Planet-friendly eating is eating plant-based food

MARQUETTE — With the new year coming up, many people may be looking to turn over a new leaf with their eating habits or adopt more planet-friendly practices.

Fortunately, there are many simple ways to improve both your health and the planet’s health by shifting your food choices toward plant-based items.

“Adopting a whole-foods, plant-based way of eating that is free of animal products of any kind, is the quickest and most effective way to improve your overall health, save the lives of countless animals, and greatly lessen your environmental footprint — period,” said Natasha Lantz, a lifestyle guide at Plant Centered Living who holds a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies through eCornell.

While changing our eating habits may not be the first thing we think of when trying to reduce our carbon footprint, it turns out eating more plant-based foods is one of the most simple and impactful ways to do so, Lantz said, as meat involves a “disproportionate consumption of natural resources when compared to plant-based foods.”

“Animal agriculture is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “A person can help the environment much more by eating plant foods instead of animal foods (even organic, pasture-raised) than they can by the combined impact of saving water, buying carbon credits, driving a fuel-efficient vehicle, and turning off lights.”

This means many of most eco-friendly food choices also tend to be some of the healthiest foods to consume, Lantz said.

“Choosing whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods with no or minimal packaging is best not only for our personal health but also for sustainability and the health of the planet,” she said.

For those who are considering a switch to more eco-friendly, plant-based eating habits in the new year, Lantz emphasized that it’s key to “ditch the diet mindset.”

“Diets don’t work because they always involve restriction of some kind that is not sustainable over time,” Lantz said. “Work instead on changing your mindset as it pertains to what you eat. Start by adding more and more fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts to your meals.”

Lantz also emphasized the importance of getting away from rigid New Year’s resolutions that are easily made — and easily broken.

“I prefer setting intentions rather than making resolutions,” Lantz said. “The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are broken quite quickly, leaving us frustrated and unhappy. You can’t break, fall out of compliance, or be required to start at square one if you do something that doesn’t quite align with an intention. An intention is an ongoing, gentle reminder that keeps us moving forward through the ups and downs and around the curves that life throws at us.”

When setting intentions to practice a more plant-centered diet, it can also be helpful to remember that your personal choices can and do make a difference in the world, Lantz said.

“Our individual food choices have a direct impact on the environment. People often feel that their food choices don’t make a difference, but collectively they do,” Lantz said. “Retailers will sell and farmers will produce only the foods that consumers choose to purchase. Vote with your food dollars — choose whole, plant-based foods.”

While adopting plant-based eating habits is one of the major ways a person can lessen their environmental impact in the new year, there are many other eco-friendly practices that can be adopted by those looking to make a change, Lantz said.

These include:

•Using cloth bags for shopping trips

•Visiting the bulk section of a local co-op or grocery store and bringing your own refillable containers, as it eliminates packaging and allows you to get as much or little of the item as you wish

•Bringing your own “to-go” containers when eating out so you can avoid taking a disposable container

•Carrying a set of reusable utensils in a car or bag to avoid using disposable options.

≤ Carrying a bag or container for compostable food waste so it can be composted rather than thrown away

≤ Biking, walking, or carpooling to school or work.

≤ Using your own coffee thermos to avoid waste from disposable cups

≤ Purchasing second-hand items when possible.

≤ Finally, Lantz recommends the “pillars of Plant Centered Living”: eating plant-centered food; moving any time you can; unplugging from technology when possible; cultivating meaningful relationships and listening to your inner voice.