As you find your way on your health journey, getting your food choices sorted can be what Charles Duhigg calls a keystone habit in his book The Power of Habit: a keystone habit is one that not only creates a desired change—it also has a cascade of other good habits that follow in its wake.
Many people have at least heard about the seasonal, organic, and local food movements, and you can read the earlier posts in this series here: Seasonal, Organic, Local. This month, we’re pushing the up button and taking it to the next level.
E is for Ethical
Have you ever thought about the people who bring you “cheap” food?
Behind most of the inexpensive food in America, whether we’re looking at stores or restaurants—is a host of woefully underpaid workers with no benefits whatsoever: growers, pickers (many of them migrants), drivers, processors, cooks, and servers.
If you want to learn more about this human rights issue, I recommend the documentary The Harvest/La Cosecha as well as the books The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan and Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman. Many of the workers they describe cannot afford to purchase healthful, fresh food for themselves and their families, and the resulting cost to our society continues to increase in the areas of healthcare, food assistance, and many others.
How to not be silently complicit
Buying your food directly from a local grower whom you know and trust is a start. Money spent in a locally-owned small business tends to stay in the local economy in the form of wages for local workers, who in turn shop locally as well, not just for food but for other necessities, increasing the support of local businesses.
For what used to be considered luxury goods such as sugar, coffee, and chocolate, which tend to come from developing countries where the labor force often lives under horrible conditions, seek out items labeled “certified fair trade.”
As with organics, fair trade can be “spendy,” which may actually make you reduce the number (and amount) of imported items you purchase and appreciate them more when you do indulge!
A word here about “superfoods” such as açai berries, quinoa, etc. Forget for a moment that it’s a bit crazy to think that if a little of something is good for us, we should overdose on it.
I have an immediate distrust of these foods, and here is why: many (if not most) of them come from third-world countries, where growers, seeing an opportunity to make more money, rush to produce the latest “it” food for those of us privileged to live in first-world countries. The result is that many native species are removed from the crop rotation, reducing the nation’s food security and degrading the environment—the same monoculture problem that is overwhelming our own country.
Do you really want to be responsible for that? Especially when most of the benefits of these superfoods can be met by a well-informed SOLE food diet: broccoli and blueberries, for example, are superfoods in their own rights.
E is for energetics
Bear with me now—we’re about to dive into what my kids (with an audible eyeroll) call “the hippie woo woo part of the program.”
Our food gives us energy—we get calories and building blocks from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and the vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber we should be getting in addition to those macronutrients makes everything work the way it was designed to.
On a deeper level, think about how food cooked with love from scratch at home tastes as opposed to takeout food you grab mindlessly from a place that produces it in mass quantities from highly processed ingredients.
You’re likely tuning into the energy that was put into the food, and one of the most important vitamins we get from home cooking is Vitamin L, Love.
We are also energetic beings in that we absorb energy from our surroundings as well as from our food.
Have you ever picked up on the energy in a room you just walked into? Whether it’s positive energy (walking into the middle of a celebration) or negative (walking into the middle of an argument), without much effort or conscious thought, we absorb that energy and sometimes even take it on and/or reflect it back out.
Who touched my food?
How many people touch your food on its way to your plate? For most Americans, that includes at least six to eight entities—grower, picker, packer, transporter, wholesaler, retailer, buyer, cook—and who knows how many individuals.
When I think about the energy that is transmitted to food by every person who touches it on its way to my plate, I like to know that they all treat it with love and respect because that’s how they are treated.
Why SOLE food makes sense
SOLE food makes sense to me—as a parent and as a human being—because it falls in line with the values I live by and want to instill in my children:
- Treat your body, mind, and spirit as well as possible so that you can do the most good with this one precious life you’re given.
- Treat the earth with respect so that she can sustain others now and into the future.
- Live in mutually supportive community with others, doing what you can for those less fortunate than yourself—not by keeping them dependent but by empowering them to be self-sufficient.
Drop me a comment and tell me your thoughts about ethical food: Is ethics something you consider when shopping? How do you source ethical food?
Ann Arbor’s Liza Baker, a WLAA health columnist, is a health coach, cookbook author, nonprofit consultant, and woefully underpaid COO of a busy family of four. Liza lives in a half-empty nest in Ann Arbor and is passionate about health and happiness, education and empowerment, SOLE/SOUL food and social justice. You can get a taste of her work on her website and/or join the (Sorta) Secret Sisterhood, her membership site for women over 40.