Monday, May 10, 2010

Organic products: better for you and the earth

Protecting the earth means using it wisely, a concept that extends to virtually all aspects of life, from the emergence of renewable fuels to the conservation of plants and species.

With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day this April, it's become clear that even ordinary, everyday activities - for instance, snacking - can promote environmental sustainability and one's own health and well being. The evolution of food consumption from rural, community-grown foods to urbanization and the growth of supermarkets, to the more recent dominance of mass merchandisers, is coming full circle, thanks to joint efforts among consumers, retailers and food companies to reduce waste and offer products that fit eco-friendly, healthier lifestyles.

There are many ways to eat for the betterment of the planet and yourself:

* Savor produce the way nature intended. Take advantage of fresh produce offered by local growers, available through community farmers markets, roadside stands and stores. Whether it's the first strawberries of the season, a perfectly ripe tomato in the peak of summer or a crisp apple in fall, produce doesn't get any fresher - or more nutritious - than when just picked. That's a win-win for the snacker and for the environment.

* Dig in. Produce purchased at local markets is a great idea, but you can become even closer to nature by planting your own garden. If you're craving berries, carrots or want to add healthy greens to your sandwich, you don't have to venture very far - and you get the added benefits of being outside and doing some physical exercise by way of digging, planting, watering and harvesting.

* These are not your parents' organic snack foods. Certainly, in the 40 years since the first Earth Day, the world has come a long way from wheat germ and bean sprouts. As demand for organic and natural products continues to grow, you can pick from a wide variety of organic snack foods available not only in specialty markets, but in most grocery stores. The bonus: many of these snack foods are also better for you, a good source of fiber and lower in empty calories, fat and sodium.

Snyder's of Hanover, for instance, recently added to its line of organic snack foods with improved Organic Pretzel Sticks, made with whole wheat flour. The pretzels pack 20 grams of whole grains and 3 grams of fiber in each serving. Getting even closer to earthly sources of good nutrition, the company also recently introduced Organic 8 Grains & Seeds Pretzels, made from a grain combination that includes buckwheat, oats, whole brown rice and millet, and a seed mixture of flax and sesame seeds and quinoa.

* Going green is a package deal. Taking the earth-friendly concept a step further, look for packages made of renewable products or feature less waste. Many manufacturers are doing away with unnecessary outer packaging, while others are switching to thinner plastics and film in an effort to cut down on landfill waste. When developing its new organic pretzels, Snyder's of Hanover put a priority on renewable packaging: the bags are made from 90 percent plant-based materials.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the green movement that has been building for four decades is the fact that being conscious of the environment and one's well-being comes down to basic, daily choices. It can be the way we clean our homes. It can be the mode of transportation we use to get from one place to another. It can also be the simple, satisfying act of snacking. Mindless munching has become, in these times, mindful munching.

Courtesy of ARAcontent


Interested in trying more organic foods?  Here are a few books to help you:

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