12/10/2012 08:05 am ET Updated Feb 09, 2013

Meatless Monday: It's the Thought That Counts -- Human Rights Day and Terra Madre Day

I am, as usual, ambushed by the winter holidays. I'm buoyed by their core message of love and hope, but somehow become bound up with the blatant pressure of gift-giving and holiday have-tos. You'd think adding two more holidays would send me right over the edge, but today offers a double-whammy worth cheering about. It's Human Rights Day, and Terra Madre Day, two opportunities to celebrate what we believe and what we eat.

Human Rights Day, created by the United Nations in 1948, is a day to remember and support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today is also Terra Madre Day, the celebration of local food created by Slow Food in 2009. You don't have to buy presents, just be present. Observe both Human Rights Day and Terra Madre Day by sourcing what you eat with care.

Can't connect the dots between what's on your plate, the planet and human rights? Think of the dots as the steps that need to happen to bring you the food on your plate. From oats harvested just a few miles away to vanilla from Madagascar, what you eat is grown, harvested, distributed and finally arrives where you can get it, from your farmers market or fair trade-friendly store. We call this the food system. The food system is powered by machinery, which is powered largely by fossil fuel, a finite resource courtsy of terra madre -- mother earth. The food system is also powered by people. The earth and people -- a couple of precious natural resources. But we take them for granted. As a result, the earth isn't feeling so well, and human rights aren't a sure thing, either.

Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says Every person has duties to the community. Eating locally lets you fulfill those duties, make a sound investment and have a good time, too. Join your local community supported agriculture program or hang out at your local farmers market. By choosing to get fresh, amazing food grown by people you know, you're helping your home and neighbors thrive.

Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. Well, that sounds like a slam-dunk. It could not be conscionable and it does not seem possible for slavery to exist these days. Yet there's still incidents where the food system's invisible workers are exploited. That hamburger may be cheap for you, but it's coming at the expense of others. Not very ho-ho-ho, is it?

We can help to change that. We have a choice. There is no food so delectable it justifies global or human degradation, and the incentives to act and eat positively are just too good to miss.

Coffee is my drug of choice, and swapping your basic cup of joe for a certified fair trade version means I get amazing brew and caffeine delivery plus the assurance of knowing the coffee beans have been treated with care and so have the people who grow them.

Deciding what to eat is complicated enough without considering the issues of human rights and global versus local. The fact is, though, we are a community, one big, not always happy family, and we all have to eat. When you connect the dots, it's a straight line from how we choose to live to what we choose to eat. Make them both delicious. At a time when we're pressured to buy, buy, buy, Human Rights Day and Terra Madre Day remind us it really is the thought that counts.

Fair Trade Coco-Nana Nut Cookies

Recipe courtesy of Ashley Koff, R.D.

Fab, fair-trade and vegan-friendly, too, these cookies are a gift to you from Fair Trade USA.

3 ripe fair trade certified bananas
1 teaspoon fair trade certified vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup fair trade certified agave nectar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon coconut milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon fair trade certified cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray.

In a food processor, blend the bananas, vanilla, applesauce, agave, oil and coconut milk. Once combined, add in the baking soda, flour and cinnamon.

Fold in oats and coconut by hand.

Using two teaspoons, scoop dough onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 30 cookies.