Sunday, September 12, 2010

Your New-Found Food Limitations and Not Being Pretentious

After allowing it to die a slow and painful death last year, I've re-purposed this blog.

This blog is now about local and organic eating practices, and the confusion surrounding what's alright to put on your plate. I'm going to try my best not to scare you into submission -- I hope to instead provide accurate information that can lead to healthy, environmentally friendly decisions. This is about supporting local, organic, and humane practices while NOT supporting Big Agriculture or Big Pharma.

I will try to hold to my promise, and in return you have to make a promise to me.

Repeat after me: I will not be pretentious. I will not be pretentious.

I've been in that position, you see. I've been that jerk on her high horse when someone brings up high fructose corn syrup, 'health' food, and Big Ag. The looks I've received range from confusion to contempt. I want to save you from the embarrassment. Just because you're educated about food doesn't mean you have the right to berate your friends and family over their grocery list.

Struggling with my addiction, I choose to keep my mouth shut and instead write about what I know and what I continue to learn.

My life has changed dramatically since researching the current state of mass food production in the United States and the 'alternative' ways to eat, which are really the ways our not-too-distant ancestors ate regularly. These are my house rules, mostly adapted from Michael Pollan:

Attempt to buy 90% of meat from the local farmer's market. For us, this means all our beef and pork comes from local producers. Most of the time, chicken is either unavailable or insanely expensive (due to strict and difficult-to-obtain regulations, which we'll discuss later). Chicken has to be purchased at the grocery store, but only the kind labeled "USDA Certified Organic".
On that note, buy eggs locally.
Keep track of what is in season and buy produce accordingly.
Realize the term 'all-natural' doesn't necessarily mean anything.
Stay away from convenience food. A great incentive in my state to do this is the 'convenience tax' found on frozen meals and bagged salads.
Don't be afraid to try a new recipe with your 'expensive' meat, cheese, produce, whatever. How else will you enjoy it?
Try to avoid restaurants that have a corporate office.
Avoid high-fructose corn syrup like the plague. This means reading EVERY label and most likely putting the item back on the shelf. There will probably be several posts devoted exclusively to high-fructose corn syrup in the future.
Recognize the label 'organic' is not synonymous with 'low-fat'.
Don't be discouraged when "Meatless Monday" turns into "Pizza Monday".
Keep in mind that flash-frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as their fresh cousins. HOWEVER, be certain that ALL that is in the bag is the produce you expect -- the ingredient list should be one item long.
Feed your pets high-quality food. It might all look like kibble to you, but there's a huge difference between, say, Iams and Blue Buffalo.
Keep in mind that commercials serve to entice you to buy, not to keep you well-informed. With that, if a commercial is extolling the health benefits of a product, it's most likely not good for you. (Exception: The Incredible Edible Egg commercials, but we'll talk about that in more detail at another time).
Continue researching and cooking. And don't be pretentious!


Elegant Stitches said...

Good luck with your new blog. We are looking forward to a food education!

Payton said...

Thank you very much!

Kingsley Tang said...

"Minus pretension" is a great way to approach to this subject. The quicker we can get different ways of approaching food out of the "crazy snobbing, new-wave, hippy, liberal" side of our society and into the mainstream the better. And the only way to do this is to drop the pretension and distance the subject away itself with all of those stereotypes above.

This is a really hard issue. The best way to impact change in our food culture is to vote with you dollar unfortunately many people can't afford to do so.

Regardless the best way to start is education. Good luck with your blog, I look forward to following it.

Payton said...

It's true that buying organic food can often be more costly, however I justify our higher grocery bill because I don't have health insurance. I'd rather pay more now for great food than on prescriptions and visits to the doctor later on.

For some reason, though, that kind of an approach is deemed 'elitist'. I call it 'smart'.

Thanks for your support!

Amy said...

Another tip that my family lives by:

Just because an item is organic, doesn't mean it's the best choice! You want Organic AND healthy.

What I mean by this mostly is sodium content. For example, some organic foods that I find at Whole Foods seem great and all, but they have a really high sodium content. My family and I choose to stay away from this and look for foods (this mostly applies to snacks or boxed foods) that are both organic and low in sodium. (This stems from a family history of heart disease!)

Awesome post, Payton!

Payton said...

Thanks Amy! And I'll definitely be sure to include that in future posts. When they finally make organic Oreos, it doesn't mean you can scarf down a whole box and be a-ok. I think it's a common misconception that organic automatically means healthier, and it's great to point out that you still have to read labels.