In my last post I talked about the reality of the seafood industry, and the ultimate conclusion that There Is No Such Thing As Sustainable Seafood. After reading the post, a reader commented that it seemed as though no food was safe from the ill fate of a damning article.
It is true that if you follow health and wellness websites on the internet, you can find an article blasting just about every single food known to man. Some are warranted (those writing against animal products from an ecological, health, and animal rights perspective) and others, I would argue, are much more misguided (“Gluten: Cause of All Health Problems Today!”).
However the comment held a lot of truth. The reader expressed an all-too-common frustration these days that it seemed impossible to know what is safe to eat anymore! You hear great things about seafood for your health, so to hear about the environmental catastrophe that it causes is disheartening!
Is no food safe?
While any food that has its origins in the industrial food system likely has at least one blemish on its record, there are places to start and rules to follow for safe, clean, healthy eating. So in the interest of a more positive discussion this week, let’s talk about foods you can (and should!) eat with pride.
By a mile, the safest foods you can possibly eat are foods you’ve grown yourself, in your own backyard. In no other setting can you have the level of control that you do in your own backyard. Don’t like supporting foods grown with pesticides and artificial fertilizers? Don’t buy them or spray your plants!
Don’t want to exploit animals? Grow fruits and vegetables without the help of horses to till your garden!
Don’t want to exploit migrant farmworkers? Pick your own produce!
Yes, the least controversial place on planet Earth to eat from is your own garden. If you have any — and I mean ANY — space on which you could place a garden, do so. (If you don’t check out public gardens in your area and apply for a plot!).
Growing your own food is close to printing money, and it will be the freshest, best tasting, and possibly most nutritious food you’ll ever eat!
The next least controversial (and most safe) location to purchase food is from a local farm. There are two main ways to do this: farmers markets and joining a CSA (community supported agriculture).
Chances are you have been to a farmers market in your life so I won’t go into too much detail. The benefit here is you can select the items you want and talk to the actual people who grew them. The food is fresher, in season, and generally more nutritious. Most farmers markets are organic (though not all!). You can always ask the farmer how the food was grown.
A CSA may be less familiar to you. In this model, you pledge a certain amount of money to a farm (along with other members) at the beginning of the growing season, usually in early Spring. The farmer uses this money to purchase the items necessary to grow food, and every week during the growing season, you pick up a box overflowing with whatever is ripe!
The positives here are for the farmer. You support the farm no matter what happens (if tragedy strikes and crops are ruined, they already have your money). This also means you may get surprises — things you didn’t plan on and don’t even know what they are! For some this is the big drawback — no choice. But for others it can be a truly rewarding culinary adventure! Just how do you prepare kohlrabi…
Finally, most pickup locations are at farmers markets or community centers, so it is a nice way to connect not only with the farmers that grew your food but the fellow consumers who are supporting your farm!
The Grocery Store: Part 1
Beyond growing your own food or supporting farmers nearby that do, your next option is to venture into the supermarket. This option is decidedly varied, running the gamut from an organic food coop to your local chain or big box store.
I won’t go into detail on the difference between these stores, but merely will point out that the safest products in the grocery store are whole plant foods — this means the fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.
These items are the least processed, which means the least chance for contamination. They are also the least controversial, since they generally don’t exploit animals to reach your store. There are still issues of pesticides on conventional produce and migrant farmworkers rights to muddy the waters, but without a doubt these products are still safer than the alternative. Which leads me to…
The Grocery Store: Part 2
The least safe items for purchase are processed foods and animal products. These are the most likely to support some for of exploitation, be that of the animal or the farmworker. They are without question the most likely to be detrimental to your health. And their ecological footprint is embarrassing at best.
Steer clear of these foods if you want to avoid the shame of supporting a dirty industry!
Restaurants and Fast Food
I’ll just quickly mention these final two eating options, as they are more and more increasing in popularity. As restaurants are businesses, and businesses exist to maximize the bottom line, chances are really good that the ingredients being used in these establishments were the cheapest source, meaning the lowest quality. This is by no means true across the board, and if you can find a farm to table restaurant that sources local organic foods, go for it.
But most restaurants will choose the cheapest ingredients possible, meaning red label seafood, factory farmed animals and animal products, and conventional produce. You are most likely to consume the least healthy meals in these settings, adding to the reasons to avoid them. Not to mention the added cost.
I am not saying you can’t ever eat out, I am merely saying that on the food safety continuum, these places rank low.
So there you have it
From your own garden to farmers markets and CSAs, all the way down to your local McDonald’s, where you buy your food matters. If you want to avoid animal suffering, worker exploitation, health detriments, and ecological catastrophes, eat as much as you can from the first two categories. Then supplement whatever is left with whole plant foods from the grocery store!
Happy (safe) eating!
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There is SO much conflicting advice on the internet it can be so easy to just throw your hands up and say “ah forget it, NO ONE knows what we should be eating!”
The reality is we actually know pretty well the optimal diet for human beings. And it is one based on whole plant foods. There will be arguments between vegans and paleos forever about whether or not well-raised animal products can also be on the plate, but let’s keep the message POSITIVE!
Here are the 10 foods you should eat every single day. No matter what! If you want health and weight loss, adding these 10 every single day will do you wonders 🙂
“I am quitting veganism. It’s just too hard… I hate being weird. I hate sticking out. I just want to be normal.”
If you know any former vegans or vegetarians, chances are good this is their primary reason for dropping the lifestyle!
