When we say green foods in this blog we are not talking about vegetables as your sole food source. We are talking about eating foods that have a lower carbon footprint than the traditional American choice of beef as a protein source.
Protein Green Foods
Lifecycle assessments of total greenhouse gas emissions reveal that all protein is not created equal. As you can see from the chart below the number of kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per kg (kg CO2e/kg) of food varies significantly.
Change to some more efficient proteins
Make small changes to exchange foods with high emissions to ones with lower emissions. Eating 4 oz. of beef is the equivalent emissions of driving your car over 6 miles.1 Just switching from beef to pork makes a difference. Incorporating more plant-based protein makes an even bigger difference. SO go ahead, you have our permission to eat a mushroom and cheese pizza to lower your carbon footprint
Minimize food waste
Just buy what you need. It is estimated by the EWG – environmental working group – that 20% of produced meat is discarded.
Eat appropriate portion sizes
Meat is important in many diets to get needed vitamins, minerals, and protein. However, eating a lot of red and processed meats has been associated with increased risks of heart disease, certain cancers, and in some studies, diabetes. If you eat the equivalent of one less burger per week for a year, it is like taking your car off the road for 320 miles. Even if you would move to a turkey burger each week you would save close to 300 miles worth of driving.
Eat More Green food – as in grass-fed beef
Eat more grass-fed, no antibiotic/hormone, and/or pasture-raised meat, eggs, and dairy. Eat wild fish. This reduces grain-fed emissions, antibiotic resistance, and exposure to hormones and toxins. 1 Try reducing portion sizes of more expensive proteins and adding more plant-based protein to offset most of the increase in cost while maintaining proper nutrition.
Speaking of Vegetables
How about organics? You can do a lot! EWG.org figured out how people can eat well on a SNAP ( Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ) allowance of $6.67/day) EWG shows you how to pick foods to minimize chemical contamination and cost while maximizing nutrition. Over 1200 items were evaluated. Details for each are provided in the methodology PDF. EWG hand-picked the best 100+ that pack in nutrients at a good price with the fewest pesticides and contaminants. 1 See the sample shopping list in the PDF below to eat well on $35/week. Be sure to update recommendations based on the just-released 2017 dirty dozen and clean 15 lists and price changes. Things change, pears used to be on the clean list but, recent tests show they are now heavily contaminated with chemicals. For every $25 spent on food, spend $6 on vegetables, $5 fruits, $4 grains, $4-5 proteins, $4 dairy and $1-2 oils/other. EWG teaches you how to include recipes to make it delicious too.
Buy organic at Sam’s Club, Costco, etc. Their fresh choices are limited, but some of the prices are comparable to non-organic. For example, one lb. of organic spinach, kale mix, or spring mix today was $4.99 at Costco.
Avoid the EWG 2021 dirty dozen and buy 2021 clean 15, if not organic.
DIRTY (most residual chemicals) strawberries, spinach, kale – collard and mustard greens, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, pears, cherries, celery, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes,
CLEAN – (least residual chemicals) avocados, corn, pineapples, onions, papayas, peas, eggplant, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, kiwi, cauliflower, mushrooms, honeydew, cantaloupe
Buy one organic item per week. Buying just one increases demand which, in turn, will increase availability and affordability. Organic is much cheaper today than it was even a few years ago.
Headed into 2021
As we head into 2021, there is another reason to eat more responsibly. Thirteen years ago in 2008, Michael Pollan advised us in his book “In Defense of Food” to Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. As we try to come to terms with supply chain issues, climate change, and the need to boost our immune systems his advice is better than ever. Micheal presented four rules for eating:
- Eat real food- not too much
- Don’t eat anthig your grandma would not recgonize
- Avoid anything processed
- Buy from your local farmers market if possible
Looking for a supportive community to join?
UUCNH, located in the North Hills of Pittsburgh and now serving the world through the Internet is a great place to find support and the friendship of other like-minded individuals and families. Our upcoming services are listed below. Why not use the form below to get more information about our church community? No matter where you live in our post-pandemic world, virtual membership in our community is a great way to connect with others just. like you.
Chart from Research Gate – Creative Commons license