Sustainable nutrition has been a growing concern, with many more people looking towards more sustainable growing practices and local growers who can supply their food. Not only are sustainable and local practices more beneficial to the local economy and environment, but they are also the basis of healthy meals. So why does sustainability and buying local matter?
Let’s get into it!
Sustainable nutrition means growing, harvesting, and distributing food in a way that is beneficial to natural ecosystems and biodiversity, is accessible, culturally appropriate, and inflicts minimal harm on the natural environment. While sustainability is a complex idea and requires effort on both the food production and consumer level, there are some easy steps we can all take to increase our consumption of sustainable, healthy meals.
Agriculture is where consumers have some of the biggest influence. Purchasing sustainably caught fish, for example, is an important step for reducing environmental impact, as overfishing leads to ocean pollution, diminishing fish populations, and can disrupt the food chain, leaving non-food marine life to suffer as well. Reducing overall meat consumption and sourcing meat and poultry from small farms helps reduce waterway pollution and overgrazing, as well as gas production.
Individual food choices can also play a role in sustainable nutrition. For example, fresh, whole produce may be more sustainable than packaged and processed foods. Packaged and processed foods contribute to single-use plastic waste, require more energy due to the machinery required to process and package food, and require great deals of land and crops that are used for manufacturing packaged foods, rather than providing communities with fresh, whole foods. However, being more intentional about what kind of food we purchase can help minimize our own negative contributions to the environment; where we purchase our food also plays a major role.
Buying more local food may be the best step you can take to support sustainable nutrition practices. Buying local yields benefits for the consumer, the grower, and the environment that purchasing from big box or chain stores simply cannot.
One reason to buy local is that you can be confident your meals are the healthiest they can be. Produce that has to travel long distances often lose some amount of their nutrients, meaning the strawberries that were grown in California and are now on your Midwest plate may not be as nutritious as strawberries grown more locally and picked up at the farmer’s market.
Furthermore, food that has to travel to reach your plate often undergoes more processing. Commonly used processing methods in the United States may include adding salt, sugar, or other preservatives to your food to keep it tasting fresher for longer. This processing not only takes a toll on environmental health, but your health as well - added sugars and excess sodium can be linked to the development of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and more. Not to mention, the shipping and movement of produce is an environmental factor in and of itself, as the trucks used to transport food are a heavy contributor to smog and air pollution.
Buying locally means putting your money directly back into your local economy. By purchasing directly from local growers, your money stays in the immediate community, rather than traveling out of your area in order to pay corporate entities and out-of-state supplies their cut. It also allows land to remain undeveloped and natural, and allows local businesses to stay in operation without national chains taking over.
Locally grown produce is often grown in-season, which has health implications as well. Seasonal food is often less expensive, more abundant, and more nutritious. Locally grown seasonal produce is picked at peak ripeness, meaning you get more flavorful and more nutritious food for a lower cost.
Can Meal Prep Delivery Be Sustainable?
We live in a busy society, and meal prep delivery services have grown increasingly popular due to their convenience, affordability, and promises of healthy food. However, with what we know about sustainability and the benefits of supporting local growers - can we really say that national meal prep delivery services are the healthiest or most sustainable choice?
National delivery services contribute to many of the environmental and health concerns discussed in this article - they often do not use locally grown or in-season foods, instead opting for national suppliers to meet their needs. These meals travel long distances to reach your doorstep, and because many are subscription-based those trucks have to continue traveling back and forth each week to deliver your meals, meaning excess air pollution. Major meal prep delivery services often mass-produce their meals, processing them so they are equipped for travel, which may impact their nutrients and freshness. Single-use packaging may be difficult if not impossible to reuse or recycle.
Choosing a locally sourced meal prep delivery service such as Pure Plates is one way to reap the benefits and convenience of meal prep without abandoning your drive for making more sustainable choices. Because Pure Plates uses wild caught seafood, locally sourced meat and poultry in St. Louis, and locally, seasonally grown produce, you can rest assured that minimal environmental impact is taking place. By offering one retail and delivery locations around St. Louis, it only takes 30 minutes to 4 hours for your healthy meals to get your door; a fraction of what national delivery services and big box grocers take. This short period between growing, packaging, and delivering also means Pure Plates does not rely on added sugars, salt, or other preservatives to keep your food fresh, and your meals are delivered at the peak of their freshness. Healthy meals are the core of Pure Plates, and using healthy growing practices that support the local economy and the environment is where healthy meal prep begins. You can learn more about Pure Plates, their mission, and ingredient sourcing here.