Tuesday, January 4, 2011

We’re into New Year’s resolution season

The vow to clean up your diet is a common enough New Year’s resolution but for most it’s easier said than done. While many people want to eat better and feed their families healthier meals, people generally get stuck on the “how” to manage that on a reasonable budget and within the common time crunch that we live under on a day-to-day basis.

But the challenge isn’t insurmountable and it comes with perks. A diet that is healthier for you is also healthier for the planet so your personal health goal can have much broader, positive results.

Easing into a more eco-friendly diet is a matter of changing habits one at a time. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

This is the year to phase out canned goods. Although cans are recyclable they’re lined with Bisphenol A, a plastic that Health Canada has acknowledged can be harmful to both human health and the environment. While the government makes plans to phase it out you can start now to rid your cupboards of cans that are lined with plastic, replacing them with healthier, more eco-friendly options. Replace canned beans with dried beans. (Cook them in two-cup batches and freeze any you don’t plan to use within a few days.) Replace canned soup with homemade and canned bouillon with homemade stock or good quality bouillon cubes. Replace tinned fish and meat with fresh or frozen versions.

Why buy mini yogurts when you can buy big tubs and make your own snack-size servings with half-cup mason jars or little plastic storage containers. While you’re at it, consider switching from flavoured yogurts, they’re high in sugar and the term “natural flavours” isn’t regulated so who knows what’s in it. Instead sweeten your yogurt with jam, maple syrup and cinnamon or fresh fruit.

Try eating one less meat-based meal each week. It takes about 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat and according to research from Cornell University, beef production requires a ratio of energy expended to protein content of 54:1, compared with just 4:1 for chicken. Substitute meat alternatives like beans for the meat in some of your favourite recipes. Look for organic or naturally-raised meat and reduce the portion size when you do eat meat. Check my recipe section (in the index) for family friendly, meat-free meal ideas.

Buying in bulk reduces packaging so buy large sizes when it makes sense for your family. Many staples like pasta, flour, rice and other grains have a good shelf life and it makes shopping easier when you don’t have to buy them as often.

Consider homemade replacements for processed, packaged foods that you buy often. Making your favourites from scratch will reduce packaging, eliminate many chemical preservatives and flavour enhancers from your diet and could save you a lot of money. Many recipes become quick and easy once you have made them a few times so give yourself a chance to get into practice.

Like any ambitious New Year’s resolution, changing eating habits can be a journey and may set you on your way to achieving goals you didn’t even know you had.

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