I don’t know about you but I love food. I love to cook and I love to eat even more. But, recently, I wondered how green was my diet. Then, as serendipitous as it might sound, a magazine that I usually recycle, came across my desk with a title, “How green is your diet?” Of course, I immediately took the quiz. I was pleasantly surprised and I wanted to share what I found out with you.
Answer these questions and add up your score. See where you are in the green spectrum.
1. What food source does the majority of your protein come from?
a. red meat
c. legumes, nuts, leafy greens and whole grains
2. How often do you eat cheese?
a. every day
b. a couple times a week
3. When you buy seafood, you look for:
a. fresh and regional fish
b. fresh, but I’m not sure where it’s from
c. fish that’s been processed and frozen at sea
d. I don’t eat seafood
4. What’s your starch of choice?
5. When you’re hungry for a snack, you usually reach for:
a. prepared snacks like pretzels, chips or popcorn
b. prepared snacks with organic or natural ingredients
c. a handful of nuts and seeds
d. a cup of yogurt
6. When you eat out, what do you do with the leftovers?
a. I rarely take them home and when I do, I usually wind up throwing them out.
b. I split meals or order small portions in restaurants so I rarely have leftovers.
c. I always eat my leftovers the next day.
7. How much of the food you buy at the grocery store is actually consumed?
a. I often end up throwing up produce and other perishable items.
b. I occasionally throw things out.
c. I’m really good about using all of the products I buy.
8. Breakfast is usually:
a. cereal with milk
b. yogurt and fruit
c. scrambled eggs and toast
9. In the winter, which of these fruits do you buy most often?
c. oranges and grapefruit
d. fresh berries
e. frozen berries
10. How often do you buy packaged, prepared foods?
a. Often, but I look for “eco-friendly” boxes or companies that buy renewable energy credits.
b. Often, but I don’t pay attention to packaging.
c. I buy packages foods occasionally, some in “green” packaging, some not.
d. I try to avoid packaged food.
11. When you prepare food at home, you usually:
a. consolidate items to be baked in the oven, when possible.
b. bake items one at a time.
12. How often do you drive your car to pick up groceries, buy prepared food of go to a restaurant?
a. Rarely: I bicycle commute or use public transportation.
b. No more than once a week
c. 2-3 times a week
d. 4 or more times a week
13. Which of the following types of sandwiches would you most commonly order at a restaurant (or make yourself)?
a. grilled cheese
d. grilled vegetable and hummus
1) a=3pts; b=2pts, c=1pt
2) a=3; b=2; c=1
3) a=1; b=3; c=2; d=0
4) a=1; b=2; c=3
5) a=3; b=3; c=1; d=2
6) a=3; b=1; c=1
7) a=3; b=2; c=1
8) a=3; b=1; c=2
9) a=1; b=3; c=2; d=3; e=1
10) a=2; b=2; c=a; d=0
11) a=1; b=2
12) a=0; b=1; c=2; d=3
13) a=3; b=4; c=1; d=1
10-18 points: You’re doing a great job of maintaining a diet that’s good for you and for the planet. Spread the word on how you are doing it.
19-29 points: You are making respectable choices, but a few tweaks could dramatically alter the impact your diet has on the environment. You may not even notice the subtle changes.
30-38 points: You need a green makeover! Read on to find out what you can do to make your diet more environmentally friendly.
For more detailed assessment on your specific food’s global warming effect, go to www.eatlowcarbon.org.
How did you do? I’ll be honest; I scored 19 points. Not too bad but there’s room for improvements. My score went up in the meats, rice, and transportation to name a few. But I learned how to change that and here are 4 ways you can eat greener.
1. Cut back on red meat, dairy products, and rice.
I posted about cows and how their flatulence contributes to global warming and how raising cattle depletes so much resource. But out of all the food changes you can make, this food group change, by far, is the most eco-friendly. I know….my family loves hot sizzling steaks too, especially in the summer when they can grill outside. Also, rice is our staple food. That’s going to be hard. (This is where I scored moderately high – rice and red meat). If you are a vegetarian and you get calcium from dairy, you can make a difference too by obtaining calcium from plant based diet. The best change you can do is to go meatless once a week and/or eat chicken instead. And in other days, eat smaller portions. It’s healthier for your body as well as the planet.
2. Buy seasonal, regional food, especially produce and fish. Avoid air-freighted food.
I normally buy fresh seasonal and regional foods, especially, produce. We also try to go to the farmer’s market to buy local as often as we can. But when we can’t, we only buy U.S. grown produce even though they are flown by air. I figured, it’s better than being flown from South America or by ship from Asia, which is far worse than by air. If you can’t find local seasonal fruits and vegetables, consider buying frozen vegetables. Some vegetables like frozen peas are actually healthier than canned ones. Fish is getting harder and harder to buy locally. They are mostly from foreign countries, never mind, from another state! For more information about the best seafood choices by region, go to www.seafoodwatch.org.
3. Don’t waste food.
Scientists estimate Americans waste 4.5 million tons of foods a year – Not only is it sacrilegious to throw out food when there are so many people who are starving, it is also damaging to the planet as rotting foods in landfills contribute methane gas. We are more concerned with throwing out plastic than throwing out food. Plan ahead and cook smart. And use leftover in your next recipe. Shop for groceries in a methodical manner as to not waste unused ingredients. Freeze unused ingredients when you can for the next recipe. Don’t discard leftovers from a restaurant; bring it home and eat it the next day. Some leftovers are better the next day anyway. And if no one really wants the leftover even the next day, put them in your compost. It’s better to be composted in your backyard (aerobic decomposition) than in a landfill (anaerobic decomposition).
4. Avoid highly processed, package foods.
The labels on these packaged foods are very tempting – “organic”, “natural”, “no artificial ingredients”, “no preservatives”, etc. But the fact of the matter is, no food is better for you or the environment than the ones in its whole food form, apple is better than apple juice and potato compared to potato chips. The energy that goes into producing, processing, packaging, boxing, transporting, say, a breakfast cereal or a frozen dinner, is incomparable to their whole-food alternatives. Eat packaged food sparingly and don’t get mislead by fancy “eco-friendly” packaging lingo. Buy bulk whenever possible and don’t get fooled by “recycled” packages either. They are still using energy to box them no matter what the material is. What counts is the food inside the package and how it was processed and not just the delivery. Read my previous post about when to buy organic. You can save money by choosing which foods to buy organic and which foods you can get away with not buying organic.