We’re celebrating Earth Day every day with a comprehensive (and super fun!) Sustainability Series. Check back every Friday for a new article about how to live life in a more eco-friendly, mindful way.
Sustainability begins with what you consume. Fortunately, there are several sustainable ingredients and foods to choose from that are not only good for the planet but also our bodies.
What Are Sustainable Ingredients?
Sustainable ingredients are foods, spices, and products that are grown, cultivated, packaged, and transported in a sustainable way. That can look like foods packed in compostable and recycled materials or loose organic produce from the farmer’s market.
The goal of sustainable ingredients is to minimize the environmental impact that our food and its manufacturing processes have on the planet. By consuming sustainable ingredients, we can support the planet’s ecosystems and biodiversity, and contribute less to global warming.
How to Choose Sustainable Ingredients
Sustainable ingredients are easier to find than you may think. Oftentimes, they’re in plain sight at the grocery store, and they may even be sitting in your cabinet right now. Here are some ways to find them.
Foods that grow naturally in your region can be great options to reduce your environmental impact. Buy produce, herbs and spices that are grown and cultivated locally to reduce carbon emissions and increase flavor and quality.
Consume more foods that are growing in the current season. Check out some of the most popular seasonal fruits and veggies listed below.
Spring: Apricots, asparagus, broccoli, radishes, mushrooms, spinach, strawberries
Summer: Bell peppers, cherries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, peaches
Fall: Apples, beets, cranberries, kale, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, winter squash
Winter: Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, oranges, kiwis, pears, parsnips, leeks
Look for Sustainability Labels
Many brands have labels showing their products are fair trade, vegan, organic and/or non-GMO. Check for these labels before buying to ensure the product has been sustainably grown, harvested mindfully and is free from harmful chemicals.
Buy From Sustainable Businesses
Buy ingredients from brands with sustainable values. More and more businesses are choosing to cultivate locally grown, sustainably made products and are thoughtful about the environmental impact of their goods before they hit the shelves of grocery stores.
Start a Garden
Growing your own food is a great way to combine many of these best practices: eating locally, eating seasonally and eating healthily. (Not sure where to start? There are many books on the topic.)
10 Most Sustainable Foods
Beans and Legumes
Whether you like lentils, black beans or chickpeas, beans and legumes are some of the most sustainable foods around. They don’t require a lot of water to grow, yet they produce an extremely high yield. They’re also high in protein, fiber and gut-healthy prebiotics.
Kale has risen as one of the more popular green, leafy veggies in the cruciferous vegetable family. Kale is a great choice for environmentally-minded eaters because it can withstand cold temperatures and grow in dry environments. This makes it perfect for gardeners living in harsh climates that are looking to grow leafy greens year-round (yes, kale can even survive in the snow!) Nutritionally, kale is a powerhouse. It’s full of vitamins A, K and C, which support gut health, skin, eyes and the immune system.
For the meat lovers out there, buffalo meat or bison is a great sustainable protein choice.
Bison are native to North America and are usually farmed on small, family ranches, not cramped factory farms. This in turn supports the local vegetation and ecosystems from their grazing and trampling habits. Bison meat is also more tender, less fatty and more nutrient-dense than beef.
From the same family as kale, broccoli is not only tasty but also self-sustaining. This cruciferous vegetable has its own natural defenses to keep pests away, meaning you can easily grow it without the use of chemicals. Broccoli is also highly nutritional with lots of vitamin C, K, manganese and antioxidants.
Potatoes are another great choice because of their low-water usage, high yield, and ability to stay fresh for weeks. Potatoes grow in high altitude conditions meaning they don’t need much water to flourish, and again, are perfect for people living in cooler, drier climates. Like broccoli, it also has its own natural pest control system and doesn’t require pesticides to keep the bugs away. Potatoes are very rich in potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6.
Japanese people have been eating local seaweed for centuries—and for good reason. Also known as nori, seaweed is an abundant seagrass found in the ocean. It’s a great sustainable choice because the plant grows easily year round and isn’t at risk for over-farming. It also doesn’t require pesticides or fungicides. Seaweed is the main source of omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which can be found in many of the foods we eat, namely fish.
Buckwheat is a type of grain eaten much like oatmeal, or found as an ingredient in things like bread or pasta. Buckwheat is great for the environment because it adds key nutrients to the soil thus improving soil health. It also attracts honey bees and other pollinators. Buckwheat is high in fiber and protein, and is naturally gluten-free.
Wild rice has been locally cultivated in North America by indigenous populations for centuries.This semi-aquatic grass grows abundantly in lakes and rivers. It’s often hand harvested by indigenous groups as well as sustainably-minded companies and creates virtually no damage to the land, soil or water. Wild rice is delicious and nutritious with high amounts of potassium, protein, magnesium and vitamin B6.
Moringa is an African tropical tree with more health benefits than your average green vegetable. It has twice as much protein, four times as much iron, three times the calcium, and 250% more fiber than kale. It’s sustainable because it uses very little water and soil to grow while producing incredibly nutritious and abundant leaves. It’s often sold in powder form and can be added to drinks or smoothies.
Shelf-Stable Plant-Based Milks
Shelf-stable plant-based milks can be a great sustainable alternative to other plant milks. By not requiring refrigeration they produce less hydrofluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas emitted by refrigerators. Shelf-stable plant milks also come in smaller containers and require less plastic than their larger refrigerated counterparts. They contain similar nutritional profiles as refrigerated plant milks with high amounts of calcium and fair amounts of vitamin D.
Join HCI to Become a Certified Coach
Ready to become the sustainably-minded health coach of your dreams? Good news! The Health Coach Institute offers a variety of programs designed and tailored to meet your coaching needs. Whether your focus is health and wellness, or stress management, HCI has a program to help you start your coaching career. Plus, if you’re a graduate of the entry-level coaching programs, you can take your business to the next level with the 12-month Coach Mastery course.