Protecting and Preventing Species Loss Through Small Doable Changes, Part II

Building on my post from last week, Part I, I’d like to present the #2 thing we can do, starting today, right now, to protect and preserve the environment and species on this planet:  STOP USING PLASTIC!

While this is really no less important than shifting to a plant-based diet, it does fall under a different set of behaviors and actions we utilize on a daily basis.

As a nation, and as a world, we are addicted to plastic, in all its forms.  Plastic has become ubiquitous in its form and function from bags, to bottles, to food-containers, to use in soaps and as toothbrush handles and bristles.  No matter where you look, you will find plastic, plastic, and more plastic.

All this plastic is toxic.  Toxic to all animals on land and sea, who become entangled in it, ensnared in it, or who suffocate from it.  It is also toxic to us humans from its chemical constituents slowly leaching into our bodies or bioaccumulating from the foods we consume.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, approximately 191 barrels of hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL), a byproduct of petroleum and natural gas processing are used to create plastic products in the United States annually(1).  This represents nearly 3% of the U.S.’s petroleum consumption, and that just factors in the raw material, not the processing and manufacturing of the plastic products.  Altogether put, plastic manufacturing, for all sectors of the economy, uses between six and 10% of the nation’s total oil, adding to the volume of carbon we emit into the atmosphere, as well as to the detritus that ends up in our landfills, and inevitably in our oceans (2).

According to the World Economic Forum, within the next 30 years, by weight, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans (3).  Worldwide, there is expected to be a 4-fold increase in plastic production by 2050, representing 20% of the world’s total oil use; unfortunately however, only about 10-15% of plastic items are reused or recycled.

To exacerbate the problem further, plastic does not readily disintegrate and can take over 1,000 years to biodegrade.  Moreover, nearly 1/3 of all plastic escapes into nature, into the world’s ecosystems, remaining statically in place or clogging the oceans and slowly and brutally killing the world’s aquatic animals.

Plastic can have a plethora of negative effects on marine wildlife, and in myriad ways.

1) Endocrine disruptors:

As marine animals unintentionally swallow plastic and its derivatives, believing it to be food, Bisphenols, BPA, PCBs, and DDEs in plastic compounds can all disrupt the normal functioning of hormones in these animals, making them infertile, increasing cancer and tumor rates, polluting water, and magnifying these risks up the food chain (4).

Sea turtles, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales are at even higher risk for the detrimental effects of these plastic-pollutants as they are higher up in the food chain, allowing these chemicals to bioaccumulate and biomagnify in their blood stream and blubber/fat cells.  This decreases the survivability of these animals by impacting their fertility and/or by directly harming them via intestinal obstruction, a block in their GI-tract that can kill them, painfully (5).

2) By-catch:

Another dangerous use of plastic that harms marine life is fishing nets:  Fishing nets are typically made from nylon, a plastic-polymer.  These can include: Nylon fishing nets, trawling nets, seine nets, including purse-seine nets, gill nets, and drift nets.

Nets of all shapes and sizes are killers.  However, in many instances, 30-40 miles of nets are cast by ships or fishing vessels aiming for a specific species of fish.  These nets can frequently be out at sea for days at a time, or in the worst case scenario, are left out at sea, lost, and drift for years, killing millions of animals in their wake.

These nets, kill, and not just the intended species.  All types of marine animals get caught in the nets, are unable to escape and drown or suffocate.  For years, hundreds of thousands of dolphins were killed each year by nets.  Nets left at sea, or even nets whose intended targets were tuna, and only in the ocean for a few short hours.

It is noted that for every pound of fish we consume, 10-100 pounds of other marine animals are caught and killed as bycatch.  Perhaps even more.  Additionally, hundreds of thousands of marine animals are killed each year by accident, because of black-market and illegal fishing of endangered species (6).

In fact, as of today, there remain only around 30 vaquita porpoises left in the world; the most endangered marine mammal in the world.  Sadly, three were found in the last three weeks, entangled and drowned by illegal gill nets in the Gulf of California where “hunters” were seeking out a particular endangered-fish’s swim bladder to sell in Asian black markets, also illegal.

Thus, we need to be more cognizant of the damage that our plastic use does to the environment, and find ways to use alternative materials that do not leach into the ground, oceans, or take millenia to disintegrate.  We need to take a greater stand against illegal fishing, and NOT making purchases of products that support the people and countries illegally poaching these animals from the wild.

At the very least, we need to reuse, recycle, and/or properly dispose of our plastic, consider it as biohazard waste material, because it is.

For other ideas on how to reduce your plastic use, please refer to this wonderful article by One Green Planet (7).

Stay tuned for Part III!

