Conscious eating has become a fundamental part of my lifestyle. I’ve many years spent trying to figure out how to live lighter on the planet, and have learned that our food choices pack an enormous punch. Three meals a day we can help re-shape our broken food system into something that’s healthier for the Earth and all it’s life.
What conscious eating means to me:
- Choosing to eat plant based foods instead of animal based foods when possible, and always boycotting unethically raised, industrially-farmed animal products.
- Minimizing or eliminating processed, chemically-treated, genetically modified, or hormone-filled foods.
- Choosing whole and organically grown food grown/raised with love and respect for the Planet.
- Invest time into learning how to prepare simple, staple recipes that are easy to make or bring along for days on the go. Taking the time to cook has brought me closer to my food and helped me appreciate it more!
- Continually seeking to understand the environmental, social, and health impacts of your food choices.
- Getting to know your food sources (farmer’s markets, inquiring at restaurants, etc) and reducing the number of ‘hands’ that it takes to go from the ground to your mouth.
- Eating local because it generally uses less fossil fuels to bring your food to you, plus supports your community, and get to know sustainability issues surrounding local foods easier.
- Being grateful for what you eat and recognizing its Source. Depending upon your preferred method, a prayer, a nod, or recognition of the fact that the creature died or plant grew to nourish you.
- Instead of putting food into your mouth mindlessly, not really tasting the food you’re eating, you become more present–noticing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. And learn to pay attention to: Why you feel like eating, what your body needs and when it has had enough, and what emotions or situations you might associate with food.
A series of experiences led me to try eating a plant-based diet in 2012, and I’m happier and healthier for it today. Apart from occasionally consuming the most sustainable varieties of fish when I’m sailing in remote areas, I’ve stuck to consuming plant-based foods and found that what most of us learn as kids about needing meat and dairy for protein is a myth. Here is a bit more about my experience and why I feel that our food choices have significant impact on human and environmental health.
For your health
After only two months, it was clear my body was happier running on a plant-based diet. My old, nagging injuries healed, my persistent acne went away, my energy levels increased, and I didn’t get sick as often. After witnessing my transformation over the next couple years, both my mother and father switched to eating plant-based diets for different health reasons. And today both of their digestive problems are gone. Their increasingly dangerous high blood pressure levels have normalized. Just a fluke? I don’t believe so. The trend to eating plant-based has taken off in the last few years due to the science behind the tangible health benefits, and the unraveling of the classic story told to us when we are young that we can only get protein from animal products. Many elite athletes are turning to plant-based diets and reporting better performances and overall health. Check out some of these stories:
These althetes went vegan–And Stayed Strong, Washington Post
For the Animals
Industrial animal agriculture facilities are a sad and terrifying place to be an animal in today’s world. Since I consuming animals regularly, I find it amazing how my relationship to animals has changed to one of deeper respect and compassion. Before I made this choice, I didn’t really want to know what went on, but now that I have learned, I feel it’s my duty to be a voice for these voiceless, innocent beings. Whether or not you are ready to give up meat, I feel that it’s important to at least become aware of what’s happening in these facilities, where the meat you are eating is coming from, and then be able to make an informed choice about whether to continue eating it. Dairy is an especially cruel industry unless your dairy comes from a very caring, small farm environment. Mother cows suffer tremendously, being forcibly impregnated, then having the babies are taken from them, so that they can be kept attached to milking machines (they often don’t ever see a green pasture or natural light), and after consecutive years of this, their weakened bodies give up and they are slaughtered generally around 6 years old for meat and leather and byproducts (normal lifespan is closer to 25 years). Nut milks, rice milk, soy milk, oat milk and so many others provide great alternatives. And once I learned what went into the process, I didn’t miss butter and cheese either. Sourcing sustainable wild meats or invasive species is a more ethical way to eat meat, because the animals get to live a life of free choice.
Dairy is Scary The industrial dairy industry explained in five minutes.
