Localvore: The Only Diet You'll Ever Need -- By Amy Bousman, FNTP
Years ago I read an incredible true story by Barbara Kingslover, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, her non-fiction book about her family's inspiring journey of only eating food grown within a 100-miles of their home for a full year (often referred to as the 100 mile diet). The caveat here is that each family member got to choose one non-local food to keep in the house during that year. Since reading this book over a decade ago, I have longed to do my own version of this diet. Having babies and young children during this time made the challenge overwhelming for me to try, but now that my babies are older, I feel ready to take it on!
In the world of globally-ethical nutrition, eating local is often overlooked. Although eating organic is a step in the right direction, it simply isn’t enough. I was an organic farmer for 13 years before diving into the wonderful world of nutritional therapy, so I feel well-acquainted with all that goes into getting food to the table. Some organic whole foods are often outsourced and must travel hundreds and often thousands of miles to get to our grocery stores.
We can obviously see the huge impact that travel distance has on the environment via oil consumption, but we often don’t consider the additional energy expenditures that go into keeping these foods cold and stored in our grocery stores. When it comes to processed organic foods (organic cheese puffs or gluten-free bread, for instance), there's also the factory’s energy usage to consider through processing, packaging and shipping.
The healthiest, most ethical and responsible step you can make for your nutrition and for the planet is to eat as many local foods as possible. This may be inconvenient. This may mean making some dramatic changes to your current eating plan, but you will be eating fewer processed foods and less sugar (our only local source of sugar is honey), which will likely bring you improved energy and better nutrition as well as lessening your household's carbon footprint.
To motivate my kids, ages 7 and 13, in joining me on this adventure, I let each of us choose a food to keep in rotation (gluten-free bread and peanut butter for them and sea salt for me) while also taking them to the weekly Farmers Market. The Lawrence Farmers Market opened on April 10th.
From the practical side of things, I’ve been researching sources for our staple foods, such as milk (for making yogurt, cheese, sour cream, etc), cream, organic, pasture-raised meats and other sources of protein (there are local growers of soybeans for locally produced tofu and tempeh), eggs, nuts (mainly walnuts and pecans, and chestnuts in the fall), honey, fruits, veggies, etc. I will also be providing a large portion of our food personally through foraging, hunting, fishing, etc.
Here are some helpful tips and resources to consider for getting your own 100-mile diet started:
Be prepared: Take at least a month or two to track down your resources, meet your farmers, etc. Start visiting farmers markets, and start incorporating portions of your foods locally now (such as eggs, dairy and meat). Start thinking about meal plans from a seasonal perspective. You don’t want low blood sugar or hunger to defeat your efforts.
Choose your start-date wisely: Choosing to do a 100-mile diet in the dead of winter is possible, but it won’t be easy, diverse or enjoyable. My family is starting ours in April, when spring abundance will be in full force and all farmers markets will be open.
Consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture): CSAs provide you with a steady supply of farm-fresh goods and challenge you to try veggies that you might not otherwise use.
Find good shopping sources: The Merc Co-op here in Lawrence works with local farmers and has these local foods clearly labeled. Checkers also works with local farmers as do some other grocery stores.
Adjust as needed: If 100-miles seems too restrictive for you, expand your radius. Since I can’t get oats within a 100 miles, I’m considering liberalizing my 100 miles. Likewise, if one year or 100 days feels too long, start with one month. If that month goes smoothly, you can always keep going!
Choose your non-local food item wisely: These are all good, versatile staples, and will allow for more baking and recipe options. Olive oil, baking powder and coffee are items that other participants have chosen.
Consider these sources: Realmilk.com and their “Real Milk Finder” will help you to find local dairy, cream, etc. You can also keep it local by finding Kingslover's book through our local bookstore, The Raven.
Find out more about how to support your and your family's nutritional health by visiting with Amy Bousman, Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, at Atma Clinic. Your first visit is free! Call us at 785/760-0695 to set up your appointment.