References:

1. http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=34&t=6

2. Stanford Magazine.  “Plastic Bags: To Recycle or not: Essential answer.” https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=30162

3. http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/19/news/economy/davos-plastic-ocean-fish/

4. http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Marine-Plastics-Kelp-Bass.htm

5. Booth and Zeller (2005).  Mercury, Food Webs, and Marine Mammals: Implications of Diet and Climate Change for Human Health.  Environ Health Perspect. 2005 May; 113(5): 521–526.

6. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.  3 Vaquitas Found Dead: The Most Endangered Marine Mammal in the World

http://ecowatch.com/2016/03/29/vaquita-porpoise-found-dead/

7. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/life-hacks-to-help-you-cut-plastic-out-of-the-picture/?utm_source=Green+Monster+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=ea5b3fa197-NEWSLETTER_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_bbf62ddf34-ea5b3fa197-106149577

Protecting and Preventing Species Loss Through Small Doable Changes, Part I

The #1 thing we can do, starting today, right now, to protect and preserve the environment and species on this planet is to shift away from animal-based foods. 

In fact: “Shifting away from animal-based foods could add up to 49% to the global food supply without expanding croplands” – (Jalava et al (2014).)

If each and every person in the United States (alone), consumed fewer meat and dairy products, we would save the environment from thousands of tons of carbon emissions, reduce our water use at least by half, and prevent the further growth of dead zones in the oceans, cutting back on the direct and indirect threats to marine life.

If each and every person in the United States, China, India, Japan, and other developed countries consumed fewer meat and dairy products, we would multiply the above in magnitude, prevent the further loss of primary rainforests and habitat (in the amazon and elsewhere), be an example to developing countries where meat and dairy consumption is growing, and may perhaps mitigate the growing effects of climate change on our planet and its ecosystems.

According to the “World Population Clock,”  (http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/)  there are now 7.41 Billion people living on this world, competing for the same “resources.”

By 2050, the United Nations estimates that there will be approximately 9.7 Billion people (United Nations, 2015).  This means that in the next 35 years, there will be 30% more people fighting for the same resources, fighting for the same foods, fighting for the same oxygen, fighting for the same water.

Concurrently, there will be an extinction of 30-50% of all species.  So, as we add 30% more people, we will lose 30-50% of all species (Center for Biological Diversity, 2016).  This is a truly scary and disturbing thought.

Therefore, to slow down these extinctions, both directly and indirectly, the first and foremost thing we can do, is

Move away from animal-based foods, and shift to plant-based foods.

Pound-for-pound, gallon-for-gallon, animals use vastly more water and carbon to produce than plants.  Ounce-for-ounce however, the amount of protein that you get from plant-sources, such as legumes, seeds, and grains, is closely on par, plus, full of other healthful nutrients including fiber, sterols, stanols, and vitamins and minerals.

To put this into context:

  • 1 pound of beef requires anywhere between 2000 and 8,000 gallons of water to produce, according to studies conducted by UC Davis (Beckett & Oltjen, 1993) and George Borgstrom, from Michigan State University.   Much of this water is used in creating the feed for the cows, whether it is grass or grain.
  • Similarly, 1 gallon of cow’s milk requires 1950 gallons of water.

**And, I haven’t even addressed the methane released into the environment from these cows**

  • Conversely, 1 pound of Tofu requires 302 gallons of water to produce, and it requires 290 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of unprocessed oats.
  • Now, for those of you worried about protein content:

1 pound of beef contains 90-100 grams of protein                Costing you 20 – 80 gallons of water per gram of protein

1 gallon of milk contains 128 grams of protein                                              15 gallons of water per gram of protein

1 pound of tofu contains 45-55 grams of protein                                           6 gallons of water per gram of protein

1 pound of oats contains 75 grams of protein =                                             3.8 gallons of water per gram of protein.

From a water perspective only (at this point), and with simple mathematics, it is much more efficient and cost-effective to eat plant foods than animal foods.

Why is this so important?

According to a United Nations report, the ocean covers 70% of the earth.  The oceans contain about 97% of Earth’s water with the remaining 3% found in glaciers and ice, below the ground, and in rivers and lakes.

If the majority of fresh water is going towards animal husbandry that leaves less for us to consume, for there is less snow pack, erratic weather patterns, and more polluted water than ever.

Moreover, the water runoff from livestock ends up in the oceans, killing marine wildlife from plankton, up to dolphins and whales.  The less meat and milk, the fewer animals that are raised.  The fewer animals that are raised, the less water, methane (carbon), CO2, and nitrogen that are released into the atmosphere and oceans.  Conserving life on this planet, including human lives.

To make a long story short, if we all eliminated meat and milk from our diets and went to plant-sources of these foods, we would be saving at least 50% of our water use.  We would be saving  habitats from being destroyed to produce more livestock-feed, and we would be creating less pollution in our waterways, streams, and oceans, that indirectly threaten animal lives.

