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Food for Thought: What Can I Eat to Save the Planet?

I have been on a dietary roller coaster over the past year. I decided that it was the ecologically responsible thing to become a vegetarian just under one year ago. The literature and a few compelling documentaries finally inspired me to take the plunge into a sea a veggies. I set off on making sure I got enough protein and felt good about my decision.

Then at the New Year disaster struck. Suddenly I found that I was having severe digestion problems. I had symptoms that made it embarrassing to leave my apartment at times and other times I had to step out of classes in a mad dash to the near facilities. I tried cutting out dairy first, thinking that it may be an intolerance to lactose. That lessened the degree and severity of my symptoms, but they persisted long after I switched to a lactose free lifestyle.

Then my younger brother was diagnosed as gluten sensitive. So I cut out gluten, having read that gluten sensitivities are often hereditary. That seemed to be the answer. I went symptom-free for several days.

However, I have found that anything difficult to digest, even things I have eaten in the past with no problem, now cause my nervous tummy to do somersaults. So I have had to steer clear of any dairy, gluten, most nuts, high fructose corn syrup, and I have maintained my vegetarian lifestyle.

It has not been all bad. It has lead me to be creative in the kitchen and enjoy making things that are delicious and healthy. I also have gained a deeper understanding of basic nutritional facts to ensure I give my body what it needs.

Yet I still wonder, how should I eat to support what I preach and believe in regarding the environment? Some say to go vegan completely. Others say to go vegan and only eat locally sources foods. Some say to start a garden and grow what you can there and supplement with locally sources plant-based foods. Still others argue that meat and dairy in moderation is alright. How do I navigate balancing my passion for protecting the earth with my nutritional needs and my already specific dietary restrictions?

Here is the answer I have come to at this moment in my life...

I have to do eat in a way that makes me feel healthy while doing the best I can on the environmental front. Right now, that means I continue to not eat meat, but I eat eggs and occasionally some lactose-free milk. I look for locally sourced foods but I do still buy fruits and veggies from other places. I do the best that I can, but there are some days I go to the vending machine for a guilty pleasure or two (quite a few days this week, as I navigate my final exams and prepare food life post-grad).

My goal is to now encourage people to find that balance in their lives. For some, vegan may be the way to go. For others, they may want to start with trying to give up red meat or decrease their dairy intake from three serving per day to two. The answer is different for everyone. Let's support one another on the journey to living more sustain-ably!

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