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Sustainable Eating: A Healthy Diet for You and the Planet

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Did you know that there’s a big variety of health apps and online tools to help you eat in a way that is healthier and more sustainable for yourself, your family, and the environment?

What is sustainable eating?

Sustainable eating means eating foods that are good for you and good for the Earth, too. Eating plants, for example, is better for the environment than eating animals, which require a large amount of water and food to grow and maintain.

Another example is eating locally-grown food instead of food shipped in from a distance, avoiding the environmental costs of fuel, packaging, and refrigeration required to transport food and keep it fresh.

Can healthy food save the planet?

Making better choices about what and how we eat is, of course, only one way to impact the environment, but it can be significant. For instance, Our World in Data reports that over a quarter of global greenhouse emissions are related to food.

The World Wildlife Fund says to eat more plants and a greater variety of foods to support sustainable food systems. They estimate that 75% of our food comes from just 12 plants and 5 species of animals. A lack of diversity puts us at risk of losing a major proportion of our key food sources all at once. Monoculture cultivation (growing a lot of one kind of plant or animal, rather than many) also puts greater stress on the land (or water) in which it takes place.

Is there an app for environmentally friendly eating?

There are multiple apps that track sustainable eating as it applies to restaurants and grocery stores. HowGood researches the environmental and social impact of food products so you can make better buying decisions.

The HappyCow app helps you find vegan and vegetarian friendly eateries near you anywhere in the world. The Monterey Bay Aquarium website provides information about which fish are environmentally responsible to eat for both consumer and business audiences.

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Where can you buy healthy online food?

While it’s ideal to buy food produced locally, for many people and certain types of products that’s not feasible. But you can pair local food with responsibly sourced options from elsewhere to improve your diet and environment. For example, Green Choice lets you buy staples and snacks from big box stores like Target and WalMart using filters for specific dietary needs (eg gluten-free) and “climate friendly” guidelines.

Another alternative, ThriveMarket, offers a membership service that provides healthy recipes, economic savings, and foods that can be filtered according to your dietary needs and values, including animal welfare and fair trade. Finally, Imperfectfoods lets you buy discontinued or visually “imperfect” foods at a discount, (think quirky-shaped peppers or broken almonds that might otherwise be discarded).

What is a no waste grocery store?

Another way to increase sustainable eating is to cut down on packaging and eliminate food waste. No waste grocery stores sell foods and other items in bulk and without plastic or packaging.

The Freshfarm farmer’s market near my house (which I love!) is a largely zero-waste destination. Most shoppers carry food home in baskets and reusable bags. My husband and I save and swap our egg cartons with Garden Path Farms each week, dropping off empty ones (even from other companies) in exchange for gorgeous farm fresh eggs.

Want to find a sustainable grocery store near you?

Litterless provides a state-based guide to zero waste grocery stores.

How does sustainable eating impact your health?

When it comes to sustainable eating, it’s not *just* that you’re protecting the planet for yourself, your kids, and your grandkids. Fortunately, there’s a sizable overlap between the foods that are great for our environment and great for our bodies.

Lots of fruit and vegetables plus high-quality animal products are healthy, according to nearly all of the major diets that are supported by science, including the low-carb whole food diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the Paleo diet. Sustainable eating can help keep you looking and feeling your best throughout your lifetime.

How should you get started?

Giki zero is a social enterprise that developed software that lets you estimate, track, and manage your carbon footprint. Kind of a cool way to inform yourself and your family about a sustainable diet, healthy living, and the overall impact even one person can have. One reviewer compares it to a Fitbit for your environmental impact. Maybe I’ll try it with my kids this summer.

How about you? Do you have tools that help you eat and shop better to improve personal health and the planet?

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When we care for ourselves and others, the greater world around us benefits.

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