How conscious are you of the food you are putting into your body? Do you think about where it comes from? How it is made? How it will benefit you? How much energy it took to produce the food or get it to your plate? Are you a ‘conscientious foodie’?
Working as a dietitian, I think about food almost every minute of my day. I would call myself a ‘conscientious foodie’ in many ways but I confess to not always thinking about how it gets to my plate and what impact it has on the world around me by getting there. I recently listened to a fantastic webinar presented by Corey Watts from the Climate Institute in Australia where he debunked many of the myths surrounding Food Miles. It’s a hugely complex area that I won’t delve into in detail, but it did highlight to me that there is a lot we don’t know about how we can best reduce our food miles. There are, however, some simple steps we can all take to ensure the food we are eating does ourselves and the planet some good – or at least less harm.
Corey was very pragmatic in his approach – he didn’t suggest we all become vegetarians or cease eating food produced overseas because there are political/economical/ethical arguments both for and against these positions. He merely suggested we become a little more fussy with our food choices and find out more about where our food comes from.
Another passionate food/environment commentator, Michael Pollan, who has become a well-known author of books such as Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, also offers some very sensible advice about making food choices. His mantra:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
These few words say a lot. The essence, really, is that we should be eating foods in their most natural form as much as possible, we shouldn’t be eating huge amounts of any particular food and it’d be great if plant foods made up the majority of our diet, keeping meat as a side dish rather than a main. You can read more about what Pollan has to say here.
I’d like to follow in these sensible footsteps by providing some of my own practical ideas of how we can make more of a difference to our bodies and our environment without having to eliminate all our favourite foods.
My top tips on how to become a more ‘conscientious foodie’:
– Eat locally produced food where possible. In Singapore, this means going to your local wet market for fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood and herbs and spices rather than the supermarket. These foods will not only have travelled shorter distances to get to us but they will be cheaper, fresher and often tastier as well.
– Grow your own vegetables and herbs, even if you have a small balcony
– Focus on quality not quantity when it comes to food. As many wise grandmothers have said: ‘It’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor’.
– Think about where your food has come from – if you can’t explain it to your children, it’s not worth eating
– Follow the healthy plate model – aim for your meal to contain ½ plate of vegetables, ¼ plate of wholegrain carbohydrates and ¼ plate of meat or alternatives
– If you eat packaged foods, choose those with the smallest list of ingredients. If you can’t pronounce any of the ingredients, they are not worth eating
– Choose foods that taste good because they have been produced with love. For example, there is no doubt that eggs produced using birds that are allowed to roam freely taste better. The meat of such animals also tastes a whole lot better.
– Savour every mouthful. Eat slowly and enjoy your food for how it’s supposed to taste!