Happy New Year, gentle readers! For many of us, a brand-new calendar is just the ticket we need to tune-up our food and fitness habits.
Even our national “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” are getting a make-over. Every five years a committee of experts evaluate the science behind our Federal nutrition policies and consumer advice for eating “well.”
It’s fun to compare U.S. dietary advice with that of other countries. There’s plenty we have in common, such as recommendations to reduce salt and sugar, and increase fiber, fruits and vegetables. However, some unique messages stand out. For example, the Nordic guidelines encourage physical activity not only to achieve a healthy weight, but to promote self-esteem, better sleep and reduce depression and anxiety.
Brazilian guidelines warn consumers to think critically about food advertising and marketing. And the “French Food Strategy” advises “that the production and distribution methods used for food and agricultural products respect the environment and limit waste;” and – no surprise, they strive to preserve taste, culinary heritage and traditions. Vive la France!
To kick off the New Year here are a dozen tips, gleaned from international guidelines and professional experience, for healthier, Earth-friendly eating and living:
- Reject “DIETS.” Restrictive eating backfires and weight loss supplements can be harmful. Instead, simply satisfy your hunger with wholesome, minimally-processed foods. A healthier weight will follow, I promise.
- Tweak your environment to eat smarter by design. “Mindless Eating” expert, Brian Wansink, says if we use smaller plates and bowls, we’ll automatically eat less. Trade a bowl of fruit for a box of cookies on your counter, because we eat what we see.
- Choose organic. In addition to better nutrition, 2015 is the International Year of Soils and organic agriculture protects soil integrity, including microorganisms that help nourish plants, animals and us.
- Grow some of your own food. From a pot of herbs to a full-fledged backyard garden, size doesn’t matter. Getting our hands in the soil makes us feel good, too.
- Learn to cook. It’s easy to prepare budget-friendly, delicious and nutritious meals. Invite children into the kitchen and create fun family time.
- Enjoy your food. Eat with friends and family, and turn off all screens to remove distractions. Revive picnics and potlucks.
- Be curious. Ask questions about how and where your food was produced. Choose foods grown without harm to the environment, and with respect to animals, and farm workers.
- Reduce waste. Protect the earth’s natural resources by composting, recycling, and rejecting products in excessive packaging. Fall in love with leftovers – they make quick and tasty next-day lunches.
- Go local. Seek out farmers’ markets and CSAs to support and strengthen family farms. Support local artists too!
- Forage. From mushrooms, greens and berries, a wild harvest is fun and nourishing. Greek dietary guidelines recommend “wild greens.”
- Preserve your harvest. Freeze, can and pickle your bounty for delicious food all winter.
- Support your gut! Fiber and fermented foods nourish our intestinal microorganisms — the new frontier for health and wellness.