Changing the Way We Eat
On Saturday we watched the speakers of TEDx Manhattan challenge us to change the way we eat. With topics ranging from adopting a vegan diet to purposefully growing weeds for food, these leaders in the food community all agreed that something needs to change.
With obesity, hunger and food waste running rampant in the United States, it’s apparent that something is broken in our food system. While there are serious issues to address there is a subsequent rise of activists and policy makers working to create change. All you have to do is take a look around Austin. In our beloved city we have numerous organizations, individuals and businesses addressing the hurdles facing health and food security in our town.
While this topic could be discussed and analyzed for days, we’ll leave you with the ten “rules” that TEDxManhattan provided on how we can change the way we eat. Here’s to growing, learning and loving our food.
1. Educate yourself – Unfortunately, there is no all-encompassing guide that answers all sustainable food questions, so you need to learn what you can about the food industry and decide for yourself who deserves your support. The following books are a great place to start: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Hope’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé, Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel. For more recommendations, check out Grist’s Favorite Food Books of 2010:www.grist.org/article/2010-12-20-favorite-food-books-of-2010.
2. Shop sustainable – Where do you get your food? If you answered farmer’s market, CSA or food co-op, you are already concerned with sustainability. Wherever you shop, choose local, organic and/or sustainable items over their industrial, non-local counterparts. When buying meat and dairy, look for free-range, pasture-raised, and antibiotic free. Seek out items with less packaging or skip the packaging altogether by buying bulk items with your own bags. To find sustainable farms, restaurants and markets near you, visit Eat Well Guide or Local Harvest.
3. Ask questions – One of the greatest benefits of buying your food straight from the farmer is talking directly with the person who grew the food. We ask our farmers all sorts of questions, from ‘what’s the most delicious way to cook this lamb chop’ to ‘what’s integrated pest management’ and ‘do you use any synthetic fertilizers’? If your local grocery doesn’t carry local or organic foods, ask the manager about it! You’d be surprised at the buying power you plus a few friends possess. Check out Huffington Post’s Seven Great Questions to Ask Your Farmer or visit Sustainable Table’s Question Guide.
4. Eat Less Meat – Eating lots of meat is not only bad for you, it’s bad for the environment. Eating less meat can reduce your chances of developing chronic conditions like some types of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Meat, especially from industrial feedlots, is hugely energy intensive, requiring thousands of gallons of water and approximately 40 fossil-fuel calories for every edible calorie. When you do want to eat meat, make sure you support farms that raise and slaughter their animals in a humane and sustainable way. For recipes and resources for going meatless, visit Meatless Monday.
5. Eat seasonal – No matter the season, our supermarkets are filled with a vast array of produce from all around the world. But just because you can find a stalk of asparagus in January doesn’t mean you should eat it! Eating seasonally means buying produce that’s grown locally and eating it right away. Local food has a lesser environmental impact, is fresher, and is produced by your community. That means eating seasonally is healthier for you, your community and the environment! To find a Farmer’s Market near you, visitLocal Harvest. To find a CSA in NYC, visit Just Food’s CSA finder. You can also find Farmer’s Markets and CSAs at the Eat Well Guide.
6. Grow your own – There’s no better way to know your farmer than to be your farmer! Growing your own food guarantees the most healthful, freshest, and satisfying produce you can get your hands on. From a few herbs or sprouts in your kitchen window, to a full veggie patch at your local community garden, growing your own food is the coolest way to go green. For NYC dwellers, find a garden through Green Thumb. If you have high hopes and a tiny apartment, check out Windowfarms!
7. Cook – Eating out poses many challenges to the sustainable eater. How and where does the restaurant get its ingredients? How much food do they throw away? What’s their water consumption? The only guaranteed way to know your food is prepared sustainable is to see the meal start to finish; from buying (or growing?!) the ingredients, through the peeling, chopping, roasting, sautéing, and plating, clear to the last delicious bite. For culinary inspiration, visit Chef Michel Nischan’s recipe page.
8. Drink Local – Approximately 33% of the 2.4 million tons of PET plastic discarded every year is from water bottles—that means 800,000 tons of plastic water bottles will sit in a landfill for thousands of years before decomposing. Bottled water is no safer than tap water; in fact most bottled water is tap water! Trash the bottle and drink your local tap instead. To uncover more facts, watch the story of bottled water at Food & Water Watch. If you need a water refill, visit TapItwater.com to locate a spout, or download their app!
9. Get Involved – Change happens because dedicated people like you support it. Decide on the issues that matter most to you and start or join the campaigns that protect them. Visit non-profits that are fighting for good, clean food like the Environmental Working Group and Slow Food USA to get started.
10. Enjoy! Eating can and should be the simplest joy we all have. Sharing a meal brings people together in a way that little else does. Knowing that the food you eat is grown with care for the environment, farmers, animals, and your own health will only add to your joyful food experience. For tips on creating a loving food environment, check out Laurie David’s new book “The Family Dinner.”