Love for Food + [Vegetables]

7 Food Resolutions to Improve Your Health, the Planet's Health and Spend Less Money

Tonight is New Year's Eve, it is the last day of 2009 and the beginning of a new decade. While many of you may be listing your intentions for 2010, I hope that you are also noting the wonderful accomplishments and beautiful moments you experienced in 2009. Go easy on yourself and remember that positive change is possible every day, in every moment – not just at the beginning of a new calendar year.

Since this blog is about food, I thought it would be appropriate to write a list of simple and actionable steps we can all take this year, through what we choose to eat, that will improve our health, the planet's health and save some money in the process.
1. Eat seasonally and locally . The further your food has to travel to get to you, the greater carbon impact it has.

Simple step : Try a farmer's market. You'll find local, seasonal food and you'll be supporting your local economy .

2. Buy organic food when it counts . Certain fruits and vegetables have higher amounts of pesticide residue. If you worry that organic food costs more, remember that in the long run the cost to your health is much greater.

Simple step : Apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, spinach, and strawberries typically have higher pesticide residue than other fruits and vegetables. You will also benefit from buying organic meat and dairy products to avoid harmful growth hormones and additives .

3. Eat more nutrient rich dark leafy greens . Calorie for calorie, they are perhaps the most concentrated source of disease fighting nutrients.

Simple step : Try swiss chard or kale. These greens are delicious when sauteed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Their slight bitterness and coarser texture may take a bit of getting used to, but give your taste buds time to adjust , they may surprise you.

4. Eat slowly and mindfully. This will help you to stop eating when you are actually full and it will also improve your digestion.

Simple step : As often as you can, eat at a table, sitting down without a TV or computer on to distract you. Savor the flavors of your food and be thankful for its nourishment .

5. Choose sustainable seafood. "Scientists have determined that if we continue fishing the way we are, we could eliminate all species of edible fish by 2048," states Sheila Bowman of Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Simple step : Download a pocket sized guide to sustainable seafood choices for your region from the The Seafood Watch program on the Monterey Bay Aquarium website .

6. Reduce your food-related carbon footprint. Choose whole foods over processed prepared foods that use up more energy in production and create more waste in packaging. You'll improve your health by avoiding dangerous additives and save money too.

Simple step : Cook more meals from scratch with simple ingredients at home .

7. Eat less meat. It will benefit your health and the environment. "The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation." (explained in this NY Times article, very much worth reading). Many studies, especially The China Study, show that most American's consume much more meat than necessary and are actually putting themselves at increased risk for cancer and numerous diseases by doing so. Vegetable protein sources like beans and tofu are also much less expensive than meat.

Simple step : Begin by experimenting with vegetarian recipes that appeal to you. Check out this blog and this site for some ideas. Instead of replacing meat in your meals with "mock meat", look for vegetables that appeal to you and try new ways of cooking them with herbs and spices you enjoy.
Rather than seeing meat as the center-piece of a meal, begin to regard it more as a side dish to be consumed in smaller portions as it is in traditional Mediterranean and certain (especially Okinawan) traditional Asian diets (some of the longest living and disease-free populations in the world). If you do buy meat, choose grass-fed beef and organic chicken which are better for your body and the environment.
If you have any New Year's intentions you'd like to share, please leave a comment. Happy New Year!
Photo via flickr user ellievanhoutte