Published on December 17th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans
Healthy Cooking with Organic Foods
Would you like to stay healthy by improving the quality of the food you eat while decreasing your personal impact on the environment?
You can do all of these things simply by becoming conscious about how you cook your meals. Green cooking is simple, sustainable, and quite frankly, food cooked in a green manner tastes better!
Be Selective with Your Ingredients
First, be mindful of where you buy your ingredients. The best food choices for your health are simple and fresh organic foods that are cooked to maintain their vital nutrients. When you eat organic cuisine you are supporting not just your own health but also that of the eco-systems where the organic produce was raised. Unlike commercial farms that typically focus on one or two commodities that strip the soil of vital nutrients, organic farms tend to grow a variety of crops. This helps to maintain the health and diversity of the soil. Organic farming methods make for sustainable agriculture that protects people (consumers and workers), environments, and wildlife from the harmful impact of dangerous chemicals. By supporting organic farming we create awareness in our community about the health and social benefits of green cuisine.
Thanks to the development of free trade, foods from all over the world have come to be available to us year-round. While it might be exotic to eat mangoes from India or shrimp from Thailand, the import of foreign produce does not do much for the cause of sustainable agriculture.
No matter what part of the country you live in, there are plenty of green food choices close at hand that will support the livelihood of local farmers. And just think about how this can help cut back on transport related emissions, not to mention fuel consumption. What’s more, with the seasonal nature of agriculture, there will be no end to diversity in the foods available to you throughout the year.
Consider cooking more meals with ingredients that are cultivated with cleaner resources that require less maintenance. Fish caught in the wild use fewer resources and as long as they are caught in an ecologically sound way (i.e. one that prevents the incidences of by-catch), the process will not disturb natural ecosystems. Fish that are farmed in pens, like salmon, pollute the ocean environment with their own waste. Cultivating vegetable matter requires fewer resources on average than, say, producing meat, which requires immense amounts of water, grass, land, and labor.
Sign Up for Social Responsibility
You might want to consider supporting your local farming community by buying shares in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in return for a weekly supply of organic produce delivered to you at the peak of its ripeness. Community shared agriculture options are also available for dairy and animal produce from animals raised in humane, clean and organic environments. If you need foods that you just cannot source locally (such as coffee and tea), it is best to buy Fair Trade Certified™ products that are grown by farmer-controlled cooperatives in an environmentally sound manner.
In the Kitchen
Most people readily associate green cuisine with cooking vegan or vegetable foods, but green cooking is more about cooking in a sustainable and socially responsible manner. Although green cooking starts in the kitchen, it easily flows over to other aspects of your lifestyle. Are you a bread lover? Are you crazy about pastries? How you bake is directly proportional to the amount of electricity you use—if you are baking in relatively small quantities, think about conserving energy by using a smaller oven. A loaf of bread or a small batch of cookies can be as easily baked in a toaster oven, which uses far less electricity than a full-sized oven.
Are you a pasta lover? If you use water, vegetable broth, or chicken stock to cook rice or pasta, try not to waste the excess by throwing it out—leftover broth makes an ideal base for a soup. You can even pour it into your houseplants which are as eager for organic nutrients as we are. The same goes for leftovers that can be fed to plants or composted just as easily. But planning meals in advance (especially when it comes to foods that spoil easily) will help us reduce the incidence of leftovers, which results in less waste.
Although green cooking starts in the kitchen, it easily flows over to other aspects of your lifestyle.
In the Pantry
It is a best green pantry practice to buy foods that come in recyclable packaging. Glass and ceramic bottles that hold milk and sauces can be reused within your own kitchen or they can almost always be recycled be at the store. If not, then you can at least recycle them curbside. Many containers can be stocked in your pantry to hold smaller quantities of spices, dried herbs, flour, rice, and various other ingredients that are leftover from disposable packaging or bulk sizes.
Your garden is a natural extension of your kitchen. In days past our ancestors cooked all of their meals outside using natural heat from wood-burning fires and the warmth of the earth as an oven. Today you can use your outdoor space to create a level of self-sufficiency by growing your own herbs and vegetables. You don’t need to be an expert gardener or have a massive garden or greenhouse to start making use of your own green fingers. Even apartment-dwellers will be amazed by how much green food can be grown in a relatively small space. All you need is a window-box, sunshine, and plenty of positive dedication—bon appètit!
Article Contributors: Reenita Malhotra Hora