Ah yes, we all have our vices, and we all know mine involve cake. But judging by the fact that the gym now looks like a stampede is hitting it nightly, I’m guessing some people, you know, actually act on their New Year’s resolutions. I’m not saying that I don’t, I’m flat out saying that I don’t bother to make any. (Cake was pretty good last year, I bet it will be this year too!) But this season, while masses of people are forgoing meals for diet bars and sneaking out of the office early to give Zumba a try, I mapped out some actual healthy eating changes grounded in reality that I would like to continue to work on this year, or to be more diligent about. If you’re like me, and the most attention you usually pay to the new year is struggling to get the new digit of the year correct on office paperwork, I’ve got some easy ideas that you might like too. Because, frankly, if I see another commercial for the Shake Weight on Food Network I might scream.
My 2011 Sustainable Food Resolutions:
Bake more of my own bread I’ve struggled with this one before. I rarely buy a loaf of bread from a supermarket. There are two big reasons why. One, I’m just not a big sandwich eater. Two, have you read the ingredients in a loaf of processed bread? It’s actually a difficult task (the reading, not the baking). The ingredients may be edible, but they can hardly be considered food. So, I’ve tried buying a loaf of locally made bread from Whole Foods. Guess what? For twice as much money, not only did I find similar ingredients, but the bread was only produced in a local factory-not by a local baker. Don’t waste your money. The next step was buying bread at the farmers’ market. If you can find a bread vendor at the farmers market, I highly recommend this option. But honestly, a bread booth at the market can be a toughie to find unless your market covers a lot of prepared foods and not just produce. Now, I’ve also tried making my own yeast bread. While it’s satisfying to do and pretty yummy all said and done, baking homemade yeast bread takes a lot of time, kitchen space and money. None of which I have. I rarely say this on home cooking, but it just isn’t worth it. So, this year, I am vowing to go the bread machine route. I’ll keep you posted.
No world-traveling produce Brent from Brewty and the Yeast and I recently chatted about how difficult it is today to figure out what produce is actually in season and when. This shouldn’t actually be that difficult for us Angelinos, with so many local farmers’ markets at our disposal but for those of you, like Brewty, who live in the depths of suburbia and are mostly at the mercy of the supermarket, this can truly be a daunting task. There are of course the basic primers for what grows when, like Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle but let’s be honest, the produce section might as well be a brain teaser to the sustainable foodie. Try this experiment: stroll through a local farmers’ market to see what’s growing, then head to the grocery store and see how many of those fruits and veggies are actually there. Not too many, and those that are, even if they are obviously grown close to home given that you just saw them at the farmers’ market, chances are good that the grocery store is selling them from another country in another hemisphere. I tired this exact thing last week and the only thing I ended up with that was in season and also grown in the US (that’s all the information that was given) was three bulbs of fresh fennel. That’s it. I know that right now it takes a lot of self-education, but buying as local as possible in the supermarket shows the managers that they need to stock more local inventory because it is more profitable because it’s what the customer wants. I also want to point out that during this same trip to the grocery store I was perusing the frozen veggie section when the woman next to me held up a mixed bag and asked if I thought it looked tasty. I replied that it did look tasty and healthy, but I wished that the veggies weren’t from France when we grow them here. “I agree with you,” she said.
Don’t give up the coffee, but give up the cup I admit, when I run out the door of my apartment, I frequently forget my reusable mug. This year, I’m going to consider that inexcusable. Why? Ever been to Starbucks when they run out of coffee sleeves (which you really don’t need to begin with)? Every drink gets double-cupped. Plus, each cup gets a plastic lid and frequently, each cup gets a plastic swizzle stick to cover the drinking hole from spillage in the car. The best case scenario is that all of these elements make it to the trash can when they are done being used. The reality scenario should hit you every time you get out of your car in the Starbucks parking lot — cups, lids, straws and swizzle sticks all over the place. Plus, I gotta say, I love my new reusable travel mug. It’s stainless steel and it keeps my coffee or tea warm for five hours.
Try the Sprinkles German chocolate cupcake Oops, how did that get in there….
Need some sustainable food resolutions yourself? Well, I have a few really easy ones for you.
Commit to your bags I know you have reusable bags. It’s impossible that you don’t own at least one by now. Probably, you didn’t even buy it. So, here’s the work. Use it. Keep it in your purse or a pocket or on a belt loop at the market and absolutely throw a few in your car or bike basket. If you’re already diligently doing this, lend some support to cities who are struggling with bags. It’s easier than you think, and good news keeps rolling in. This month has brought positive news on the bag ban front for Italy, Maui, Kauai and many others. Later this month, Santa Monica may move forward with a ban, but Marin County and Los Angeles still really need some support. It’s as simple as educating yourself or adding your name to a petition of support.
Read the ingredients This is truly one of the most important habits to get into when it comes to your health. While most people are busy reading health claims on the front of the box or the nutrition label on the side, I would argue that the single most important thing to focus on is what’s IN the box. Are you buying something low in fat only to realize that it’s full of crap instead? No good. And as we’ve realized more than ever this year, we need to be our own food safety advocates. Whether it’s regarding what a label actually means or what an ingredient actually is and whether or not it’s safe, staying in the know (and having a healthy degree of skepticism) is your best defense. Well, hopefully I’m a little help too, right?
And finally, a big thank you to all of you. This past year, the inaugural year of Chewgooder, I was highlighted in Your Daily Thread as a new green blogger. That same article was later voted as one of the best in 2010 by readers. Your continuing reading keeps me writing.
Well, that and the cake.