It is said, “If our Oceans Die, We Die.” – Sea Shepherd (2015).

For More Tips, stay Tuned to PART II!

References:

Jalava M, Kummu M, Porkka M, Siebert S, and Varis O (2014).  Diet Change–a solution to reduce water use? Environ. Res. lett. 9(7):1-14.

United Nations World Population Projection, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2015).  http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/2015-report.html

The Center for Biological Diversity (2016).  The Extinction Crisis.  http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

Beckett, J. L., and J. W. Oltjen. (1993) Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United States. J. Anim. Sci. 71: 818-826

United Nations (2016).  “FIRST GLOBAL INTEGRATED MARINE ASSESSMENT (FIRST WORLD OCEAN ASSESSMENT)”  Oceans and Law of the Sea, an integrated report.  http://www.un.org/depts/los/global_reporting/WOA_RegProcess.htm

http://www.seashepherd.org/commentary-and-editorials/2015/09/29/if-the-ocean-dies-we-all-die-741

Earth feels what YOU eat: “The State of our Planet”

“Earth is our Home, Not a Resource” – unknown

Have you ever stopped mid-bite and wondered how what you were eating might affect the Earth?

I’m sure most people think about how a particular meal might affect themselves, but when we think of Earth, we think of a huge planet that sustains life and will always do so, because it has always done so.

Yet, there have been mass extinctions in the past.  Five.

Scientists now believe we are in the beginning stages of the sixth mass extinction.  This one instigated by human development, human industrialization, human growth, and human greed.  The anthropocene-era extinction.

In the background, in a natural state of homeostasis, Earth loses approximately 1 to 5 species per year.  Currently, however, Earth is losing somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 species per year, possibly more, as this is only an estimate based on “known” extinctions (Chivian & Bernstein 2008).

Our world and its species depend on a web.  Animals and their ecosystems have evolved co-dependently to feed off each other and from each other.

So, losing one species will directly, and indirectly, impact the lives and survivability of other species.  INCLUDING OUR OWN.

The loss of species occurs for a myriad of reasons:

1) Loss of Habitat:

Humans are rapidly cutting down thick and luscious forests, natural reservoirs of life.  We cut down forests to create room for monoculture farmlands to grow crops such as soy, corn, wheat, or alfalfa to feed agricultural animals such as chickens, cows, and now even fish.

Forests are home to hundreds of thousands of species, some likely unknown still!  Thus, cutting down forests destroys these animals’ food and habitat, displacing them, perhaps starving them or outright killing them.  This is becoming an all too common phenomenon.

In the oceans, habitats in the form of coral reefs are rapidly being destroyed as a result of climate change (more below).

Similarly, dams negatively impact the spawning grounds and the ability of fish (example:  Chinook Salmon) to reach their spawning grounds.  This can and is having dramatic effects on the population sizes, viability, and longevity of certain keystone species, such as the Chinook salmon, as well as their major predators, orca-whales.  Near Washington State, the Southern Resident Killer Whales are critically endangered, with only 85 individuals left due to the loss of their primary food-source.

2) Overconsumption:

Whether it is overfishing, by-catch, trawling, or simply overhunting (on land), humans are consuming far too many animals, at far too fast a rate and their numbers are being irreparably depleted.

Blue-fin Tuna, for example, are now considered an endangered species of fish (according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature-IUCN).  Blue-fin tuna have been overfished so much to satisfy our glut.  This means that more than 70% of the blue-fin tuna population has been lost to human consumption.

Other animals we might not typically associate with “food” here in the U.S. are similarly endangered, such as the Fin Whale.  And, while the International Whaling Commission forbids the hunting of these beautiful cetaceans, the Japanese and Icelanders continue to kill them, hundreds each year, for human consumption.

3) Trade of endangered species and blackmarkets:

Certain elephant populations and rhinoceros populations are endangered, near extinction, or even extinct due to humans killing them for their tusks and horns.  In fact, in some parts of Africa, rhinoceros’s are now tranquilized so their horns can be cut off by conservationists to protect their lives.

Similarly, in certain Asian and SouthEast Asian countries, manta-rays, sharks, and even dolphins are brutally murdered or left to die at sea for their fins or gill rakers.  These “commodities” are then used in shark-fin soup, as meat, or in Chinese and Eastern medicinals.

For much more in-depth information on the trade of endangered species, please see the “Racing Extinction” movie or website at http://racingextinction.com/

4) Global Climate Change

Humans have caused more damage to the climate in the past 150 years than has been seen since the last extinction, of the dinosaurs, some 65 million years ago (IPCC, 2013).  This fact is indisputable.

