With the convenience and abundance of processed foods available within a couple steps from our apartment, along with the loss of cooking skills at home, health problems and obesity in our generation are rampant. There is a need to return to the time when preparing meals and gathering with loved ones to share food was valued: a time when we recognized the importance of fresh, quality ingredients.
A big part of the issue is that most of us think that we don't have the time, that we don't know how to cook, or we simply don't care. Along with sharing easy, healthy recipes, my hope is that this website would also provide some information on why food sustainability is such an important issue of our generation.
What exactly is meant by sustainability?
If something is sustainable, that means it can support itself indefinitely.
Currently, our unsustainable food system relies heavily on foreign oil and has destroyed soil, contaminated water, and contributed to disease outbreaks.
Here are some reasons that food sustainability is important:
Food is transported and processed with non-renewable resources
Food is being increasingly genetically modified
Animals are grown for profit, without concerns for their health or well-being
We need to return to a time when we are not so separated (hundreds and thousands of miles!) from the origins of our food. Sustainable, non-industrialized foods are real foods that our body was originally designed to eat. They benefit the consumer, the environment, and the producer, as farmers are paid fair wages that they deserve.
Here are some practical tips on sustainable eating:
1. Cook at home.
Perhaps the biggest way that you that contribute to help resolve this issue-- It may take a bit more effort than buying frozen dinners and prepared foods, but I guarantee the effort will be totally worth it!
Why cook at home?
- It's cost-effective. If you're eating at a restaurant, you're also paying for the restaurant's rent and payroll. If you buy packaged foods, you're also paying for the packaging and processing of that product, which does not add to the value or the quality of the food itself. When you buy local ingredients and cook at home, you're not paying for these extra costs and the price it takes to transport the food across the country. You also save money cooking at home, because you learn to be very economical-- you learn how to use every ingredient to the fullest.
- You know exactly what goes in the food. You can control the sugar and sodium content of everything that you cook. You also will most likely not use artificial flavorings or preservatives, which are used in many restaurants. You can also adjust the spices and seasonings to your own preference.
- We can educate the next generation. We can set a good example for the younger ones by teaching them to cook and by incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into our daily diet. If we constantly purchase fast food and packaged foods, this will leave an impression on the children that this is the normal thing to do. By taking kids to grocery stores and farmers' markets, and having them participate in preparing meals, they will learn the value and fun of cooking at home!
- It's rewarding. Lastly, there's just something so rewarding about creating a dish start to finish from scratch!
2. Eat locally.
In the 20th century, the availability of cheap fossil fuels, mechanization, along with the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, have greatly improved crop yields. As our industry becomes more heavily reliant on fossil fuels, food is able to be shipped further, cheaper, and faster than ever before (advances in transportation, food packaging, etc). The result is that the average ingredients in the American or European supermarket generally travel hundreds or thousands of miles from the place of origin. This type of industrialized food production is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Eating locally cuts down fossil fuel consumption and supports local farmers!
3. Eat organic.
Buying organic food, to some extent, reduces the toxins released to the environment and into our bodies. Organic food also reduces the need for fossil fuel to produce those pesticides and toxins. However, this effect may not be great if the food is still shipped over a great distance. If choosing between organic and local, local is preferred.
4. Realize the cost of processed food on your health.
This is perhaps the biggest motivation to eat healthy and strive to cut down on fast and processed food. We must be willing to give up convenience and think about the long-term effects of the food that we consume. The problem with processed foods is not only that they have additives and chemicals, but they are also stripped of many essential nutrients that fresh vegetables and fruits have. You can read more about processed foods [here] and [here].
5. Tell others!
This issue isn't just personal, but it's national, global, and generational. This change can't happen overnight, but by encouraging healthy lifestyles and sharing tips with our loved ones, we can observe direct change, one person at a time.
Sources and more resources