Mindful Eating for Your Body and for Mother Nature

by Emily Fego

For most students, college is the first taste of freedom before entering the “real world”. This step toward obtaining independence brings up one question: how long can you survive off of boxed mac and cheese before you learn to shop and cook for yourself?

But the realization that processed foods are not a sustainable choice for your body does not mean your job is over. In light of concern regarding climate change, eating sustainability for the sake of the Earth’s health should be at the front of our minds as well. 

Here are some tips for how to make food choices that can benefit your body and the health of the environment while attending college.

Wallkill View Farm Market

Find where to shop

Choosing a food shopping destination is essential in creating a healthy and environmentally sustainable diet. Marie Murphy, a dietitian at SUNY New Paltz, noted that the local area has a lot of farming. This, according to SUNY New Paltz geography professor, Tim Vatovec, can help cut down on pollution from transportation. 

For local food options, the New Paltz Open Air Market is open on Sundays and is located in the heart of town on Church street. If you are looking for a wider selection of items, check out the Wallkill View Farm Market at 15 State Route 299. 

Eat less meat

The meat industry in the United States is a major consumer of resources through the excess land, water and fertilizer used to grow crops to feed livestock. The animals themselves attribute to pollution, as they give off waste and methane which Vatovec said is a potent greenhouse gas.

“This whole chain is very damaging to the environment; no matter the quality or nature of the meat grown, there is significant environmental impacts,” he said.

As a vegetarian himself, Vatovec advises starting off small by consciously not eating meat for two or three days a week.

Vegetarian meal #1 Tofu stir fry 

He said, “Also, choice of meats eaten can matter. I know people who do not eat a lot of beef in favor of chicken, which can have less of an impact on the environment.”

Murphy said she is generally supportive of individuals who decide to cut meat out of their diet as long as they are conscious of potential deficiencies. The deficiencies vegans should be most aware of are Vitamin D and B12, but iron, calcium and protein can also be a concern. 

Murphy supports such dietary choices for individuals interested in how food choices impact the planet but is sure to mention that it is not for everyone.

“A vegan or vegetarian diet may be counter-indicated in certain instances, such as with particular medical conditions, restricted diets and/or eating disorders,” she said.

Find the dairy alternative for you

The choices for dairy alternatives are plentiful which can make choosing the right one difficult. Vatovec and Murphy both mentioned soy milk as an alternative. Soy is a great source of protein for those who might be cutting other sources of protein found in animal products out of their diet. 

Murphy suggests alternatives like almond, oat and coconut milk for those who decide to keep meat in their diet but would like to cut down on their cow milk intake. 

When to choose organic

Since organic food choices can be an issue of affordability for many college students. Murphy suggested doing your own research on the Environmental Working Group website. 

This site contains two lists, “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15,” which can help students decide which produce is worth paying the premium price and which conventionally grown products are considered to have low pesticide exposure. The most recent list shows strawberries at the top of the “Dirty Dozen” and avocados at the top of the “Clean 15.”

Be confident in your impact

Vegetarian meal #2: Couscous with zucchini, pepper, tomato and chickpeas  

You may question how much of an impact the choices you make in the grocery store can affect something as large as the well-being of the planet, but many individuals coming together with the shared goal of being mindful of the health of our bodies and the planet has the potential for major impact.

A healthy lifestyle is not one-size-fits-all so although it is important to adhere to these tips, do what works best for you!


A version of this originally appeared in “Comfort” The Teller November 2019 Issue #8

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