Living a more sustainable lifestyle can be challenging. Getting the proper nutrition into your body while shrinking your carbon footprint and managing all other activities and responsibilities in your life can almost feel like too much to handle.
Since you’re already cooking your meals regularly, though, why not add a few substitutions to your meals? By just adding a few things to your grocery cart, you can be on your way to being more sustainable and cooking with a purpose — nourishing your body and taking care of your soul.
Healthier Options For More Sustainable Meals
Sometimes, people don’t want to eat healthily because they’re afraid that the food will taste bad. Healthy food doesn’t have to be a step down from unhealthy food, though. It can taste just the same as, if not better than, food that’s bad for you. A few simple substitutions can radically alter your diet and have your household eating cleaner in a matter of days.
1. Get Rid of Packaged Food
Packaged food is loaded with preservatives to keep it fresh, but it’s still not as new as something you could have prepared yourself. Preservatives in food exist to slow the rate at which a product spoils. Instead of letting the food expire, preservatives allow it to live beyond the natural shelf life.
Additionally, packaged food produces more waste. Whether you get your food out of plastic wrap or a cardboard box, you’ll be contributing to additional waste that you likely wouldn’t have if you had chosen a more sustainable food source that required less packaging. Plastic containers cause most of the ocean’s pollution. And though processed and packaged foods might be convenient, they’re hurting the environment.
2. Reduce Alcohol Intake
Alcohol isn’t great for you to begin with. Drinking too much can lead to detrimental effects on your body and affect your life in other ways. Cutting out a glass of wine at mealtime isn’t outrageous, and it can help you maintain your weight and mitigate some of the effects of drinking too much.
If a recipe calls for alcohol, you can always substitute it for something similar. You can use other foods to enhance the main ingredient’s flavor by mimicking the taste the alcohol adds to your dish. For example, you can replace a splash of beer with something earthier. You have other options, and if you’re trying to cut back on alcohol to become healthier, it’s completely doable in all aspects of your diet.
3. Use Natural Sugars
You don’t always need to have a piece of cake for dessert. Instead of opting for a processed treat, think about grabbing a piece of fruit that’s naturally sweet and in the same state it grows in. Fruits have nothing but natural sweeteners, so you don’t run the risk of added sugars potentially spiking something negative in your body.
Special occasions call for special treats, though, so it’s unrealistic to cut out all added sugars. Still, you should limit how much sugar you use in baked goods and stick to options like stevia or a sugar substitute if you feel that you need it.
4. Replace Red Meat With Veggies
Red meat might be the worst kind of meat for the environment. In addition to taking up more resources than smaller meat like poultry and fish, cows produce methane gas. Methane gas is responsible for 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions warming the atmosphere.
If you aren’t fond of more sustainable meat and enjoy the earthy taste of beef, you may consider swapping out your meat with eggplant and mushrooms, which have the same earthy flavor due to how they’re grown.
5. Switch to Whole Grains
Eating whole-grain foods allows you to take full advantage of all the benefits that grains have to offer. Refined grains have little to no nutritional value left after the refinement process, making them one of the emptiest foods you could put in your body.
On the other hand, whole grains hold a plethora of nutrients, including fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin B, among plenty of others. It might taste a little different from the refined grains you’re used to, but acquiring a new taste for whole grains will be as easy as putting better nutrients in your body.
Nourish Your Body and Spirit
You feel your best when you’ve eaten nutrient-rich food that provides you with energy to get through the day. You may also benefit from a well-nourished mind that knows you’re doing your part to aid the environment by choosing to live just a bit more sustainably. These changes may be challenging to implement initially, but eventually, you won’t know how you lived without the difference.
Photography by Annie Spratt