40 Easy Ways to Eat More Ethically

The following is a guest post from Masters in Health Care. Ideas and opinions contained within it are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of beginningfarmers.org or its administrators.

What does it mean to eat more ethically? Generally, ethical eating focuses on putting thought into where your food comes from and the impact it has on other humans, animals and the environment. It can mean eating more organic foods, looking for local or even becoming a more veggie-centric eater. While people have a lot of reasons for wanting to eat ethically, most decide to make the change for moral or health issues – and it can make a big difference in how you approach every meal of the day. If you’d like to start eating in this manner, you can take it on little-by-little by making some of the small changes we’ve suggested here. Eventually they may add up to something big!

Try out these ethical eating basics to get started: 1. Eat less meat. Most meat comes from factory farms that mistreat animals and it also takes a great deal of resources to produce, transport and store– much more so than veggies. Eat less meat to reduce your impact on the environment and encourage more cruelty-free farms. 2. Grow your own vegetables. There’s no better way to get fresh, organic produce than by growing it yourself. Even if you don’t have a backyard, a sunny windowsill can make a great garden. 3. Find organic products. From produce to dairy, look for products at the store that are certified organic. Of course, make sure to do your research as well, as some companies will exaggerate the greenness of their products. 4. Do your research. If you want to be smarter about what you eat, do some research and really get to know what’s out there, what’s good for you and what’s not. Nothing will better help you to be an ethical eater. 5. Learn where your food comes from. Most of us have no idea where the food at the supermarket originates. Start buying from places where you know for sure where the food has been sourced, or visit farms yourself. 6. Start composting. Food waste can make excellent, rich soil when it breaks down, so don’t throw it out. 7. Eat less processed food. Processed foods are very often less healthy, take more energy to produce and come with loads of packaging. 8. Eat with the seasons. Do you really need to gorge yourself on tomatoes in the winter? If you want to eat ethically, eat seasonally. 9. Choose foods low on the food chain. Animals that are higher on the food chain can often be packed with chemicals, as they not only absorb it from the environment but from the animals they consume as well. Stick to plants and plant eating meat when possible. 10. Find your own comfortable diet. There are no set rules about what makes a sustainable eater. Some will want to give up all animal products, while others won’t want to even imagine a life without eating cheese. Find your own balance and don’t let others make you feel bad about it. 11. Focus on plants. The human body needs a good amount of plant nutrition to stay healthy. Anytime you make up a plate, only a small portion of it should be meat. The rest should be veggies, fruits, legumes and grains.   Learn how to make your diet and cooking methods more sustainable and ethical with these tips.   12. Cut out the fast food. Fast food isn’t good for you or the environment. Eat it much less often or not at all. 13. Waste not, want not. Wasting food just isn’t good, so don’t buy more than you know you can eat. 14. Plan your meals. When you plan your meals it will be easier to avoid wasting food. You can reuse ingredients and still have a great meal every night of the week. 15. Eat at home when possible. That way, you’ll know just what is going into your meal and where it came from. 16. Learn to DIY. Canning veggies and fruits can be fun and can guarantee they’re organic and fresh. 17. Try a raw diet. It will mean less cooking, though perhaps a lot more chopping, and will help you get more nutrients out of everything you eat. 18. Eat less. Most people eat far more food than they really need. Cut back on calories and you’ll not only save money, but feel better as well. 19. Cook simply. Cooking simple meals will help you avoid waste, as you’ll need fewer ingredients. 20. Think before you eat. Never just eat without thinking. Being an ethical eater means taking the time to really consider the best food choices for yourself. 21. Take a hard look at your kitchen cabinets. What takes up the shelves in your cabinets? If it’s junk food, processed meals and other less than healthy options, you’ll want to give your pantry an overhaul.   Shopping: here are a few ways that you can make sure what you bring home from the store is suitable for an ethical diet.   22. Look for fair trade. Fair trade foods will help ensure that the workers who produced them were paid a fair wage– especially important with foods like chocolate and coffee. 23. Avoid slavery foods. Some foods aren’t marked fair trade, but should be to help consumers who care. Fruits like strawberries and orange are often harvested by enslaved workers– even here at home– so always know where your foods are coming from or avoid them altogether. 24. Get free range eggs. These eggs are produced by chickens that aren’t kept in cruelly small cages– better for the birds and you. 25. Shop for grass fed beef. Cattle aren’t meant to eat corn, they’re designed for grass. The meat will taste better and the cows will be healthier– a win-win. 26. Head to a local farmer’s market. There, you’ll have access to a whole host of fresh, local and seasonal foods that will whet your appetite. 27. Avoid genetically modified foods. While not all genetically modified foods are evil, you’re better off sticking with traditional varieties when possible. 28. Choose seafood wisely. Some comes from endangered, over fished species and while other kinds will come from unsafe or cruel fishing methods. 29. Choose hormone-free animal products. What an animal eats is passed on to you when you consume it or the products it produces, so try to limit the amount of hormones in your food. 30. Embrace soy. Replace one meaty meal a week with a soy alternative. It’s cheaper and better for you. 31. Know which foods are most important to buy organic. Some products, like tomatoes, have thin skins that allow them to easily absorb chemicals. Others, like bananas, have a thick, peelable skin that makes it unnecessary to invest in an organic version for health reasons. 32. Read the label. Sometimes things seem a lot healthier than they really are. Always read the label to make sure you’re getting what you bargained for. 33. Be smart about food choices. Sometimes organic or local isn’t always better, so make the food choices that are not only right for you, but best for the principles you care about as well. 34. Frozen may be better. In some circumstances, getting frozen foods may be better. Some foods are hard to transport even short distances and don’t preserve well, so they’re best when eaten frozen, despite the energy it takes to keep them cool. 35. Don’t be so superficial about produce. A few nicks and bruises on a veggie or fruit might not make them look pretty, but it isn’t likely to change how they taste.   Community: You don’t have to be an ethical eater all alone. These tips will help you not only eat better, but enjoy the benefits of a community as well.   36. Volunteer. You can get involved in a wide range of organizations that help promote sustainable eating, from those that advocate for animal rights to those that start local gardens. 37. Start a community garden. If your community doesn’t already have a program, start one. If you do have one, join in and help. You’ll get good eats and meet new, like-minded friends. 38. Give to charities. Whether you have too much food at your home or just want to give back, you can help others in your community have something to eat as well by giving to food banks and other food charities. 39. Chose ethical eateries. When you do go out to eat, try to find establishments that are choosy about where they get their food and how they cook it. 40. Visit local farms. If you’ve got the time, take a trip to a local farm that allows visitors. It will give you a chance to learn more about how plants and animals are raised and may open your eyes to new possibilities.  

