Gwen’s Green Goals

Gwen is ready to go green. After living she feels like she has cut down on her carbon footprint by walking to work most days, bringing her own reusable bags for groceries, and shopping at the farmer’s market when it’s in season. She knows she’s on the right track, but feels stuck with which foods to choose that are not only eco-friendly but also affordable. Looking at her grocery bill it seems like her meat and dairy are the “big ticket” items, however, she works hard at the gym and needs some good protein sources in her diet to fuel her working muscles. Gwen isn’t ready for a diet-overhaul; she would just like a few quick tips so that she can slowly start setting some “go-green goals” for the month of April. In search of an answer, she heads to her local dietician to find some answers!

Are you eating these 3 green superfoods?
Now, as a registered dietician, I don’t throw the word “superfood” around lightly, and you won’t find any expensive goji berries or wheatgrass on my list. I believe in sustainability as a cornerstone of environmental and healthy eating. If it fits well in our life, we are more likely to follow through with it. More often than not, this means going back to the basics of making time for homemade meals, using real foods and eating more plants. The reason these specific foods made the cut for my green superfoods list is that they’re packed with nutrition, inexpensive, environmentally-friendly, and of course, green – to fit this month’s theme! They may not be trendy, but they will always be included in my list of healthy staples for an eco-friendly diet. 

1. Garden Peas
While new diet fads come and go the lonely little garden pea never seems to receive the hype it deserves. This petite pea is a nitrogen fixer, which means it eliminates the need for fertilizer and works hard to leave the soil rich in nutrients. They also thrive in cool temperatures, reducing the water necessary to grow them. This makes them a great crop for our northern climate of Canada; you can often find these at the farmer’s market mid-season. Buying these guys locally also reduces the amount of pesticides in your diet. In one cup, this healthy carbohydrate source contains eight grams of protein, seven grams of fibre and 100% of your daily vitamin C. 

2. Broccoli
Part of the cabbage family, this healthy cruciferous vegetable actually emits its own natural pesticides, eliminating the need for synthetic chemicals to keep the bugs away. Although I’m highlighting broccoli, I feel the need to give a shout-out to other green members of this family, kale and brussel sprouts, which have similar natural pesticide properties. In addition to its environmental production, broccoli contains an anti-cancer property and powerful antioxidant known as sulforaphane. New research suggests this plant compound may also responsible for helping the body expunge environmental toxins. In the health department, broccoli contains fibre, vitamin C, vitamin, K, iron, and potassium. It also has more protein than most other veggies. 

3. Green Lentils
I’ve always referred to lentils as the underappreciated superfood. These little powerhouses emit only 0.9 kg of CO² during the entire production from garden to table, making them the top environmentally friendly protein source. Comparably, the lowest emitting animal protein, chicken, emits 7X this amount while beef produces a whopping 43X more CO² emissions than lentils. As an added bonus, they require little water to grow and improve soil fertility. One cup of cooked lentils, which require no soaking like dried beans, contains 18 grams of protein, and 16 grams of fibre – more than half the recommended daily amount for adults. And if this wasn’t enough to convince you, this one-cup serving costs about ten cents on average! I challenge you to find another protein source that comes close to this price range.

Try incorporating more of these green superfoods into your diet today! Need some inspiration? Try a lentil shepherd’s pie, roasted broccoli and quinoa lunch bowl, or a curried garden pea soup. As an added bonus, don’t forget to buy local, in-season, and if possible, try growing some of your own foods to keep our lovely small town eco-friendly.