• By Julie Stefanski
  • In 2020
  • March 4, 2020

Living Green For Self & Planetary Health

By Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN

Eco-conscious is trending. Being green is on par with being lean. So how do we apply the concepts of sustainability to our daily health and well being goals?

When I talk to my clients about eating green, the first thing that comes to mind is actually eating produce! Whether one chooses fresh, frozen, dried or in a can, fruits and vegetables are part of a green eating plan.

Often people equate green with clean. There is no definition of clean eating, but to me, it is about proper food handling, storage and cooking. Keep hot foods hot, cold foods cold, wash hands well, don’t let foods sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, don’t waste food but also know before you throw,


A balanced, nutritious diet should include more than one meal a day, have a combination of items on the plate such as fruit, vegetables, ( 2 fists) protein of some kind ( meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans)- palm or hand size, some type of carb as potato, corn, grain such as bread, rice, pasta, quinoa ( 1 fist)  and some fat ( oil, nuts, nut butters, avocado, salad dressing, seeds) ( 1-2 thumb-sized amounts) Using body parts as portion gauges help you to right size to optimize your plate.


Food should be available and affordable. If the food requires you to get in your car and drive a distance, that is not environmentally conscious. If the food is so pricey, that you have to shortchange other parts of the plate, then your menu is not affordable, maintainable or sustainable.


What about foods that have a smaller impact on the environment? This includes the earth as well as energy and water. Put plants front and center on the plate and move the animal protein to the edge. Beans and greens can be the entree, and the shrimp or chicken can be the side. Make a vegetable laden frittata using 3 parts vegetables to 1 part egg. If you do kebabs: 2-3 vegetables to every piece of chicken , beef, pork or fish.


  • Decrease energy and water in cooking: think sauté, stir-fry, broil, steam to use cut back on heat and water use.


  • Interested in buying foods produced in a socially responsible way? Get to know your local farmers, join a CSA or frequent farmer’s markets. Opt for in season when you can, and when those foods are not available, frozen and canned are a great back up plan.


Waste less to have less waist and be environmentally based. Limit the buy-in-bulk mindset. Buy what you need, don’t exceed. If you buy extra, portion in re-usable containers rather than plastic bags. Just because something is on sale doesn’t make it a good deal if the majority of it ends up getting thrown away.


Repurpose: Roasted vegetables can be on the dinner plate AND in the lunch bowl. Chili with beans could be portioned into smaller containers and frozen or atop a salad, on a potato, or served in a whole grain roll.


Multi-task with your exercise. Consider root camp! Gardening is a total body workout and the end result can be part of your dinner plate! Instead of buying the vegetables or fruit pre chopped (pricier and may involve more packaging)- perfect those knife skills and chop your own. It may take a little more time, but you are also adding some physical activity to meal preparation.


Preserve your fluid assets. Instead of bottled water- think reuse. Create a hydration station in your refrigerator with a water pitcher and add-ins: lime, lemon, orange slices, mint, ginger. Chilled, flavored water for pennies a glass. Purchase a reusable water bottle and you’ll save money, use less plastic, and generate less waste.


End result? Not only is this good for your external environment, but your internal environment as well. More plants, portion- appropriate, added physical activity- helps you conserve money, preserve health and better serve the environment.

Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN is the Owner of Active Eating Advice by Leslie in Pittsburgh, PA and is the sports dietitian for the Kansas City Chiefs. She was the sports dietitian for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 24 years and also worked with the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins.