Warm apple oatmeal and mindfulness

Oatmeal is a fabulous comfort food with a very low carbon footprint (it was mentioned twice in the Washington Post article about carbon footprint of food choices).  Once you start adding seeds, fruits, and nuts, the possibilities are endless and it becomes a nutritional powerhouse.


This is my current favorite way to make it:


  • 1 apple, chopped
  • ½ cup rolled oats (I like old fashioned much better than quick)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • Cinnamon and salt to taste
  • 1 T peanut butter (optional, but delicious!)
  • Flax and chia seeds (optional)
  • a bit of almond or soy milk for the top

You can do this in a saucepan if you’d like, but for one bowl, you can just mix everything through the cinnamon and salt in a bowl and microwave for two minutes.  Top with peanut butter, flax seeds, chia seeds, and some almond or soy milk.  With the warm pieces of apple throughout, you may find you don’t need sugar, even if you usually add it to oatmeal.



Carbon Footprint

(g CO2-equivalents per amount)


1 small


Rolled oats

½ cup dry



4 halves


Peanut butter

1 T



¼ cup





For comparison, a ¼ cup of 2% milk adds 81 g CO2-equivalents, so switching out even such a small amount of milk for non-dairy milk makes a difference of 38 g CO2-equivalents. Also, a serving of an English muffin with one egg and 1 oz. cheese has a total footprint of 472 g CO2-equivalents.  Each ounce of pork adds 220 g CO2-equivalents.

What does this have to do with mindfulness?

There is a saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”1 I interpret this to mean that if you are someone who tends to rush through much of life, you can always slow down, take a deep breath, and mindfully focus on whatever you are doing.  This will have a spillover effect–being in the moment is always available to you as a way to increase the mindfulness of your life in general.

Applying this to your food choices means that three or more times throughout each day you have an opportunity to joyfully take actions that are in support of values you hold.

We know gratitude is a game changer—the more of it we bring into our lives, the better.  Remembering how thankful we are for our food is a way to draw out and bolster our feelings of gratitude and contentment.

Supporting businesses and brands that are in alignment with your values means that each dollar you spend will be a vote for the kind of world you want to create.  Shopping at your local farmer’s market or requesting a veggie burger at your favorite burger place sends your dollars into the world in a way that nudges it in a direction you like.

Choices that result in less animal suffering create a more humane world and are good for our own psyche as well.

And what about small actions you can take that use less energy, like only boiling a cup of water when that’s all you need2,  and choosing a simple bowl of oatmeal rather than a breakfast with a higher carbon footprint?  I believe they are meaningful in several ways. First, they really do result in a lower carbon footprint, and any step in the right direction for the planet is helpful.  Second, they have a ripple effect (your friend who sees you do this will also now consider it).  Third, if you are mindful about the planet in the morning when you make have your breakfast, it may increase your chances of making mindful choices all day.  And most importantly, thoughtful food choices will increase your overall wellness—through both the nourishing food and the increased mindfulness you are promoting.

Enjoy your oatmeal and your journey!

Please comment below on ways you increase your mindfulness in general or through your food choices.  I would love to hear from you!

You can post your creations on the FB page, or on instagram with the hashtag #easymealsfortheplanet so we can see what you are up to!

And please follow the blog for more recipes!


1Cheri Huber has a book titled, “How you do anything is how you do everything: A Workbook.”

2Berners-Lee, Mike. How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Greystone Books.  Find it here.

Most conversion factors come from:

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian, G.A. (2014) Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology.

The soymilk conversion factor (not available from Heller and Keoleian) comes from:

Meier, T., and O. Christen. 2013.  Environmental Impacts of Dietary Recommendations and Dietary Styles: Germany As an Example. Environmental Science and Technology, 47, 877−888.

Summer Smoothie Parfait by Chef Chloe

This tasty, healthy, and satisfying recipe is by renowned Chef Chloe Coscarelli, who has kindly agreed to let us use her recipe and photo on this site.  Please find the original recipe here. One of her cookbooks, Chloe’s Kitchen, is a go-to for me for special dinners.  You can find it here.

Smoothie pic

To make this gorgeous parfait, simply layer granola with a blend of fruit, non-dairy milk, and flax seeds.

Bananas often get a bad rap because they are not local.  However, the excellent book entitled How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything describes three reasons why bananas actually have a low carbon footprint, especially when you consider how much nutrition they provide (lots of vitamins and fiber):

  • They grow well in the climate where they are grown. Only natural sunlight is needed (no hothouse).
  • They can be transported by boat, and they keep well on the journey, without refrigeration. Travel by boat costs only about 1% the footprint of flying.
  • There is minimal packaging (they have their own!)

