The ideals of consciousness teach us that we are connected to each other and to our surroundings. With this in mind, we can bring the same levels of mindfulness we cultivate on our yoga mat to our decisions when buying, preparing, and eating food. Here are seven suggestions to green your dinner plate, improve your health, and support a healthier planet.

  Beyond Organic, Think Sustainable.

The definition of sustainable agriculture is the ability for a farm to produce food indefinitely, without causing severe or irreversible damage to ecosystem health.

Did you know that the modern conventional agricultural system uses nearly 20% of the U.S.’s total energy supply? In addition to the fossil fuels burned in mechanized agriculture, most pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are petroleum-based.

When you buy organically-produced food you support sustainability, reduce petroleum use and its effects on climate change, and minimize the downstream impact of chemicals used in conventional farming on soil, streams, and watersheds. On a personal level, you’ll save your liver from the need to process residues of these chemicals in the produce you eat.

While locally grown, certified organic items are ideal, some small-scale farmers are actually using sustainable methods, but don’t have the resources to go through the process to obtain organic certification. Talk to your local farmers to learn more about their practices. To inform your choices when buying food, check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the dirtiest and the cleanest produce items at

Shop Locally.

The average conventional food product travels 1,500 miles to reach you, representing a tremendous amount of fuel burned in transportation and refrigeration.

Buying locally not only shortens the distance between farm and fork, it also helps us to eat what’s in season and picked at the peak of ripeness with better taste and nutrition.

Ayurveda teaches us that when we adapt our lifestyle to nature’s seasons, we cultivate greater balance with our surroundings and therefore ourselves.

Find local farmers’ markets, farm stands, or Community Supported Agriculture organizations in your area at

Think about collecting and reusing (even returning them to your farmer) plastic berry containers, fresh-cut flower sleeves, rubber bands, twist ties, and other packaging materials instead of dumping them into the landfill.

Slow Down, Sit Down And Eat.

Avoid eating on the run and especially stopping at drive-thru restaurants. You’ll digest your food better when you actually stop to enjoy it. Slowing down helps break the stress response in your body so you’re better able to absorb the nutrients you’re consuming.

Plus, visitors to drive-thru restaurants burn fuel while idling and these establishments are notorious for over-packaging. So take the time to eat mindfully – to see, smell, touch and taste your food without the distraction of driving – and actually enjoy your meal.

Decrease or Eliminate Consumption of Meat And Dairy.

Conventional beef and dairy products contribute about 50% of a household’s carbon footprint. By minimizing your consumption of these foods, you’ll decrease your intake of saturated fats which have been linked to cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and diabetes.

When you do eat meat and dairy products, opt for organic products from farm animals which are fed pesticide-free food not grown with petroleum-based fertilizers and free from artificial hormones (rBGH or rBST) and antibiotics.

Choose Sustainable, Wild Seafood.

If you choose to eat fish, make sure it’s as local as possible, wild caught and frozen at sea (not farmed). Approximately 80% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, and nearly all of it takes to the skies, bringing a long contrail of aircraft exhaust to the table. For added health benefit, opt for smaller fish which are lower on the food chain, are more sustainable, and contain fewer contaminants such as PCBs and mercury.

Eat Soy? Choose Organic.

Soy is one of the most frequently gen-etically modified crops grown in the country: Estimates suggest that over two-thirds of the US soybean crop is genetically modified. Genetically modified foods or organisms (or “GM” or “GMO” foods for short) are designed to withstand large sprayings of chemical herbicides, thereby enabling farmers to kill weeds without damaging their crops. Biotech companies state that these herbicide-resistant crops require less chemical usage than conventional varieties. However, research suggests that farmers are actually spraying these crops with more herbicides.

For more information about finding GMO-free foods,

BYOB (Bring Your Own Water Bottle).

Disposable plastic water bottles create 1.5 million tons of plastic waste a year in the U.S. alone, not to mention the amount of petroleum used to manufacture and ship the bottle.

Instead of bottled water, drink purified water from your tap using a filtration system or pitcher. When out, bring your own water with you in a reusable container, or try a reusable water bottle that comes with its own filtration unit.

Filtering helps remove chlorine and parti-culates to improve taste and minimize the impact of free radicals.

Just as every breath we take has the power to bring presence and change, every bite we take has the power to impact our own health and that of our future environment. We can vote with our forks for a food system that will sustain or endanger our planet. What will you choose to eat? How will you vote? Incorporate a yogic approach to your eating!

Choose to make conscious food choices for a greener plate today and healthier planet (and life!) tomorrow.

RED JEN FORD is a certified holistic health coach, Yoga instructor and manager of the Westwood Farmers’ Market, located in the Vets’ Garden Thursdays from Noon to 5:00 P.M.

Jen teaches her customers and busy clients the simplicity of eating local, sustainably grown food. Contact her on (917) 971 – 1941 or at:

By Red Jen Ford