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.

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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/

Is organic food any good?

Here’s a learning moment. Organic food might not actually be what you think it is.

It is expensive and what my mom would call – fancy! (‘kay style martayt!’*)

Entering into an organic store feels like being among a cult.

Yet, I buy organic. I buy stuff other than food from organic stores.

Yet, I’ve never spoken ill of it.

I don’t mean to. Trust me.

Something made me think otherwise.

I saw a video. This one.**

Are you with me?

Then, I saw a list by the Government of Canada.

It’s called ‘Organic production systems: permitted substances lists‘.

Are you with me?

So, what’s the lesson?

If you listened to the video, you’ll know that we need the best of both worlds.

But I think we just need organic to get better at what it aims to be.

  • Find a Marathi friend for accurate translation.

** Thank you Swiss Miss for sharing!

Is population control overrated?

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Source

In my very first blog post, ‘Major Challenges to Sustainability‘, puts the population on the top of the list. In such a case, if all of us stopped consuming like we do, will we still run out of resources? Will we have alleviated poverty and famine? Will we have eliminated all other issues just by tackling this one? Is population, the most significant challenge in the world?

I’m pinning two works of thoughts that go against the grain to try to answer these questions. First is from a review of a book called Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation by Amartya Sen and second is from a book It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear by Gregg Easterbrook.

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This is a JSTOR article. You can read 6 articles for free for every 30 day period when you sign up.
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Visit your nearest library to read thought-provoking books.

Are we running out of resources? We have a lot of resources, but we are not managing them well. Are we running out of time? When it comes to climate change, yes we are. Climate change could cause a lack of access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

Above all, is population control the panacea? I don’t think so. If we could only manage our time and resources well, we could do a lot better. Just think about how much time and resources we waste and how much we could save by working together – through efficient management and knowledge transfer.

What are your thoughts?

Is exposure to chemicals making you gain weight?

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Jarmoluk

Since we were kids, we have been told to eat certain foods even if we’ve found them kind of icky. This is because it’s good for us. Out of fear, we’ve gulped it down, hid it, avoided it, cried over it. As we’ve grown older, some of those things have grown on us. Some, let’s just say – we never got over. We’ve always had a love and hate relationship with our food. Most importantly, we’ve grown to understand the effects of the food we eat on us.

There may be certain kinds of food that might affect you in a way that you don’t want them to – for example, rice. People who are conscious about weight gain tend to avoid rice. But, have you ever wondered, why after all the trials and tribulations, you can’t win over weight gain. It can be because of your genetic makeup or your physical activities. There might be something else lurking around you that you may be missing, that nobody is really telling you or talking about, not even the doctor. It is so because we’ve not yet fully understood the adverse effect of all the chemicals on human health.

With changing times and lifestyles, what we eat and the way we eat it has changed. Even healthy food comes sprayed with pesticides and packaged in plastic that if you heat in a microwave or run through a dishwasher with hot water, can leach out chemicals into the meal. If you are wondering if there is any evidence that microwaving food alters its composition or has any detrimental effects on humans or animals. No, there is not, but yes it does if you heat it in plastic containers – clear, styrofoam, any kind of plastic for that matter.

A recent study links fluorinated chemicals to more weight gain and slower metabolism in people dieting. Weight gain is only one of the many health problems that certain chemicals are causing – other issues include cancer and hormone disruption. Another research links obesity to cancer, the point being weight gain can trigger other health issues, which is why people hold obesity so dearly in their daily worries., besides the stigma of looking fat.

It can be hard for a layman to really keep up with this kind of information. Fortunately, there are non-governmental organisations out there who look into it, who keep things in check, although there are governmental entities that do it too. You can follow both – governmental as well as the non-governmental organisations, to keep yourself abreast of findings and reports.

Examples of non-governmental organisations:

Examples of governmental organisations:

Want to start protecting yourself? Don’t want to wait until you read those reports? Let’s not freak out. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Stop microwaving food in plastic containers
  2. Stop storing warm or hot food in plastic containers
  3. Do not drink out of plastic bottles that have been baking in the sun

Alternatives:

  • Microwave safe ceramic containers and silverware
  • Microwave-safe glass containers and silverware
  • Steel containers for non-microwave heating

Easy-peasy? If yes, you can take it up a notch and grow your own food – start with herbs or spring onions. There are also things other than food that can introduce toxic chemicals into your body, but we will stop this blog post with food. Until next time!

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. 😎

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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?

Grandpa kitchen

Do you like to cook? Ethnic or fusion? As a job or at home? For yourself or others or both? Spicy or mild? Takeout or home-made tiffin? Beginner or an expert? Do you need motivation or guidance? Do you sell or distribute food? Are you into healthy cooking? Do you recognize food as an environment issue? Do you turn food waste to compost? Is it a human rights issue? Do you donate food? Are you grateful for the food you eat, for the hands who make it? There’s so much one can do around food. This blog post introduces a personality who not just cooks but also donates the food he cooks to charity. Introducing Grandpa Kitchen.

Grandpa Kitchen is a YouTube channel whose goal is to provide basic needful things such as cloths, books, school fees, birthday celebrations, and food to orphan children. Grandpa’s real name is Narayana Reddy. The channel is operated by his son Shrikant Reddy. They are now able to feed children two days a week and may be able to do more with everyone’s support. On similar lines in another Youtube Channel called Village Food Factory, that went viral last year.

To watch him cook food, out in the open air, among the trees, is such a delight. Reminds me of the times when as a kid I relished open air wood fire roasted burnt potatoes. Last year when I visited Sangli, a place in Maharashtra, India, I enjoyed roasted corn, on the road, lined by fields of sugarcane. Eating outdoors has its own charm. When was the last time you had such an experience, or rather created one?