Apps for a healthier and environmentally friendly lifestyle

To avoid the mind-boggling array of products in grocery stores, I either resort to buying the same products that I have used before or look for specific cues such as the color of the packaging or words like eco, good, fair trade, or healthy. Our eyes can only scan so much because of information overload. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s (IFIC) 2017 Food and Health Survey, almost half are unable to identify a single food or nutrient associated with the benefits.

We have another set of eyes at our disposal – our smartphones. About 36% of the world’s population uses smartphones. I mostly use a smartphone in a grocery aisle to check my to-buy list or to call. I recently also used my phone to take a picture of a Himalayan Salt package to show a friend how it doesn’t supply iodide. But, that’s about it. I feel guilty for using smartphone around because it invades privacy, but I shouldn’t feel guilty to use it to make better choices for me and my family and our environment.

IMG_4970.JPG

Apps are now available for users to make better choices for a healthier lifestyle as well as to give them a chance to protect our environment. These apps are like little orbuculums under your glass screens. They provide ingredient analysis and nutritional information, to make better choices for your future. I’ve made a list below, but apps can be geographically limited, which means that you will neither be able to download it on your smartphone nor can you see products that are locally available. Fret not, some of these apps will allow you to enter products and all their ingredients into their database.

CodeCheck

  • Customize your profile based on your own lifestyle and diet.
  • For food and cosmetics
  • Scan barcode, enter EAN number
  • Find out whether the products are vegan, vegetarian or gluten- or lactose-free
  • Offers information such as palm oil, microbeads, nanoparticles, parabens, paraffins, too much sugar, etc.
  • Helps you if you have an allergy to something.

EWG

  • For food and cosmetics
  • Scan a barcode, search by name or browse by category
  • Gives you an easy-to-understand 1-10 score (1 being the best!).

Fooducate

  • Provides health tips
  • For food only
  • Tracks calories, sleep etc.
  • Scan barcode
  • Provides information on added sugars, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, controversial food colourings, GMO – genetically modified organisms (premium feature), additives and preservatives.

Shopwell

  • For food only
  • Similar to CodeCheck
  • Allows you to share your food picks with friends and family
  • Create food goals.

Open Food Facts

  • For food only
  • Provides information about Fair Trade products
  • Shows you where your food was made
  • Collaborative, free, open database
  • Compare products.

Seafood Watch

  • For seafood only
  • Offers recommendations to help you choose ocean-friendly seafood at your favourite restaurants and stores.

Chemical Cuisine

  • For food only
  • Ranks the safety of food additives such as acetic acid, yellow prussiate of soda etc.
  • Unable to find the app, but their website contains all the information.

With volumes of digestible information now available at our fingertips, it is also important to factor people’s perceptions of local food environments and how it influences their abilities to eat healthily. A 2016 research done in Alberta, Canada, shows that while availability and access to food outlets influence healthy eating practices, these factors may be eclipsed by other non-physical environmental considerations, such as food regulations and sociocultural preferences. This study identifies a set of meta-themes that summarize and illustrate the interrelationships between environmental attributes, people’s perceptions, and eating behaviours:

  • availability and accessibility are interrelated and only part of the healthy eating equation
  • local food is synonymous with healthy eating
  • local food places for healthy eating help define community identity
  • communal dining (commensality) does not necessarily mean healthy eating
  • rewarding an achievement or celebrating special occasions with highly processed foods is socially accepted
  • food costs seemed to be driving forces in food decisions
  • macro-environmental influences are latent in food decisions.

How comfortable are you using these apps? Will you use them? Have you used them? If not, why not? How far do you go or are willing to go to make better choices? Or do you hope that you will simply stumble upon a better choice? While we can reduce exposure to bad elements by cooking more at home, our lifestyle doesn’t necessarily always allow it. Yet, here we are.

References:

https://www.brainerddispatch.com/lifestyle/health/4432249-try-phone-app-help-you-make-healthy-choices-grocery-store

https://www.dw.com/en/doing-your-bit-code-checking-in-the-store/av-47222771

https://www.techlicious.com/guide/apps-for-making-healthy-food-choices/

Environmentalists judge other people

Those moments when I judged people for throwing garbage out on the streets may classify as ‘micro-motives’ according to social scientists Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas.

Micro-motives are a collection of desires or a lack of them, hidden deep inside us. You can understand them by observing how you judge others.

People who care about the environment often resort to these sort of judgements. I did too. Who doesn’t judge though?

Here’s a recent picture that attracted harsh criticism in the light of severe air pollution in northern India and the controversy around fireworks ban.

Crackdown on crackers in cities, over 300 arrests in Delhi alone
Source: Indian Express

These judgements and their underlying micro-motives say something about the dreams environmentalists have hidden inside them. They dream of a better world, not just for them, but also for their family, friends, children, and their communities.

“Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves-or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.” ― Ayn Rand

Would you rather not have them judge you? Perhaps you are the one who is judging the government for not doing enough to keep the cities clean or judging companies for using toxic chemicals in the products you use. What do these judgements tell you about your desires? If you really know what you want, perhaps you could create a positive impact on the kind of world you want to live in.

Make your way through the noise

abstract-2733605_1920.jpg

Noise can grab your attention, but it can also confuse you. Noise is a disturbance. Noise numbs our other senses. Noise can also be empowering, noise can be a voice, to make something known, to create a movement. Noise is too much information. Whatever it is, find your way through it or stop it all together. It’s your choice.