We have nearly doubled the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere in this time period, with the vast majority of this increase happening in just the last 50 years.  In fact, the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, with 2015 being even warmer than 2014 (NOAA, 2016).

This is also troubling for myriad of reasons including:

1) it warms our oceans, melting ice, which further warms our planet and directly affects the habitats and food-supply of marine animals (and us).

2) it increases the likelihood of extreme weather events such as floods, drought, severe typhoons and hurricanes.

This can have a dramatic impact on land-animals, forests, habitats, and again, us.

3) it impacts ecosystems to the wazoo!!

Warming oceans dramatically impacts where marine animals live, many of them depending on ocean currents, specific foods, and the viability of offspring of various species and their ability to reproduce (which may be dependent on temperatures).

Similarly, warming oceans impacts survivability of corals and their reefs, and the major habitats that they support, along with the keystone, smallest of the small, but 100% needed planktons!  In fact, without plankton in the oceans, all the other marine animals will die.  Without marine animals and without life in the oceans, the rest of the world will die, including us.

But, climate change is not the only negative input in this destruction.  Acidification of the oceans and dead zones are other major threats.

Acidification of the oceans occurs from the overabundance of CO2 in the atmosphere which also sinks into the oceans, (as much as 30-40% of atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by oceans) (Caldeira & Wickett, 2003) .  As the ocean becomes more acidic, it begins to disintegrate calcium-based marine life (such as corals and the shells of certain mollusks and crustaceans).

Dead zones on the other hand are low-oxygen (hypoxic) areas in the ocean where no marine-life can live due to excessive nutrient pollution from human activities such as agriculture (pesticides and animal manure).  There are now approximately 400 dead zones world wide, near populous areas, thus risking the food-supply of millions and perhaps billions of people, and the marine life that once flourished there.

4) it impacts the ability for animals and humans to maintain a proper food supply and may dramatically change viable agricultural locations.  Moreover, climate change will likely perpetuate the need for further habitat destruction as agricultural zones become more “polar” in latitude.

We and other animals depend on bees and other small fauna for food.  Much of our produce requires bees, small birds, or small land-animals for pollination.  These animals may be highly susceptible to changing temperatures and climate; thus, impacting the world’s ability to grow food.
5) which leads me to this point, climate change increases the evaporation of ground water.

This can lead to major problems in food-growing areas of the world and to the variety of species of (food) and wildlife that can thrive there.

There are probably dozens more reasons why species are being lost, and lost at rates never before seen.  Humans are the number 1 reason for these extinctions.  Humans are the number 1 reason for the vast majority of ecological and environmental problems that we see in this world.

While Humans may have evolved to consume “everything,” planet Earth and its environment have not evolved for 7+ Billion humans to consume “everything.”

I highlight the word consume, because humans do not only eat.  We consume.  We consume resources faster than they can regenerate.  We consume lives, animal lives, plant-lives (trees), irreparably.  We consume carbon and create twice as much through agriculture.  We take, and take, and take, and trash, and trash, and trash.

It is time TODAY to take a first step in giving back.  It is time TODAY to consume less, to use less, to kill less.  The Earth is not here just for us to take from.  We are supposed to be its stewards, we are supposed to take care of the land and the seas, so that this generation is not the last, so that we do not look back 50 years from now and say, “I remember a time when Blue Whales, the biggest animal ever to live was swimming in the oceans.”  We must prevent species collapse, and the time to do it is TODAY.

And…now that I have thoroughly depressed or angered everyone…

COMING UP NEXT TIME:

“Fixing the Errors of our Ways” – How we can protect and prevent species loss through small changes

REFERENCES

(Chivian, E. and A. Bernstein (eds.)  2008. Sustaining life: How human health depends on biodiversity. Center for Health and the Global Environment. Oxford University Press, New York.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: IPCC AR5 WG1 (2013), Stocker, T.F.; et al., eds., Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group 1 (WG1) Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report (AR5), Cambridge University Press Climate Change 2013 Working Group 1 website

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2016).  http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-noaa-analyses-reveal-record-shattering-global-warm-temperatures-in-2015

Caldeira, K.; Wickett, M. E. (2003). “Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH”. Nature425 (6956): 365–365. Bibcode:2001AGUFMOS11C0385C. doi:10.1038/425365a.PMID 14508477. Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)

When $$ supersedes life:

So, definitely not nutrition-related.  But, thought I would share anyhow.  Ever since learning about the atrocities of dolphin-hunting, I have been trying to cohesively put my thoughts together…this is where it took me.

———-

 

Bang, Bang, Bang go the mallets on the underwater metal rods.  Bang, Bang, Bang.  This is how it starts.  Every. Single. Day.  From September until March, every year, this is the sound that can be heard out in the ocean, just a few miles off of a little cove in Taiji, Japan.

