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Published: March 8, 2023

reusable shopping bags

What does it mean to eat sustainably?

Well, glad you asked because that’s the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign in March that’s been on our plates so to speak for 50 years. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has come up with a catchy slogan – Fuel for the Future – but the focus is all about sustainability - how to eat nutritiously while protecting the environment.

Yes, you can do both at the same time.

Five ways for a win/win

  1. Purchase food with minimal packaging. We’ve gotten spoiled with all the prepackaged fruits and veggies, but produce departments also offer bulk so invest in a dozen or so reusable produce mesh bags. Same goes for nuts and grains, now a popular stable at most grocery stores. And use totes and other reusable bags for all your grocery shopping.
  2. Buy foods in season and shop locally. That’s hard to do in Northern Ohio this time of year but soon we’ll have farmers markets (Oberlin Farmers Market opens May 20) and farm stands for shopping. Maybe this is the year you get serious about canning and freezing so you can enjoy locally grown produce throughout the year. And don’t forget about the local meat and fish markets available to us year-round, along with West Side Market.
  3. Grow your own veggies. Right now many gardeners are enjoying fresh herbs and other greens using grow lights and kits, such as AeroGarden, but outdoor gardening is right around the corner. This is a good time to hunker down with a gardening book and seed catalogs to start planning your garden. No place to garden? No problem, get involved in a community garden. (Check the directory maintained by American Community Garden Association.) Kendal’s community garden has 3 dozen plots available to residents.  
  4. Be a responsible eater. That means shopping with a list and meals in mind, and using leftovers to avoid waste. Or find a neighbor or friend to share your big pot of homemade soup or fruit pie.
  5. With that in mind, get involved in a food recovery/rescue project in your area. Many food banks and pantries rely on surplus food from bakeries and restaurants but they need volunteers to transport the food from point A to B. Check the Hunger Network to find a program near you.

What’s on a sustainable plate?

Unlike some diets, there is no one diet or set of rules that is sustainable. Rather there are foods and eating practices that are more sustainable than others, meaning that the diet is healthy and has a low impact on the environment and food supply.

A sustainable diet is plant-based, meaning it contains more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes than red meat, dairy, processed foods, added sugars and refined grains.

Medical News Today explains why plant foods are favored over animal products.

“For example, farming an acre of corn for human consumption means that all that food can go directly to feeding a growing human population. For people who eat animal products, the same acre of corn would go toward feeding livestock. However, the animals themselves also take up additional land and resources. So, farming animal foods requires significantly more land.”

Eliminating red meat sounds daunting, but cutting back on red meat is doable.

Two suggestions from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Health are: swap out red meat for healthier options such as poultry and seafood; and prioritize hearty and savory plant meals, such as roasting vegetables and using legumes and nuts for texture.

For instance, here is a recipe from Harvard called “Upgraded Basic Stuffed Pepper,” which uses less beef and cheese, and meat-free Mushroom Barley Risotto.

And, no surprise this kind of diet is good for our health. According to Medical News Today, eating less red meat and more plants reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Check Out Our New Gardening Guide:

Gardening is a great activity at all ages. Get helpful tips here!

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Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.