The Stroumboulopouli

The Stroumboulopouli

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eat Your Way to a Greener Planet

There are so many little things we do in our lives to make a difference. Almost everyone does something. This week, I thought I'd talk about how what we eat can impact the environment.
The biggest choice I make to eat environmentally is eating meatless meals.
I'm a vegetarian, so this one comes easy to me. Both One Million Acts of Green and The David Suzuki Foundation suggest eating at least one meatless meal a week can make a difference. When I first heard of this, I didn't really get it. Why would my eating vegetarian made a difference? Then I did a little research. Animals raised for meat are the largest land users on the planet when you combine their pasture land with the land used to raise crops to feed the animals. Once the meat is brought to slaughter, the methods used also tax the environment: a massive amount of water is used, the processing and packaging plants emit high amount of carbon, not to mention the amount of fossil fuels used to transport the meat. And don't forget, the animals themselves create a significant amount of gasses that impact the environment.

I know to many of my meat-eater friends, the thought of giving up their yummy meat is kind of scary and limiting. It doesn't have to be. There's a lot to choose from out there, and it's getting easier and easier to find good vegetarian choices.
We live in a world of fast food and convenience food. Most fast food outlets are now offering vegetarian offerings along with their beef, chicken or fish choices. Yes, veggie burgers are tasty and if they are made properly, no they don't taste like sawdust. Also, salads and other healthy alternatives are popping up as fast food, so keep your eye out for vegetarian and healthy choices.
If you're not the fast food type, most restaurants are also becoming more and more vegetarian friendly. There is usually at least one offering on the menu that is vegetarian or that could be easily modified to be vegetarian. Just ask the wait staff about hidden ingredients like bacon bit toppings or stock used in the sauce and usually the kitchen will be able to modify their menu selection to make it vegetarian. If you're considering getting a vegetarian sounding soup, make sure you double check if the stock used to make the soup is vegetable based. Most soups are made with either chicken or beef stock.
There are lots of options to try vegetarian cooking at home, and it can be a real adventure to find the perfect recipe. There are some great vegetarian cookbooks out on the market, and the internet is a wealth of vegetarian websites and vegetarian recipes are available on most cooking sites. I highly recommend taking a look at the vegetarian recipes on The Food Network and Whole Foods, both of these sites have a great variety of meatless recipes for cooks at any skill level. If you'd rather try something premade, there are now a wealth of pre-made vegetarian options available.
The trick to remember when you're eating meatless is variety. Choose a diverse palate and try new things. Don't be afraid of the much maligned tofu. Yes, if you eat it the way it comes, it will taste gross. I won't lie, plain tofu is not tasty. But the beauty of tofu is that it takes on the flavours of a dish so nicely. Soft tofu is a great addition to drinks or soups or even some desserts, and firm tofu can be crumbled into soups and sauces, or it can be fried or grilled after it's been marinated. I promise you, if you prepare it correctly, tofu is a great addition to any meal.
If you like eating one vegetarian meal and eventually decide to become a vegetarian, make sure you do your research so you do it right. You need to know where to the best sources of protein are and how to combine different foods for optimal nutrition. If you don't, you run the risk of getting quite ill from a lack of needed nutrients. That said, it's not that hard to be vegetarian, but there is more planning involved.
Good luck, I hope some of our readers try a vegetarian meal. If you do, I'd love to hear what you tried and what you thought.

1 comment:

Joey said...

I agree with you that cutting back one's meat intake is an effective and manageable way to live more responsibly. That's why I work for Meatless Mondays, a campaign dedicated to encouraging Americans to stop eating meat on Mondays, thus reducing their meat intake by 15%, significantly reducing one's risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke. We realize that not all our readers are full blown vegetarians like you, so one day a week without meat makes the effort manageable for the modern flexitarian, but the effort is still effective, in both health and environmental sustainability. You should check out our website for great articles and meatless recipes, http://www.meatlessmonday.com. This weeks theme is quick cooks. Check out the vegetable chowder for a quick and tasty dinner recipe.