12/17/2011 11:16 am ET Updated Feb 16, 2012

Holiday Menu: 5 Sustainable Courses For A Healthy Holiday Meal

The holiday season is in full swing! It's that fabulous time of the year which comes to us like clockwork -- a sustainable, annual feature of our everyday lives.

Yet, how sustainable is the food we're celebrating with? Interesting to think about, right? Last week I teamed up with GoodGuide and Sustainable Table to discuss just that concept.

We asked, what does "sustainability" mean anyway in the context of food, healthy eating and cooking? Well, there's not one specific answer -- "sustainability" is an overarching principle. Yet, at its core is the idea that anything you eat should come from a chain of events that provides a long-term ability to maintain wellbeing and nourishment. Here are some ways to think about "sustainable":

• Cooking gives you the control and lifelong skills to nourish yourself -- that's sustainable.

• Food that comes from soil that hasn't been tainted with chemical pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers is more sustainable for the planet and our health.

• Animal products that aren't from factory farming operations that use hormones, antibiotics, and food sources from unhealthy soil and genetically modified crops, are sustainable.

• Local, seasonal food is more sustainable than food imported from thousands of miles across the globe.

• Fresh food is generally more nutrient dense than food that travels thousands of miles after it's harvested -- more sustainable for our health.

• Sustainable food tends to be minimally processed, with very few ingredients, and perishes faster than "factory food."

• Because sustainable food stays close to how Mother Nature intended, it's more delicious!

• Foods canned in BPA-free cans are more sustainable.

• Food cultivated with respect and support for farm workers, that provide fair wage, and that are humane to animals is more sustainable.

Here I share a glorious five-course sustainable meal for this holiday season. Most of the ingredients I chose to use in these dishes are from sustainable sources, using plant foods that are in season, like squashes and roots, as well as traditional winter flavors and spices such as apple cider and star anise. I used grass-fed beef from a local farm in the pot roast, and minimally-processed ingredients in the dessert, with pasture raised eggs from Vital Farms. You'll also find a colorful fruit salad made of apples and pomegranates, two winter fruit superstars. Feel free to mix, match, and above all... enjoy! If you're ever in doubt about how to find the healthiest, most sustainable food items, cross-check using GoodGuide's rankings or learn how to locate sustainable food with Sustainable Table's online tools.

Have a happy, healthy, and sustainable holiday season!

Sustainable Menu for Healthy Holiday Cooking

Recipes Copyright © 2011 Pooja Mottl. All rights reserved.

What are you cooking this holiday season? Talk with me and share on Twitter and Facebook!

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