7 Comments on 40 Easy Ways to Eat More Ethically

  1. Great tips but top of the list should be “Stop shopping in Supermarkets!!”

  2. Really excellent suggests EXCEPT for:
    #17: Human beings are not designed for raw diets. That doesn’t mean that we can’t include a lot more raw stuff than we do. But there are a lot of studies out that suggest that we cannot get the nutrients we need for brain work with a strictly raw diet. Or without spending a LOT of hours chewing the raw products. And processing raw plant products (say in a food processor or blender) only compensates a little.
    #30: Do you know where the soy in your soy milk and soy products comes from???? Neither do I.

  3. Sherilyn Jackson // March 5, 2011 at 4:25 pm // Reply

    I agree with all BUT #30 ~ MOST of the soy used now is GMO! And, unless it’s FERMENTED, it’s detrimental to our bodies. All the veges is a GREAT way to go & contrary to belief, they DO supply the PROTEINS we need IF we eat enough green, leafy & colorful veges & herbs.

  4. Boy, this list really misses the mark… So…. Many…. Times.

    #1: How about not eating meat that comes from factory farms. Wanna eat less meat, but serve your body, the environment and animals? Eat only grass-fed/pastured meats. Farms that allow animals to live and eat the way they are supposed to do not damage the environment. They enhance it by producing topsoil. Nothing else will do this. And most people do not know that the planet cannot survive without topsoil.

    #2 A sunny windowsill to grow vegetables? Really?

    #11 Focus on plants. I agree with this to a point. Humans do not need grains, nor do animals. Lots of fruits and vegetables, absolutely.

    #17 Try a raw diet? In #10, you say choose a diet that goes with your lifestyle, then you advocate a raw diet. Though one can still eat raw milk, cheese, and raw fish, it is very difficult for most people to only eat raw and it’s super expensive. Raw foods also have lots of anti-nutrients. Most vegetables should be cooked to avoid that. People with thyroid dysfunction, depression, menstrual disorders, ulcerative colitis, Chrone’s disease or other digestive disorders, kidney disorders or those prone to kidney or gall stones should not attempt a raw diet.

    #30 Embrace soy? Maybe we should just adopt Monsanto…. They’re not making enough money destroying our health already. We really need to embrace their chief monocrop. It’s not as if it’s in almost every single food on the market already. You’re a farmer, right? Are you growing soy? Soy is awful for you. You really should do some research on soy. It is not by any means healthier for you than meat. If you think you eat too much meat, skip the meat once or twice a week, but don’t replace it with soy.

    #32 Read the label: YES DO THAT. And AVOID all products with soy, soy oil, soy isolate, soy flour, soy lecithin… if it says soy anything, avoid it. Also avoid all canola oil, corn oil, sunflower and safflower oil. That will definitely cut down on the food you buy. And you’ll be doing tremendous good for the environment and your body.

    I could say much more about this list, but I won’t.

    Very disappointing post.

  5. Nichole Fausey // March 8, 2011 at 3:00 am // Reply

    I now see that this article was written by a website that makes money by having people click on website links for graduate degrees. Ugh. Had I known that from the start, I wouldn’t have bothered writing my comments. At the same time, I’m glad to know that it wasn’t written by the administrators of this site. I hope other articles are better. Gosh.

  6. I thought this post was good as it gives some pretty simple advice that someone starting out could really use. It’s not perfect, but I think it gives folks a good starting point.

    One thought I had was sparked by a recent trip to the Dance County Farmer’s Market. As I spoke with the vendors there, it turned out that most of them were NOT certified organic, but practiced organic and/or biodynamic growing methods. It’s important to know exactly what certified organic means, and to find out why a grower/producer might not have that certification, i.e. doesn’t meet their own standards, expensive process, etc.

    The bottom line is that people need to think more about what they’re eating, where it comes from, and how it was produced. It’s a process that can feel intimidating and overwhelming, but some friendly guidance can get people started on a road that’s healthier for them and the environment.

  7. I am a very healthy 60 year old woman who has recently (in the past two years) adopted a raw vegan diet. Prior to that I ate a vegan: for nearly 20 years. And before that? Vegetarian. I’ve raised two children on vegetarian/vegan diets and they, too are healthy, bright adults.

    The list of ways to eat for ethically as listed are fairly inclusive for all wishing to take lighter steps on our stressed planet.

    I find some of the comments less than encouraging and would suggest that some do more research before dissing one’s personal choices.

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