In commemoration of 2017, below you’ll find 17 tips for fostering improved health in the New Year. Set a single one of these food intentions, incorporate a few of these suggestions into your life, or adopt the entire set.
17 Food Intentions to Set in 2017:
1. Become an informed patient. Conduct your own research about health conditions and medications and discuss your findings with your medical doctor. Dialogue with your doctor about how to incorporate nutrition into your approach to preventing and fighting disease. Ask your doctor about the number needed to treat (“You Need to Know About NNT”) if you’re prescribed medication or recommended for a surgical procedure.
2. Transform your refrigerator into a salad bar. To accomplish this, dedicate a couple of hours every weekend to food preparation. Begin by choosing a base for your salads and prepare a batch of this base to last you the entire week. For example, wash, dry, and slice arugula, bok choy, collard greens, escarole, kale, romaine, or spinach and wrap these salad bases in a kitchen towel. Alternatively, try legumes as your salad base, and cook a bulk batch of beans, peas, or lentils. Or, experiment with unusual salad bases and cook a portion of buckwheat, whole-grain pasta, or quinoa large enough for the week.
Next, prepare several sources of protein. Roast chicken or turkey, etc., and then chop the meat into bite-size pieces to store in the fridge. After that, prepare your salad add-ins by slicing and dicing a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Try incorporating nuts and seeds into your salad bar at home for additional nutrient-dense add-ins (“Ingredient Spotlight#1: Chia Seeds.”) Finally, prep homemade salad vinaigrette by adding a combination of oil, vinegar, and herbs to a Mason jar and shaking the jar. There you have it…a salad bar in your fridge to make packing a lunch streamlined and stress-free.
3. Purchase a food product that you’ve never tried before while shopping at the grocery store or the farmer’s market. Consuming nutrient-dense foods may become cumbersome if you’re eating the exact same thing each day. Avoid getting stuck in this rut. Spice things up with these suggestions: “New Leafy Greens for Your Salad & Morning Smoothie!” and “Kohlrabi: The Octopus In Your Garden.”
4. Unite your fellow foodies and take part in a monthly or bimonthly food-themed bookclub. Grant each member of the bookclub an opportunity to select a book of his or her choice related to agriculture, consumption patterns, or food justice, and meet to dialogue about its contents. Check out some of my book recommendations here: “Have You Read It Yet?” and “Cooked!”
5. Replace a processed snack in your grocery cart with homemade vegetable chips. Experiment with beet chips, carrot chips, kale chips, and so on until you find your favorite. Find recipes for vegetable chips within these posts: “Got Eggplant?” and “Musings from a CSA Shareholder: Zucchini Chips.”
6. Mix-and-match sides when you eat out. Just because a certain side corresponds with a certain entrée on the menu doesn’t mean that you have to have it. Ask your waiter or waitress if it’s possible to substitute French fries for roasted vegetables, and so on. Exercise this same culinary creativity at the office’s cafeteria or the school’s dining hall. If the dining facility has stations, mix-and-match by gathering legumes from one station, vegetables from another, lean protein from another, and complex carbohydrates from yet another.
7. Invest in your local food system. Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint, you’ll also foster meaningful connection and fellowship in your neighborhood. Ask your local farmer what it’s really like to be in his or her shoes. Spearhead a committee to create a community garden. Petition your local government for space and funds to host a seasonal farmer’s market in your town or your city. Plan to cultivate a crop in your garden that is specific solely to your climate or your region. Find more tips here: “4 Hassle-Free Strategies to Become a ‘Locavore.'”
8. Practice civic engagement in the food arena. Whether it’s agricultural practices or soda taxes (“Election 2016: Soda Meets the Political Arena”) leverage your vote on a variety of food issues to shape the future of our food system.
9. Commit to increasing your vegetable intake at breakfast. Smear avocado on toast. Add salad greens to your morning smoothie. Toss mushrooms, onions, and peppers into your frittata, scrambled eggs, or omelette. Or, prepare an upscale version of home fries using this recipe: “Musings from a CSA Shareholder: Roasted Potatoes and Leeks.”
10. No more soda. If you haven’t already, it’s time to kick that habit to the curb. If you’re wondering why, please click here: “Can You Eat Your Brain Away?” Instead of soda, hydrate with water, and use these “Tips for Drinking More Water” to foster new hydration habits in 2017.