This is not only cacophonous to human ears, but, to dolphin “ears,” this is the sound of death, and it is LOUD.  This sound, made by the hunters on their motor boats stops a dolphin cold in their morning swim, during their romp around the waters with their family; and what happens in the subsequent minutes thereafter can only be described as cold-blooded murder.  Why?  For money.  Dirty money.

Dolphins typically swim in their family pods.  These pods can be small, four to eight dolphins, but more likely they are large, with more than 100 dolphins, depending on the species.  Japanese hunters go out early in the morning, in search of such a family.  Sometimes these families of dolphins are close to the harbor, only a couple of miles out; sometimes, they are found out past the horizon, more than ten miles out.

When the hunters spot a family they surround it on all sides and begin banging on the metal rods that break the surface of the ocean, creating a wall of sound.  The dolphins, petrified of this sound, as it is deafening to their sensitive hearing, swim away from it, to what they hope is safety.  In reality they swim towards shallow water, to a cove, where their fates will soon be sealed; both literally, and figuratively.

As they are driven in, they fatigue, they hyperventilate, they may even drown.  It is as though they have been forced to run a marathon at top speed the whole way, without a moment to catch their breath.  In the process they may lose some of their family members to death.  The lucky ones escape; but this does not happen often.  For, if they are discovered, the hunters will go back for them.

Upon their arrival to the shallow waters, nets are placed at the mouth, escape is not possible.  Most species are slaughtered immediately, brutally, and without mercy.  However, on rare occasions, if they are the “right” species, the bottlenose dolphins (most often), then a handful may be chosen for a life in captivity; a life in a concrete tank, or worse, in travelling dolphin shows.  The rest of the family, after swimming small circles around each other, terrified, for a few hours, and sometimes overnight, starving, bewildered, not comprehending why this is happening, are too brutally murdered, without  mercy.

Why does this happen?  MONEY.  Lots of it.  A trained beautiful bottlenose dolphin is worth more than $50,000 for aquariums, dolphinariums, and other marine-animal themed parks.

Another “theorized” reason this happens is for human consumption, just like consuming cow or chicken.  In Japan, humans eat dolphin meat.  However, it is known, and has been known for some time that dolphin meat contains excessively high levels of mercury, and those who eat it, may develop mercury poisoning.

The last reason this happens is human-overconsumption of seafood.  Humans take fish and other seafood from the oceans, without a care, depriving the ocean’s wildlife from their food source, and then when there is a shortage of seafood, humans “blame” the wildlife itself.  It is the dolphin’s fault that there is not enough fish in the ocean!

All of these reasons are based on greed and glut.

Humans, who are supposed to be the friends, the stewards, the protectors of this world, our only world, and its inhabitants, are rapidly bringing the world’s species to their extinction.  Humans are extinguishing future generations of these wild amazing, beautiful creatures.  Certain dolphin species are at risk for extinction because of humans.  Many other animals in the world are similarly on the brink because of what we, as humans, have done.

And for what?  Money, status, power?

While this happens to dolphins in a few places around the world such as the Solomon Islands, certain European countries, Taiji is one of the largest dolphin-catch outfitters, and one of the most powerful.  They claim this is tradition, it is law; yet, in the past couple of years, they do their killing under tarps and then they hide the deceased from view.

These atrocities against gentle, innocent, and free-living dolphins, a global commons that no country own, need to stop.  These atrocities need to stop NOW, before there are no dolphins left,.

We need to protect our planet and its wildlife before we exterminate a whole species.  If these actions were done to humans (and they arguably are all over the world), we would call this terrorism, genocide, there would be outcry among the nations.  But, because these are animals, albeit sentient animals who think, feel, make decisions, recognize themselves, have names for their loved ones, and show pain, it is too oft ignored.

I call upon the International Whaling commission to protect dolphins, along with the other cetaceans that they already protect.  I call upon the governments of sovereign nations to prohibit this villainous slaughter and captivity.  I call upon all people to boycott animal shows, dolphinariums, seaquariums, and aquariums, and to tell these killers, no more.  These are NOT your dolphins.  These are the world’s dolphins, global property, and it is time you STOP unilaterally deciding their fate.

 

 

Rethinking Resolutions

Each year, on January 1, millions of Americans make resolutions, including:  “to lose weight,” “to work out,” “to watch less TV” etcetera.

While these are all “wonderful” resolutions, they very quickly.

During the first few days of the New Year, I frequently observe Gym overload.  The gym is packed, almost every machine.  Yet, by the middle- to end- of January, I usually see the gym thinning out to its normal crowd.

