Friday, February 01, 2008

A Green Foodie's Manifesto

Food and its preparation are consuming- lame pun intended- for me and something I'm passionate about. I have been feeding my family mostly organic since 2005 at which time the impetus for making the switch was Sam's arrival. Since then, numerous people in my life have questioned my rationale for this choice so I've gathered my thoughts and a bit of research to share.

Much of my pregnancy reading mentioned the importance of feeding infants and children organic. For the last year, I've also been trying to incorporate seasonal food into our diet too. The two compliment each other and my values. Both approaches are environmentally responsible and healthful.

Food & the Environment:
Organic food is good for the environment because it's produced without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals that pollute the earth in the process. Buying organic also supports businesses selling goods produced by more environmentally responsible means. As more consumers choose organic options, the economics of the equation become more favorable for us all. Simply put, organic food will become cheaper and more attainable for us as demand for it grows.

Local, seasonal food means less carbon emissions resulting from transportation. Calculate the carbon footprint of those New Zealand kiwis and you'll know just what I'm talking about.

Food & Good Health:
In terms of healthfulness, I believe eating organic foods mitigates a yet unproven health threat. I'm generally not a conspiracy theorist, but I'm uncertain about whether factory and conventional farming practices leave toxic residues behind in the finished product. Look at how Alar was used on apples for decades before it was proven to be a human carcinogen and the EPA subsequently banned it. Conventional chemicals used in farming today may be more of the same and given the option, I choose to not be the guinea pig in case that unfortunate truth is proven in the future. Additionally, there are some studies that show organic foods are actually more nutritious.

Eating local, seasonal food is a healthy alternative to the year-round repertoire because it introduces dietary variety. This ensures no nutrients are missed in our diet. If not challenged to make the most of our local produce, how else would I have become so adept at preparing butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash?

With all the information that's out there, Bob and I decided to practice the precautionary principle and choose organic whenever we can. It takes more time and money, but it's a choice I feel grateful to be able to make.

There are, of course, exceptions to organic eating in our house because we are reasonable people with two young children. (And everyone knows life can be challenging enough without climbing up on one's organic high horse.) First, I try not to lose sight of the big picture. Making major dietary improvements like eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats is step one in improving any diet. Making the switch to organic is step two and should be done in a reasonable and thoughtful fashion. Sometimes I have to remind myself: it's better to eat conventional fruits and vegetables than organic cookies. Also, if I limit us to eating only organic, we'll miss out on many healthy foods that I simply can't find in the organic variety. Eating organic as much as we can takes away the mom angst I feel when Sam comes home from school with lips stained the color of Red #5. I'll do my best to control the food served when it's under my roof and when the kids are out, well, I won't feel so bad about what they eat. After all, nobody likes a soup nazi- especially not an organic one.

In my next post, I'll address some of my tactics for making this choice a feasible one for a young family. Until then, throw me some comments. What's your take on going organic?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

as one who long ago questioned your rationale for chosing to go organic, i qualify as a 'numerous people' and feel compelled to comment.
1. this organic thing, you spend a lot of time planning, preparing and cooking . . why can't you just be a regular fruitcake homemaker and indulge in soap operas and neighborhood gossip instead? do you know that a countertop pounding 1200 watt microwave oven actually conserves fossil fuels?
2. although your meals are always flavorful, interesting and satisfying, with ingredients carefully selected at whole foods, trader joe's and the like, you're making some of us look bad who believe that a well balanced meal begins with a quick run to the local super food to pick up one item from isle 1, one from isle 3, and any two from the frozen foods. ice cream counts. dinner in no time, anybody hungry?
3. but i do like the seasonal food concept. that would be baked beans, cape cod chips and sam adams, right?
4. oh, and just how do you expect your kids to learn chemistry if they don't have processed food containers to study?

admiring your talent, daddy.

Deanna said...

Hello Dad, thanks for your comments.

I can hardly believe all this insight came from someone who, as I understand it, ate pasta with ketchup for lunch yesterday.

ever yours,
D

Nick and Brandi said...

What happened to you guys when you moved to Wellesley?! Organic, green, wine snob yippies! Go back to Belmont where the real people live you crazy sweater-necks!! I'm going to In and Out Burger right now just to purge this health food nonsense from my brain.

Shell said...

I have been meaning to respond to this post for, gee, a month now. How time slips by. I know how it feels as a mom, wishing to do what's best for the kids (and the whole family's) health in terms of buying organic. With Kenny's food allergies, I feel a particular impetus to do everything I can on all fronts to give him a healthy boost. To help address this, we have been members of an organic delivery service for a couple years now. Every other week, we receive a delivery of predominately local, in-season fruits and vegetables for $32. It's a huge box, and is customizable (pending food availability). It's called Planet Organics, just FYI. Through our P.O. deliveries, we have been exposed to some new and different produce that we'd never have bought otherwise, and I have found some great recipes to use heretofore unfamiliar items. Some common things I never would have cooked with but since they were included in a delivery, I found a use for them have been leeks in potato leek soup and plums (I am generally not a plum fan) in streusel plum cake. At any rate, I am a fan of going as organic as possible, and as local as possible. I am in a complete agreement with you in that just generally eating a healthier diet (i.e., conventional fruit rather than organic cookies) is preferable to being an Organic Soup Nazi. ;-)

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