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Top 6 Eco-Friendly and Healthy Foods to Feed Your Family

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Let’s face it, our food system is full of horror stories—from mass deforestation to species extinction to displacement of indigenous communities, it seems that almost everything we eat comes with price tag far more expensive than what we pay at the grocery store.

It can be overwhelming and disheartening when deciding how to keep your family healthy and on budget while being mindful of the true impact of your what’s on your plate.

That’s why I’ve compiled this list of the top 6 most eco-friendly foods. These are all things you can purchase (or grow) with a clear conscience.

1. Lentils

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Lentils are arguably the most eco-friendly food because their production and post-production carbon emissions rank the lowest, according to the Environmental Working Group.

They’re also an inexpensive source of protein, fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals.

You can find them in a variety of colours ranging from yellow to red to brown. Use them as a rice replacement, in soups and stews, curries, or in a plant-based burger patty for a climate-friendly boost of nutrition.

2. Tomatoes

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Tomatoes rank as the second most environmentally-friendly food due to their exceptionally low carbon footprint during and after production.

They also require less input water than other vegetable crops because of their deep root systems.

Homegrown, local, or organic tomatoes boast the best texture and flavour, but really, you can’t go wrong with tomatoes. Your family can enjoy this antioxidant-rich veggie in endless ways from pizza and pasta sauce to soup and in salads, there’s basically a favourite tomato-based option for everyone.

3. Peas

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Peas are powerhouse crops. Aside from providing 8 grams of plant-based protein per cup, the plants also form a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in the soil to naturally fix depleted nitrogen levels. This relationship increases the soil’s vitality and reduces the need for added fertilizers and pesticides.

You can grow peas in your garden to fix nitrogen issues caused by synthetic fertilizers and topsoil tilling. You can also find them fresh, canned, dried, and frozen, making them a versatile addition to your weekly menu.

4. Potatoes

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Potatoes are another low water footprint food, requiring just 30 gallons of input water per pound produced. To give some context, rice requires 403 gallons per pound.

Potatoes also have one of the longest shelf lives of all fresh foods, helping you cut down on household food waste. To further reduce your waste, make sure to eat the potatoes with their peels.

There are several varieties of potatoes available at any common grocery store and each is packed with inexpensive plant-based nutrition. A single medium-sized potato has more potassium than a banana, half your daily intake of vitamin C, and is full of fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants.

You can do pretty much anything with potatoes and they’ll be delicious: fry them, mash them, bake them, roast them, boil them, whatever you like.

Note: Potatoes are listed on the Dirty Dozen List because they rank highest in pesticide residues when conventionally grown. Always opt for or grow organic varieties to reduce your family’s exposure to pesticides.

5. Broccoli

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Broccoli is a superfood that ranks relatively low on the carbon emission scale. It’s also a crop with built-in bug protection—it naturally produces a chemical compound similar to industrial pesticides. This same compound is responsible for many health benefits, including preventing cancer and reducing one’s risk of Type 2 diabetes.

You can eat broccoli raw, puree it into soup, add it into stirfry, bake it into an alfredo lasagna, or make a hearty broccoli salad.

6. Beans

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Beans are another plant-based protein source with lower than average carbon emissions during and after production.

The Environmental Working Group suggests choosing dried varieties of beans to avoid BPA found in cans. It’s also a more cost-effective choice and cuts down on recycling needs.

Beans are best enjoyed in chilis, burger patties, and burritos, but you can also add them into salads, soups, and even brownies.

Psst… You can further increase the sustainability of any meal by choosing local and organic ingredients.

Cover image credit: Pixabay

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