Eating Mindfully?

Gracie Cavnar
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Salad.JPGConcerned about how we are going to feed an exploding population AND make progress toward healthier diets? Wondering how you can positively impact a sustainable food system? We can all play a part--with our personal habits and daily descisions.  We have to walk the talk in our own lives. 

Did you know that Americans eat more four-legged critters than the rest of the world combined?  These (high calorie) tasty bites put a lot of pressure on our environment, and consume a lot of calories before making it to our tables. Meat was pretty scarce to humans for our first several thousand years, making it highly prized.  We are hard-wired to seek it. Now that we can get as much as we want, whenever we want, is a meat-centric diet what we should be embracing?

No. Not if we want to be healthy ourselves and promote a healthy planet, too.  We have long echoed the wisdom of respected nutritionists who agree that a healthy diet features a rich variety of fruits and vegetables and only 4-6 ounces of meat--more like a garnish than the centerstage star of your plate.  Limiting animal protein in our diets will not only reduce our waistlines, it will reduce greenhouse gasses, too. The Harvard School of Public Health has shared these suggestions for personal action in their June newsletter:

The sum of each individual's actions can have a powerful impact. The following are some ways you can promote sustainability:
1. Examine your personal food choices.  As explained in the Union of Concerned Scientists report:
• If Americans ate fruits and vegetables at recommended levels, U.S. farmers would grow a lot more of these foods.
• Changes in demand for meat and dairy products--either up or down--would have significant implications for how much grain U.S. farmers grow. This is because farm livestock consume grains in such large quantities.

2. Eat less red meat, and you can help the environment.
As outlined in the United Nations 2013 Food and Agriculture Organization report:
• Beef (41%) and cattle milk production (19%) account for the majority of livestock emissions, with pig meat (9%) and poultry meat and eggs (8%) contributing as well.

3. Practice mindful eating.
By taking the time to truly savor your meal - being aware of your actual hunger and eating until you've had just enough - you can minimize food waste.
• Learning to eat in accordance with your hunger, and avoiding overeating, has benefits for both your waistline and for the environment.

4. Choose a food guide that enhances both personal and planetary health.
As outlined in a Union of Concerned Scientists report, Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate recommends less dairy consumption and less red meat relative to the USDA's MyPlate. While both guides emphasize eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables, The Healthy Eating Plate helps you choose more sustainable food options.
• Learn about and support efforts to produce foods in ways that reduce green house gas emissions and that are more environmentally friendly in other ways as well. This will usually mean that you will be selecting foods that are also fresher, flavorful, and healthier.  Harvard and the Culinary Institute of America have joined forces to create and promote Menus of Change designed to encourage the food service sector to be mindful of sustainable food systems when designing menus, and sourcing ingredients.

Summertime, with its bounty of fresh food at markets inthe grocery stores and in our own gardens, is the best time to start. Think before you take that next bite!

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