Sustainable practices when cooking food
By Sarah Quon, CHOC clinical dietitian
Sustainability is a concept that has popped up more and more over the past few years. Sustainability centers on practices that help meet a group’s needs without hindering future groups from meeting their needs. Now, more than ever, this concept applies to our daily lives and our children’s futures. Luckily, nutrition and sustainability can easily be adopted into your family’s activities and cooking.
If you are looking for another way to get your children involved with food, while also supporting sustainable practices, try local produce! Not only will the food be as fresh as it can get, but you will also be able to eat seasonal produce, support local businesses and reduce the carbon footprint by limiting how far produce must travel to be purchased
Here are 4 ways to incorporate sustainability into your family’s nutrition and habits:
Shop farmers Markets
Throughout the county, farmers markets are running Tuesday through Sunday. Each market has its own unique shops. This is a great way to involve your kids and give them an active voice to pick out the foods they want to eat during the week. Your family can even experiment and try out new produce you have not heard of. In addition, you can chat with the local farmers about their produce and get tips and tricks about flavor profiles and different ways to cook their special produce.
Participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Otherwise known as CSA boxes, many local farms give consumers the opportunity to pay a standard subscription for a box of produce that they prepare. The farmer is able to choose a selection from their crops and put them in a box that is readily available to be picked up. CSA box subscriptions vary in price, but they typically offer flexibility in size and how often you would like to receive it. This method is especially helpful for families that are unable to make it to farmer’s markets. Children can easily have just as much fun uncovering what new foods are in their box!
Visit farm stands and practice U-Pick
If you and your family would like to go to local farms, then visiting farm stands or attending U-Pick events are the right choices for you! A few local farms all participate in both these activities. Farm stands are located on the farm premises and will have a similar set up to farmers markets. U-Pick is a fun activity where you and your family can go pick your own produce on the farm (pending weather and seasonal availability). This is especially fun during the upcoming summer months with strawberry season upon us!
Limit waste during cooking
When it comes to cooking, sustainability can easily be incorporated by simply reducing waste. For example, did you know that you can utilize every part of the carrot – including the carrot peel and the carrot tops? Here are a few ways to make the most out of them:
Carrot Peels: This portion of the carrot can easily be tossed with olive oil, your choice of herbs and seasonings, and be put into the oven at 400°F until they are slightly brown and crisp. Try simple seasonings such as salt and pepper to make easy, crunchy carrot chips that can be eaten by themselves or with a fun dip. You can even use this as a crunchy topping on soups or burgers. If you are not looking for savory, try using cinnamon to make it a fun topping on yogurts or smoothie bowls. (Recipe courtesy www.thekitchn.com)
Carrot Tops: This edible portion of the carrot can be transformed into a delicious pesto sauce that can be used as a pasta sauce, spread on bread, topping for proteins, or even as an added flavor to soup.
Carrot Top Pesto
6 servings (1/2 cup per serving)
- 2 cups carrot tops and stems, chopped (from about 8 medium carrots)
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ cup quality extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- ⅛ teaspoon quality sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Add carrot tops, pine nuts, and garlic cloves to food processor and pulse until chopped. Slowly add in oil and continue pulsing until well combined, but not smooth.
- Add parmesan, salt, and pepper and pulse a few more times until combined.
- Use as a sauce with your favorite pasta, vegetables, meat, seafood or dip.
- Make it vegan: substitute cheese for nutritional yeast to make this pesto plant-based
- Switch up the nuts: instead of pine nuts use walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, or even go nut- and seed-free by using chickpeas or white beans in place of nuts or seeds
- Add some spice: add cumin, chili flakes, turmeric, oregano or lemon to add some spice or change the pesto flavor profile
For more on CHOC’s clinical nutrition program