Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Spring is finally here and the flowers and trees are blooming, birds are chirping and Mother Nature is ready to begin a new year of growing garden fresh produce. One way to appreciate our environment is to make some simple changes in your diet that will improve your health and the overall health of our planet. Try some of these suggestions by making healthy food choices that focus on eating “green”:
- Drink Water From the Tap in Your Home- Drink filtered tap water and save money on purchasing water in plastic bottles. Plastic bottles require lots of resources, time and money to produce and often end up in a landfill. Put a good quality filter on your kitchen faucet and it will eliminate the minerals in the water including salt from the water softener so you may drink fresh water. Instead of buying bottled water in plastic bottles, use the filtered tap water to fill a stainless steel or glass water bottle. For your health, make sure you stay hydrated all day long.
- Use Green Kitchen Small Appliances- Trim your energy bill by using appliances that heat up quickly and use less energy. A “hot pot” can heat water for tea or instant beverages in a minute or two. Try using a pressure cooker to cook vegetables, stews, dried beans and potatoes. A rice cooker and toaster oven all are great for cooking small portions of foods and a microwave oven is great for re-heating food. These appliances save energy and cost less to run than using a large stove.
- Eat Fresh Fruit and Nuts for Snacks Rather Than Single-Pack Items- Save money by putting your own snack bags together with healthy grains, nuts, and dried fruits. Leave out the candy, chocolate chips and other sweet treats from snack mixes. Choose an apple or grapes and add a cheese stick or 4 oz. yogurt instead. Keep snacks simple and food choices healthy.
- Join a CSA—Community Supported Agriculture- You will typically sign a contract with a local farmer. You receive a box of fresh veggies each week over the Spring, Summer, and Fall months. You pay the farmer in advance of the season which makes it a win for you and for the farmer. Extra veggies can be frozen for later use in the year. CSAs are a “green” way to help the farmer stay in business and receive healthy produce on a regular basis.
- Buy Certified Fair Trade Foods- These foods are grown by farmers who practice sustainable agricultural methods rather than using lots of chemicals, such as pesticides, on their crops. Foods like coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas and nuts are often grown organically with actions related to how the soil is being cared for rather than abusing forests and wildlife for the sake of growing their crops. Certified fair trade food items cost a few pennies more but eating “green” can save forests, birds and wildlife habitats.
- Bring Your Lunch to Work or School- Prepare a quick salad, make a healthy sandwich and add a piece of fruit or raw veggies to it along with a glass of water, non-sugared beverage, or cup of tea,coffee, or fat-free milk.. Make sure your lunch includes: protein, veggies, fruit, grains and dairy. Add a beverage and you are all set to eat healthy and save money from buying your lunch at a local fast food restaurant, deli or supermarket.
Take small steps toward eating “clean” and green, saving money, time, resources and your health.