By Chef Mareya, The Fit Foodie
Founder, Eat Cleaner
It’s a slippery slope. Whenever I talk food to people and ooze about the delicious, artisan quality of a product, they’re in. The minute I start talking about how we are integrally responsible for the impact our dietary decisions have on the environment, I start to lose people like ripe avocados. Seems like being a foodie and being ecologically fit do not necessarily intersect on the culinary highway.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a Swiss authority on food biodiversity, we need to start giving more of a fork. While the world offers us a plethora of plants with over 50,000 edible species, only 3 crops supply about 60% of our caloric intake – wheat, soy and corn – and two of these crops may be at risk. This may partly be due to climate changes, overgrazing and industrial farming practices that relies on herbicide use, and the inevitable outcome of herbicide resistance. It’s no coincidence, these are three crops are also largely genetically modified.
As our supply becomes questionable, it begs the question, how do we support what we have before it’s gone? I’ve come to find that often times, we overlook sources of real sustenance and nutrition in the foods we eat everyday.
I have spent a fair amount of time tinkering with food. For over 25 years, I have worked with ingredients, bringing the best out of them, matching them up with a variety of flavors and toying with the ‘what if I try this” scenario, again and again. It happened one day as I was testing a variety of smoothie recipes and accidentally let some bananas go really, really ripe. As in, if I peel them, the fruit might just slide out. Hating the idea of throwing them away and wasting the crown of ‘nanners due to my own negligence, I decided to put them in the freezer, peel and all. I mean, maybe I could just drop the whole shebang into a smoothie. Surely a pureed, with-the-peel-on banana could drop into banana bread, banana muffins or banana coconut cream pie undetected. I rationalized, the outer packaging gets a lot sweeter and thinner as the banana ripens, so struggling with a thick, rubbery, bitter peel wouldn’t be an issue.
I tried it. I trimmed the ends and stem off and got to blending. Although the visual of a very ripe peel is not so appealing (appeeling), I added a handful of fresh blueberries, a little peanut butter and protein powder to that half a banana, along with 8 ounces of homemade almond milk and let it whir on ‘high’. The smooth, very blue concoction didn’t reveal even a hint of peel. If anything, it just looked like a gorgeous, tall, extra frothy glass of refreshing yumminess, especially after a vigorous boxing session. The taste? No bitterness, no awkward texture, no hint of anything gone awry in my recipe development.
The ultimate test was going to be my son, aka the pickiest eater on planet Earth. It’s pretty ironic that a chef has a child who tests their patience with every finicky bite, but that’s what my dad calls ‘paybacks.’ I poured him a glass of blueberry peanut butter banana peel smoothie and casually served it to him with a straw, not letting on to any alteration of my normal recipe. He grabbed it out of my hands like a person in the desert that hasn’t had water in days and thirstily sucked it down in one fell swoop. Without missing a beat, he slid the empty glass onto the counter and proclaimed ‘now, that’s how I like my smoothies, mom, thick and creamy. That was perfect.”
Inside, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. On the outside, I coolly responded with a ‘awesome, glad you like it, boo.’
I passed the kid test like a champ, and this to me was my ultimate focus group test. It was creamier than usual and the ripe peel boosted the natural sweetness, which resonated with the little man. Not only could I save a step and potentially save a banana that had gone past its eating prime, I came to find out there’s a lot of appeal in eating the peel from a nutrition and environmental standpoint. The peel is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – vitamin C, B6 and B12 which support a healthy immune and adrenal system, magnesium and potassium, which support heart health, fiber and even some protein. They are high in tryptophan, which helps support a healthy state of mind. You can literally double down on the health benefits and flavor you get from most produce by consuming the peels!
From the eco side of the peel, the numbers are staggering. In the U.S. alone, we eat more than 3.2 billion pounds of bananas each year – that’s 304 bananas every second – and the discarded peels add an extra 780 million pounds to our landfills. That’s the weight of 1,300 jumbo jets in banana peels! And all of this waste wreaks havoc on our environment and our health. Decomposing produce is one of the leading causes of harmful methane gas emissions, and we miss huge health and culinary benefits by tossing them away. Even though they’re biodegradable, the sheer volume of them getting tossed in the trash has a negative impact.
When our food supply is at risk, and over 40% of all food cultivated ends up in the landfills, tossing peels that are completely edible is bananas.
I decided to launch a campaign called #SAVETHEPEELS, a 7-day challenge that helps you learn and implement lots of easy ways to put peels to good use. A small shift in thinking and smart hacks for using the peels can help people get the most benefit out of peels and keep them out of the trash. It goes beyond bananas to every peel, from citrus to apples, carrots and potatoes.
It starts with small habit shifts that can make a huge impact. You might be surprised by all of the ways you can use banana peels in particular, which make the largest percentage of peels in the trash.
