Earth Day brings a time of reflection on how the world’s population and the environment is doing and what can be done to improve our life without creating harmful practices. Our food choices can make a big difference in our health and leave less of an impact on the earth.

Let’s take an apple as a good food choice. It is nutritious, flavorful and, when eaten, leaves only the core behind to decompose back into the earth. In comparison, when we buy an applesauce cup, we enjoy the cooked apple and have the container to discard or recycle. There are many ways we can change our food behaviors to improve our health, food safety and reduce stress on the environment.

Eat foods which don’t leave waste: Spinach is a perfect example of no waste, as every part can be eaten either fresh, steamed, sauteed or blended into a smoothie. Try making pesto with any leaf vegetable in your refrigerator by blending with walnuts or pine nuts and olive oil. Spread on bread for a delicious flavor addition to a sandwich.

Buy local foods: Farmers markets are starting up in our area and we will have the perfect opportunity to support local farmers by buying their produce. These farmers know what chemicals or pesticides were used in growing and we avoid higher prices because limited travel occurred to bring us the food.

Grow perennial edible plants: Asparagus, grapes, artichokes, rhubarb and grains can be grown on our own property or you may find wild asparagus along local canal banks.

Eat produce in their season: This insures the best flavor, less waste and less cost. Remember, canned and frozen foods are economical and provide quality nutrition.

Choose local meat, fish and poultry: Rivers and streams are full of fish, there are local ranches to provide beef, pork and poultry. Buying local saves transportation costs and you may know the quality control of the butcher as well. Grass-fed and organic meat and dairy tend to have more Omega-3s, which contribute to a healthy heart.

Limit food with lots of packaging: These containers may contribute to landfills or be recycled. However, the plastics used may not be healthy for us or the environment.

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, who is employed as a family and consumer sciences educator at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at 208-785-8060 or jhbuck@uidaho.edu.