Social media may have made it easy to raise awareness of environmental and social issues, but it can be overwhelming too. It can be distracting. Simplify. Declutter. Remove the noise if you need to and focus on something simple and glide towards complexity effortlessly, making it look seemingly simple when you reach there.

Don’t let the noise stop you from doing what you feel is right. Or make noise for it. It’s your choice. You are in control. You can do it. Take that cotton bag to the grocery. Try a ceramic coated frying pan instead of the Teflon coating. Try this, try that. Or don’t. But, try, try that one thing that makes it right, for you, for your family, for the future generation, or for the planet. Then try another. Tell the world about it.

Why waste food when you can feast on it buffet style

This blog is not a food blog, but I occasionally write about healthy eating and food waste as a part of my green living adventure. Today’s blog post is about how my husband and I feasted on leftovers – buffet style. 😎

leftover feast buffet.png
Leftover food buffet style

I tend to be creative with limited options. I like false scarcity in that sense. When I had a chance to do something with the leftovers today, not just cooked leftovers but leftover vegetables too, I ended up creating a buffet style menu for lunch and dinner.

I not only saved food from going to waste but also relished some memories. Sauteed cauliflower is my mom’s invention. Cauliflower butter masala pasta over rice is mine, although I built it upon an existing cauliflower butter masala recipe taken from somewhere else.  I tried Parsi omelette for the first time today, and it tasted delicious!

For those of you interested in the recipes:

  • Parsi omlette
  • Chole and pattice (aka tikki) from here
  • Gobi (cauliflower) butter masala
  • Sambhar, you’ll find plenty of variations  and videos of this item
  • Cabbage pattice: Mix different kinds of flours + onion + cabbage + turmeric + coriander powder + cumin powder + salt + red chilli powder. Shallow fried.
  • Moong sprouts salad: Moong sprouts + onion + tomato + salt
  • Sauteed cauliflower: Butter + mustard seeds + red chilli powder + cauliflower

What do you do with your leftovers?

When people don’t get it is speaking out the best form of activism?

furious-2514031_1920.jpg
Robin HIggins

There are those times when people don’t get it. Your work and colleagues don’t get it. Your family doesn’t get it. Complete strangers don’t get it, or should I say earth-mates sharing the same space, the Earth.

This blog post was inspired by a discussion with Steve from Blog Blogger Bloggest, on my previous post ‘Arrogant or hopeful?’. He expressed how angry he is about how environmentalists caused a massive increase in the amounts of CO2 by blocking the deployment of nuclear power for the past forty years, angry on people who throw away their plastic on beaches, along roadsides and in the countryside – which is how most of the plastic that ends up in the ocean gets there.

I feel him. I’ve been angry and have said things to people in anger. I eventually lost the temper. It transformed into empathy. That led me to understand why we do what we do and to find ways to help people understand the issues so that they take action.

On second thought, I do get angry when someone doesn’t let me do what I think is right. Once, when I was checking out at a grocery store, I took out my cloth bags to put all the stuff in it. It was my first time using cloth bags in a self-checkout lane. It was really confusing for me and apparently also for the machine detecting the bags and the products. I was OK with the confusion because that was my first time. However, there was someone with me who got mad at me for fussing over plastic bags. I get mad when I say no to things which harm the environment, and someone doesn’t take it seriously. It is also frustrating that the systems we operate in do not make it easy for us to do the right thing.

I think I understand why I lost my anger. My thought was that being angry was anti-human and anti-system. But somewhere deep inside, this conversation made me feel if rage was the thing that made me into who I am today. This is not to justify that I want it back. You don’t necessarily have to go back to the old ways. You can, however, measure the impact of the methods you adopt. I can measure the effect my anger has had, by looking at the people I got angry at in the past. Have they changed? How much have they changed? Has my relationship with them changed? Some have changed, some haven’t. I can’t measure that for strangers, but I can only hope that my expression has added to the momentum.

I’ve come to learn that there is no one single form of activism. There are in fact many! You can influence people in so many ways and not just by being angry on them. Volunteer, sign a petition, boycott products, invest ethically, be an active part of the system that needs change. Create a hashtag or something. Create your own way. Use existing tools or create new ones. Make them see.

When I do speak out now, I speak out in various ways. It doesn’t have to be one way. It doesn’t have to be my way or someone’s else’s. It may not be the right way, so it helps to look back at the ways you adopt and measure the impact they have had. Do you need to change? How much has it changed you?

I’d also read: 12 different types of activism

I love to hear from my readers, and I thank Steve for joining the discussion. He writes awesome thought-provoking articles. That’s how we learn from each other. Join the conversation!

The story of stuff

When you see a door, what do you see?

A carpenter may see how he can improvise it.

A child may see it as a way to escape to play around unchartered territories.

A movie maker might strike a mystery as he gazes through a pinhole.

When I see a door, I most of the times just see a door, but sometimes I wish to look at where the wood came from, was it cut from a sustainable forest, are there sustainable wood options out there, how can I preserve it for a long time?

When you see a door, what do you see? When you look at a toothbrush, a hammock, a car, a mobile phone, a watch, a mixer, a bulb, a t-shirt, a lipstick, what do you see?