Farm to table. Buy local. Eat seasonal. Environmental sustainability. We have all heard the new buzz words and we have even seen them posted on the outside of Whole Foods. Is it possible that with our efforts to decrease our carbon footprint we are eating more healthfully, too; that the choices we make for dinner impact not only our health but the health of the earth?
When we choose to eat local and in season it can do more than increase our fruit and vegetable intake. According to Arlin Wasserman of Changing Tastes, a consultancy focusing on the intersection of food and agriculture, sustainability, public health and demographics, how fruits and vegetables are grown is the biggest factor in environmental sustainability and not transportation of produce. It’s the chemicals, cost and energy to grow foods outside their normal season that does the most damage.
He says to look for fresh fruits and vegetables coming from areas that are having their own “peak” growing season, like Florida citrus and New Zealand apples in winter. Try to avoid buying fruits and vegetables from places you don’t think they would naturally grow, like bananas from Minnesota or tomatoes from Florida.
The bigger problems with environmental sustainability lie with our protein purchases. Large animals such as cattle are costly to raise and use a large percent of our resources. Forty percent of all water and arable land is used to grow feed for the animals we eat, and 30 percent of all greenhouse gases come from the cattle we raise for our dinner table. To provide 1 pound of beef for the American table requires 69 ears of corn and thousands of gallons of water. One pound of chicken on the other hand only requires 15 ears of corn and two-thirds less water than beef. Eating poultry is not only more heart healthy but earth healthy, too.
Wild-caught fish requires no feed or water, but we have limited ourselves in the variety of fish that we consume and this is leading to the overfishing of the big four: salmon, tuna, shrimp and cod. As with fruits and vegetables, buying seasonal is the key to sustainability — even with seafood.
Barramundi is an affordable, nutritious and sustainable fish. Known as Asian sea bass or giant perch, barramundi has a buttery-smooth, rich and mild taste that complements many flavor profiles. A 5-ounce portion has only 137 calories, half the amount of salmon, but without sacrificing the hefty 700 milligrams of heart-healthy omega-3s. Barramundi that is farmed in the U.S. is low in mercury and PCBs and is noted in the green, best choice rating on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s www.seafoodwatch.org program. Other certified sustainable seafood choices and suggested substitutions for those fish in the red category of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s rating system can be found at our very own Santa Monica Seafood Market & Café located on Wilshire Boulevard (www.santamonicaseafood.com).
Here’s a favorite recipe of mine for barramundi that is both flavorful and low in calories. Enjoy!
The Better Option barramundi veracruz
4 (4-oz) barramundi fillets (giant perch)
2 limes, juiced
1 tsp. oregano
2 tbs. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14-oz. can) chopped tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup sliced green olives
1 tbs. capers
1 tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Dried bay leaves
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 pinch salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together lime juice, oregano, salt and pepper. Place fillets in a greased baking pan and pour lime juice mix over fish; set aside. Heat olive oil in a skillet; add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and tomatoes; cook until tender. Add olives, capers, brown sugar, bay leaves, cinnamon, and cloves; simmer for 10 minutes. While sauce simmers, place fish in oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and pour over fish; remove bay leaves. Bake fish for another 10 minutes, until fish flakes when pulled with a fork. Yields four servings.
Calories: 230; Fat: 10g; Sat. Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 45 mg; Sodium: 520 mg; Carbohydrate: 15 g; Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 7 g: Protein: 25 g.
Source: Food & Nutrition, Winter 2012
Lori Salerno, M.S., R.D., C.P.T. is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer who provides medical nutrition therapy to groups and individuals in Santa Monica and recipe and menu analysis for restaurants nationwide. Learn more at www.eatwelldailynutrition.com.