Sustainable Food Choices
Organic Fruits and Vegetables
What does organic mean?
Organic food is produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, genetic engineering, or anti-biotic hormones.
Buy organic fruit and vegetables when possible, but at the least make sure to buy organic from the list of the top 12 produce found to have the highest levels of pesticide residue, also known as the "Dirty Dozen".
Products labeled "Organic" have 95% organic ingredients. Products labeled "Contains Organic Ingredients" have at least 70% organic ingredients.
- Eat raw food. It provides the most nutrients.
- Adults should have 1.5- 2 cups of fruit per day, and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day
- Frozen fruits and vegetable can have as much nutritional value as fresh fruits due to less spoilage. (A great excuse for smoothies!)
- Buy local produced products for the freshest choices and less of a carbon footprint by cutting out transportation.
Genetically Modified Organisms
What exactly is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)?
A GMO is a plant, animal, or microorganism that has had its genetic material (DNA) changed using technology that generally involves the specific modification of their DNA, including the transfer of specific DNA from one organism to the other, to create a specific outcome.
The argument has been made that GMOs are good and have been created for positive impacts such as drought resistance, and improvement of nutritional value. Other research has shown that GMOs have harmful effects on the body such as the development of diseases immune to antibiotics, allergic reactions, cancer, and not to mention the effects that have yet to be fully studied from combining foreign genes.
It's important to know who is behind the research and where they are receiving their funding.
Foods certified as "Organic" cannot have GMOs.
I may not be vegetarian or vegan, but that doesn't mean I want animals to be treated poorly. How do ensure my meat is humane?
Regular feed uses a mixture of corn and animal products, among other things, to feed the animals. The animals are often injected with hormones to grow faster and with antibiotics to resist the bacteria that thrive in this unnatural environment.
- For beef and poultry, look for "Animal Welfare Approved", "Certified Humane", "Global Animal Partnership", "Food Alliance", and "USDA Organic" labels.
|Third Party Verified||Not Verified|
|"Organic" - 100% organic feed, no growth hormones, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, genetic engineering, irradiation, sewage sludge, or artificial ingredients||"No Antibiotics Administered" or "Raised Without Antibiotics" - neither preventative nor medicinal antibiotics were administered|
|"Certified Humane" or "Free Farmed" - animals have access to sufficient food, water, space and shelter, but may still contain hormones and antibiotics||"No Chemicals Added" - meaningless because everything is a chemical, either natural or man-made|
|"No Additives" - almost meaningless and not regulated|
|"Free Range" or "Cage Free" - animals had access to the outside for an unspecified amount of time, may contain hormones or antibiotics|
|"Fair Trade" - farm workers receive livable wages and ethical treatment, certain chemicals are not used||"Grass-fed" or "Pasture Raised" - animal were fed some amount of grass and may still contain hormones and antibiotics|
|"Fresh" - product never reached a temperature of 26 degrees F.|
|"Natural" - product contains no "artificial" colors, preservatives, or ingredients|
- Try to look for fish that populate quickly to reduce over fishing, like Atlantic Mackerel and Sardines.
- Do your research on where your fish is caught as some locations are healthier than others. Examples:
- Wild caught salmon has lower contaminants, including mercury and lead. But some salmon, like pink and sockeye, from well-managed fisheries like Alaska, are also good.
- Rainbow trout are better farmed in the U.S. or lake trout caught in Lake Superior's Michigan and Minnesota waters, but not Wisconsin's Lake Superior's waters.
- Mahi-Mahi caught with troll lines in the U.S. and Ecuador are better than Mahi-Mahi caught in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru due to the fishing line used that catches other sea creatures.
- Choose Pacific halibut over Atlantic halibut as the pacific comes from well-managed fisheries with little habitat damage and other marine life being caught in nets.
Look for "Marine Stewardship Council" labels.
- Pasture Raised- At least 108 square feet per hen, eat off the land, and are mostly outside.