Same with food!  The first few days of the year, I see people going on juice fasts, or extreme diets, and within a week or two, people are back to eating what they were, or worse.

This year, I encourage you to Rethink your Resolutions.  Revise your resolutions into specific, actionable, and doable goals.  Goals that will stay with you for the whole year, goals that are Lifestyles.  I give a few suggestions below.

 

Resolve to “Walk More!”

When I say this, I mean, get out of your car, get off the elevator, and move your body a little bit more!  Instead of driving a few blocks to pick up a few groceries, walk!  Instead of taking the elevator up two floors, walk up the stairs!

These little changes can add up big!

Most Americans take fewer than 10,000 steps a day, and that is the minimum we should be taking on a daily basis.

By walking three blocks each way, or walking up and down a couple floors, we not only burn more calories and stoke our metabolism, but we also oxygenate our blood, improve our mood, and enhance our well being.  It’s easy to do, and will even probably save you time!

Moreover, we do the planet some GOOD!!  When we walk, we are saving the planet from a few pounds of carbon output.  When we walk instead of drive, we save on gas, we save on wear-and-tear on our car.  When we walk instead of take the elevator, we save some coal.

(Yes, I know it’s hard to think that way, but…it is true!).

Instead of looking for that parking spot or sitting in traffic, you will already be shopping in the store for your whole foods!  Instead of waiting for that elevator, you will already be at your destination.

Even if you walk for an additional 5 minutes a day, you may burn enough calories to lose 3 pounds a year!

And…while that does not sound like much, most people only put on 2-5 pounds in a year, so, if you slowly lose weight, like you slowly put it on, you’ll be that much more successful at keeping it off!

However…if you’re really pressed for time!  Run!!

 

Resolve to “Eat Whole Foods!”

I don’t mean AT Whole Foods, though you certainly can.  I mean, cook and serve foods that are made from single ingredients!  This does not mean you only eat single-foods at a time, but rather, if you make or eat pasta sauce, or you want the ingredients to be food-names you recognize.  ie.  Tomatoes, oregano, thyme, vinegar, etc.  None of this, hydrogenated oils, starches, xanthan gums, or dextrans…who needs it!

Make it your mission to eat clean.

Make it your mission to eat only words you recognize.

Make it your mission to put only the best into your body.

The cleaner you eat, the easier it is to remain healthy, or get on a healthier path, lose weight if you want or need to, and/or feel better.

Now, i’m not saying 100% of your diet has to be perfect and whole-foods based, but the vast majority of it should be!

 

Resolve to eat more “Plants!”

Yes, I know I tout this a lot…but it’s so good for you and the planet.  So many anti-cancer nutrients, so many ways to prevent heart disease, so many ways to decrease the risk of overweight and obesity!  so many ways to help the planet!  Just by eating more plants!  Especially LOCALLY GROWN plants.

The livestock industry creates as much carbon as the entire transportation industry!  We can reduce our footprint by eating more LOCALLY GROWN AND SUSTAINABLY GROWN plants.

Even reducing your intake of animal products by 1-2 meals per week will dramatically reduce the world’s pollution.

We speak with our wallets folks!

 

Resolve to “Cook More.”

Cooking at home is good for your wallet and for your waistline.  You control the ingredients, you control the fat and sodium.

You also control the portion size and the number of leftovers you get out of it!  Nothing like leftovers to help your family during the week to save money and calories.

You would be hard pressed to spend near as much money on home-cooked meals as you do on restaurant meals.  So, pad your bank account and do some home-cooking!

 

Resolve to “Try Mindful Eating!”

What is mindful eating?  It is being aware, being present, and observing the tastes, textures, feel, smells, and flavors of your food.

Imagine (or do it) placing a dried cranberry on your tongue.

Now, take a small bite.  Taste the tartness, feel the saliva in your mouth turn sweet and increase in amount, feel the chewiness of the cranberry.  Smell its sweetness.

Now take another bite, does it feel different this time?  Does it taste different this time?  Do you feel sweetness at the back of your throat as you swallow?

So…don’t eat a whole meal this way, as it will take you hours.  But, do try it every now and then!  You will discover that you don’t need as much food as you thought, and that the food you do eat has way more flavors and textures than you ever imagined.

 

Resolve to “Be…”

Stop beating yourself up all the time for eating that candy bar, or not exercising today!  It does not do you any good!

You would tell your friend, “Hey!, it’s OK, just resolve to eat cleaner tomorrow and walk more!”

Be your best friend, and do the same.  If you do not work out today, work out tomorrow!  Get back on that wagon!  If you ate too many chocolates, eat cleaner tomorrow.  Just Be!  Do not judge yourself.

This is another premise of mindfulness.

I am no expert at mindfulness, but, I do know that just letting life unfold as it will and to not judge what happens are basic tenets.