Earthlings filmmaker Shaun Monson exposes the suffering endured by animals at factory farms, research labs, puppy mills and more. Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage.
For the Earth
For the average American consumer, eliminating farmed meat from one’s diet can lower the demand for the meat products which have huge environmental costs.
- Contribution to Climate Change: Estimates vary between 18 and 51%, but it’s certain that animal agriculture is responsible a significant amount of the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change today. (More than the combined exhaust from all transportation!) When forests are cleared for animal pastures AND for the enormous amount of land needed to grow feed crops, these trees are no longer absorbing carbon dioxide. Plus, cows fart methane, which is significantly more powerful at warming the atmosphere than CO2. Then add the release of nitrous oxide– a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years– through animal waste and the production of feed crops, and it’s easy to understand how eliminating farmed meat from our diets decreases our individual greenhouse gas ‘footprint’.
- Deforestation/Loss of Biodiversity/Species Extinction: Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals, but unlike the other five mass extinctions, this one is being caused by human activity. Naturally, extinction occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day mostly due to habitat loss and climate change. Forests and wild lands cleared for grazing cattle and other livestock contribute to habitat loss. In parts of middle America, cows, and the fields of grain they eat, have replaced pronghorn antelope and bison. Livestock ranchers worldwide have participated heavily in the extermination of wild predators. Around 70 percent of forests cleared in the Amazon are converted to cattle pasture.
- Water Pollution/Consumption: Water pollution is particularly linked to industrial-style animal agriculture both due to the chemical pesticide and fertilizer runoff from heavily sprayed feed crops, along with the pollution to lakes, streams, rivers, and groundwater causes by the large, concentrated amounts of animal waste that these facilities produce. In addition, animal agriculture consumes around 55% of water consumed in the US, while around 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes. It’s estimated that it takes between 1-2,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk. And between 500-4000 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef.
For the Oceans
As much as I love eating seafood, our oceans need a break. Scientists estimate that nearly 85% of all fish species have been over-fished and that there may be more plastic than fish left in our oceans by 2050–that’s a frightening thought! Commercial fishing operations generally use the least sustainable fishing methods and have higher rates of bycatch. Bycatch is the catch of non-targeted fish and ocean wildlife. Commercial fisheries bring in approximately 160 billion pounds of marine catch around the world each year! “Bycatch can be the dolphins that are encircled to bring you canned tuna, the sea turtles caught to bring you shrimp, the flounder thrown overboard to put seared scallops on the menu, the endangered whales migrating thousands of miles only to become entangled for the sake of lobster bisque, and the millions of pounds of halibut or cod that are wasted when fishermen have already reached their quota. Much of this captured wildlife is treated as waste, thrown overboard dead or dying.” (Oceana)
Here’s are some more resources to learn about overfishing:
- Overfishing, Conservation, Sustainability, and Farmed Fish
- Overfishing Is A Huge Problem. Here’s What You Need To Know
So if you love eating fish and other seafood, be sure to select abundant fish caught using a sustainable methods like spearfishing and small, conscientious local fishermen.
Plant-Based Diet Tips and Recipes:
Switching to eating a plant-based diet can be very intimidating at first. But once you start, you’ll realize it’s really not as difficult as it seems. Plant protein is easier for our bodies to digest, plus we get more useful enzymes and vitamins for our bodies directly from fruits and veggies than we do eating meats and dairy. In fact, people who eat a whole-foods, plant based diet are generally getting a bigger variety of vitamins and minerals because they eat a larger variety of fruits and vegetables than those whose meals are concentrated around meat and dairy.
