Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SOLE food

This week I'm participating once again in Reduce Footprints' Change the World Wednesday. The challenge this past week was:

This week, for seven whole days, read food labels and refuse to buy anything containing the following:
  • Hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives
  • Bleached or bromated flour
  • Any ingredients that you aren't familiar with and/or can't pronounce
Following "food rules" has become somewhat trendy, thanks largely to Michael Pollan in my opinion. I'm still a fan of his "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." advice. The Change the World Wednesday challenge rules this week really fall under the "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" umbrella, which I've been trying to do anyway as it just seems like a logical way to eat.

Anyway, this week's challenge is one I think is really important. Thanks, if we're being perfectly honest here, to my son's food allergies, I've become an avid label reader. (Yay, food allergies! See, it's not all bad. In my experience, people with food allergies in the family tend to eat more deliberately, and often healthier. I know our transition to a healthier diet was spurred in a large part by B-man's allergies!)

I think everyone should spend at least a week reading food labels. It can be an eye opening experience! Find out what those weird ingredients are, what they're made of, how they're manufactured.

While I love this week's challenge, I think those rules are covered by trying to eat SOLE food, which has been my aim. SOLE stands for Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical. No, there's no way to eat a 100% SOLE diet, or at least, no way for ME to do it. I'm sure someone could! But I'm all about the babysteps, so I try to hit at least one of those 4 points as often as I can. If you eat SOLE food, you're pretty much guaranteed to be following the rules of this week's challenge.

So what do those things mean? Here's some brief points:

Sustainable: food that is grown in a sustainable manner. For example, not a monoculture that saps the soil, not reliant on chemical fertilizers. Basically, farmed and produced in a manner that isn't actively destroying the planet. This is harder than you'd think.

Organic: The most well-known and defined of all the points, so I'm not going into much detail. However, I will say it's the least important to me. Many small farms can't afford organic certification. Both CSA's I've belonged to grow food organically but do not have organic certification. I'm also not completely opposed to IPM practices and buy quite a bit of locally grown IPM produce in the summer.

Local: Again, pretty well-known, and certainly well-discussed here and on the local New England blog I write for. I love there to be a relationship between me and a farmer; to actually see where my food is being produced. And even when that's not possible, a local food choice saves food-miles--the distance food is shipped. Eating locally also means eating in season, and let's be honest: in season food just tastes better. So really, that's no hardship. But, I'll never be a full-time locavore. I like coffee, and lemons, and chocolate. Bananas and avocado. Unless we move to Florida or Southern California, which we won't, I'm never going to be 100% local.

Ethical: This is what I actually think is the most important point, and at least for me, the most overlooked. How is our food produced? Are the workers subjected to dangerous conditions in slaughterhouses? Are they paid a living wage? Are the farmers applying excessive fertilizer that is running off into the ocean? Are the animals being treated humanely (even if you're not a big animal-rights activist, it's hard to ignore this after having seen Food, Inc.)? Do the fishing practices destroy the ocean floor? Are the rain forests being destroyed to clear land for the product you're buying? These are just a few of the ethical considerations raised. By trying to adhere to the S, O, and L, you eliminate many of these issues, but certainly not all.

Anyway, I don't have any answers. Just things I've been thinking about. And don't think for one second I'm claiming to be perfect, or passing judgment on those who can't or don't eat this way. I don't want to be hypocritical, but I've had to stop using my inability to commit 100% as an excuse. No, I'm not prepared, either time-wise or money-wise or food-choice-wise to eat a totally SOLE diet. However, this is another one of my small steps. Even one SOLE ingredient a meal is a good start. And I've found that as I become more cognizant of these issues, and try new types of food and new sources of food, it becomes easier and easier. My cupboards and refrigerator become stocked with better choices, and my repertoire of meals expands to include many in season, local choices.

Thank, Small Footprints, for another interesting, thought-provoking challenge!


Green tip for the day: plan an oven- and stove-free day, and no cheating and going out to eat! Have sandwiches, cut up fruit, veggies with dip, leftovers from a previous dinner that you can heat in the microwave. Plan ahead and make a pasta salad you can eat cold for a few days. Have hummus, feta cheese, and spinach on a pita or wrap. There are tons of healthy, delicious meals you can have without having to turn on the stove! As an added plus, many of the meals are quick and easy to prepare! Have an idea for an energy-saving, no-stove/oven meal? Leave a comment!


Amy said...

I have been trying to be really good at reading food labels. I would love to do more SOLE eating and am trying so hard. My husband and I just watched Food Inc this weekend and I am amazed at how much it affected me. I have wanted to become a vegetarian in the past but never have been able to until now. Between how the animals are treated and how unhealthy they are for you the way they are treated, I am now on my way to becoming a lacto-ovo vegetarian. Thanks for an interesting post.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good idea. I read a lot of food labels too - got into the habit from my Dad, who was on a strict low-fat, low-salt diet. And with an allergic kid, it continues!

For coffee and chocolate (which I couldn't give up either!), you could go with Fair trade or shade grown or something like that?

Enjoy your SOLE-ful week!

Maggie said...

Well you know I'm obsessed with HFCS and Splenda LOL so I read every label on everthing - everyday. Even meds, now that I've purchased generic acetaminophen and prescription nasal spray that both had sucralose in them.

We're still doing our CSA in the winter, which is where we get 80% of our fresh veg from. Sometimes I just need onions or potatoes, and E loves bananas, so we have to buy those from afar. I'd say 95% of the meat we eat is local - what we don't get from the farm, I can actually get from Whole Foods (they have pork and beef) or our local grocery (they have local chicken) which is awesome. Plus now that I know how much better grass fed beef is to taste and for your body, I'm kind of excited about it. And don't get me started on heritage hogs....YUM YUM YUM.

Emlyn drinks local milk (it's sooo creamy!) and I get local cheese when I can, and even local pasta if I'm buying fresh. So that's nice.

Where I falter is snacks, drinks, and pantry items. We have local corn meal and honey, but everything else is from afar of course. Ah - one thing at a time.