Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sustainable Eating

Organic food has been the rage for a while now, but lately a new trend in food is emerging: sustainable eating. I was flipping through the July edition of Whole Living (a terrific magazine filled with tips for healthy living and cooking) and they featured a whole section focused on 50 ways to eat sustainably.

I encourage you to pick up this magazine (or check out their website). I'm not going to list all their tips, but here are a handful of my favorite suggestions.
  • Shop at farmers' markets...regularly! You'll be supporting local agriculture and getting fresher products. Check your local farmers' market for staples like onions and potatoes. Stock up on fruits and veggies that are in season and freeze any leftovers. Talk to vendors--ask questions and ask for samples!
  • Follow advice from chef Alice Waters. She says, "local is always the priority, but the organic label really does mean something. If you can't buy local, buy organic--coffees, teas, jams, olive oils, honey, nuts, raisins, oatmeal, beans, grains. There's so much available across the country now." On a related note, be sure to check out the Environmental Working Group's website. They list the dirty dozen--fruits and veggies you should always buy organic, if possible.
  • Buy local eggs and breads to eliminate unnecessary packaging, travel time for your food, and to get the freshest possible product. You'll also be supporting your local economy, which is satisfying.
  • Be package conscious. Try to buy products that come in the least amount of packaging possible--or in containers that are easily recyclable.
  • Eat safer seafood. This is a huge concern now that BP is destroying the Gulf of Mexico. According to Whole Living, just about any fish from Alaska is safe because (surprisingly), they have some of the most environmentally sound fishing practices in the US. Also safe to consume: anything in a shell (oysters, mussels, clams), wild American shrimp (not farm raised!), and local seafood (here in WA we have Dungeness crabs and an abundance of fresh, local seafood to pick from--we're lucky).
  • Buy whole chickens. There was a period in my life that I had almost no money, and I bought whole chickens all the time. They're cheaper than buying already cut up and skinned chicken parts. You can get a ton of meat from a whole chicken that can be used in a variety of ways. And, if you know how to use a knife, it's easy to butcher a chicken to meet your needs. While you're at it, learn how to make your own chicken stock using scraps of chicken, bone, and vegetables you probably already have lying around your kitchen!
  • Go plastic free. This is easier said than done. But go ahead and start small: instead of buying expensive Tupperware or cheap, throw away Gladware, opt for glass storage containers. They're safer to use for microwaving, they won't get stained if you store tomato based products in them, and--unless you drop and break them--they'll outlive your plastic storage containers by far. If you still need to use plastics, be sure to use safer products. Check the bottom of your plastic containers: if there is a number 2, 4, or 5 on there, you're product is less likely to release toxins when heated.
It's nice that we're thinking more about where our food comes from and how it is produced. While buying local/organic may be too expensive or inconvenient at times, I think it's good to do what you can. I'll try to incorporate some of these tips into my shopping/cooking routines. But wow! There's a lot to consider and it can be hard to keep track of it all.

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