The diets of today aren’t just focusing on the health of the individual, they’re also focusing on the health of the planet. Environmental friendliness has become a big part of the modern diet. Young people are constantly looking for sustainable sources for their food, even when it means narrowing their options. If you want your diet to be healthy and eco-friendly, you need to make some important changes.
1. Avoid excessive packaging
One of the best things you can do to help the environment is to reduce the amount of waste you produce. A good place to start would be your regular trip to the supermarket. Excessive food packaging is a real problem in the first world. Supermarkets often add unnecessary packaging to foodstuffs that don’t need them. Take single-serving products for example. When bought in bulk, these items are well worth the tiny amount of packaging that they produce. When bought individually, the packaging is often bulkier than the product itself.
Try to limit the amount of plastic packaging that you use when shopping. Instead of buying a large number of single-serving products, consider buying in bulk. Not only is it going to reduce the amount of plastic waste that you produce, but it’s also going to save you some money in the long run. Items bought in bulk usually have some form of discount as an incentive for buying as many as possible. For items that absolutely need packaging, aim for aseptic packaging which is recyclable.
2. Pick ethical food products
A lot of people believe that the only way to keep a sustainable diet is to go vegan or vegetarian. However, you don’t really have to give up all animal products to eat healthily and ethically. Products like beef and dairy are only ever a problem when their sources are not environmentally friendly. There are countless farms that allow their cows to freely graze in fields without taking up an insanely large space. This means that buying their products won’t significantly impact the environment or cause damage to the ecosystem. Best of all, you’re helping support local farmers and small businesses instead of conglomerates which do harm.
Fish are another hotly debated topic among eco-friendly advocates. Overfishing is a big problem in today’s world and it is ruining ocean ecosystems. However, not every fish is scooped up while dragging nets through the ocean. There are many fish farms along the coast that allow people to raise large sustainable fish populations without having to affect the surrounding waters.
As long as you are well educated on where your products are coming from, you can make ethical purchases an enjoy most products without hesitation.
3. Grow your own food
There are many controversies that surround produce and how it’s grown. People fear the effect of pesticides and GMOs and try to avoid any labels that contain an excessive number of chemicals. This is why so many individuals are turning to organic food instead. However, what is “organic” food anyway? In most cases, this is simply produce that has been treated with organic versions of common pesticides, which aren’t necessarily healthier than their alternatives.
If you’re worried about your food being contaminated or unhealthy for consumption, why not cut out the middleman and grow it yourself? It’s a lot easier than it looks. If you have access to a small garden, you can grow yourself a pretty large variety of fruits and vegetables. With the help of some internet guides, you can become a green thumb in a matter of weeks. Grow some tomatoes or bell peppers to spice up your lunch and dinner.
Speaking of spicing things up, spices are a ridiculously popular homegrown option. They don’t require a lot of maintenance and they produce large amounts of fresh leaves that will leave your food tastier than ever.
4. Stick to balanced meals
To keep a healthy diet, you need to be able to create a balanced meal. This means understanding what your body’s nutritional needs are and adapting to this. It’s not as simple as eating “healthy” food. A balanced diet requires incorporating every nutrient that is important for your body and its functions.
For starters, you need to look at the protein, fat, and carb content of the food that you eat. Every meal needs to have a good balance of all three of these elements. Food that is disproportionally made up of carbs will keep you full for a time, but your body will eventually crave the other elements. This is why high-carb food has a reputation for leaving you hungry pretty soon after you’ve eaten it.
Fat and protein leave you sated for a long while, giving you the opportunity to properly plan your meals before getting hungry. No matter what kind of diet you choose, you need to prioritize protein and fat. Despite its name and reputation, fat is actually pretty good for you. As long as you stick to plant-based fats and don’t overdo animal fats, you should be good.
5. Avoid nocturnal munchies
Our circadian rhythm isn’t just for show. Various important systems in our body depend on a precise internal clock. Hormones like insulin and cortisol are released throughout the day and night and they change how we metabolize food. When you challenge the natural rhythm, there can be some consequences.
When you’re busy with finishing your work or college paper late at night, you might be tempted to eat some late-night snacks. If you’re up quite late, a full meal might not be out of the question either. After all, it couldn’t hurt to eat, right? However, eating after hours could have an impact on your quality of sleep and the way your body handles that food. The general consensus is that you shouldn’t eat a large meal right before going to bed. Sleep prevents the digestive system from working as efficiently as it can, and the jumps in sugar might make your sleep tumultuous. Instead, opt for a small snack or some fruit while you’re busy at night, it’s going to pay off.
6. Remember three square meals
How you eat is just as important as what you eat. When dieticians say you should stick to three square meals per day, this isn’t without reason. Your body is quicker at adapting to changes when they’re introduced at regular intervals. You can basically train your body to activate digestive enzymes if you get the timing right every day.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t eat anything in-between these meals. It’s a guideline that helps you better organize some of your heavier meals, which contain lots of fat and protein. Even this doesn’t come without exceptions. Consider your post-workout supplements. A serving of protein oats in a shake is a proper and nutritional meal, but you don’t have to count it among your three main meals. It’s used to get your body up-to-speed after a heavy workout, to help give your muscles something to build off of.
Today, a lot of nutritional experts also recommend five medium-sized meals per day. This alternative system gives you more chances to introduce variety in your meals. At the same time, you don’t have to worry about being too full from your meal. With fewer meals that are packed, you might feel drowsy after eating. In this scenario, you can go easy on the meals and stay energetic and productive.
7. Variety is key
Once you’ve mastered the art of making healthy food and evenly spreading it throughout your day, you might think that you’ve got everything under control. Yet, there’s still one factor that needs to be accounted for – variety. You could eat the same kind of healthy meal thrice every day, but you won’t stay healthy for long.
There are too many important nutrients to keep count of. One meal isn’t going to satisfy your body’s needs by a longshot. This is why it’s important to make new dishes every once in a while. You don’t have to go too far, either. If you like having some kind of rice or pasta for lunch every day, you can spice it up by changing the salad. This lets you introduce some new nutrients without having to think of a whole new meal.
It’s good to switch up your fruit and nut choices as well. People tend to get in a routine where they pick their favorite kind of food and stick to it until they get bored. A good way to deal with this would be to switch up your daily meals and snacks. This way, you never really get tired of any food, and you get to enjoy the benefits of variety.
If you want to keep your diet healthy and sustainable, you need to stay vigilant. There are a lot of factors to consider whenever you go shopping for food. You want to make sure that your food choices are made with your health in mind. Avoid buying things out of convenience and you should be on your way to a green and healthy meal plan.
Lena Hemsworth, the author of this post, is an aspiring blogger with a weak spot for cappuccino, dogs, and sleep.