Discovering the Power of Sustainability in the Kitchen

We asked a modern “Tuga” nutritionist, Dr. Manuel Laginha Gonçalves, his idea about the power of sustainability through the kitchen.

Finding hidden talents in the kitchen has been a viral topic for many during the quarantine period. And for many more, discovering how essential it is to take care of your health through diet and eating habits. We find a new sense of empowerment in our foods, or a trusted flavourful kitchen, to strengthen our bodies through one of the most common (and wonderful) activities we do on the daily eating. Mm… Food!

Lately, most of us are all working from home — and a whole lot of us are preparing our food with our know-how or favorite go-to recipes. The more we learn, the more we want to know and sometimes it can be tough figuring out what’s what without any professional guidance. That’s why Unicorn Workspaces Portugal asked a modern “Tuga” nutritionist, Dr. Manuel Laginha Gonçalves, his opinion about the power of sustainability through the kitchen.

Unicorn Workspaces Portugal: What are the advantages of buying products labeled biological or organic?

  • Dr. Manuel Laginha Gonçalves: “It is a very topical question and one that does not have a simple answer as it may seem. Let’s see: Organic products gain notoriety when the population begins to be more aware of healthy and environmentally friendly eating practices. There are advantages in their consumption, which seem obvious to me, namely the support of more sustainable agricultural practices, and a lower intake of pesticides and artificial additives. However, the “organic” brand isn’t the only cultivation method that has advantages. Subsistence agriculture, a D.I.Y approach to horticulture, is made by ourselves, our neighbors, or community members that support many Portuguese families. A way of life practiced all over the world. A product may not have the distinction of “organic farming”, but the foods produced by local hands can be the result of good cultivation practices. With an awareness of the use of natural fertilizers and seeking the best product quality.”

UWP: How can we support local farmers who grow organic food?

  • Dr. MLG: “Today’s consumers are aware of the impact of their decisions, and many seek to encourage local trade and good agricultural and environmental practices. Buying regional and seasonal products, if possible from local and reliable producers, identifies your needs and stimulates their existence. Today there are initiatives that deserve to be highlighted, such as markets and specialty stores that present good quality products at a fair price. I suggest that people look in the parish councils for dates, times, and locations of local fresh food markets.”

UWP: What’s better — cooking at home vs. ready-made / pre-made foods?

  • Dr. MLG: “Under ideal conditions, I would say it is better to cook at home, but in fact, due to the speed with which everything happens, it becomes difficult not to resort to takeaway food. That said, the pursuit of the daily home-cooked meal is a Herculean task. The important thing is to reduce exceptions, and it is necessary to reform eating habits while identifying bad and good patterns. Although there are now many take-away options with a concern for the good and healthy, the fact that we eat out always puts a conditional aspect on our food intake, in terms of quantity and type of products. We must, therefore, look for strategies and create conditions so that it is possible to cook at home and avoid overeating out. It all starts when we go shopping. Making lists, avoiding everything that is not essential, and going shopping without hunger, are small gestures — which can be central to the choices of products we have at home. Cooking several meals during the weekend or leaving the food and countertop ready for when you leave the house, can be good ways to cut down on food preparation during the week.”

UWP: What are the benefits of home cooking? How does this impact our health aspect?

  • Dr. MLG: “The act of eating has additional components beyond our logical sense of the verb — ‘to eat’. This means that we are not always able to avoid the consumption of more caloric foods with low nutritional density. But being at home, we can not only choose the products we use — but the quantity and quality. Which is equally important to maintain a balanced nutritional state. Being at home is not enough, you need to set aside time to prepare your meals. We should be inspired by the Mediterranean diet, taking advantage of plant-based foods, and reducing red meats, and, with that, we each have a role to play in the health of the planet and humanity.

Here at Unicorn Workspaces Portugal, we’ve found a few healthy food gems in Lisbon for you to take your pick in case you already haven’t come across these; Project Fruta Feia, a healthy take on ‘ugly’ fruits and veggies; Peça Fruta, the freshest foods delivered at your door; Fruly, delivery of fresh household consumables. Or, if you’re in the mood to take a walk-about town, check out; Agrobio — with a wealthy selection of organic and biological items; Café Kaya where every bite is a journey; A Colmeia — the first restaurant to serve macrobiotic meals in Portugal (a well-kept little secret with a view). There are always new and exciting healthy and delicious projects popping up — as Fortalece (Fortify in Portuguese) shows us by sharing local companies and promoting small businesses.

We’re sure you’ve heard at some point, “you are what you eat”. And that is generally a good way to look at it! But, be sure to know what and where to look! Researching your local area can always paint a great image of what’s available for you to eat and consume on the regular. Share with us your treasured go-to’s. Which are the spots you’ve grown to love in Lisbon to buy fresh foods? Sustainable and healthy communities are key for us to take of ourselves and others who provide what we need. If our body is our temple, our groceries are our offerings.

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