Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring is springing!

I am so happy to be looking out my backdoor and seeing the signs of spring all over! I wish I could tell you some of the plants are vegetables, but alas the previous owner used up every last inch of dirt planting ornamentals. It seems that if I want to plant a garden, I first have to dig one up! Oh well, it truly is a beautiful sight.

I know it's been awhile since I last posted anything, but at the moment I don't have the time to write something thoughtful and thought-provoking, so I will simply ask you to veer from this blog to watch a speech by Jamie Oliver at the TED conference. He does an excellent and inspiring job of summing up what's so frustrating about the industrial food complex and why it's so important that we change NOW!

By the way, since February I have been enjoying the bounty of fresh, local, organic produce from Eat with the Seasons and have been loving it! Thanks to the Herbert family for working so hard to give us fresh food! My mother and I have been splitting an extra-small bag  (it costs us each just $8.50 per week) and it seems to be just the right amount for us both. Also, at the beginning of February I participated in a workshop at the YMCA. The focus of this particular workshop was eating healthy with quick and easy recipes. Click here to see footage of the workshop!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Review - In Defense of Food and Food Rules

Before I get to my review of Michael Pollan's books, you probably want to know how we're doing with our experiment. I think we are making excellent progress in terms of becoming more aware of what kinds of food we put in our bodies and where the food itself has come from. In January we ate dinner at home 24 times in 31 days (our goal was 5-6 times a week, so we were successful!). Lunch has been a little more difficult, but we have made some progress (going from eating out everyday to eating lunch at home 12 days in January). I will keep you posted on our monthly progress. 

As for saving money .... Unfortunately I have not learned the magic trick of frugal grocery shopping, so even with all the eating at home we spent about the same amount on food (a little over $1500 for January). My only consolation is that it was, on the whole, much better food and worth the expense.

Now to the reviews. I want to encourage you all to read at least one of these books. 

In Defense of Food is 201 pages and goes into some depth about our dependence on corn and how U.S. agricultural policy greatly affects how and what we eat, for better or worse. In this book Pollan gives scientific, sociological, and cultural evidence for how we are eating, how we should be eating and why. It's a diet book, but not like any you've read before. His basic advice is very simple (and yet not as simple as it sounds): Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.
Food Rules is a much condensed version (139 pages, only about half of which contain words) of the former and focuses exclusively on common sense guidelines for eating a healthy diet and having a healthy attitude towards food. There are 64 basic rules, which on the surface seem obvious. Rules like "Eat Food" sound simple and overly obvious until you realize that most of the "food" in the store and at restaurants is not really food at all, but actually what Pollan calls "edible food-like substances." Not to worry, Food Rules will help you determine what constitutes food and what does not. What I find especially appealing about this approach to eating is that there's no calorie/carb/fat counting, no nutrient obsessing, just plain common sense. But you will have to throw out every vestige of the "nutritionism" which has been insidiously taking over our food consciousness for the past 40 or 50 years.

If you enjoy reading I highly recommend In Defense of Food. It is beyond interesting  -- it will inform you and hopefully make you think about what you are really buying when you go to the grocery store. Let me just say, you're not buying what you think you are!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Doctor's Orders

Just when you think you're doing so well, leave it to a doctor to tell you otherwise! I had my "annual" checkup yesterday (in quotes because it's been three years since my last checkup), and I was more than a little surprised to be told I'm consuming too much salt. Huh? I don't add salt to anything, how can that be? Well, after going through several questions about packaged foods, snacks, soups, drinks, etc. we came to the conclusion that I'm still eating too much fast food! 

I was so proud of the strides my family and I have made in that realm - cutting way back to maybe once a week. Not only was my doctor completely unimpressed by that number, he told me that, even at 1 time per week, we are what McDonald's corporation considers "heavy users." (Even if we mainly go to Jack in the Box?) Then he told me something even more shocking to my system -- he feels it's only acceptable to eat fast food once or twice a YEAR!! And even now I'm hyperventilating at the thought.

Don't get me wrong, I don't actually like fast food. I think it's evil, I know it's killing America slowly, it's the main reason for the obesity epidemic in this country, and it's the main reason for the expansion of the Industrial Food Complex. I don't want to support the industry. But, aside from the "cost effectiveness," it's a time issue for me. Sometimes fast food really is all we have time for. I admit, once a week is still too often to eat fast food. But once or twice a year? That just doesn't seem doable to me.

I also need to know what exactly he considers "fast food." For instance, does he consider Chili's/Applebee's/Chevy's to be fast food? Or just the places we traditionally think of like Burger King and McDonald's? What about Running Rooster? If he considers all restaurants to be "fast food" I'm in BIG trouble because I wasn't counting all restaurants when I said we have fast food once a week. 

I was just starting to consider going gluten and dairy-free (which will most likely put the nail in the coffin as far as eating out goes anyway), now I can't eat anything with sodium. It's not looking good. I know I was going to use this blog as a way to offer tips and strategies for going organic to others, but it looks like I need a little help myself! What, for instance, do I pack in my children's lunches that's gluten-free, dairy-free and fun? Just don't ask me to go meat-free, I can only handle so many freedoms at once!