I would recommend getting yourself to know nutritional yeast to use as a healthy, cheesy-tasting replacement for cheese. Nutritional yeast is delicious a food additive made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae–a type of fungi–which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to kill or “deactivate” it. Because it’s inactive, it doesn’t rise like baking yeast or have leavening ability. And no animals are harmed in this process because yeasts are members of the fungi family, like mushrooms, not animals. It adds a cheesy, nutty flavor when sprinkled on salads, pastas, popcorn, or used in sauces. It helps make the idea of losing cheese more bearable. There are also some delicious vegan cheeses made from nuts. I stay away from highly processed ‘fake-meat’ & cheese products for the same reasons I steer clear of other processed foods. So in general, stick with whole foods. Don’t just try to re-create your same recipes in plant-based form, branch out and try new things, there are a wealth of vegan and plant-based recipes available online!
Here are some good guides to going:
Recipes from Swell’s Galley:
Kaleidoscope Coleslaw with Maple Tahini Dressing
If you can keep carrots and cabbage cool on your boat, they won’t spoil for sometimes more than a month, so they are great staples for stocking when leaving port. This salad is easy and tasty:
3 cups shredded or grated cabbage
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated onion
1/2 cup shelled organic hemp seeds
Grated ginger to taste
Optional: chopped walnuts or raisins or chopped parsley or sunflower seeds or sesame seeds
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Juice from 2 1/2-3 limes
Cayenne pepper or a fresh chopped hot pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix it all up!! LOVE this when fresh greens are running low!!
Sprouting seeds is another great trick for having fresh food on expeditions that keep you away from fresh produce and refrigerators for an extended time. It’s SO easy that even I manage to do it between captain’s duties, blog writing, surfing, etc…You can do it with lots of different beans/seeds, but mung beans are the easiest to get started. Lentils or any kind of bean, and radish or alfalfa seeds are great too, but mung beans sprout really quickly–ready to eat in less than 24 hours!
You need a clear plastic or glass jar (like an empty peanut butter container or a glass pickle or jelly jar) with holes poked in the lid.
- Fill the jar with dry mung beans about an inch high.
- In the evening, add water to cover the beans and let them soak like that overnight.
- Poke holes in the lid, not bigger than the beans so that you can drain the water out.
- In the morning, drain the water, then rinse them with fresh water and drain again.
- That same afternoon you will have fresh, living sprouts to add some crunch and nutrition to almost any meal. I eat them raw or put them in anything from salads to pastas to sandwiches.
- If you don’t eat them all in one day, just keep rinsing them in the morning and night and they will just keep growing!
To sprout lentils, radish & alfalfa seeds, I find that this jar technique in the tropics can keep them a bit too moist and cause them to mildew. I have better luck soaking them like normal, and then leaving them in an open colander or strainer and rinsing them a few times a day.
1 bag/large can garbanzo beans
2 cloves garlic
2/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes squeezed
Salt to taste
Optional: 2 tbsp Tahini, or any of the following chopped–basil leaves, onion, bell pepper, hot chillis, or whatever spices you’re into…
1. Soak garbanzo beans 12 hours, then boil at least 1.5 hours. Or you can use canned garbanzo beans. If they are a little hard, you may want to boil them for a quick 15 minutes. Drain and mash with a fork. (Or blend with your mixer/food processor all ingredients together!)
2. Stir or mix in all other ingredients. Yum.
Rainy Day Pumpkin Coconut Soup
Pumpkin/butternut squash are great for long sailing trips because they keep so long. This soup is simple and super good. No mixer needed.
6 cups cubed pumpkin/butternut squash
1 chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 thumb of ginger, chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1 can coconut milk or 2 mature coconuts, grated and pressed
1/4 cup honey
Black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper or fresh hot peppers to taste
Salt to taste
Basil leaves or green onions on top if you have em!
Boil or pressure cook your butternut squash in a big pot until its cooked thru. Remove all but about 2″ of water at the bottom with a mug or by pouring it out. Mash up the squash in the remaining hot water with a whisk or whatever. It should fall apart easily. Keep heat on low and stir in garlic, onion, ginger, and the spices and let simmer about 5-10 minutes. Lastly, turn off the heat and stir in the coconut milk. Enjoy! This makes about enough for 5-6 servings.
Mashed Chickpea “Tuna” Salad