Friday, March 13, 2009

Honest to Goodness: Ethics and Eating

Living an ethical life is a priority for most people, but our eating choices are frequently overlooked as ethical actions. What you choose to eat has far-reaching consequences that affect everything from the happiness of your friends and family to the price of grain in developing countries. Here are some things to consider the next time you decide what’s for dinner.

1. Human Welfare

We have a moral duty to protect the health and happiness of the people around us. Each time you choose a meal for yourself or for others, you are acting as the “gatekeeper” to that person’s nutrition – you hold the key to whether those people will benefit or will be harmed with each bite.

Recent developments in genomics have shown that DNA is not set in stone from birth, but is in fact significantly altered throughout our lives by our lifestyle choices, including nutrition. This means that when you cook dinner or purchase food for yourself or for someone else, you are affecting the health and happiness of countless generations!

2. The Environment

Buying organic really does help the environment! Fertilizers and pesticides used by US farmers eventually flow into the Mississippi River. This has created an oxygen-depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico where no life can survive that is the size of New Jersey. Similar dead zones have been identified along the US East Coast and around other countries around the world.

Transporting food thousands of miles also creates unnecessary pollution when local foods are available.

3. Communities

Buying locally grown foods or growing your own foods helps create healthier communities. Imagine a neighborhood where neighbors exchange goodies from their garden, children are interested in growing healthy food and a bustling farmers’ market where shoppers buy directly from growers whom they know and trust.

In addition to being part of our local communities, remember that we are also part of a larger global community. Most animals raised for consumption are grain-fed. This raises the price of grains beyond the scope of affordability for so many people in the world who depend on grains for their survival. Going vegetarian or buying grass-fed, local meat can help make sure that some of our global neighbors don’t go hungry because they can’t afford to eat what we feed our livestock.

4. Animal Life

Finally, we all feel some sense of responsibility toward the welfare of animals, especially our own pets or local wildlife. Visit to find out the cruel treatment to which many farm animals are subjected. Then wipe your conscience clean by buying only locally raised meat where you can visit the farms and actually see how the animals live. You can also help protect global ocean life by finding out which species are being overfished.

Here is a recipe for preparing some locally raised, grass-fed Lamb with Dublin Coddle and Honeyed Mint Sauce. For more information on how to prepare your own nutritious and ethical meals, visit

Sunday, March 1, 2009

10 Ways to Eat Healthy in an Economic Crisis

Have you found yourself using the economic crisis as an excuse for eating food that's not good for you?

Good news: You don't need to sacrifice your health and culinary happiness to save money. Here are some suggestions for keeping up your healthy lifestyle under economic pressure.

1. Cook! Do you know that when you buy a meal at a restaurant, you usually pay more than three times what you would pay at the grocery store? Restaurants have to charge more to cover costs like food preparation and service. Why not be your own chef and waiter this week? Be sure to lavish praise on the brilliant chef and tip yourself too! Save up your "tip money" to buy something that was outside of your strict downsized budget.

2. Eat your veggies. Substituting vegetable protein for meat protein is a super-cool way to achieve many admirable goals with one delicious swing. You'll likely increase your nutrition intake, lose any unwanted pounds, save your bucks and help save the environment! Eating meat from grain-fed animals raises the prices of grains to levels that many people who depend on grains for their survival cannot afford. Raising animals for eating also creates pollution, both from the animals themselves and from raising the grain that they are fed. Finally, vegetables are generally much cheaper than meat and packed full of complex carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

3. Make your own favorites. Have an expensive snack or specialty item that you can't live without? Try making it yourself! If you do, it will probably be healthier and cheaper. I make my own muesli, kefir and gluten-free breads. They are more delicious and much cheaper than the store-bought items available.

4. Be thrifty! Do the environment a favor by recycling consumer products and save money by purchasing your cooking tools and appliances at thrift stores. I regularly visit thrift stores in Bloomington for bread machines, juicers, mixers, bakeware, pots, pans, you name it! I even found an antique nutmeg grinder the other day. I know about five thrift stores in Bloomington: The Salvation Army, Goodwill (two locations, east and west), Opportunity House and Backstreet Missions. Please let me know if there are any that I missed!