In addition, they don’t require refrigerated trucking, or in-store refrigeration. (See the Homemade Guacamole blog for more information on refrigerated trucking.)

Be sure to buy Fair Trade bananas, as there are justice and environmental issues associated with bananas.

Here is the ingredient-by-ingredient comparison for this recipe with a similar one (for two servings, blend the first four ingredients and layer with the granola):


(this recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents


(traditional recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

3 bananas (354 g) 237 Yogurt (354 g) 715
8 oz. strawberries 79 8 oz. strawberries 79
1/2 cup soymilk 28 1/2 cup 2% milk 165
2T flax seeds 15 2T flax seeds 15
½ cup granola 19 ½ cup granola 19
Total 379 for 2 servings Total 993 for 2 servings

Sources for conversion factors: For the bananas, I used the value given in “How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything.”  The book gives a value of 80 g CO2-equivalents for a banana, including shipping from the other side of the world.  For the rest of the ingredients, I used the Heller and Keoleian analysis.

For comparison, two servings of an English muffin with one egg and 1 oz. cheese have a total footprint of 943 g CO2-equivalents.

For an extremely low carbon footprint breakfast, try a bowl of oatmeal with fruit.  In fact, a recent article on the carbon footprint of food in the Washington Post (find it here) mentions oatmeal as a food that delivers a lot of nutrition for a small footprint.  For example, two servings of a bowl of oatmeal (made with ½ cup of dry oats cooked up in water, and topped with 4 oz. strawberries, 1 T flax seeds, and ¼ cup soymilk) have a carbon footprint of 232 g CO2-equivalents.

Each time you switch out the highest carbon footprint breakfast described here for the lowest (2 servings) saves 761 g CO2-equivalents, which is the equivalent of a 3.4 mile drive!  Put another way, each time you make a shift like this, it saves the emissions associated with burning a halogen bulb for 32 hours!

Enjoy!  You can post your creations on the FB page, or on instagram with the hashtag #easymealsfortheplanet so we can see what you are up to!

Please follow the blog for more recipes!


Berners-Lee, Mike. How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Greystone Books.  Find it here.

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian. 2014. Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology.


Simple Sunday Pancakes

This is a great, simple pancake recipe.  Top it with lots of berries and nuts, or chocolate chips if you are feeling decadent.  If you use white whole wheat flour, you get the benefits of whole grains (lots of fiber, more protein and vitamins), but still a lighter pancake.  It also works with standard whole wheat or white flour—you’ll just find you need to add more or less milk to get the consistency right.


Photo credit: Layla Patel

  • 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour (You can use other types of flour, but this one is whole grain and also very light.)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ T maple syrup
  • 1 ½ cups vanilla soy milk plus a bit more to get a good consistency. (You can use unsweetened or sweetened soymilk.  Rice and almond work well too.)

Mix the dry ingredients together with a fork, or sift to break up any lumps in the baking powder.

Add the wet ingredients and stir.  Add more milk or water until the batter will run off your spoon like a syrup.  You can adjust the consistency depending on how you like your pancakes.

Use some oil or margarine to grease your pan, and heat it to medium.

You know the pan is hot enough when the batter will sizzle just a bit when poured on.

While you are cooking the first side, you can add blueberries, apple slices, chocolate chips, etc.

Flip when you see small bubbles form and remain open when they pop, even toward the middle of the pancake.  You may need to adjust your heat so that you don’t burn the bottoms.

Each of the four servings has 196 calories and 9 grams of protein, and has a carbon footprint of 48 g CO2-eq.  The breakdown is 26 and 21 CO2-eq per serving for the flour and vanilla soymilk, respectively, and 1 CO2-eq for the teaspoon of margarine. If you used unsweetened soymilk, the carbon footprint drops to 16 g CO2-eq for the milk, resulting in a total carbon footprint of 43 g CO2-eq per serving.

For comparison, if you used 2% dairy milk, an egg, and 1 t butter to grease the pan, the total footprint would be 201 g CO2-eq per serving, with 122, 39, and 14 g CO2-eq coming from the milk, egg, and butter, respectively.  (Each serving would have 220 calories and 10 g protein.)

Making pancakes for four people using this low carbon footprint recipe saves the gas you would use in a 3-mile car ride, or the energy to run a high efficiency light bulb for 26 hours.

For toppings, sticking with local, seasonal fruits is best. For example, a 100 g serving of strawberries would add approximately 9 g CO2-eq, while the same size serving of banana would add 33 g CO2-eq.

Enjoy your breakfast and have a great day!

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