As I’ve previously mentioned, I choose to eat S.L.O.W foods; that is seasonal, local, organic (or at least sustainable), whole foods – these are healthy food choices. Once again, I simply go back to my philosophy of eating as close to the natural source as possible. SLOW foods are the only foods my grandmothers, grandmother would have consumed? I do the best I can, and I don’t stress if I can’t always eat this way. Food stress is a pressure we can all do without.
I really don’t want to overwhelm you here, but perhaps just consider some of the small changes you can incorporate, which will be of benefit to your health in many more ways than one. This post is designed to help you to once again, make the best decisions when sourcing your fresh produce. The benefits of eating SLOW foods extends beyond your physical health. Purchasing SLOW foods protects the environment, defends food biodiversity, promotes sustainable agriculture and supports small-scale food producers (keeping your money within your own community).
How and why you need to make sure it is seasonal and local
Fruit and vegetables that are ‘in season’ are always the freshest and most nutritious foods. If sourced locally, this means that they haven’t travelled far and you can be rest assured that the nutritional content is as good as it gets.
Long periods of storage results in a loss of nutrients. Once more fruit, vegetables, meat and fish that has to travel, is routinely treated with a variety of chemicals, to extend their shelf life and to make them look fresher and more appealing. Check out this Choice link, for more detail (well worth reading). You may be getting a whole lot more than you’ve bargained for if you’re not eating locally.
The farmers market is obviously the very best place to get to know what foods are in season and locally grown. Find a farmers market by checking out my health resources guide or visit the Australian Farmers Market Association. There are also many ‘farm to you’ businesses, as well as fantastic organic and local butchers and fruit and vegetable shops selling great local and seasonal produce. Once again see my resources guide for a store near you. Remember you are always entitled to ask your retailer about the produce they sell as sourcing local, seasonal produce alone can make such a massive difference to your health.
If you are shopping in a supermarket, then choose the produce that is marked ‘new season’ and only ever buy ‘Australian’ produce. Buying imported produce exposes your body to potentially dangerous chemicals. This is especially critical to be mindful of when choosing produce to feed children, whose body mass is so much less than adults. If your children like grapes for example, but they are from overseas, I would urge you to reconsider buying them (they’ll like them even more by the time the local season starts again!).
This is a post in itself. But briefly, my reason for trying to consume mostly organic produce is simple. I know that organic produce is more nourishing and organic farming more environmentally sustainable. I also know that organic produce contains far fewer chemicals and pesticides than conventionally farmed produce.
This was clearly demonstrated in a 2011 study where the urine of school children fed a well-balanced conventionally farmed diet, compared to an organically sourced diet was analysed. The chemicals tested for were known to cause disease in humans (being either carcinogenic or hormone disrupters). The result was that:
- Organic group – an average of 8 chemicals per child were found
- Conventional produce group – an average of 184 chemicals per child were found
- Of further concern is whilst it is known that these individual chemicals are damaging to our health, what is yet to be determined is how combinations of various chemicals affect us.
- Every year over a thousand chemicals is introduced into our food chain.
The case for consuming organics is strong, simply on the basis of what you are not consuming.
It doesn’t cost the earth to buy organics
There are economic ways to source organic produce. These are the things I do to help to buy within my budget-
- Shop at farmers markets. You’ll save money by buying more of the things you need, and less of the things you don’t. Talk to the farmer about what chemicals he uses. Even with conventionally grown produce, the chemical load will be less if it hasn’t travelled. The other bonus of markets is that you can often sample produce before your buy it. This is great for children, as they can taste a product to decide if they like it, before you buy it.
- Shop around, buy in bulk and stock up the freezer – if you find produce at a good price then buy up and throw it in the freezer (the best chemical free preserver). A lot of my organic produce costs me less than conventional because I shop smart.
- Grow the things that are easy to grow. I’ll have some tips for really simple things that grow with little or no care and in small spaces. More on this soon.
- Use cheap cuts of meat – I’ll be posting lots of recipes using cheap cuts and how to make your dollar go further soon. One thing I do is always bulk out my meal. For example, a lamb shank stew for 4 people will only have 2 shanks in it. I make it go further by adding legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans) and lots of vegetables. Nutritionally this is great too – more variety in the one meal!
- Demand drives down price. When my daughter was a baby, I could not afford to feed the whole family organics. So I had her food (organic) and ours (not organic). Now, organics are much more affordable due to consumer awareness and demand driving prices down.
I hope this post has inspired you to consider your options when grocery shopping and has given you some ideas for making the best choices.
Where do you source well priced, organic produce? Help others by sharing your food contacts, and post comments and questions below. Also check out my ‘Find whole food’ under the Resources tab above.