As this year comes to an end, I think back to all that I have learned over the past 365 days. Working as a nutritionist, I find that so many of the lessons I am taught present themselves to me while studying our food system or while reflecting in the garden on how plants miraculously grow.
One of the biggest lessons I was reminded of this past year was how everything is so CONNECTED! Our physical health, mental health, the health of the planet, the well being of animals, all human beings, etc. Every choice we make has a direct or indirect impact on literally everything in this universe.
Heading into 2020 I wanted to outline specific actions to take regarding food choices that will undoubtedly impact your health and every other area of our planet and beyond.
Food Choices to Support ALL:
1) Start growing your own food: even a small herb garden can can make a big difference! Anytime we can facilitate the growing of our own food we are impacting all beings in a positive manner! Not only can growing food help to sequester carbon back into the ground, it also supports the living beings in the surrounding ecosystem, is amazing for our own health (gut health, physical & mental health), takes the load off our global food system by cutting down on food miles traveled, and avoids supporting large scale mono crop farming and big box corporations. At this point in time, growing food isn’t a necessity, however in years to come with our changing climate, it very well might become absolutely essential for us all to know how to grow at least some of our own food for survival – I highly recommend starting before it gets to that point!
2) Shop at local organic farmers markets: it really is this simple! Where we buy our food is one of the single best ways to make a positive contribution to our food system and the world as a whole. After growing your own food, making the choice to support local farmers who are practicing regenerative agriculture is the single next best thing you can do! Being able to talk to farmers about their growing practices takes away any of the un-knowns about the potential harm the food you are purchasing might be having on the earth, animals, or other humans!
3) Think ‘REAL FOODS’ every time you buy! By “real foods” I mean ones that come from this earth, not ones that are produced or processed in a factory. By cutting back on packaged foods you are reducing the carbon emissions involved in processing and packaging, and you also avoid supporting large “conventional” (aka non-organic/ non- regenerative) corporations whose only goal is profit. When you are buying packaged foods it is much harder to retrace the steps of how all the ingredients were sourced. Packaged foods are much more likely to contain hidden GMO products like soy and corn, and they often contain high levels of pesticides such as glyphosate. In fact, “Cherrios” continue to show up as the food that contains the highest level of glyphosate year after year! Not far behind are products from companies such as Quaker, Kashi, Nature’s Valley, and Ritz. 1, 2
4) Choose to cook more at home: cooking more at home is so important for your health! You are able to have control of what is going into your food and you also get to be more intentional about your sourcing. After my “Organic Only Challenge“, I have come to realize that there are VERY few restaurants who serve organic food! Even more alarming is the fact that some of the healthiest seeming restaurants have some of the poorest sourcing of ingredients, containing tons of pesticide ridden foods and GMO’s. A great way to ensure you cook more at home is to set boundaries surrounding the number of times you are going to eat out each week – and stick to them!
5) Get intentional about the packaging of your food: this is so important for our dear planet! Each year, 8 million tons of plastics enter our oceans.3 If we don’t change our plastic habits, micro plastics will undoubtedly be the cause for the extinction of whales and tons of other important marine life species. I am going to do a series on how to go more package free in the new year – so stay tuned! In the mean time, do your best to use your own cloth bulk bags, shop at zero waste markets, use re-fillable containers for your soap and other bathroom products, and choose to buy items that are sold in glass instead of ones that are sold in plastic.
6) Eat more Plant Based: I’m not one for specific diet labels, but it is a no brainer that eating more plant based foods and less animal products is better for both your health and the environment! From the forest fires in the Amazon started to clear land for cattle grazing, to the huge methane emissions caused by concentrated animal feed operations (CAFO’s), not to mention the cruel ways industrial agriculture treats animals to raise for meat consumption – eating more plant based whole foods, is one of the best ways to ensure you are making diet choices that support our planet and your body!
7) Look for the labels! When you are buying any sort of food with labels, it’s super important to read them well! You want to ensure the product you are buying has been grown organically (aka without the usage of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers), is fair trade (to know workers are being paid somewhat of a fair wage), and of course to read the ingredient labels to ensure their aren’t any weird additives or food dyes in what you are buying!
Buying organic food is of upmost importance! Not only do pesticides harm the health of the soil, the surrounding plants and wildlife, have a direct negative effect on our gut health, and alter the nutrient composition of the plant, they are also water soluble meaning they find their way into our waterways and the air we breath. To top it all off, it is estimated that over 200, 000 people, mainly farm workers in developing nations, die each year from toxic exposure to pesticides.4 The developing nations where these deaths are happening, are where we in the West get our bananas, avocados, coconut products, and other “exotic foods” from! This is why it is critical to understand the connection between the food we buy and the impact it has at every single level!
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when purchasing food, however there are SO many small steps you can make to increase the positive impact you have on our food system and the entire world. Every choice really does have an impact on the greater good whether we are conscious of it or not. I think it’s time we all start to bring that more into consideration each and every time we consume! It is my wish for this coming year that we make the health and well being of ALL beings the top priority. This often means not just buying the cheapest or most convenient foods – but truly taking the time to THINK about what we are buying and the effect it has (at every level).
Happy 2020 everyone!