Sustainable suppers

Sustainability is in.

Many of today’s families are seeking out sustainable products, with food companies doing their best to meet the demand. In fact, Mintel’s Global New Products Database discovered more than 13,000 new sustainable food and drink products introduced since 2005.

New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has moved away from providing delicious, quick meal suggestions to writing the new Opinionator column. His first one provided nine ideas that could “make growing, preparing and consuming food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring.”

Even Oprah has gotten into the act. When journalist and food expert Michael Pollan appeared on her show in February, he passionately implored viewers to become more conscious of the food we eat, where it comes from, and its effects on the environment.

“We need to reform our system, not turn our back on it,” he said.

Sustainability embraces preserving today’s resources for our children’s futures.

“Before we can eat sustainably, we must define what sustainability means in our lives and really consider its relevance to us,” says Amanda Archibald, a registered dietitian, as well as founder and owner of the inspirational edible education company, Field to Plate. “Sustainability, be it about food choices, land use, energy or wasteful consumption, has to be relevant. Nobody wants to live in a world tomorrow that has less choice and less resources than we have today.”

Model sustainable eating behavior to children

You can get your children involved by making food relevant and special in their lives.

“The way we prepare and share food should be honored,” says Archibald. She says that sustainable eating behavior should start with eating together so that families can appreciate the food together.

Sustainable tips that also save money

• Get to know your producers. Take children to the farmer’s market, so they can talk with them and discover how fresh produce looks and tastes.

• Be picky about organics. Locally grown organic foods are best, so nix the organics shipped from around the world. Check out delivery services such as Organics Delivered in order to save you time.

• Avoid wasting food. How much food do you throw away in a month? You can minimize this by reducing refrigerator clutter, or planning your family’s meals and using up leftovers.

• Be stingy about animal proteins. If you enjoy meats, limit the portion size, or incorporate them into soup, stew, stir-fries, or pasta dishes.

• Use the entire vegetable. Reach for loose bunches of lettuce or other greens, rather than the bagged variety. And incorporate stems, inner leaves or greens into stir-fries, soup and salad. Think celery, beets, broccoli, and parsley.

• Brew your own coffee and tea. Not only will you save oodles of cash, just think of the paper cups you won’t be tossing in the trash.

• Forget the paper towels. How many rolls do you use — and toss in the garbage — per month? Use a clean dish towel or hand towel to wrap freshly washed greens and herbs in the fridge or to dry produce. Wipe counters with a sponge or rag and toss in the washing machine with your regular load.

• Compost your kitchen waste. Buy a covered container you keep on the kitchen counter (or under the sink) for veggie and fruit peelings, egg shells and other non-meat waste. Pour it on a compost pile in your backyard or designate a plastic garbage can for this. It transforms into “black gold” that you can use for fertilizer.

“Food is the greatest communicator of all. Letting people taste what you’re talking about can do more to make food and the food conversation relevant than anything else,” says Archibald. “Try a local or regional aged cheddar next to a national brand cheddar. Try a local butter lettuce next to a bagged lettuce. The food will do the talking for you.”

Christine M. Palumbo is an award-winning registered dietitian based in suburban Chicago, where she has been happily incorporating leftovers, composting, and otherwise eating sustainably even before it was part of our national conversation. Follow her on Facebook at Christine Palumbo Nutrition.

Asparagus spears with walnut ‘gremolata’

A walnut “gremolata” makes this delicious, fresh asparagus dish a real treat. “Gremolata” is an Italian condiment that typically contains garlic, parsley and lemon zest. “Gremolata” also makes a wonderful topping for grilled fish.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes


1 pound asparagus spears (about 16 to 20 spears)

½ cup California walnuts

½ cup parsley sprigs, lightly packed

1 medium lemon, zested

1/8 teaspoon minced or pressed garlic

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Finely chop walnuts to the size of rice grains, to make about 1/3 cup. Place on a dry baking sheet. Bake 5 to 7 minutes until lightly toasted, stirring once or twice. Cool. While the walnuts are toasting, prepare the asparagus. Rinse and trim tough ends from asparagus. Place in a wide skillet. Add cold water to nearly cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer uncovered 3 to 5 minutes, turning several times until asparagus is just barely tender. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water. Drain again and set aside. Rinse parsley and pat dry between sheets of paper towel. Finely chop to measure 1/4 cup. Place in a small bowl. Remove yellow part of lemon zest with a zester or fine grater. Add to parsley. Stir in cooled walnuts, garlic, salt and pepper.

To serve, set out four salad plates. Place four to five asparagus spears on each plate. Top each bundle of spears with about 2 tablespoons of “gremolata” and serve.

Makes four servings.

NUTRITION FACTS: 125 calories, 10 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1.5 g monounsaturated fat, 7 g polyunsaturated fat, 0 trans fat and cholesterol, 67 mg sodium, 8 g total carbohydrate, 4 g dietary fiber, 5 g protein.

Courtesy of the California Walnut Commission.