Healthy Living

Jumpstart to Sustainable Food Habits

vegetable stew with salad greens and pomegranate seedsFor years, I’ve been a total fan of Pamela Salzman, a certified holistic health counselor and a cooking instructor who shares healthful recipes and nutrition advice on her blog A mother of three, Pamela lives in Manhattan Beach, but teaches all over Southern California. She has inspired me to create more sustainable food habits with my family. Want to join in the fun? Follow the advice that Pamela shared exclusively with Mommy Greenest in this post, or better yet sign up for one of her amazing classes!

Much of the food we consume these days is a product of a broken and unsustainable food system. This food is dependent on foreign oil, depletes our soil, contaminates our water, is linked to obesity and disease, and uses enormous quantities of non-renewable resources.

Unfortunately, as an individual I may not be able to change the way animals are treated nor do I have an influence on whether or not food exists that is genetically modified. What I can do, however, is avoid using my dollars to support those industries, and I can teach my children to create more sustainable food habits. Here’s how:

  1. I may not be able to change the way animals are treated or the existence of GMOs. But I can teach my children to create more sustainable food habits. Cook at home: When you leave the processed foods behind, you can control what you are eating. You will use fewer resources and waste less. And without a doubt, what you make will be much more healthful.
  2. Buy as much food as possible that is grown locally: Support your local farmers, eat food that is fresher and that hasn’t used extra resources to travel long distances. This applies to not just produce, but animal products, as well. Seek out local farmers markets.
  3. Eat seasonally: If you eat what is in season, it is easy to find the most delicious produce grown locally. Furthermore, we are part of nature and will feel more balanced and vital when we are in tune with nature’s cycles. Eating seasonally is almost always more economical and gives us the appropriate foods for the time of year.
  4. Waste less:  Statistics vary, but most of us throw away somewhere between 25-40% of the food we buy, contributing to our ever-growing landfills and a large portion of methane emissions, as well as a huge waste of money. Get organized. Plan out your meals for the week and shop according to a list. You won’t end up buying anything you don’t need and you will reduce your waste tremendously. Also, learn how to use leftovers wisely, for example by turning your roasted chicken bones and vegetable scraps into a nutritious stock.
  5. Grow something: Whether you have a large yard where you can plant loads of vegetables or a patio where you can grow a few herbs, this is one of the most sustainable practices you can create in your home.

The photo above features two of my favorite recipes for fall. Use local, organic ingredients whenever possible. Enjoy!

HARIRA (MOROCCAN CHICKPEA AND LENTIL STEW WITH CHICKEN)                                                                                    

1 ½ tablespoons coconut or olive oil

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

4 or 5 grinds of black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoons turmeric

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with the juice

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

1 c. cooked chickpeas (either make your own from 2 ounces of dried beans or use half of a 14.5 ounce (BPA-free) can, drained and rinsed)

3 cups chicken stock

½ cup dried lentils

¼ cup long-grain brown rice

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Handful of fresh spinach leaves (optional)

  1. Season the chicken with sea salt and pepper when you bring it home from the market or as early as possible.
  2. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about 45 minutes before cooking.  Heat the oil in a medium stockpot and add the chicken in 2 batches, cooking until browned on both sides.  Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
  3. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened.  Add the black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and turmeric and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Add the tomatoes with the juice and 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt.  Cook until fragrant.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan with any accumulated juices.  Add the stock, lentils and brown rice and bring to a boil.   Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 50 minutes.
  5. Add the chick peas, cilantro and parsley and cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until chick peas are heated through.  Add additional stock if you want it thinner.  Stir in spinach leaves, if using.  Serve with a wedge of lemon for squeezing over each portion.

Rachel’s note: The recipe for stew serves four to five people, while the salad serves six to eight so halve the portions if necessary. Or just eat a lot of salad, like I do!


1/3 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or chopped pecans

3 tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil or unrefined melted coconut oil + 1 teaspoon olive oil for pumpkin seeds

1 3-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ¾ -inch dice

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 ounces mixed baby greens

½ cup fresh pomegranate seeds


2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh pomegranate juice (or orange juice)

½ teaspoon sea salt

A few twists of freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons minced shallot

2 teaspoons maple syrup or raw honey

6-7  tablespoons cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the pumpkin seeds in a skillet and toast over low heat until lightly browned.  Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Try not to eat them all while you’re cooking everything else!
  3. Toss the squash with thyme and olive oil or coconut oil and place on 2 baking sheets.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Roast for 35-40 minutes, turning once until tender and caramelized.
  4. For the dressing:  in a small bowl combine lemon juice, pomegranate juice, shallot, maple syrup, sea salt and pepper.  Whisk in olive oil until emulsified.
  5. Place salad greens on a platter and toss with enough dressing to coat lightly.  Separately drizzle the butternut squash with some dressing and add to the greens.  Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Notes:  Dressing can be made a few days ahead and kept refrigerated.

Pumpkin seeds can be toasted the day before.

Salad greens can be washed and dried a few days in advance and rolled up in a damp kitchen towel or plastic bag and kept in the refrigerator.

Butternut squash can be cut up the day before and kept refrigerated.

Pomegranate can be seeded several days in advance and kept refrigerated.

Thanks Pamela Salzman!

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