Thus, do the same with your resolutions.  Resolve to be, do not judge, and resume your healthy habits as soon as possible.

 

Resolve to “Ask for Help!”

I’m a dietitian, and, I love to help people with their nutrition and diet questions…this is my bread and butter, so to speak.

That’s why I wrote my ebook!  I wanted to help new moms (and dads) with their breastfeeding questions, infant and toddler nutrition.

I do the same with adults, every day.  I work with heart transplant patients, cardiac patients, head and neck surgical patients, and others.

I can help you too!  Ask, and you shall receive!

I can assist you with recipe selection, diet and lifestyle tweaks, and other nutrition/infant/toddler, pregnancy questions…

 

Finally:

The first 10 individuals who request a consultation will receive a 50% discount!  The next 10 will receive a 25% discount!

Also feel free to refer to my ebook!

Happy New Year, Healthy Eating, and Healthy Living!
Pefect Baby Diet

Tips for helping to get your family to eat healthier

As a full-time working dietitian and mother to a toddler, I have some simple tips that can make it a little easier to help your family eat more healthfully.  The tips I give are tried and true from my family to yours since we prepare most of our meals at home and I pack my son’s lunches for him at day care.

  • Food lists: We plan out our meals for the week.  This is a must if you want to use your resources (time and money) in the most efficient way possible.  We will make out a list such as:
    • Saturday – Pasta sauce,
    • Sunday – homemade whole-wheat pizza,
    • Monday – wild fish,
    • Tuesday – Pasta sauce,
    • Wednesday – pizza again,
    • Thursday – fish again,
    • Friday – whatever leftovers we have or out.

 

  • Shopping lists: We use an excel spreadsheet to lay out a grocery list-a few columns wide, in the basic layout of the store itself.  Once we know what we are cooking/eating, we enter it onto our grocery list and/or cross of what we don’t need.
    • This is helpful as it guides your purchases so that each week you do not need to reinvent the list.
      • Start with a list of your basic weekly staples.
    • Shopping with your child/children is a good idea to get them interested in produce (fruits/vegetables).
      • When shopping with my son, (he is not quite 2 yet) I find that he enjoys picking up different fruits and vegetables, touching them, looking at them, smelling them, and trying to say them.
      • Frequently when we do this, it makes him want to taste that food item. This is something you can do with your children.  Take them to a farmers market, or the grocery store and let them explore the different fruits and vegetables.  Then take a new one home each week and have them help you to prepare something with it.

 

  • My son loves to help cook in the kitchen. We will frequently pull a chair into the kitchen that he can stand on, so that he can see what we are doing and assist (such as stirring the pasta sauce).  His desire to be helpful along with the sensations of touching, feeling, smelling, and tasting the healthy food item helps encourage him to want to eat it; plus, it is a good way to get the parents in the kitchen, cooking, and eating healthy foods with their children.

 

  • Use your weekends: I cannot stress this enough.  Making meals on the weekend that you can eat more than once during the week is so important (see 1 above).  By planning and creating healthy meals on the weekend, it makes healthy family meals doable during the week when time is so short.
    • I also use the weekend to make all of my son’s lunches for the week. I will package anywhere between 3 and 5 days worth of food in glass jars that are easily microwavable.  I typically give him leftovers from what we ate for dinner that night.  So, on Monday he will eat Saturday-night’s leftovers, Tuesday – Sunday-night’s leftovers, etc.
    • I also mix his 5 jars of yogurt (because I like to put his vitamin D and probiotic in the yogurt), and cut up and prepare his French toast or whole-wheat pancakes.

 

  • Frozen fruits and vegetables are your friend.
    • There are times where the fresh produce just does not look oh so great, or that I want to supplement our meal with another vegetable. In instances such as that, I use frozen vegetables.
    • There are some really lovely ones available in grocery stores now.  The nice thing about these frozen vegetables is that they are picked at the peak of their freshness and then flash frozen, retaining their vitamins and nutrients. By microwaving or boiling them, they can be ready to eat in minutes.
      • Some of my favorites are: frozen organic green beans, frozen organic edamame, frozen organic corn or peas, and others.
  • For the newly minted eater (ie. Your 6-8 month old), you can take these frozen vegetables (or fresh), and puree them in a blender. That way you give your child a 1-ingredient food, which is strongly recommended when first trying out new foods for your baby.

 

  • Eating a healthy meal together and reconnecting is one of the best things we can do for our body.  To ease away stress and tension from the day.
  • Make the dinner table a no-tech zone. We eat with our senses first.  We smell the food, we see the food, we feel the food with our tongues and teeth.  When we pay attention to what and how much we are eating we become satisfied more easily.  We enjoy the textures and the flavors of the healthy food.  We tune into each other.
  • Stress and tension tend to make us want to eat less-healthy food, and to eat too quickly, and to store the unnecessary calories as fat. So, by tuning out of tech, and into family and conscious eating, we make better choices, and only eat as much as we need.

