Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

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hands plant

Greg Christian was a chef and caterer, using the conventional foods and methods we all learned once upon a time. As he describes it now,

“In the foodservice industry, we are faced with a current reality where our foods are highly-processed with chemicals, transported long distances, produced with pesticides and fertilizers that are harming people and the environment, and packed with sugars and fats that are causing illness and disease around the world. The farmers, distributors, and cooks are struggling to survive, let alone flourish, in this system where they are paid little to provide the food that the world relies on for its survival.”

That’s the depressing picture that has dominated America’s food system for too long. But then his daughter’s illness stumped doctors and specialists, and his wife’s decision to give her local organic food led to her recovery. Eventually he was inspired to share this revelation with others. He started a zero-waste kitchen, created a school lunch program that was integrated into a garden and classrooms, and finally became a consultant to help other food service business make the same transformation. Christian envisions a major transformation:

“The ideal foodservice industry of the future will be based on local economies, where food is grown near where it is consumed, in ways that use little or no chemicals, and are then cooked with love and care from scratch, by workers who are treated fairly and respectfully for the great service they provide each of us. All people will have food, will know where their food comes from, and know that the food is real food that restores the soul—not just our bodies.”

Now Christian has put his vision for transforming food organizations into print and pixels – you can download his Manifesto here. After acknowledging that this transformation will require major changes, he gives (for free) his blueprint for change. This heartfelt manifesto for health and sustainability is about food, but the systems perspective it conveys (and the author’s candid admission of past mistakes and the obstacles change-makers face) could apply to many areas of life, and many businesses — maybe yours.

The Green Foodprint was recently selected for review by Publishers Weekly, one of the most distinguished and respected sources for book reviews in the industry. For their expert opinion, click here and read the glowing review they gave The Green Foodprint. 

Tomato lovers rave about the lively, distinct taste of genuine fresh tomatoes, which they say is infinitely superior to the hard round red billiard balls you can get at the supermarket any time of year. I can’t vouch for this, not being a raw tomato fan, but there isn’t much debate that conventional tomatoes are hard and tasteless. Here’s what author Barry Estabook said in his 2011 book Tomatoland:

“Perhaps our taste buds are trying to send us a message. Today’s industrial tomatoes are as bereft of nutrition as they are of flavor. According to analyses conducted by the U.S. Department of Agricul­ture, 100 grams of fresh tomato today has 30 percent less Vitamin C, 30 percent less thiamin, 19 percent less niacin, and 62 percent less calcium than it did in the 1960s. But the modern tomato does shame its 1960s counterpart in one area: It contains fourteen times as much sodium.”

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’re blessed to be near the Central Valley, one of the world’s great breadbaskets. We also have lots of small farms and urban farmers, so those juicy red tomatoes are not too hard to find here. Farmers’ markets can be found in Berkeley, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Moraga, San Rafael – go here to find one near you. The newest one opened this week in Lafayette.

You can always GROW tomatoes, as they are very forgiving and brown-thumb-friendly. Even a single potted plant can, with minimal human intervention, provide those tasty red tomatoes that are so prized.

credit  exfordy on flickr








When I was writing The Green Foodprint, I checked out some of the quaint devices you can buy to make cooking “easier.” I located the following:

  •  Microwaveable ice cream scoop
  • Cherry pitting device
  • Home cotton candy maker
  • Oddly shaped pan that bakes brownies with more edges
  • Gadget that cuts up a hot dog to look like an octopus.
  • Microwave s’more maker
  • Avocado knife

While one might applaud the ingenuity, I shook my head over the waste of metal, plastic, packaging, trucking, and electricity that go into manufacturing, distributing, and using these ridiculous toys. But wait! There’s more! You can also get a stainless steel lobster fork, a toaster with a Darth Vader design, a voice-recognition electronic grocery list organizer (for a mere $150), and an espresso machine that (I kid you not) recognizes your fingerprint so it will make your drink just the way you like it, without all that exhausting pushing of buttons on regular espresso machines. This toy will set you back $3,200.

Seems I’m not the only one scratching her head at this technology gone wild. A New York Times reporter also found people who confessed to having purchased an automatic polenta maker, escargot tongs, milk frothing machines, and a panini press. It appears that Rube Goldberg is alive and well in the design department of manufacturers desperate to part you from your money.

Here’s the main advice I give in The Green Foodprint: Use your muscles to chop, stir, peel, and all the rest. You’ll be healthier for it – and so will the earth.

The Green Foodprint: Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet was named a Finalist in the Science/Nature/Environment category for the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The Next Generation Indie Book Awards is the largest Not–for-profit book awards program for indie authors and independent publishers whose purpose is to “recognize and honor the most exceptional independently published books”.

Wondering what The Green Foodprint is all about?

Click below to read the first chapter of The Green Foodprint, and learn how you can help save the earth with your food choices.

 Book Sample: The Green Foodprint

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You’ve heard that in nature, there’s no such thing as waste. Yet in America, the amount of food that we waste every year is staggering. A study found that we waste millions of tons of food a year — 29% of all we produce – at many points, from farm, to packer, to store, to table.

Given that there are so many hungry people in this country, that’s a tragic loss. But the study pointed out another consequence that I hadn’t thought of before: the entire life cycle of growing, packaging, transporting, and disposing of all this waste produces 2% of our greenhouse gas emissions, over a hundred million tons of carbon dioxide a year. Meanwhile, a staffer for the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the average American family of four loses up to $175 a month in wasted food, and included some interesting charts she gleaned from the report mentioned in the first paragraph.

We can stop this waste and eat healthily and creatively. An article with the provocative title “That’s Not Trash, That’s Dinner”  gave several ideas for using those thick broccoli stalks: peel and chop them to make soup, or shred them to put into broccoli slaw, or shave them and top with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese.

What you can do:

  • If you buy a new or special ingredient on impulse (and that’s not a bad thing, since diversity in diet is good for us and for the earth), be sure to use it right away.
  • Enjoy leftovers. This is your chance to learn new recipes, or put on your creative hat and invent something original. My own theory is that some of our favorite dishes evolved from the combination of leftovers and necessity.
  • Compost the scraps that aren’t salvageable (heavy cauliflower leaves and stalks, for instance, and the odd bits you scrape off your plate after dining). Once you see the beautiful black rich soil that food scraps turn into in the compost bin, you’ll be amazed you ever thought of food scraps as garbage.

Or you could check out The Green Foodprint, which I published last year (2011).