Go Green with Your Cuisine

Here some tips and tricks that I follow to make my own smarter, healthier food choices.

Green living has gotten tons of attention in recent years -- and I think that's great. I'm always praising the benefits of local, fresh foods to my friends and clients. Here some tips I follow to make my own smarter food choices.

Why eat organic?

• Organic foods are free of hormones, pesticides and antibiotics - all substances that can be harmful to our health and the planet.

• Organic foods are sustainably harvested, which means they have less of a negative effect on their immediate environment.

• Organic soil tends to be richer in nutrients, which make the foods grown in it also richer in nutrients.

Why buy local?
• Did you know that the average U.S. meal travels thousands of miles to get from the originating farm to your table?

• A fruit or veggie starts losing its nutrients from the moment it's picked until it reaches your plate. That means something farmed far away has less nutritive value than something farmed closer to home.

• Think of all the wasted gas needed for food to travel the thousands of miles to get to you!

• Summer is prime time for berries so eat them up! They're more likely to be from nearby sources; whereas berries you find in your grocery store during the winter might come from far away, warmer climates.

4 More Ways to Green Your Cuisine

1. Plant a backyard garden. Start with herbs and lettuce that are easy to grow and can even be kept in pots. You will save money AND have fresh, local produce. Once you've mastered the easy stuff, try planting peppers and tomatoes. You will be amazed at how tasty the produce is and at the amount of fruit you get from one plant.

2. Shop at local farmers' markets and help support small, (preferably) organic farmers. If it doesn't say organic, ask! It's expensive to become a certified organic farm, so most small farms follow organic practices without the certified title. Take advantage of the wide selection of ingredients, some of which you might not be able to find at your local grocery store. Interesting ingredients can inspire you to try new recipes and get creative in the kitchen – a perfect combo for impressing your guests!

3. Consider joining a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program; as a member of a small, local, organic farm, I'm provided with organic veggies on a weekly basis (enough to feed a family of four!). Visit www.farmtocity.org for more information about your local CSA.

4. Read the label and find out where the food traveled from. I only buy foods that come from outside the U.S. on special occasions. If you're on a budget, be mindful of which foods you need to buy organic or conventional. Check out this list of "Organic Shopping Dos & Don'ts."

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, owns HealthyBites, LLC and is a finalist on The Next Food Network Star, which airs Sundays on Food Network.

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