Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Food for Thought

Tonight I went to a free class given by a Holistic Nutritionist that was focused on maximizing your produce purchases. My motives for attending the class were to learn her tips, meet her as I am studying to be a certified Holistic Nutritionist myself and take mental notes on how she led her class for the public. She offered some interesting information that I thought I would pass along. We talked about shopping for produce at the farmer's markets. This is one of my great joys. To me a morning at the farmer's market is a morning well spent. I just happen to live in a part of the country that produces amazing food and has farmer's markets everyday of the week. It is very easy to get overwhelmed or to make impromptu purchases. When everything is fresh and looks and smells so good it is difficult to pass it up. I definitely have this problem. There have been several shopping trips resulting in several full bags of produce that I have had no plan for and eventually it goes to waste. That is good food and money down the drain. Her suggestions for avoiding this seem pretty common sense but I feel safe in saying that many of us do not use them. First set a monetary budget for the market so once that amount is spent you are done purchasing. Next take note of what you already have in your kitchen so you do not end up re buying things you already have and to help you meal plan for the foods you will purchase. Meal planning is a crucial step before any grocery shopping expedition. Keeping it simple as far as the recipes go is also a great idea. A few spices and some quality oils are really all that is needed to enjoy fresh produce from the farmer's markets or your local grocery store that sells local produce. The more ingredients, the more expensive it gets and the less focus and appreciation is given to the veggie or fruit being eaten. I think this is an important point. As a kid my dad planted a huge garden in the summers. I remember walking down the rows of snap peas, green beans and tomatoes and picking these treasures off the vines and eating them on the spot. Sometimes dinner was a few different veggies cooked together with salt, pepper and maybe a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. As a kid I did not know to appreciate these meals and fresh growing snacks in the backyard but as a adult I very much appreciate them and the experience of eating this way. I think we have lost a lot of our innocence when it comes to real, whole foods. We do not respect the "simple" carrot, apple, raspberry, tomato, etc. We want a carrot cake, an apple tart, raspberry sauce on chocolate or tomato salsa. Sure these things taste great but a raspberry picked off the vine is awesome, alive and bursting with a flavor that you will not get to enjoy after it has been made into a sugary sauce for something else. Keeping it simple allows us to appreciate the flavors mother nature provides for us. They are bountiful. The other fabulous thing about the farmer's markets is getting to interact with the growers. I love talking to the farmers about the foods laid out on the tables. There is nobody better to tell how to choose, store and prepare what you are buying than the people who grew it and make their living off of these foods. I find that they are very enthusiastic and eager to share with their customers. It is encouraging and inspiring to me to talk to these people and hear the respect that they have for food I plan on eating. I think that lack of respect is one of the BIG problems we have in this country when it comes to our food supply. Lack of respect for the things that fuel and nurture our bodies. We have gotten so brainwashed by and used to eating stuff that comes from industrialized businesses whose goal is the bottom line not feeding us or keeping us healthy. For some reason we have taken the bait and we are paying the price with our health. We consume things like aspartame and high fructose corn syrup without a thought. We think if it has been allowed by the government it must be ok. Well lots of prescription drugs are allowed by the government and come with booklets of possible side effects. Think about that.
It is not difficult to eat healthy. You do not need a Master's Degree in nutrition to eat right. There is a lot to understand but humans have done it from day one. You just need to eat what mother nature is providing for you. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits and dare I say this as a tried and true vegan but some animal products if they are sourced well from farms that ONLY pasture raise their animals organically. Of the later all I want to say is that I hold firm to my beliefs as a vegan but I know that we are all individual in our metabolic typing and we need to honor that or we will become sick. Being a vegan works for me. It will be 2 years in September and I was vegetarian for 16 years prior to that. I do not push my lifestyle on anyone. I do believe that if you eat animal products they MUST come from the "humane", pasture raised, organic farm. I have spoken to farmers who sell animal meat and dairy at my local farmer's markets and found some to be a bit stand offish and some to be very open and eager to talk to me about their practices. As a Nutrition Consultant I have to be able to tell people where to get their food and animal products are a part of that no matter my preference. This is the beauty of the farmer's markets getting to be surrounded with awesome food and the people growing/raising it. Getting the opportunity to speak with them about their practices and make informed choices. It gives me a whole new point of view, appreciation and love of food. So I might have gotten on my soapbox here a bit but hopefully it has inspired some readers to take a more vested interest in what is on the end of your forks and how it got there.

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