Try these easy, sustainable strategies to improve your health and reduce your footprint all at once.

April 02, 2019
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woman washing vegetables in her kitchen
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If you're a home cook who's interested in making changes for a better, more holistic life, these simple tips for supercharging your food prep and storage are for you. To take things one step further, we're also sharing advice for making more efficient use of kitchen appliances, as this is an excellent place to start making your footprint in the kitchen as light as possible. Here, five easy tips for making your diet and kitchen a little greener.

Buy Local and Seasonal Ingredients

Look for fruits and vegetables that are in season and are local and when possible, choose organic produce that is free of potentially harmful pesticides. Strawberries and spinach top the "dirty dozen" list of produce with the highest levels of pesticides. Other contenders are nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers. Organic may be more expensive but opt for them when you can. When it comes to meat, poultry, and dairy, look for "raised without antibiotics" on the label. Experts have postulated that the drugs that were long fed to animals to increase their weight, and are still used to stave off disease, may make the bacteria in their guts-and ours-resistant.

Take the Time to Wash Produce

Prep greens right away says Sarah Carey, editorial director food. Be sure to wash your hands before handling them as leafy greens are susceptible to picking up bacteria from unwashed hands. Put the leaves in a large bowl of cold water and swish to send grit to the bottom; repeat until no grit remains. Then drain and dry them, roll them up in a clean towel, and put them into a resealable bag. Wait to rinse berries until you're ready to eat them, but immediately take them out of the leaky clamshell, cull mushy ones, and repack the rest in an airtight container.

Focus on Gut Health

No fancy juice cleanse required! Your highly sophisticated system does just fine when you feed it the right things. Stay hydrated, and fill up on whole fruits and vegetables as well as fiber-rich foods, like pears, broccoli, lentils, and oatmeal, to speed digestion and help the billions of healthy bacteria living in your gut flourish while boosting your immunity.

Pack the Freezer Full

The best way to reduce the amount of energy your freezer uses is to pack it with healthy ingredients and make-ahead meals. Why? When there's more items in a freezer, it takes less energy to keep everything cold. On the flip side, having less food in your fridge can result in less energy used, because the refrigerator has to work harder when there are more items to keep cool.

Stop Hand Washing the Dishes

Hand washing the dishes in your sink is much more wasteful than running the dishwasher. According to the National Resources Defense Council, hand scrubbing a sink full of dishes uses about 27 gallons of water. For dishwashers made after 2013, that amount reduces to just five, and even models that were manufactured 20 plus years ago use half the amount that hand washing does. Use a light or fast cycle for most loads to save energy, and load your machine as efficiently as possible. Also, skip the preliminary rinse under the faucet, it is unnecessary and could also interrupt the grime sensors on newer machines so they don't run full-force.

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