Greening your diet is not about sacrificing an entire food group, or strictly eating vegetables, or giving up the foods you love. A green diet is a healthy, diverse diet that involves eating real foods.
You might ask, “Don’t I already eat real food?” Probably some of the time. But our diets have become chock-full of processed foods, refined grains and pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables shipped to us from thousands of miles away. Ingredients lists resemble chemistry experiments and we don't know who made our food or how they did it.
A green diet is a return to fresh, flavorful foods. It is also about considering the planet when you make your food choices. Remember, the eco-friendly options are typically the tastiest ones.
Here are five ways to green your diet.
Buy organic foods when you can
Our ancestors had no choice — food was organic, without a government seal telling you so. But now, with synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers used on crops everywhere, choosing organics allows you to rest a bit easier, knowing your produce, meat and milk were produced in a way that's safer for you and for the environment.
However, organic foods also cost more money, and though that is changing as demand increases, they can still add up on your grocery bill. Spend your organic dollars where they matter most. Try to buy the organic version of these five fruits and vegetables, which have been shown to retain the highest level of pesticides: peaches, sweet bell peppers, apples, celery, and strawberries.
Eat a local meal
The average food item travels over 1,500 miles to get to our plates — that's a lot of pollution and waste created to make dinner. This week, try to eat a local meal. The definition of local varies depending on where you live — for some it might be a 75-mile radius, for others it could be a 500-mile radius.
But by buying locally, you know who grew your food and where it came from. Chances are, that local produce, meat or milk is organic (but not always, so ask if you're unsure). The goods will be in season and fresh. In addition, you're supporting your local economy, which is always a good thing. This week, visit a farmers market, or look for signs at your grocery store that say local.
We're talking grains. Why cut a whole food group out of your diet when the foods that belong to it are delicious, healthful and comforting? The grain group includes wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal and barley. They’re naturally low in fat and high in vitamins.
But remember: There are two types of grains: whole (think whole wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice) and refined (think white bread, corn flakes and macaroni). Whole grains have not been processed, and therefore come complete with all their natural nutritional bonuses. Plus, less processing means less pollution. It’s easy to incorporate whole grains into your diet: Use whole grain bread for your sandwiches (look for whole wheat flour — not just wheat flour — as the first ingredient); order brown rice with that Chinese takeout; try whole wheat pasta for your next Italian night.
Pour a glass of organic wine
With a step like this one, you know greening your diet is about pleasure. In moderation, wine has some heart-healthy benefits. Make that wine even better for you and the planet by choosing organic.
Organic wine is made from grapes grown without synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Some wines are made from organic grapes, but if the winemaker adds sulfites to stabilize the wine during transportation, the organic label can't be used. It's worth asking around; many European wines have been made with organic methods for years, but aren't labeled as such. Try these organic wines at your next get-together: Frog's Leap sauvignon blanc, Cooper Mountain pinot gris, Finca Luzon Verde.
Paper or plastic? How about neither
Plastic bags are made from petroleum and only about one percent of the estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion used worldwide are recycled each year. Start bringing your own. If you go to the grocery store straight from work, keep them in the back of your car. If you're a walker or take public transportation, Ecobags' classic string bags (ecobags.com) roll up into a ball that fits into your purse. Also, Envirosax (envirosax.com) reusable bags come in fun prints and can fold up into a pouch.
Visit TheDailyGreen.com for more smart advice on green living.