7 Tips for Sustainable Eating
Wanting to go a little more green with your food choices (and in the kitchen)? Explore my favorite tips for sustainable eating, what a sustainable diet looks like, and how it can have a profound impact on not only your health but the environment, too.
Sustainability is not something I thought much about in my younger years. Recycling was just something our family did here and there, and I thought my best friend’s mom was a little crazy for composting everything (turns out she’s genius).
You may have heard the terms “sustainability”, “sustainable diet/nutrition”, and “sustainable living”, but have you really asked yourself what they mean to you?
So grab a brownie and let’s chat!
In the last couple years, I’ve taken a big interest in sustainable living and eating.
What really did it for me was seeing the amount of products that my husband and I recycle versus how much gets tossed in the trash. We easily recycle four-fold what we throw in the garbage, often filling up our large recycling bin far before our trash bin. Actually seeing all that plastic, aluminum, and cardboard really got me moving in a new direction. We’re constantly recycling yogurt containers, cartons of chicken broth, cans of beans, tomatoes, and coconut milk… plus Kleenex boxes and all the Amazon boxes we receive on the reg. And when I get to cooking… oh, Lawd.
Knowing the negative impacts trash has on our health and our environment flipped a switch in me. I donated all our plastic food containers in favor of Glasslock food storage containers. I purchased reusable grocery bags and tare weight bags and have started shopping from the bulk bins at the health food store.
And it feels so darn good.
“Unsustainable” practices are getting a lot of attention in the media. Things like
- genetically modified foods and farming practices
- excessive food waste
- pesticide use
- antibiotic use in animals
And as much as we like to blame mega corporations, I think the consumer plays the most important role in sustainability. As a collective whole, we all have the ability to change the earth and our health little by little.
The foods that are available to us are a result of demand. As consumers, it’s our shopping habits that determines what’s on the shelves at the store. We demanded fresh fruit year-round even when it’s not in season, which led to the creation of genetically modified seeds to meet our high demands.
You, as the consumer, have the power to change the food system simply by choosing what you spend your money on.
It all starts with us. In the kitchen. Choosing to purchase sustainable food, supporting local farmers, and making healthy choices every single day – not only for us, but also for our environment. Read on to learn my favorite tips for sustainable eating with some simple (but major!) shifts.
What is sustainability anyway?
Sustainability is defined as
The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting its natural resources, and therefore supporting long-term ecological balance.
A sustainable way of eating is “those diets with low environmental impacts that contribute to food and nutritional security and to healthy lives for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable, are nutritionally adequate, safe, and healthy, and optimize natural and human resources.” 
Sustainable eating looks different for every person. To one, it may mean eliminating all animal products, choosing only seasonal and local produce, composting everything, and reducing food waste. To another, it may mean consuming meat that has been purchased from a local farmer, consuming food grown organically and locally, and using less plastic. It might mean shopping with a grocery list instead of making impulse purchases, or choosing to buy in bulk rather than grabbing boxes, bags, or packages of food. Or simply just choosing to recycle.
On a planet filled with hundreds of millions of people, it can feel like your choices don’t make an impact at all. I used to think that, too (what’s one more container of plastic in the landfill?). But Rome wasn’t built in a day either.
Your choices, though small, make a big impact over time.
Please note that the following tips for sustainable eating are my own way of living and adopting a greener kitchen. These are things that I put into practice every day. Take what you want, leave what you want, all I ask is that you start somewhere!
Okay, let’s get to the good stuff.
7 Tips for Sustainable Eating Starting today:
1. Eat real, whole food.
When people ask me what healthy eating looks like, I typically point them toward the Paleo diet or a combination Paleo/Mediterranean diet. Not only has it been shown to be effective against chronic disease and inflammation , these eating styles place a strong emphasis on real, whole, natural foods. They eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates, and industrial seed oils. The emphasis, then, is placed on grass-fed meat, plenty of non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens, starchy tubers like potatoes and squash, nuts, seeds, and other healthy fats. If you tolerate beans and grains just fine, those can certainly be part of a healthy diet, especially if prepared properly.
2. Eat more plants.
Get more plants on your plate! Eating a ton of veggies (organic when possible) is the second tip for sustainable eating. Aim for half your plate being non-starchy veggies at every meal. While I’m not vegetarian or vegan, I make it a point to cook more meatless meals throughout the week (last night’s curry was bomb!).
3. If you’re an omnivore, choose locally-sourced, organic meat.
My husband and I are definitely meat-eaters. Last year, we completely got away from buying our meat from chain grocery stores. The quality just isn’t there. Even though it’s more expensive (right now anyway), we purchase our chicken, turkey, and beef from either local farmers or smaller grocery stores that carry quality meat. Look for grass-fed, free-range, and cage-free if you can.
4. Make meal plans and a grocery list.
I definitely used to be that girl who went to the grocery store hungry, without a list, and grabbed everything that looked and sounded good to me. In a harried effort to throw something together for dinner, some food just never got eaten.
It takes 20-30 minutes to plan meals out for the week and jot down a grocery list. There are many resources online for meal planning, but I find that Google calendar works just fine for me. I look up any recipes I need and plan my grocery list based on what I plan to make. It doesn’t always work out every time, though. I might plan a Chinese dish one night but find that it just doesn’t sound good to me that day. I make every effort to either serve that meal on a different night or re-purpose the veggies I bought for it into another dish.
And by cooking at home, you’ll save money, feel healthier, and know you’re doing something good for your family and the earth!
5. Shop the bulk bins.
Grab your new fancy containers (listed below) and head to your local health foods store for bulk dry goods. Instead of purchasing dry goods like flour, oats, nuts, seeds, dried beans, and grains in plastic bags, bring your own containers and dispense them yourself. Check out this article for a how-to!
This will reduce your plastic consumption, keep things from piling up in your cupboards, and assures that you only buy what you need. This is one of my favorite tips for sustainable eating, and not one many people do!
6. Shop locally & in-season.
Produce that isn’t in-season has to be shipped in from somewhere. Keep in mind that because we as consumers demand year-round produce, grocery stores have to bring it in from other states or other countries where it’s grown. By shopping seasonally and locally (think your local Farmer’s Market), you’re not only saving money (in-season produce is cheaper!), but you’re telling the grocery store that you can wait until late summer for fresh peaches.
PS definitely get a cute farmer’s market tote.
7. Purchase (and use) reusable containers and grocery bags.
I made it my mission in 2019 to use less plastic after seeing how full our recycling bin gets week after week. I highly recommend investing in tare weight reusable produce bags, reusable grocery bags, and bringing your own containers with you when you make bulk purchases. You can also eliminate plastic bags by purchasing reusable silicone ones and ditch the plastic wrap in favor of beeswax wrap.
The bottom line here is that we can each do our part to eat more sustainably and live greener. Even the smallest changes can impact our environment and our health in a HUGE way! I hope you use some of these tips for sustainable eating and put them to use in your own home!
Need some healthy recipes to get you started? You might enjoy…
- Whole30 Chicken a la King
- Whole30 Tikka Masala
- Mediterranean Cauliflower Rice Pilaf
- Paleo Cauliflower Polenta with Root Veggies & Kale Walnut Pesto
- Paleo Moroccan Sheet Pan Chicken
Don’t forget dessert, too!
Come hang out with me on Instagram and tag me if you make any of these recipes!