewer pesticides, and the food tends to be fresher because it doesn’t have pesticides intended to make it last longer. 

Organic farming practices can reduce pollution and soil erosion, increase the fertility of the soil, use less energy, and conserve water. Organic farming practices are also better for the people, animals, and birds that live near farms. 

It’s also true that organic milk and meat can be higher in certain nutrients than conventional products. For example, in a study from Europe, omega-3 fatty acids were up to 50% higher in organic milk and meat than in versions raised conventionally. 

5. Eat More Plants

You don’t necessarily have to go entirely plant-based to be more sustainable in how you eat, but it can be a good idea to try to actively include more plants in your diet. It’s also generally a good idea to eat more varied foods from a health and sustainability standpoint. 

Around 75% of the world’s supply of food comes from five species of animals and around 12 plants. 

When people embrace more diversity in what they eat, it can reduce the environmental impact of the entire food system. 

6. Choose Foods That Tend to Be Inherently More Sustainable

Some foods are more sustainable than others, and they’re good to integrate into your diet when you can. 

Mushrooms are a good example. They’re a low-input crop, and they can grow in a wide variety of areas without the need for a lot of work to be done to maintain them. You can also grow mushrooms fairly easily at home. 

There are mushrooms that have a rich, meaty taste and texture, so you can use them as a meat substitute on some occasions. 

Finally, locally grown foods tend to be more sustainable, as do legumes. Legumes include lentils, beans, and chickpeas, which are excellent protein sources.

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