Go Green Get Lean – Trim Your Waistline with the Ultimate Low-Carbon Footprint Diet
Author: Kate Geagan, MS, RD
Super Kids Nutrition had the opportunity to speak with author of Go Green, Get Lean, Kate Geagan who described the simple, everyday changes anyone can make to not only keep you healthy, but give you the power to save the environment, one snack at a time. As you read Go Green Get Lean, the important connection between what we eat and the environment becomes quite simply, clear.
We asked Kate to talk about how to look beyond packaged foods for simple, healthy living. Here is some food for thought from Kate:
How can busy moms look beyond packaged foods and still have quick snacks on hand and put quick meals together?
Celebrate one-ingredient foods. This is a simple way to get back to a healthier, leaner, greener diet. If you use these as the basis of your meals and snacks, it can still be fast and easy, but more nourishing in every sense. Some examples include: oatmeal, nuts, olives, fruit, beans, etc. Here are 50 Easy Snack Ideas!
So, folks can limit packaged food but can still use some in a pinch?
Yes. “Packaged foods” is a super-broad category and you can find some great options to help you in a pinch. In general, my advice is to ignore the front label packaging (that’s where all the hype is that the manufacturer wants you to see), and read the ingredient list. It should read like something from your kitchen, not a food lab. There are some snacks that fit this bill for sure. Don’t over-analyze; just be sensible.
How can moms or dads help children understand the importance of “real food?”
Exposing your kids to whole food and how food works is a great start. For instance, I was approached by one mom who had a child that would not eat a whole apple because it turns brown. The child was used to only eating apple slices from a bag. Educating our children about nature (in this case enzymatic browning) is an important part of showing them the true experience of real food. Connecting our kids to food is so important.
In your book, you talk about the idea of reducing our “carbon footprint.” It’s great to know we can make a large impact very easily.
Convenience not only costs more, but also adds carbon to the atmosphere. Cutting back on disposable items alone can have a huge impact, as can simply including more one-ingredient foods in your pantry. Aim for progress — not perfection — and focus on one change at a time. For example, you can try reducing your reliance on individually packaged snacks or choose to cut up your own fresh vegetables to start you on your way to eating greener.
So, it doesn’t it have to be “all or none”?
No. Perhaps you feel that individual drinks are convenient for the cooler when you go on a picnic or car trip. Save this convenience for those times and provide pitchers of juices and beverages at home.
So what types of “one-ingredient” snacks
can we offer?
Seeds, nuts, fruit (fresh or dried), edemame, fresh snap peas, fresh berries, cherry or grape tomatoes are some options. You can also combine some of these to make a snack (think: trail mix).
How can parents get their kids involved?
They can offer age-appropriate responsibilities for snacks. Have items available. Consider using large, airtight jars with scoops for dry goods. Provide a “snack drawer” or have some chopped veggies ready to eat, bagged in the fridge.
Do you have some ideas or tricks to get through the grocery store with less packaged food in your cart?
Again, load up your cart with one-ingredient foods. Registered dietitians always say, “shop the perimeter” but I think that’s not so true anymore; marketers are catching on. Plus, there are some great things in those inner aisles: whole grains, brown rice, heart-healthy oils, to name a few. So, I would say to be sure that you have about two-thirds fresh items in your cart (fruits, vegetables, poultry, dairy, tofu/soy, fresh-frozen fish) with about one-third packaged food items. This will allow you to have more real food and less packaged foods.
So, let’s review the “one-ingredient” food list.
One ingredient foods may include: oatmeal, canned beans, chicken, almonds/nuts, olive or canola oil, fresh produce, or frozen single vegetables (such as “frozen peas”, no added sauces), bulk couscous, a bag of rice, a box of pasta, canned pumpkin, or eggs.
You say in your book, “You are what you eat, but you are also what you think.” Can you expand on that?
Many people think they “don’t have enough time,” and “it costs more to eat well.” I hear it all the time. But neither of these is true. What people really mean when they say these things is that it’s simply not a big enough priority for them right now, or that they’re so far removed from healthy habits that it seems like so much more work. It’s true that for a very small sliver of the population in the U.S., yes, healthy food will always be a struggle to purchase, and we, as a country, need to address that. But for many people, here’s a fact: Americans spend less than 10 cents of every dollar on food. This, as a percentage of total income spent on food, is less than any other country in the WORLD. Are we really saying that the richest country in the world can’t afford to feed itself? I’d rather see it framed more accurately: the richest country in the world is choosing to spend its money on other things.
How can moms, dads and educators encourage their friends and families to live more green without getting too “preachy?”
Connect it to other things that matter to them like their kids, their weight, and their health. Show them the savings: calorie savings as well as how eating green can also save green (money, that is). Make it fun! Feel free to use some of the sound bytes in Go Green Get Lean to bend the ear of your clients in fresh ways. For example, “The American Diet is the SUV of eating styles.”
You also mention looking for clean ingredients. Could you define a “clean ingredient list?”
It should read like something you could make in your kitchen, not something that belongs on a high school chemistry exam. Foods should be free of preservatives, colorings, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup — essentially, keep foods as close to “real food” as possible.
Give us some quick and simple things that a consumer can do to improve his or her health that also reduces the carbon footprint.
- Follow a flexitarian diet. Enjoy a diet rich in plants, with limited amounts of animal products (especially red meat and dairy products).
- Portions are key. By simply taking less from the system and consuming amounts of food that are more in-line with actual nutrient and calorie needs, you can reap immediate savings, both in your waistband and your wallet. Learn about Proper Portion Sizes for Kids!
- Re-think your drink. Liquids are one of the heaviest materials to ship and have a very high ratio of packaging-to-beverage content.
- Eat local and seasonal produce to the extent that you can. While not a silver bullet for carbon emissions, there are numerous other “green” benefits and you’ll be exposed to a wide array of foods (and hence protective nutrients) that dietitians advocate. Find out all of the amazing benefits of local foods.
- Pare down the packaging and convenience foods. Instead, get back to real food as much as you can and try to limit use of single-serving or overly packaged products.
Saving money is a concern for a lot of people right now. Can a greener diet save you money?
Yes! To save money and have a greener diet at the same time, consider these simple adjustments:
- Plant your own food: a garden, a pot, a windowsill. Whatever you can do – remember progress, not perfection! Herb gardens are a great place to start.
- Enjoy home-brewed coffee or tea rather than on-the-go.
- Use the kitchen more, the drive thru less.
- Buy in bulk and portion out snacks at home to avoid single-serving foods. This reduces packaging waste.
- Enjoy filtered tap water instead of pricey bottled water. This will cut down on the amount of little plastic water bottles that end up in landfills – and save you money at the same time!
- Pack your diet with plant foods and plant proteins and consume animal foods in smaller amounts.
- Celebrate one-ingredient foods (oatmeal, almonds, a piece of fruit). These are more eco-friendly than highly processed and packaged foods. They also provide that nutrient-high-value trade that dietitians encourage.
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An award winning registered dietitian, Kate is a nationally known nutrition and health expert when it comes to smart eating for busy people. Her message is simple: clean, healthy food is the best way to a lean and healthy body. Kate is the author of Go Green Get Lean: Trim Your Waistline with the Ultimate Low-Carbon Footprint Diet (Rodale, March 2009). Kate is also the nutrition columnist and an Advisory Board member for Pregnancy Magazine, where she dishes on the latest health and nutrition info for moms-to-be. You can purchase her book through any major book retailer.