Frances Moore Lappe said, “The act of putting into your mouth what the earth has grown is perhaps your most direct interaction with the earth.” What we eat is not only a direct result of Mother Nature’s bounty, what we choose to eat also has a direct impact upon her. And while things like driving less and using energy-efficient appliances are certainly important for reducing our eco-footprints, for most people in the United States, diet has the biggest environmental impacts.
As a green parent, you’ll probably teach your child how to recycle and re-use, but I believe the most important thing you can do is connect your child to food — real, whole foods. And, by “connect,” I mean engage with every aspect of food. How it looks, smells, feels, and tastes. Where it comes from, how to prepare it, and, most importantly, how to enjoy it.
1. Breastfeed. You’ve likely heard all about how “breast is best,” but even beyond the unique nutrition and bonding benefits, breastfeeding is also the most eco-friendly choice. If you can’t breastfeed (I know it happens, and it’s okay), choose glass or stainless steel baby bottles.
2. Rethink “baby food.” Today, the first bite of solid food for 98% of babies in the US is processed white rice baby cereal. It’s the consistency of white flour and it has a similar impact on a baby’s metabolism as sugar. Before the 1950’s babies learned to eat by watching what their parents ate and growing more excited about the possibility of eating it themselves. When the moment to begin feeding baby solid food finally arrived, they got a mashed up version of whatever their parents were eating. In my White Out Now campaign, I’m urging parents to return to this norm. Here’s a simple secret: most of the time your baby can eat the same food you are eating. Share foods you’ll both like. This can be much easier and more fun than most parents imagine. And it’s a great way to take charge of your child’s diet and reduce your eco-footprint.
3. Eat whole foods, organic when possible. Making healthier food choices is simple and clear. Increasing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the diet makes the diet healthier and is better for the environment since it requires less processing and often less packaging. Also, decreasing artificial chemicals (like pesticides) in the diet and the environment makes us all healthier.
4. Practice Meatless Mondays. Going meatless even one day a week significantly helps reduce your carbon footprint, as well as saving precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuels. Find family-friendly recipes on DrGreene.com!
5. Grow your own food. Even if it’s just some basil in a windowsill, growing your own food is an incredibly educational, impactful and fulfilling act. And, eating local doesn’t get any more local than that!
Bringing real food into your family’s life can be fun and energizing. It can connect and draw people together. It can silently teach deep lessons about life and love and health and our environment. If you’re looking for more tips and even recipes, check out my book, “Feeding Baby Green.” It’s time for a delicious, green revolution!
Article written by Dr. Alan Greene
Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show. He is also a beloved part of the PAM Advisory Team.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed by the Dr. Alan Greene and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM) or any employee thereof. PAM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Dr. Greene.