 

  • Trust your child’s appetite. If your child tells you that he is no longer hungry, even if he only ate ½ his plate, believe him.  Children, young-children in particular, have an amazing ability to self-regulate their appetites.  So, it may very well be true that when your toddler pushes his plate away, he is done.
    • The best way to test this is to offer a different food item, one that you already have prepared (I do not believe in short-order cooking. Your child eats what you are eating, or food that has already been prepared).  If your child still declines, he is done!
      • For those of you worried you will be sending your child to bed hungry, it’s ok. (my pediatrician says that your child will not go hungry if he does not eat one meal).  It’s true.  Your child will eat again when he or she is hungry.  There is no need to offer “junk” or “juice” or your child’s “favorite gummy” just to get your child to eat something, because that can teach your child unhealthy food associations and unhealthy food behaviors (eating when not hungry).
      • So, my advice, if your child indicates she is not hungry or does not want what you are offering, let it be.

 

Other advice available at:

Pefect Baby Diet

 

 

Question of the week: Milk alternatives

As a dietitian, I’m frequently asked what the best “milk alternative” is.

I myself do not drink milk, and I have not had milk in over 12 years.  I prefer to mix-it-up with soy milk and almond milk.

Due to the preponderance of lactose intolerance, milk-allergy, and/or the general desire to stay away from dairy products for ethical, religious, or social reasons, I feel it is necessary to review a number of different products.

Soy milk:   If you are going to drink Soy milk, my recommendation would be that you drink organic soy milk.  Soy is one of the most heavily genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) around.  The VAST majority of soy products are GMO.  Now, GMO may be perfectly safe; but frankly, I think GMOs are still too new to really know for sure what they will do inside our bodies.

So, with regards to Soy milk.  If you drink it, I would stick to 1-2 cups per day of the “pure soy milk” and no more.  I use this limit because so many food products are fortified with soy isolates, soy derivatives, and soy-lecithin.  So, unless you are like me and eating mostly whole-foods, unpackaged, and unadulterated, I would stick with 1-2 cups per day.

With regards to soy milk, I would also look for brands that are fortified with Calcium and vitamin D.  Most are, but not all.

Best to go with the unsweetened varieties so that you limit your sugar intake.

For the record, soy is a great source of plant-based protein and other nutrients, so drink up!

 

Almond milk:  Almond milk is another good alternative to dairy milk if you want to avoid both the possible allergies to cow’s milk and soy milk.  (However, if you have tree-nut allergies, I would stay away from this as well).

Almond milk is very low in protein, so, if you are drinking it with the hopes of getting protein; sorry, I would recommend a different beverage.

Almond milk tends to be creamier than other “nut milks” like cashew milk.  Especially if you make your own.  By soaking, pureeing, and draining whole blanched almonds (though they do not have to be blanched), you can make your own delicious drink.

Almond milk is good for cereal if you want a low-calorie product.  Again, go for the no-sugar added variety, otherwise, you’re mostly drinking sugar.

Look for brands that fortify their “milk” with calcium and vitamin D.  Most do.

 

Rice milk:  In general, I’m not much of a fan of rice milk because I don’t think it really adds much to the diet.  It tends to be watery and sweet without any substantial protein content.

Granted, we do not need NEARLY  as much protein in our diets as people think, but, I do not think it is a good idea to drink a beverage that literally turns into “sugar” in your bloodstream as you are drinking it.

 

Cashew milk:  So far, I am not a fan of cashew milk.  It only has 25 calories per cup, and it tastes very watery.

 

Hemp/Quinoa milk:   These milks tend to be pretty creamy as well.  They are a fairly good source of protein as well.  I find that they can at times be gritty or have a residue however.

As mentioned earlier, it is best to buy ones that have Calcium and vitamin D added.  However, these are not prerequisites as long as you are taking in enough of those nutrients from other sources, including vegetarian sources.

Vitamin D2, while it is the inactive form of vitamin D, it is the appropriate form for vegetarians/vegans to consume as it is derived from mushroom/plant-based sources.

 

Breastmilk:  For infants and young children only.  Best source of nutrition during the first 2 years of life (as recommended by the World Health Organization, et al).

For this age group, Vitamin D3 is the recommended source of vitamin D, particularly if breastfeeding as breastmilk has negligible amounts of vitamin D in it.

For additional questions on this matter, send me a message.  I also cover this information in my e-book, available on amazon, from the link below.

Pefect Baby Diet