Go Green for Earth Month & Improve Your Diet at the Same Time

You don’t have to run out and hug a tree or play hackie sack while barefoot in the park to celebrate Earth Month. Instead, Earth Day and Month were designed to designed to inspire awareness for our environment. What’s in it for you? A polluted environment leads to pollution in our food and water supply that ends up on our plates and in our bodies. And therefore, a healthier earth means a healthier you. You can do your part by recycling, disposing of hazardous wastes properly (so they don’t end up in the water you drink or on the plants you eat) and changing your diet by incorporating foods that are not only good for you but also use fewer environmental resources to produce and/or are produced in an earth-friendly manner. On a recent segment on WBAL NBC Baltimore MD, I shared the top 3 steps you can take right now to help protect the environment and improve your diet at the same time:

1) Choose green seafood – seafood that’s both good for you and good for the ocean.  The DC-based Environmental Working Group has a guide to seafood that is high in omega-3 fats and low in methylmercury. This is especially important for pregnant women and young children. Growing fetuses are exposed to methylmercury in the womb when their mom eats fish and shellfish that contain methylmercury. Methylmercury can harm a baby’s growing brain and nervous system. Recent government data suggests an estimated 1.4 million women of reproductive age have blood mercury concentrations that may increase the risk of learning disabilities in their unborn children. Exposure to mercury is harmful to all people and may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes. EWG top choices for lower mercury omega-3 rich seafood: wild salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, mussels and rainbow trout.

2 ) Go Meatless. Now, I’m not suggesting everyone go completely meatless (because animal based sources of protein are typically better for building and maintaining muscle) but, adding more plant based proteins or going completely meatless for 1 day a week has the environmental impact of taking your car off the road for 320 miles, according to the Environmental Working Group. How does this help your body? Plant based sources of protein are typically lower in calories yet they are packed with good nutrition including vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. How can you get enough protein – choose soy, beans, lentils and nuts. I often mix animal-based proteins with plant-based proteins at meals.

3) Cook with canned foods. Americans throw away approximately 15 to 20 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables they purchase every year. Stock up on canned foods because they help reduce food waste, saving us time and money, and reducing our impact on the environment. Canned food portion sizes are just right for both individuals and families, and most recipes are designed around these sizes. Plus, metal cans are endlessly recyclable and in fact, are the most recycled containers in America today, keeping metal out of landfills and saving significant energy. Looking for convenient, wallet-friendly sources of protein? Check out this resource (and easy recipes) Quality Protein – It’s in the Can – Fact Sheet 

Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD is a proud Can-bassador – helping educate and communicate the benefits of cooking with canned foods.



Eat Clean for Better Health

I often hear the term “clean eating” or “I eat a clean diet” and to the everyday person these terms mean nothing. Or rather, clean eating may conjure up thoughts of scrubbing fruits and vegetables and steering clear of the mac n’ cheese that has been sitting out for hours on a buffet line. In the physique world though, clean eating means something totally different – it means eating an unprocessed healthy diet low in sugar (except around workout time).

I view clean eating with a more comprehensive viewpoint – abiding by food safety standards, eating an overall healthy, less processed diet, and, choosing organic for the most pesticide, herbicide ridden foods. How do you know when to opt for organic and when you get get away with their conventional counterparts?  I abide by the Environmental Working Group‘s  Pesticide in Produce Guide.  This guide lists the Dirty Dozen, 12 fruits and vegetables you should choose in organic form:

  1. peaches
  2. apples
  3. sweet bell peppers
  4. celery
  5. nectarines
  6. strawberries
  7. cherries
  8. lettuce
  9. grapes
  10. pears
  11. spinach
  12. potatoes

The “Cleanest” produce you can choose non-organic:

  1. onions
  2. avocados
  3. sweet corn
  4. pineapples
  5. mango
  6. sweet peas (frozen)
  7. asparagus
  8. kiwi
  9. bananas
  10. cabbage
  11. broccoli
  12. eggplant

When it comes to what you eat, ignorance isn’t bliss. Pesticides are linked to a number of health effects including potential increased risk of some types of cancer, hormone alterations, nervous system effects, altered fetal development and more. So choose clean and rest assured the money you spend now will pay off later.  And, for more information about a number of different health topics from cell phone radiation to endocrine disrupting chemicals in your shampoo, visit www.ewg.org.