The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by journalist Michael Pollan is a long book about where food comes from. For me, it was a quick and fascinating read and I highly recommend it to everyone. For a more accessible/ quickly digested version, you can watch Food Inc., which is based on Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation (which is too gross for me to read). In a nutshell, OD convinced me to strive to eat more naturally, more in harmony with our own biology, more the way our ancestors ate (before fast food and TV dinners came along). Of course, I did not make all 10 of the following changes at once -- because I'm more into Going Green Gradually, doncha know. I made these 10 changes over about a 2-year period of time.
1. I spend more on food than I used to.
And feel good about it, despite the fact that in my heart I am a thrifty person. Of all developed nations, the U.S. spends the least per capita on food and the most per capita on health care. That’s food for thought. Also, American Taxpayers subsidize junk food because the government subsidizes corn and soy, which are used to feed the cattle that are made into fast food hamburgers and which are converted into hundreds of weird ingredients that go into processed food. So I skip the cheap calories, and go for the more nourishing ones. I think searching for value instead of just cheapness is part of being thrifty. Quality over quantity.
I had already started buying more organic produce before I read OD, but OD convinced me to get my organic produce through local farmers by participating in a CSA. Now all my money goes straight to farmers (not middle men or industrial organic companies) and I get super fresh, nutritious and delicious produce delivered close to my home. I also enjoy taking my children to see where their food comes from (see above photo).
3. I buy organic chicken thighs instead of regular chicken breasts.
When some friends from Colombia (who have a farm) visited the U.S., they were positively freaked out by the size of chicken breasts in the grocery store. Chicken breasts in the U.S. are abnormally large because of the way we breed and raise chickens in the U.S. I will spare you the details in case you are not interested. Chicken breasts are also dry and tasteless, in my experience. I can buy organic thighs for about the same price as regular breasts.
4. I no longer eat conventional beef.
Before reading OD, I had already sworn off ground beef after reading articles such as this one from the New York Times (do not read if you want to continue eating cheeseburgers at McDonald’s). After reading OD and all about where your beef comes from (CAFOs or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), I decided no more conventional beef for me. Disgusting and inhumane. I still eat grass-fed free-range beef that I get through my CSA every once in a while. It's pretty pricey.
5. I eat less meat, more tofu and beans.
This is both healthier and cheaper. Now that I buy less processed and less medicated meat, I can’t afford to buy as much of it, so about one-third of our meals are now vegetarian.
6. I buy only cage-free eggs.
As I stated above, I made the 10 changes over a couple of years, not all at once. But one change I did make immediately after reading OD was a switch to cage-free eggs, because I was that disturbed by what I read about the egg-laying chickens’ living conditions. Then, when I was pregnant with my second child, I was sick for 30 weeks. I ate 4 eggs and wheat toast for breakfast, and animal crackers for the rest of the day. I was living off of eggs. Since my 8-pound baby was basically made of eggs, I have forever felt very grateful for the chickens who laid those eggs. And so I continue to feel good about paying twice as much as I have to for my eggs so that those chickens can lead a decent life (with their beaks in tact).
7. I started paying much more attention to ingredients.
As Michael Pollan suggests, if a product has an ingredient that I’m not familiar with, I try not to buy it. Michael Pollan's subsequent books, In Defense of Food and Food Rules, have several other good rules for limiting your processed foods: don’t buy anything with more than 5 ingredients, don’t buy it if your grandmother would not recognize it (blue yogurt in a tube), don’t eat it if it never rots (twinkie, spam). Because I pay more attention to ingredients, I have cut back on processed foods, even “healthy” processed foods. For even more "food rules" from Michael Pollan's Food Rules, click HERE for excerpts from the book.
8. I make my own bread, hummus and granola.
In general, OD convinced me that I should make my own food as much as possible. If you make your food at home, you have a lot more control over and knowledge about what goes into it. Any foods we eat a ton of, I try to figure out how to make myself.
9. I do my weekly grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s.
If you shop at Trader Joe’s, you avoid the weirdest of the weird ingredients (most of TJ's products have no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no preservatives, no rBST or recombinant bovine growth hormone in dairy products). So this is a great place to buy your cereal, dairy products, packaged goods, junk food and treats. They also have very competitive prices on organic produce and dairy products. Sometimes the organic product is the same price as the equivalent conventional product!
10. I started thinking more about the impact of my eating habits on the earth.
I was already on the road to more natural eating by the time I read Omnivore’s Dilemma. But mainly because I was worried about the impact of pesticides and artificial hormones on my young children. Reading OD informed me about the effect of factory farming and industrial agriculture on animal welfare, the quality of our soils, the health of our planet, and the health of present and future generations of humans and animals. It changed the way I thought about food.
Leave a comment below to win your very own copy of Food Rules by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. Click HERE for excerpts from the book. It's used, because I read it, so it may have minor signs of wear, but it is basically new. I purchased the book myself, so no one gave me anything for free to write this post. To win a copy of Food Rules, leave a comment below. Feel free to email others and blog about it, but I am going to allow just one entry per person because I decided it's more fun that way. In your comment feel free to answer these questions (or not):
- How have your eating habits changed over the years?
- What has influenced your eating habits?
This post is part of Top Ten Tuesday and Works for Me Wednesday.