April marks the 49th anniversary of Earth Month. And, in the last 50 years or so, our diets have increasingly included more calories, more animal products, and more highly processed foods. Not only has this led to an increase in diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, it has also had a negative impact on our environment.

Food production is the single largest contributor to environmental change. And it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the same diet that is healthy for us and our families is also the healthiest for our communities and even our planet. A recent article in the Lancet refers to this as a “win-win diet,” made up of foods that are both healthy and environmentally sustainable.

The diet that they argue is healthiest for our planet is basically the Mediterranean diet that has been recommended for many years as a nutritional model for heart health. It is a plant-based diet containing lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils. It includes seafood and poultry and is low in red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains, and starchy vegetables.

So what can you do to make healthier choices for yourself, your family, your community, and the planet when you go shopping?

Consider eating less meat. This doesn’t mean that you have to make a huge change all at once; start by choosing one day each week to go meat-free. You can also try to purchase foods that are in season. These items are often less expensive, more nutritious, and may be sourced locally.

Or purchase seasonal produce and meat from a local farm or farmers market. Purchasing foods locally helps to support farmers in our community and puts our food dollars back into our local economy.

You can also consider purchasing more whole foods and less processed foods, which is better for your health and also generates less packaging. You can also compost any leftover food scraps so they do not end up in our landfills.

While changing habits may seem daunting at first, making small changes over time can have a huge impact.  Think about what a difference we could make if we each made one small change in honor of Earth Month.

Hollie Legee-Cressman is a community nutrition educator for Healthy Oxford Hills, your local Healthy Communities Coalition and a project of Stephens Memorial Hospital. You can call her at 739-6222 or email [email protected] Like us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/HealthyOxfordHills.

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