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When our parents lectured us to eat green, they pretty much meant eat more broccoli. Decades later, that same advice is bound to mean something entirely new to the "Generation Z" kids now aborning. They'll associate eating green with being environmentally conscious.
How our food is grown, raised, processed, packaged and transported affects the environment and ultimately our own health and wellbeing. The so-called Green Revolution in agriculture -- the widespread adoption, in the decades following 1945, of pesticides, fertilizers, new crops and a range of scientific farming techniques -- transformed life throughout the world, mostly for the better. However, the environmental downside of industrial farming have become clear, especially the heavy reliance on fossil fuels and other contributions to global warming (such as methane-emitting livestock).
With a few changes in the way we eat, we can begin to correct some of these problems. Here's how you can amend your diet -- for the sake of your own health and that of the planet our children will inherit.
Bag the beef.
Or, at the very least, cut back the amount you consume and switch to grass-fed beef (which is less petroleum-intensive). Growing animal feed uses almost 10 percent of U.S. land, along with excess water, fertilizer, pesticides and energy. Just over 30 percent of land is used for grazing cattle. Instead of topping off your lunch salad with beef or chicken for your protein source, try soybeans, a much more efficient energy source and equally high in protein.
Vegetables require vastly less energy to grow than animals, and they produce no greenhouse gases. Plus they provide a plethora of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Instead of the usual (and unexciting) steamed veggies, try roasting them (any and all veggies) in the oven, then shave a little fresh Parmesan cheese on top just prior to serving (double portions may reduce how much animal protein you eat).
Stay close to home.
Eating locally is a great way to support farming in your community and cut down on the carbon footprint (produce travels an average of 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate). A great way to buy local is at farmers markets, which these days can be found almost everywhere. Some grocery stores also sell local produce. Note: Don't be deterred if local farmers don't label their produce "organic." They may use organic methods but may not be able to afford the high cost of certification. Many such farmers use the term "sustainable" to describe low-impact methods they use to raise produce. The great thing about farmers markets is that you can usually ask the farmer directly how they raise what they're selling.
Buying berries in winter that have been flown from the southern hemisphere is getting more and more difficult to justify. Think of the food miles -- and then think of local and more sustainable alternatives.
Enjoy home cooking.
Not only will you end up consuming less fat, calories and sodium, you'll also save energy and packaged waste. Virtually any way you look at it, cooking at home is always more cost effective.
You may not want to hear it, but I feel compelled to say it: Consuming fewer calories leads not only to one less notch on the belt -- it also means less stress on the environment. The obesity epidemic afflicting this country is reason enough to cut back 10 percent of our calorie intake, but doing so would also make a huge change in global warming. That would be a change we would all benefit from.
Convinced? Well, then, the recipe below is a great way to get started.
Winter Vegetable Puree Recipe
1 pound of winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pound parsnips or turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup skim milk, warmed
Freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or scallion green, for garnish
1. Peel the squash and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Toss the squash with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Peel and dice the parsnips. Place the squash and parsnips in a saucepan with cold, salted water or stock to cover.
2. Boil the vegetables for 6 to 8 minutes, or until very tender. Drain well then puree in a food processor or food mill (or mash with a potato masher right in the pot).
3. Work in the oil and enough warm milk to obtain a creamy puree. Correct the seasoning, adding salt, white pepper, cayenne and nutmeg to taste. Sprinkle the puree with chives and serve at once.
Each serving has: 145 calories, 4 g protein, 4 g fat, 26 g carbohydrates, 129 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol
Betsy Berthin, R.D. is a registered dietician and nutritional consultant based in Miami, Fla.
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Winter Vegetable Puree Recipe
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