Photo via: MarinaAvila/Flickr
With the U.S. ranking as the fattest country in the world and therefore home to most of the world’s weight conscious, I’ve often marveled over the fact that the emerging green food movement is never touted as a diet—even though the planet-friendly food choices we make are often the most waistline-friendly. Here are seven reasons why greens eaters have a leg up when it comes to losing weight--whether they're aware of it or not:
Luscious Leafy Greens
Photo via: Shawn Schreiner/Flickr
Popeye was right. Spinach and other high vibe fruits and veggies do a body good. Even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests having vegetables and fruits take up the largest portion of your plate and for this reason, many dieticians recommend doing the majority of your shopping around the parameter of the store (where produce is typically found).
Easier said than done. Shopping and eating this way is much simpler for greenies when produce makes up the bulk of both their typical stopping grounds—food coops and farmer’s markets. Not when tempting cookie and candy aisles outweigh the produce, as found in mega super stores
When I peruse the aisles of my local food coop, barely a single overweight person is to be found. Baskets brim over with fresh veggies, fruits and whole grain breads. Yet, on the contrary, when I make a pit-stop at my nearby conventional supermarket (that I usually resist going to, yet fail on occasion out of its convenient proximity to my apartment), I spot rotund rear-ends and thicker guts—carting around way more packaged and processed diet foods, ironically from the makers of fad diets like South Beach, the Zone, Slim Fast and Lean Cuisine.
If my supermarket armchair anthropologic observations are anything to go by, it seems like the folks filling up on veggies and fruits come out on top.
Mean, Lean Vegans
This isn’t the first time here on TreeHugger where we’ve shown support for plant-based diets. We’re usually hyping up its lower carbon footprint and its myriad of nutritional benefits, including low levels of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher levels of cancer-fighting fiber, folate, antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Lesser mentioned though is the link between the growth hormones found in conventionally raised meat, poultry, and dairy products—and weight gain. According to Sustainable Table, though the USDA and FDA claim that there is no connection, there is growing concern that the hormone residues can disrupt human hormone balance leading to weight gain, among other scary health risks.
Very Svelte Vegetarians
Though PETA tells us that, "Vegetarians are, on average, up to 20 pounds lighter than meat-eaters," not all veggies are created equal. If you’re a vegetarian who considers polishing off a box of Teddy Grahams dipped in non-organic peanut butter part of a nutritionally complete and slimming meal—think again.
We’re talking about eco-conscious vegetarians eating primarily plant-based and organic diets in moderation. Here’s why. While peanut butter might seem a smart meat-free source of protein, if it’s not organic you may be doing more harm than you think. Pesticides and fertilizers are fat soluble. So when you down that chunky, nutty goodness—you could be getting a good dose of toxins, too. Research is showing that when the body—especially organs like the liver—get overwhelmed with toxic matter, it becomes more difficult to shed pounds.
Healthy, Home Cooked Meals
We all love the convenience and culture of restaurant eating but could be better off without the deadly trifecta of extra calories, fat and sodium found in fancy restaurant fare. Unless you’re dining out at a healthy, green establishment, the cream sauce in your pasta dish could very well hold an entire day’s worth of calories.
By staying in and cooking homemade meals, you’re not only saving energy and packaging waste, you’re able to monitor the amount of cooking oil, sauces and salt you dress your veggies, meats and grains in.
The good news is that eating in can be just as tasty—if not tastier—than eating out. Case and point? Kelly’s delicious Hold the Phone recipe series for those times you’re desperately craving Kung Pao Chicken.
Reduced Waste, Reduced Waistline
In the past, I wouldn’t have given pause to grabbing a drink on-the-go like a morning carton of O.J., an afternoon pick-me-up iced tea or a running-to-yoga hydrating juice drink.
But when I gave up my bodega pit-stops for my trusty Sigg bottle, I wasn’t doing it for the calories. I hated the idea that I was contributing an unnecessary amount of packaging waste to the world. Losing weight was just a surprising—and added—bonus. Little did I know that skipping one sugar-y beverage a day would lend to looser pants.
But when I did the math, it stacked up to reason. If one were to drink one serving of Tropicana Orange Juice every morning for a little over one month and that O.J contained 107 calories--if 3,500 calories go into a pound—you could potentially shed one pound of weight by removing the juice from your diet. That is, of course, if you don't add any additional calories into your day.
This was all the affirmation I needed to make sure I always have my trusty Sigg in tow.
Satisfying Super Foods
Aside from the junk foods touting the organic-certified label and mis-leading packaging (yes, organic pop-tarts though healthier than their corn-syrup counterparts, are still smothered in sugar), in general, greener snacks still happen to help the diet conscious since they’re more likely to be lower-cal and more satisfying.
For example, a single square of Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate will satisfy my sweet tooth much longer than a Hershey’s. And a local, organic apple with sliced, raw cheddar cheese will satisfy my salt craving and provide me with enough fiber and protein that far surpasses the short-lived high from a handful of greasy potato chips.
Just a quick scan around my coop reveals tons of healthy, super food snacks conducive to thin figures—from the bulk bins heaping with nuts, granola and dried fruit to the dairy case stocked with low-fat and vegan yogurts to even the chip and candy aisle dishing up Nori rice cakes, locally-made and raw kale chips and almost every organic and fair trade chocolate bar known to man.
Consumer (and Calorie) Restriction
Along the same lines of my to-go beverage detox, in my attempt to consume less wasteful, packaged foods, and carbon-emission heavy meat and imported goods—I was consuming less calories in the process, and tightening my belt an extra notch or two.
It might be a bitter pill to swallow, but whether we like it or not, it’s true: simply reducing our daily calorie intake will lend to a leaner figure. A recent study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health found that when dieters just reduce their calorie intake—as opposed to following a complex fad diet that has strict fat to protein to carbohydrate ratios—they have higher success rates.
This isn’t only a great thing for getting skinny but also for longevity sake. Over the past few years, there’s been an upsurge in research behind calorie restriction and its potential to increase the human lifespan. Though conclusive evidence has not yet been reached, there is certainly a link between low-calorie, highly nutrition diets playing a role against premature aging and chronic illness.
And anything that I can do stick around the longest to be of most environmental benefit to this planet—I’m willing to try!
More on eating green and losing weight:
Save Energy, Save the Planet, Lose Weight = Eat Less Meat & Junk Food
Bulge Report: The Banana Diet
The Value in Veganism
More green eating tips from Planet Green:
Go Green - Lose Weight
5 Ways Going Green Can Help You Lose Weight
Lose Weight and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint