Health & Wellbeing
Swaps that are Good for You and the Planet
Carrie Gerencher MA, RDN, LDN
Carrie Gerencher MA, RDN, LDN
Clinical Nutrition Manager Lehigh University

If your refrigerator is anything like mine, it could use a little bit of sprucing up. Sometimes vegetables get shoved to the back of the refrigerator or you forget about the leftover rice and now there is something fuzzy growing on it. What to do? Plan ahead! Start by taking inventory of what you have in your refrigerator each week. Then, plan your meals and shopping list for the week.

Planning is one way to combat food waste — a staggering 40% of the food in the United States is never eaten. It can also help you choose healthier options and help you from losing money spent on foods that have spoiled. Furthermore, it will save you time and gas money going to the grocery store multiple times a week.

Maintain a healthy diet by eating a variety of foods such as lean proteins, plant proteins, a colorful array of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Another way to eat healthier is to implement Meatless Monday into your routine. Not only is eating less meat a great way to add more vegetables to your diet, it is also a great way to benefit the planet. The water needs of livestock are far greater than those of vegetables or grains. In fact, approximately 1,850 gallons of water are needed to produce just one pound of beef. Eating more plant-based foods also reduces our contribution to climate change. The United Nations estimates that the meat industry generates 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Research also suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables and whole grains reduces your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. This Earth Day, commit to making a healthy food swap that is good for you and the planet. Choose plant-based foods such as beans, leafy greens, tofu, lentils, nuts, and whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal or quinoa.

Try one (or more) of these healthy swaps for you and the planet.

• Choose poultry over beef

• Trade meat for greens and vegetables (at least) once a week

• Consume healthy fats (olive or canola oils, nuts, seeds) instead of saturated fats (coconut oil and palm oil)

• Opt for whole grains and not processed grains

• Select local products and seasonal foods to lighten your carbon footprint

• Choose sustainable fish and seafood instead of at-risk seafood species

Here are some easy ways to add more fruits and vegetables into your diet.

• Add broccoli or spinach to your scrambled eggs

• Add canned pumpkin to your waffle or pancake batter

• Use leftover fruits and veggies in your smoothies

• Add sautéed spinach and mushrooms to your pasta

• Experiment with zoodles (zucchini noodles)

• Add tomatoes, red onions or kale to your grilled cheese

• Try a cauliflower pizza crust or zucchini pizza bites

• Add beans or veggies to casseroles

With a little planning, eating healthy and sustainably can be easy! Go ahead, try something new. Start with one swap. You just might like it!

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