As we head toward the Labor Day weekend, backyard gardens are overflowing and produce stands dot roadsides across the country. While you’re enjoying friends, nature and the pleasures of outdoor cooking over the holiday, there are easy, delicious ways to eat more sustainably which both boosts your nutrients and protects the environment.
By filling your grill with vegetables like zucchini and corn on the cob, in addition to fruits and some protein, you can help improve your personal as well as the planet’s health. 64% of American adults own a grill or smoker; 25% of 25-to 34-year-old Americans say they’re vegans or vegetarians—a trend that’s growing among teens, Gen Xers, and millennials. So get cooking!
The earth-and-animal-friendly planetary health diet has been described as a flexitarian as it’s mainly plant-based, emphasizing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, soy, and other legumes. It also includes optional intakes of animal-sourced foods in modest quantities: approximately one serving of dairy per day and one serving per day of poultry, fish, eggs, or red meat (about one serving per week).
This flexitarian dietary pattern describes the traditional Mediterranean diet, which has well-documented health benefits and is compatible with traditional diets worldwide.
Increasing vegetables and fruit on your grill doesn’t mean abandoning meat, but rather reducing the portions—for instance, switching to slider-sized burgers and vegetable kabobs with seafood or small pieces of meat—in the effort to reduce harsh environmental effects, including greenhouse gases and biodiversity loss associated with raising animals for food.
Another healthy move for your family, local farmers and the Earth is subscribing to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to bring farm stands to you. Moving away from charcoal and petroleum-based lighter fluid will also help the planet.
These Earth- and health-friendly grilled meals are great year-round. By offering them, you’ll inspire your family, friends and neighbors to try them, too. Helping ourselves and the planet can be a real pleasure!
Want to learn more about the interactions among food systems, diets, human health, biodiversity and the climate crisis? Check out Can Fixing Dinner Fix the Planet? drawn from decades of hands-on research projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
Dr. Jessica Fanzo is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and the director of the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program at Johns Hopkins University. She is a key consultant for the first United Nations Food Systems Summit, which convenes in September 2021.