1. You can renew your relationship with food and all life, as well as planning how you can grow some of your own food. A garden, whether it’s a window box herb garden, an urban lot, or a rural plot, can provide enlightened eating enrichment. Herbs in pots, flowering fruits such as strawberries, or decorative and edible vegetables can be grown in a window box. If you have a balcony or a patio-container garden, there are many other possibilities – flowering peas, nasturtiums, peppers, lettuces and tomatoes – perhaps mixed with fragrant flowers that will discourage insects. Good spring foods to consume are the leafy green vegetables, such as chard and kale, and lettuces (all of which add many important nutrients to your diet). Also, growing (or buying) fresh sprouts is a fun and simple way to see nature in action, and these sprouted grains, beans and seeds have good protein and many nutrients.
2. If you do have space for a larger garden, become familiar with organic methods of pest control. Also be aware of the quality of the seeds you use. (The "terminator technology" is here with non-viable seeds and genetically-modified foods, especially soybeans and corn. The seeds of these foods cannot be replanted EVER and the chemical and genetic changes in the plants are toxic to insects, the Earth and to all of us.) Sharing the bounty of your garden with others is a great way to build community and get others interested in healthy eating.
3. Investigate the possibility of community gardening, either in an existing space or somewhere new. Working with other people is a great way to stay motivated and to get results that would be difficult to achieve alone.
4. Investigate and shop at Farmer’s Markets in your area. The more local the food, the less processing it generally has to go through to get to your table (and often the less chemical spraying, in contrast to out-of-season produce and products shipped from other countries). Talk and listen to the people that you are buying from and make discerning choices. You will likely find that the growers are committed to the idea of healthier foods and are a good source of information about what is available in your area.
5. Become aware of which foods are most likely to be handled in ways that are detrimental to your health (pesticides, chemical additives, irradiation and genetic engineering) and eliminate them from your diet, or buy them in organic form. Check my book, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, for more specifics.
6. Always carry fresh water and a healthy snack with you. Avoid making food decisions or doing your food shopping when you are ravenously hungry and will eat anything. Eating on the run often involves poor nutrition, unnecessary packaging and inadequate digestion time, which can leave you more tired and run-down. Making time for your own needs and preparing ahead will lead to having more energy for your busy day, and more importantly, not having to spend your valuable resources and time recovering from the results of years of unwise choices.
7. In a supportive way, talk (and listen) with family, friends and coworkers about the changes you are making. The more people that are aware of food health issues, the more impact we as consumers will make on the market, NOW! Get involved by making your views known in the marketplace. Many groups are lobbying for better labeling laws, more humane and less toxic farming practices, and cleaner food.
8. Support and eat at restaurants that provide wholesome menus or advertise "No MSG." Ask about additives and other health issues. I do! Request that your food be prepared without extra salt or MSG and find out the quality of the oils used. Many restaurants add hidden sugars and fats to make their food taste better. The overall reaction you get from your meal will determine whether that restaurant is a good one for you. These questions may influence restaurateurs’ decisions if they know it affects whether you spend your money there. When eating out, avoid killer desserts, big starchy meals and poor food. Remember that it’s not usually the fat that makes us fat; it’s the overeating of sweets and starches.
9. Be aware of other ways chemicals enter your life that are potentially detrimental to your health, such as household cleaners, detergents, cosmetics and even toothpastes. These familiar products that we all take for granted can all affect you, as well as the health of your loved ones (especially children and pets who are more vulnerable). Exposure to chemicals in the workplace or in department stores can be significant, as indoor pollution is often a greater concern than outdoor exposure.
10. Above all, let these changes occur naturally. Be mindful of what is important to you and work to educate yourself on those issues. Small changes can have a snowball affect and the better you feel, the more you will want to do.
P.S. If you have school-age children or aging parents, be sure to inquire into their dietary provisions in school or other care facilities. Look at my tips on Nourishing Our Children. Let us exercise our nutritional rights while we still have them, because without these treasures, life is not the wondrous adventure it can be.
© 2015 by Elson Haas, MD