- Free-Range- Less than 2 square feet per hen, many eat corn or soy-based diet, access to outdoors but usually stay inside where the food is.
- Cage-Free- Less than 1 square foot per hen, corn or soy-based diet, confined indoors with no outdoor access.
- Caged- In cages with a 67 square inch space, corn or soy-based diet, no outdoors and stuck in cage entire life.
Pasture Raised eggs have been proven to contain twice as much omega-3 fat, three times more vitamin D, four times more vitamin E and seven times more beta-carotene than eggs from hens raised on traditional feed.
The richer the color of the yolk is, the healthier the egg.
- Avoid products which have rBST, a hormone that increases milk production in cows, but may have adverse effects, including cancer. It is not approved in Canada, EU, or Australia.
- Organic dairy products will not have rBST.
- Studies show that milk and dairy has actually been linked to bone fractures, cancer, heart disease, obesity, and other health concerns.
- Organic milk and cheese mean that it must come from a certified organic cow. The cow cannot be given growth hormones or antibiotics, and its feed must be 100% organic.
- Look for alternatives such as:
- Oat milk
- Hemp milk
- Pea milk
- Coconut milk
- Almond milk
- Make sure you are still looking for organic as pesticides can creep into plant based alternatives, check the sugar content, and know the environmental impact that the alternatives can have.
- Soy has been linked to deforestation and can be a hormone disruptor
- Almond milk has been falling out of favor environmentally due to the amount of pesticides, water requirements, and push for bees to pollinate the trees with pesticides.
- Consider downloading the Environmental Group's Healthy Living App. This helps scan products at your grocery store, as well as beauty products, and lets you know what products to avoid and alternatives to use.
- Reduce the amount of bottled water you drink as plastic can leach into the water, and plastic produces a high amount of waste.
- An estimated 25% or more of bottled water is actually just tap water.
- Use cold tap water to cook and drink because bacteria can form at the bottom of the water heater and heavy metals can become corroded in the hot water pipes.
- Coffee and Tea
- Look for "Certified Organic", "Fair Trade" and "Shade Grown" labels.
- Many benefits have been linked to drinking tea due to its antioxidants. Studies show drinking tea lowers the risk of cancer, enhances cardiovascular and metabolic health, lower the risk of diabetes, reduces risk for Parkinson's disease, among other overall health benefits.
- Black coffee has shown to have health benefits too. Keep in mind that high caffeine can negatively impact some and that limited amounts are best.
- Adding sugar and milk alters health benefits for anything consumed, and be careful not to burn the leaf or bean to gain the most benefits.
- Anodized aluminum and cast iron are best. Aluminum takes less time to heat while cast iron can be heated very hot, does not need to be washed much, and forms its own non-stick surface. Also copper cookware lined with stainless steel or tin works well.
- Non-stick coating such as Teflon may be toxic if overheated or ingested after being scratched.
- When you can, use glass to store food and reheat.
- Instead of plastic wrap, consider compostable bees wax wrap or silicone lids.
- Bring your own vegetable bags to the grocery store.
Plastic Numbers Guide
|#1||Soda bottles, peanut butter jars||Recycled into carpet, shopping bags, and sometimes into new bottles|
|#2||Milk and water jugs, detergent and shampoo bottles||Recycled into containers or plastic lumber|
|#3||Plumbing pipe, shower curtains, toys, outdoor furniture, shrink wrap, salad dressing containers||Avoid. PVC can be highly toxic. It is rarely recycled and can contaminate other recyclables.|
|#4||Bags, trash can lining, dry cleaning bags||Rarely recycled because of its light weight and high cost of transport|
|#5||Yogurt and other containers, straws||Rarely recycled because of low volume|
|#6||Styrofoam, single use utensils, CD cases, packing materials||Avoid. Almost never recycled, toxic, and often found littering pristine environments.|
|#7||Food containers, tin can lining Tupperwear, corn based plastics||While the standard #7 contains BPA and cannot be recycled, the corn based products can be composted.|