Nutrition Tips

Top 7 Ways to be an Eco-Friendly Cook

produce season

As you know, I am a big proponent of eco-conscious cooking & eating.  Here are a few tips to help make your food prep routines more earth-friendly.

Make at least a few vegetarian meals per week. Meat production requires 8x the fossil fuel energy of plant production, so you use fewer resources when you eat meat-free meals.

Enjoy in-season produce. I can’t say this enough.   Fresh, ripe fruits & veggies taste light-years better than produce harvested half-way around the world a few weeks ago, so this duty is more of a treat than a chore.

Buy organic dairy products and sustainably-raised meats. While the $1.99 carton of milk is tempting, paying a couple extra bucks for the organic will afford you a much higher quality product, as well as a clear conscious.  Same goes for meat. You might find chicken breasts on sale for cheap, but the way these chickens were raised would make you cringe (at best) and the farming practice is unsustainable.   Plus, this meat is lower in nutrients and higher in things you don’t want in your body. So spring for the more expensive meat — be it organic, grass-fed, or sustainably-raised — it’s healthier for both you and the earth. [And if you follow Tip #1, you won’t even be spending more money in the end.]

Be efficient with your appliances & cooking routines. For example, don’t bake and grill foods in the same meal — choose either the grill, oven, or stove for your meal prep and stick with that cooking method. And plan ahead — if you can grill 6 chicken breasts instead of 2 and use the remaining chicken later in the week for salads, sandwiches, wraps, or other cold entrees, you’ll save on both energy and time.

Take advantage of the toaster oven. If you’re cooking for one or two, the toaster oven is a great tool, because it’s small size means it heats quickly and uses less energy than the regular oven. You can use it for baking pretty much anything, and your dinner will be ready faster too.

Utilize your microwave. A microwave effectively uses 57.5% of its energy to heat food, compared with a gas cooktop, which uses only 7.1%. So next time you go to make a mug of tea, pop that water in the microwave instead of boiling a whole kettle full of water.

Keep the refrigerator and oven doors closed. Every time you open the fridge, warm air rushes in and the fridge starts to work overtime to reduce it’s temperature.  When possible, pull out more than one item at a time, so you minimize fridge-opening.  The same principle can be applied to the oven.  Use the oven light to check on cooking status instead of opening the door; you’ll not only save energy, but you’ll get a better baking result.   [Note: it’s also important not to put piping hot food in the fridge — it will warm up the other food in the fridge which is not only a waste of energy, it can also cause harmful bacteria to grow, making foodborne illness more of a risk.]

Like these tips or have some of your own you’d like to share?  Leave a comment!

* Some of these tips adapted from the April 2009 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

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