But the good news is it is only getting easier and less weird by the day! Millenials are vegan and vegetarian at a much higher rate (some estimate about 20%). Options for eating out are increasing and animal product substitutes taste better and better every year.
If you want real change you have to be willing to be weird. Stick with it. You won’t be weird for too long.
Reach out for support. Email me. Find a meetup.com group in your area for vegans and vegetarians. Don’t quit! Stand up for what you believe in. BE WILLING TO BE WEIRD.
So you want to be healthy? Do the same thing. Every day.
Ok like, don’t get into a rut. New experiences are awesome. Variety is the spice of life.
But there are certain things you should absolutely do every single day. This, I call autopilot.
Autopilot only really works when the behavior is a healthy one. When I say “do the same thing every day,” it does not apply to eating Doritos and staring at a screen from sun up to sun down. But if that behavior is a healthy breakfast, or an exercise program, or any other of the millions of healthy habits, they should absolutely be put on autopilot.
Let’s start with breakfast.
I am not a morning person. Ask anyone who’s interacted with “Morning Devin” and they will confirm this. I’ve never woken up feeling energized and ready to face the day. It’s always groggy and often negative. It takes a bit for me to get going.
If you put an endless buffet of breakfast options in front of me in the morning I’d likely choose the least healthy items possible. I’m too tired! Don’t give me a complex decision to make in this moment!
I need something easy. And everything started to click for me when my breakfast became automatic.
At the risk of sounding boring, I eat cranberry-walnut oatmeal, every single morning. I also have a pot of green tea. I love it. Not only do I find it to be a delicious combination (with cinnamon and sweetened with maple syrup), but I love the habit. It is comforting, to start every day with the same warm bowl of goodness.
To me this routine sets me up perfectly for my day. And most importantly, I don’t have to confront a complex food decision when tired and most vulnerable. The decision has already been made. I cannot stress how important this is! I don’t choose what to eat for breakfast. I eat my breakfast.
For you, your autopilot breakfast might not be cranberry-walnut oatmeal, and that is ok. You may like more variety (I admit that every once in awhile I’ll mix it up with a different fruit). The point is this:
habits make health.
Besides the morning, the other time of day where habits and routines are most important is right before bed. Like starting my day with my morning oatmeal, I know I will end my day with light stretching and meditation. Finding a quiet, relaxing pre-sleep habit, away from blue screens (this is important) will do wonders for your quality of sleep.
If all you do this week is focus on creating healthy morning and night habits and routines, I’d say it was a pretty good week. NOTE: They don’t have to be the same as mine. This is not prescriptive. Do what works for you, but make sure you find something you can practice indefinitely.
Final note: I find that having healthy habits I can rely on opens me up to new experiences that take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me. When I know that the foundation of my health is built on habits and routines in certain areas of my life, I can be bolder in others. The health foundation cannot be broken, so the risk seems less risky. Embrace the power of habit. Find that thing you can do for the rest of your life that also makes your body come alive.
What will be your healthy morning and nighttime routine?
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Remember back in kindergarten when you learned that you are as unique as a snowflake? This realization that everyone is different is an important developmental stage. When it comes to making an individual healthy, mass marketed solutions often fall short, in part because they forget this childhood lesson.
Diets routinely fail, and programs with personal trainers are abandoned moments after the sessions end. If you enlist the help of a professional nutritionist, they’ll write you a menu plan you are expected to follow to the letter. But that plan might not take into account the fact that you work long crazy hours, have no time to cook, and need simple meals. Or maybe the plan is chock full of eggplant, and you can’t stand eggplant. What are you going to do?
Likewise, simply knowing what you should be doing rarely translates into behavior. Maybe you have no time to exercise. Most people feel like they don’t have time to exercise. But simply telling yourself to “exercise more!” does nothing, does it? Likewise, signing up with a trainer doesn’t magically give you an extra hour in your day.
Put simply, what works for me might not work for you.
That is why you need a health coach. With a health coach, you are in the driver’s seat. You set your own goals. You determine your success. You are treated like a unique individual.
What does that really mean?
Health coaches act like detectives. The goal of each individual session is to talk about you. To talk about your habits, your lifestyle, and your motivation.
Some questions might be: What does an average day look like? When do you have time to eat? How much are you sleeping? What are your stress levels like? When you get home from work are you too tired to cook? The answers to questions like these help you and your coach dial into solutions for your life — not someone else’s.
Health coaches provide perspective on your daily habits, and help you find a way to tweak them so they get marginally better. Over time, a small, incremental change easily becomes a huge health improvement. Fifteen more minutes of sleep; one more fruit or vegetable; twenty minutes more of activity. Turning small changes into daily habits leads to lifelong results.
How to get sustainable results
Results from fad diets, trainers, and strict plans are temporary. Unless you are wealthy, hiring a personal trainer is unsustainable. You work out hardcore for a month, lose some weight, then gain it right back when you can’t afford more sessions. Why? Because you didn’t learn new habits.
You may turn to the latest fad diet, and, you may lose weight. But what happens when you get tired of restricting your eating in the same way over and over? The weight comes back. Why? You didn’t learn new habits.
Health coaches teach lifestyle
Lifestyle is the combination of small daily habits performed indefinitely. The job of a health coach is to help you find better habits that are tailored to your life.
Don’t settle for someone else’s solutions. A health coach will help you find lifelong solutions that lead to a healthier you.Sign up today for personalized health coaching