11. Exercise your DIY muscle. Select one food product that you always purchased at the grocery store in 2016, and stop purchasing it in 2017. Instead, resolve to make it at home throughout the coming year. From sourdough bread to Greek yogurt to salad dressing, the possibilities are endless. My vote is cast for “DIY Almond Milk.” If you’re feeling super ambitious, pledge to exercise your DIY muscle on one different food product per month. You can do it!
12. Switch up your protein sources. Chicken, chicken, and then some more chicken gets old really fast (and this is coming from somebody who likes chicken!) Rather than only visiting the butchery, take the time to explore the legume aisle to try beans, peas, and lentils, the dairy refrigerators to shop for cheeses, Greek yogurt, and Kefir, and the bread and bakery area to purchase assorted nuts and nut butters. Also, read “The Oatmeal Chronicles” for recipes to three of my favorite protein-packed, budget-friendly, go-to breakfasts.
13. Identify one area of our food system that you’ve always been curious about. Maybe you know what the acronym stands for, but you’ve always wondered about the exact lab procedures involved in a certain agricultural process (ahem…GMOs.)
Interested in learning more about grass-fed beef and the cattle industry? Check out this five-part series to kick off your research: “Part 1 of 5: An Introduction to Beef Cattle Feedlots,” “Part 2 of 5: Who Put the Grass in Grass Fed?,” “Part 3 of 5: Nutritional and Environmental Costs of Beef Cattle Agriculture,” “Part 4 of 5: What Makes Grass-Fed Beef Sustainable?” and finally “Part 5 of 5: Where to Purchase Grass Fed Beef.”
Whatever area of the food system interests you, read about it. Fact find. Research. And don’t forget to peruse the food documentaries available on Netflix.
14. If you’re financially able, reevaluate your grocery budget for organic produce and conventionally-grown produce. To that end, review the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 lists distributed in “Organic vs. Conventional…Is There a RIGHT Answer?” and while writing your grocery lists in 2017, print the letter ‘O’ for organic and the letter ‘C’ for conventional next to the fruits and vegetables that you plan on purchasing. By doing so, you won’t have to worry about remembering from memory which piece of produce belongs on the Dirty Dozen list and which piece of produce belongs on the Clean 15 list.
Plan well, pack well, live well. Since October of 2012, every blog post I’ve written I’ve closed with these words. Here’s how to incorporate this motto of Project Lunchbox: Let’s Eat! into your own life:
15. Plan well. Consuming nutrient-dense foods regularly becomes instantly easy with a bit of forethought. Instead of visiting the vending machine every afternoon, soft-boil or bake eggs (“Baked Eggs!”) for nutritious snacks throughout the work week. You may find that you’ll even save money by planning ahead and avoiding split-second food decisions at the vending machine.
Conquer food waste once and for all and commit to using all of the edible parts of fruits and vegetables. For fool-proof food waste hacks, check out “NEW SERIES! Food Waste Hacks #1: Carrots” and “Food Waste Hacks #2: Broccoli.” Institute a meal rotation as well to combat food waste.
16. Pack well. Focus on your food storage in addition to your consumption patterns. Do your canned beans, soups, or tomatoes contain BPA in their linings? Read “The Burden of BPA” and consider switching to a company that manufactures food containers without BPA. Do you microwave your tea or coffee in a styrofoam cup? That’s a no-no. Do you store your lunch contents in plastic bags or glass Mason jars? Three cheers for glass Mason jars!
17. Live well. Reexamine what health means to you. Remind yourself of how you defined health in the comments section of “What is Health? Part One.” Here’s how I defined health: “What is Health? Part Two.”
Please don’t delude yourself into thinking that your role in the food arena doesn’t make a difference. Each action you take in creating a more sustainable and transparent local, national, and global food system generates momentum toward this ideal and just may inspire another to take the same action. Remember what I always say…the sole act of eating is like voting and each morsel of food you place in your mouth is an opportunity to exercise your choice of either whole or processed, and organic or conventionally grown groceries.
Busy isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a buzzword. And someday isn’t a day of the week, it’s a form of self-sabotage. If not now…when?
What food intention(s) will you set for yourself in this New Year?
Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,
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