5. Share expenses. If you live alone and cooking for yourself doesn't seem like an efficient use of your time or money, consider sharing some meals with co-workers or friends who have similar tastebuds. You can take turns cooking whole meals for the group or make it a pot-luck and each bring just one dish. Sharing cooking duties will save you time, money and make meals and cooking a more enjoyable experience.

6. Eat what's in season. Buying what's in season in the grocery store or at the local farmer's market will help cut down on your food costs. An added perk is that if you eat what's in season, you will have more variety in your diet. Do you love nature? Follow a hike in the woods on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with a fresh herb salad topped with sauteed wild mushrooms and wild garlic! Investigate what local treasures are growing right beneath your feet and in your yard -- you may find that you love some of those unappreciated culinary beauties.

7. Shop locally. Buying locally grown foods are a wonderful way to save money, improve your community and help the environment. By buying local, you can find exquisitely fresh, organically raised food handed to you buy a smiling and familiar face, all the while saving money by not buying food that has been transported thousands of miles and sprayed with pesticides.

8. Watch sales. Become a bargain hunter and always shop with price in mind. Instead of entering the grocery store armed with a list, plan your meals based on what's on sale. This takes a little planning and some ingenuity, but it makes for meals that are more spontaneous and fun. It will also increase the variety in your diet, and therefore your nutrient intake.

9. CSA's If you have a few people at home to feed, then becoming a member of a CSA, Consumer-Supported Agriculture, may help you to save money and enjoy delicious local produce during your local growing season. CSA's are small farms that sustain themselves by local "members" who pay a monthly or yearly fee for regular deliveries of produce during the growing season. Most CSA's are organic and some will deliver right to your door!

10. Grow Your Own. Are you nuts about organic greens and herbs but not about the prices? It only takes 6 square feet of garden space to grow as much basil, arugula, gourmet lettuce, parsley, dill, chives, mint and cilantro as you can eat from May through October or later. Here's a tip to keep things simple: Buy bunches of those little seed packets of Mesclun salad mix or some other mix of gourmet lettuces. Sow them directly into the ground instead of starting them in little cups as the instructions suggest, and a few weeks later, harvest already-mixed salad by the handfuls!

Hopefully, you are now convinced that you can continue eating healthy without breaking your budget. If you would like some advice on how to find any of these resources in your area, please contact us at

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gangsta Rappers Eat Healthy!

Okay, so the title is a bit misleading...maybe not all gansta rappers eat healthy, but at least two of them do. and M-1 together make up the political hip hop group Dead Prez, and they recently made the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington, IN bounce so much that the champagne glasses next door at The Farm were buzzing!

Here is their song, "Be Healthy" -- no, there are no obscene lyrics so relax and enjoy some great advice from Dead Prez. I really enjoyed their concert, not least of which because they played my favorite song.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Get Smart -- Go Mediterranean! Recipe: Wasabi-Grilled Tuna with Blueberry, Black Bean and Avocado Salsa

Another health benefit has been added to the many accolades already received by Mediterranean diet -- protecting your brain.

Unlike the typical American diet, which is high in meat, the Mediterranean diet replaces meat with higher intakes of seeds, nuts, fish, olives and cultured dairy (i.e. cheese, yogurt, kefir -- NOT milk.) Mediterranean eaters also have more whole grains, fruits, veggies and red wine, while eating much less sugar than Americans typically do. See the Mediterranean diet food pyramid below.

Long known to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, cancer and help you live longer, a 2006 study by Columbia University showed that the Mediterranean diet also protects cognitive function, helping to prevent Alzheimer's disease or keep it from deteriorating further.

Even moderate adherence to the Mediterranean diet provides major results: a 45% reduction in the risk of going from mild cognitive impairment to developing Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers aren't yet sure why the diet provides such noticeable benefits. Two reasons may be that it prevents inflammation and high cholesterol, both of which may reduce cognitive function over time. They do agree, however, that the more of the Mediterranean diet that you eat, the more health benefits you will see.

So eat like a Greek, a Turk, an Italian, or a sun-dappled dweller of your favorite Mediterranean destination, wherever that may be. You'll be glad you did for a long time to come.

Here is a Good Life Series recipe that we modeled after the Mediterranean diet -- with an Asian kick!

Recipe: Wasabi-Grilled Tuna with Blueberry, Black Bean and Avocado Salsa.