Nutritional Therapist Oliver Mccabe explains why we need to go green and how to do it cheaply. 

With Ireland slowly exiting the worst recession it has ever faced, you’d think the eco-friendly organic sector might have taken a bit of a hammering. However, in recent years health food products have reached new heights. Yet people still associate environmentally-friendly with being expensive; are we willing to shell out for organic when we’re not sure which products are actually natural?

Organic is a huge watchword these days; it means that food producers strive to reduce the quantity of nasty or harmful ingredients. Under EU law natural food and farming forbid the inclusion of any genetically modified foods or organisms. Genetic modification (GMO) is an unnecessary and dangerous manipulation of our food supply.

It does not benefit people, but rather it’s motivated to make profits for chemical companies manufacturing GMO products which they then push on uninformed consumers.

So what are the advantages of eating green? The Organic Trade Association’s 2016 Organic Industry Survey reports that naturally grown products comprise 5% of the food supply. This is a small percentage, yet organic farming provides so many benefits. One which includes friendly agriculture.

Organic farming means creating the best living conditions for farm animals, allowing them to live a stress-free life, and happy animals mean healthier animals which is good news for us as consumers; you are what you eat.

Consumers are becoming more aware that if we want to eat quality food, organic is the way forward. It’s chemical-free and grown in rich soil. No other food has higher amounts of beneficial minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins. Nutrients aside, would you rather eat an apple that has been sprayed up to 16 times with as many as 30 different pesticides, or would you prefer an organic one?

Intensive agriculture sprays plants with weed killer, bug killer and mould killer for fungi. The poisons from these sprays leech into our soils and water. Organic farming rarely – if ever – uses chemical poisons; as a result insect, bird and plant life is up to 50% greater on organic farms.

Natural farming relies on wildlife to help control pests, so wide field edges are left uncultivated for insects, bees and birds to flourish.What also makes conventional farming seem stone age is the fact that it is dependent on fossil fuel-based fertilisers. Organic farming relies on compost, green manures and crop rotation to create soil fertility.

This method of farming is kinder to the environment which is important as today over 20% of the Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from industrialised food and agriculture. To make just one tonne of nitrogen fertiliser takes one tonne of oil and one hundred tonnes of water – this produces seven tonnes of greenhouse gases. A fossil-fuel dependent system is clearly not sustainable.

By choosing organic, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint.An organic food boom is happening; eating good healthy food is a necessity not a luxury. When people say, ‘I am trying to watch my spending, organic costs too much’, it doesn’t have to be that way. Some have already caught on to shopping organically and cheaply. Thinking of going green? Here are some tips on how to go organic on a budget.

1. Shop around.
Compare prices between independent health food stores, farmers markets, butchers, fishmongers and grocers. Get to know your local shopkeepers or stall holders and always enquire about deals and bargains of the week.

2. Always ask for a bargain.
Don’t be nervous. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive. Local food markets at the weekend usually offer discounts on their produce.

3. Buy long life foods.
Shop grains or seeds and buy in bulk from independent food shops if you have the adequate space to store them.

4. Eat seasonally.
Seasonal foods are by far the cheapest. It makes perfect sense too; if something is in season, it’s grown locally, is in abundance and doesn’t have to travel far to get to you, that equates to fresher, healthier and tastier produce as well as better value.

Ask your local independent health food store, farmers market or grocer ‘What’s in season?’ If they don’t know, don’t buy it. If you live near a farm or your neighbour has a vegetable plot or allotment always ask if they have any surplus fruit and vegetables in abundance. You’ll be surprised.

5. Start small.
Do not completely overhaul your current routine in one day. If you are new to health food, make a gradual transition;  start with replacing five items a week with healthier options. Keep it simple. Oats or eggs for breakfast, fruit to snack on, homemade soup or salad for lunch, stir fry or stew for dinner with lots of vegetables, meat or fish and herbs to spice up your life.

6. Eat better.
Rid your cupboard (and life) of processed, refined foods and fill your fridge with energy giving foods that will nourish you. Buying fresh can ultimately be cheaper than buying processed convenience foods. Try making your food from raw ingredients. Make granola or muesli; try your hand at energy balls – they’re fun and tasty.

And why not blend up some green juice? Be positive. The belief that you can make a change is a powerful force. You’re much more likely to reach a goal if you have confidence in yourself. Have faith in your ability to change.

7. Write it down.
Writing helps to solidify your commitment and focuses you on your end-result. Write down what you want to achieve. Create a menu and shopping list and stick to it, decide what you are going to eat for the week and buy only those items you need.

8. Eat all of the food.
Did you know you can eat the stalks and the greens of the cauliflower? They’re full of fibre and iron. You can also dehydrate the lemon, orange or lime skin (delicious with cakes and puddings). Bake and roast your potatoes with the skins on. Juice the whole fruit. Refrigerate and freeze bulk homemade soups, stews and bakes. Reduce food waste, save your money and be healthier.

9. Keep track.
Self-monitoring is a powerful tool to help instil new habits and achieve success. That could be writing down what you eat in a food diary, using a mobile app to calculate calories, checking off vegetable servings, logging your daily activity.

Find a buddy. Making changes is easier and more enjoyable when you have someone who will join you and keep you motivated. Seek out a friend, co-worker, or family member who will adopt these healthy habits with you.