CHALLENGE: Connect with your food

sustainable swaps, weekly challenge

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My latest challenge has been to re-connect with my food. I think a lot of people blindly shop for their food these days. We simply don’t ask enough questions (where did this come from? Who grew this? What are these ingredients? What does this food do to my body? Are these ingredients harmful? etc). By connecting with your food, you connect with your body and health and happiness.

My “re-connection” with food was sparked by a recent dietary challenge* after trying veganism (FYI I was inspired to go vegan after watching the documentary Cowspiracy). However my body reacted so badly (terribly, painfully) to this new seemingly healthy diet that I had to keep a food diary and really, truly, think about everything I ate.

If you’ve watched a documentary like Cowspiracy, Food Inc, or even Jamie Oliver’s Fowl Dinners (I was vegetarian for years after watching that one!), you’ll start to question what (or more importantly WHO) you are eating.

Here are some simple challenges you can set yourself to reconnect with your food:

BUY LOCAL

There really is not comparison to buying your fresh food (fruit, vegetables, meats, dairy + more) from the farmer’s markets. You are buying direct from the grower. You can ask questions and get answers. It’s also a great way to buy food in season (i.e. not buying vegetables flown in from the other side of the world). It’s also a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning!

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EATING MEAT

Spending a good portion of my life as a vegetarian (and that small time as a vegan!), I have had to learn the hard (and emotional) way that I need meat in my diet. Some people make this choice because they simply like the taste. But hey, let’s at least give a shit about how this animal came to be yeah?

Some easy ways to keep meat in the diet in a sustainable and ethical way:

  • Get your portions right. The Australian Department of Health suggests a maximum of around seven serves of protein a week. A serve of meat is around 90-100g raw meat (that’s about the size of a burger patty!). So that means only one meal a day should be meat, or if you have a large portion of meat in one meal then skip the meat the next day. Don’t forget two eggs are considered a portion of protein, so you could forgo the meat all together if you had eggs for breakfast! Some quick and easy solutions: Cut your steak portions in half. Roast a whole chook at the start of the week and you’ll be set for days (you can even freeze the leftovers).
  • Choose ethically sourced meat. Livestock kept in natural habitats (i.e. pasture fed cows and free range chickens) are a better choice. Organic and bio-dynamic is even better. Their livestock are generally given a much better life and the farms they come from don’t use pesticides, herbicides, growth promotors or hormones – and they don’t eat genetically modified food.

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GROW YOUR OWN

I know, easier said than done – and nothing is more demotivating than being a plant killer. I’d suggest starting small; herbs are generally pretty easy and move on to leafy greens from there. Check on your plants regularly to check they’re happy and healthy and look out for pests. More on this later!

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REFUSE PLASTIC

This goes beyond remembering to bring your ‘green bags’ (which by the way, are an environmental nightmare in themselves – the fabric is made out of plastic!). But extending your bag collection to produce bags (some are made from mesh, or you can make your own hessian ones), and bringing plastic tubs with you (for bulk buying fine things like flours or liquids etc).

If you buy through a bulk buy store (who openly welcome you BYO container) or local farmer’s markets it will be a lot easier to avoid this conundrum. I fear that refusing plastic containers at conventional supermarkets will just have them thrown in the bin.

When I went to the farmer’s markets however, it was super easy. I asked the organic farmer if I placed my cherry tomatoes into my own bag would they take the plastic tubs back to reuse them? They were more than happy to accommodate me and even commented that the plastic tubs are quite expensive. I also managed to visit a banana stand just as the lady was about to bag up a kilo of bananas, I told her to not bother bagging them up and to simply had them over. No problem.

So here are some initial challenges to get you reconnected with your food. What will you choose first? What will be your biggest challenge?

 

* by dietary challenge I mean the doctors can’t seem to diagnose why I react to certain foods. I’ve spent the last 10 years eating a self-diagnosed gluten intolerant diet but am now finding myself intolerant of other foods too. The GP has simply handed over a FODMAP diet information sheet and wished me luck.

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