You Had Me at Kale Chips

About 18 months ago, I watched a movie called Food Inc.

That movie, along with where I was in my life, and subsequent rounds of research, led me to examine the food that I was eating. It made me cognizant that while shopping at my local Stop N Shop, the vegetables in my cart were coming from 3 continents - and not a single one of those was my own.

At the time, I was working really hard to strengthen and change my body with exercise, and my diet was following suit as much as it could. I joined a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture - essentially buying into a farm), and learned what real, local produce had to offer - EVERYTHING. I struggled with some of the other changes I wanted to implement for my diet. It tasted too good to give up. I couldn't find the type of meat I really wanted to cook, or it was a 40 minute drive to get to one of the more sustainable places in Massachusetts. I was doing a 100% better job than before, but accomplishing roughly 50% of what I wanted to change.

Coming to San Francisco has already changed a lot about me, and perhaps most importantly, it has finally allowed me to experiment with truly changing my diet to be mostly organic, clean, truly balanced and healthy. And I feel lighter, healthier, balanced and grateful.

I am grateful that San Francisco has given me the chance to make a choice for the one body I get to have on this earth. My city is essentially one big CSA. California, due to its climate, allows for readily available produce and meats that are truly local - allowing selection to be greater and giving the consumer (me!) - more choice.

Choices like Kale Chips:

My new love: Kale chips

A shout out to my Vegan friends: I don't know how you do it, but I am glad that you do. Your choice to avoid products like butter and eggs have made for some AMAZING, low-fat options here that have real taste.

And one thing that I recently changed that doesn't have to do with sustainable farming, as much as health: I have cut out almost all dairy from my life (I have to keep in some cheese) and I feel like I don't have stomach pain for the first time in years. My beloved Kale Chips have to compete with my affection for Soy:

I'll take my coffee with soy, thanks. (It made leaving Dunkins easier - they don't serve soy!)

My friend Nicole (who has always been a great model for good eating for our family) wisely tells me that our plates should be colorful - that is how you can know you are eating a good mix of what the earth has to offer. And now at every meal, I check out the colors. Enough greens? Some dark beans? I add in what seems lacking. I juice greens when I'm not feeling particularly excited about a crunchy salad.  I check labels. Organic produce is certified - but not all organic is equal or local! Produce simply can't be sustainably produced at all times of the year - the seasons dictate this to a great extent. Massachusetts in January doesn't lend itself to local strawberries - but they should be very local in the summer! And I've found that there aren't many greens that I DON'T like. Boil it, saute it, eat it raw - low calories, needed minerals. Farmer's Markets offer a great mix of organic and non-organic produce at varying prices, but usually cheaper than your grocery store. Even if some farms aren't certified organic, they may commit to using fewer pesticides or more sustainable farming - and hey, you might get to MEET your farmer.

Farmers Market at the Ferry Building, San Francisco

Finally, and perhaps most controversially, there is meat. I am not ashamed about eating meat, but, for me, it comes with rules that I follow as often as possible: I want it local, and I want it fresh. I want it organic, and perhaps most importantly - I want it to be humane. As an omnivore, I have to accept that living things are required for the diet I choose, and so whenever I can, I try to make a choice that honors that:

Animals should be fed their natural diet - and it SHOULD cost more.
If the average cow being slaughtered for meat is fed cheap (and not very desirable) food, it means that farms will have more costs to cover if they deviate and feed their animals what nature intended. This is why meat that is humanely raised and fed appropriate diets can cost roughly 2x what the average does. I buy my meat at Whole Foods for two reasons: 1. Whole Foods partners with third party auditors to ensure that meat is truly being farmed the way that they believe it should be - and they allow consumers to see the rating for the meat that they consume. 2. It is the closest store to my house. Another option is to buy at Farmers Markets or in Meat CSAs to ensure better welfare for the animals we consume, and this can be cheaper than Whole Foods.

Fish deserve a shout-out as well. Wherever you shop, the person preparing your fish should know if it has been previously frozen and when the fish arrived in the store. Ask what is freshest. Buy that. You would do it at a restaurant - do it when you are the chef!

When I travel for work - which is often - I ask questions. My coworkers laugh a bit about the constant requests for soy, the questions around vegetables, meats, etc. In the end, though, it's my body - and my choices - and that matters.

To be sure, the above diet options mean larger grocery bills. I am blessed to have the flexibility to make a decision that costs more. But a secondary result of my choice is that my body wants to eat at home more - and we have much fewer bills for eating out. The true difference is not as great as it seems.

And for my husband and I - choosing better and more sustainable eating means having and making a meal together - planning more meals around our diet, and making better choices.  Ultimately it means more time together. Priceless.