This March, National Nutrition Month, NU Dining is excited to help students maintain a healthy lifestyle in and outside of dining halls. We’re also excited to help students do so in an environmentally conscious manner!
Just as certain food practices can be harmful for one’s body, they can also be harmful for the planet. For example, the United States’ food production system uses about 50% of the total land area, 80% of the fresh water, and 17% of the fossil energy used in the country.1 The international livestock sector emits the equivalent of 14.5% of all human greenhouse-gas emissions.2 Furthermore, the amount of lost and wasted food each year is greater than half of the world’s annual cereal crops (over 2.5 billion tonnes), which wastes valuable natural resources.3
Luckily for us, we can be simultaneously better the health of ourselves and the planet. How can we do that? Here are a few places to begin…
1) Eat more fruits and vegetables
We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us–they contain essential nutrients we need to live a healthy lifestyles! According to campus dietician Karen Sechowski, together, they should comprise ½ of our diet. While fruit and vegetable production can have harmful environmental implications, choosing organic eliminates the use of ecosystem-disrupting pesticides and choosing local greatly reduces the amount of emissions involved in transporting those crops. In our dining halls, try the local rainbow chard!
2) Eat more whole grains
According to Sechowski, grains should make up another half of our diet, and ideally, a large portion of those should be whole grains! Whole grains are particularly important sources of fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and proteins (especially compared to products made from refined grains, like white bread, which can lack those nutrients and also contain sugar and high fructose corn syrup). Meanwhile, while one calorie from beef or milk requires 40 or 14 calories of fuel, one calorie from grains requires only 2.2. calories of fuel, making grains an environmentally conscious choice.1 Try our dining halls’ organic barley to increase your whole grain consumption!
3) Eat less meat
Livestock production causes great environmental impacts, with its intensive land-use and large amount of greenhouse emissions. Regardless, meat is a fundamental part of many of our diets, as it provides us with protein, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and iron. However, there is also a correlation between unmindful meat consumption and adverse health effects. For example, numerous studies have identified processed meat as a carcinogen (a cancer-causing agent). Cutting down on meat consumption can also reduce one’s intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. Try choosing plant-based protein alternatives, like whole grains, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, and peas. Our dining halls’ organic peanut butter is a great choice to get a good amount of healthy fat and vegan protein in place for your usual cold cuts a few days a week!
4) Eat mindfully
In addition to being mindful in choosing what you eat, approach each mealtime in a mindful manner: Take the time to eat when you’re hungry, savor your meal, and enjoy it with friends! That way, you will be paying attention to what your body most needs, in addition to eliminating food waste.
Ultimately, there’s no one nutritional regimen that will best support the health and preferences of each individual, but thinking about both yourself and the environment when choosing your meal can be a great way to embark on a more wholesome, enjoyable, and environmentally and health-conscientious diet.
Happy National Nutrition Month!