PRO TIP: When you bring your produce home, soak it in our eatCleaner wash powder, spray with our eatCleaner fruit + veggie wash or wipe with our eatCleaner fruit + veggie wipes so they’re clean and ready to use! eatCleaner will not only make your produce up to 99.9% safer than water alone, it will help preserve color and shelf life so your fruit goes the distance.
Here are just a few creative ways that you can save the peel
- Use a ripe, clean peel in a smoothie, banana bread or muffin recipe for enhanced fiber, amino acid and antioxidant benefits. The riper the peel, the sweeter the product – and less added sugar needed;
- Add peels to your juicer and give fresh-pressed, raw juices a big nutrient and enzyme boost;
- Infuse grated orange, lime, lemon and grapefruit zest into olive oil for use in salad dressings and to instantly boost flavor and antioxidant power of cooked veggies, fish and chicken;
- Rub banana peels on your skin to improve tone and texture.
- If you’re not using the peels for anything, compost them for your windowbox herbs or garden – or for someone elses’s garden.
There are 5 BIG ways you can make a difference – so this is our appeel to you 🙂
- SHARING IS CARING. You can also help us reach out goals by sharing this post on your social media pages.
- SHOW AND TELL. Whenever you save a peel, post your pics and TAG #savethepeels
- ENCOURAGE SCHOOLS TO JUMP ON BOARD. Empowering our kids to get on board can help make “Sustainapeelity” as part of their regular habits. If you have school aged children, or friends/family with kids in school, will you pass the ‘Sustainapeelity Menu’ on to them?
- TAKE THE PLEDGE. Our goal is to have 1 million people take the #SavethePeels Pledge to use and repurpose their peels for better health. Will you share and pay it forward?
- FOLLOW THE GUIDE. We’ve included a menu of ideas to get you started on the road to sustainapeelity. If you start to adopt just one or two at a time, they’ll start to become a habit. And make sure to try out our fit and clean recipes that’ll make using peels second nature.
Text savethepeels to 22828 to join our campaign and mission to divert over 20 million pounds of peels out of landfills. You’ll also get our ebook with tons of great tips and 8 great, snack appeeling recipes that’ll have you on the sustainapeelity bandwagon.
A SAMPLE OF SOME SNACK APPEELING RECIPES
Mocha Coffee Banana Smoothie
Getting a whole banana with the peel on is easiest in a smoothie, and the combination of cocoa powder and coffee makes this my supercharged morning elixir. Pro tip: Wash whole bananas with Eat Cleaner, trim ends and tops and cut bananas in half, then store in a reusable container or bag so you can easily drop half a banana into your recipes. BOOM!
Makes 2 servings
12 oz. unsweetened almond milk
4 oz. brewed coffee
1 frozen banana, peel left on
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon stevia or monkfruit extract
3/4 cup ice: Optional
Add ingredients in order above. Blend until smooth and enjoy cold.
Banana Chocolate Oat Bites
You use the whole banana, including the peel for these. YAAAAS. The peel. Prevent waste from landing in the dumpster and benefit from double the nutrients, fiber and other minerals you don’t even get from the fruit. Trust me, you won’t taste it, and it will help keep these tasty bites nice and moist. That’s some serious snack appeel.
Makes 12-14 bites
2 cups cooked steel cut oats (allow to air dry so all moisture is absorbed)
1 whole very ripe banana, washed with eatCleaner, puréed
2 tablespoons melted raw extra virgin coconut oil
1 tablespoon hemp hearts
1/2 cup vegan dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon organic stevia or monk fruit extract
Optional: sprinkle of pan toasted coconut on top.
1) Preheat oven to 350F.
2) In a large bowl, combine oats, banana and coconut oil together. Mix in remaining ingredients until evenly combined.
3) Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat silicone pad. Using a 1 oz. scoop, scoop mixture into balls onto baking sheet leaving 2” in between.
4) Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes or until surface is browned and bite hold together.
5) Remove from oven and top with optional toasted coconut. Cool 5-10 minutes.
Protein Chocolate Chip Walnut Banana Bread
(vegan, gluten free)
Peels make this banana bread extra moist and jam-packed with essential nutrients! Just wash them really thoroughly with Eat Cleaner and throw them into the blender. You’ll want to double the batch.
Makes 1 large loaf
3 whole bananas, peel on
3 whole eggs
3 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 heaping tablespoons bone broth collagen protein powder
2 teaspoons granulated stevia extract
1/3 cup vegan dark chocolate chips plus an extra two tablespoons for the top
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1) Preheat oven to 375F.
2) In a blender, pulse bananas and peels, eggs, ghee, milk and vanilla until smooth.
3) In a large mixing bowl, combine with dry ingredients until consistent. Line loaf pan with parchment paper. Pour mixture in evenly and sprinkle a few extra chocolate chips on top.
4) Bake for 50-55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 minutes.