Holistic Eating for Beginners
After years of shopping in the frozen food aisle, I’ve finally made the switch to better eating. Now I shop mostly in the produce department and am feeling the better for it, but would like to learn more about my food choices and their impact on my health and the world. Can you recommend any good websites on healthy eating?
Healthy eating is no longer just a matter of avoiding artificial preservatives, it is a consumption choice that has political, environmental, and societal ramifications. This makes “right eating” all the more important—and all the more satisfying and healthful. Here’s an eclectic list (in no particular order) of ten great websites which I feel shed useful light on these many dimensions of healthy eating:
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a group of “doctors and laypersons working together for compassionate and effective medical practice, research and health promotion”. Not shy of controversy, the group has highlighted links between meat consumption and cancer, and has questioned the health claims of the dairy industry. Their website at www.pcrm.org contains helpful medical information on the health value of vegetarian diets and the role of proper nutrition in preventing disease.
If you are interested in learning more about how specific foods can heal, there are two websites I recommend. Whole Health MD’s Healing Kitchen resource at www.wholehealthmd.com organizes food remedies by ailments, spelling out clearly what you should eat and why, and suggests recipes to make it happen. The World’s Healthiest Foods website at www.whfoods.com is the brainchild of Health Valley founder George Mateljan and the esteemed naturopathic doctor Joseph Pizzorno, Jr. The site highlights over 100 “nutrient-dense” foods, and explains how they help the body, which foods might be particularly useful for you to add to your diet, and how to prepare them in a variety of recipes.
“Have your heard of the Meatrix? Do you want to know what it is? Take the red pill and learn the truth,” says Moopheus the cow to Leo the pig in the Webby Award-winning online animated cartoon, The Meatrix, which can be found at www.themeatrix.com. This humorous yet serious spoof satirizing the Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix entertains while at the same time doesn’t flinch from pointing out the ugly truths of factory farming—which makes it all the more convincing. This is a great consciousness-raising tool I recommend you email to your friends and relatives. Once they have entered the Meatrix, they may reconsider eating factory-farmed products and instead choose healthier meat (ethically and otherwise) from organic, sustainable farms.
You may have seen or heard of the 2004 hit documentary Super Size Me, in which film director Morgan Spurlock places himself on a 30-day McDonalds-only diet and—no surprise here—gets violently ill. But you may not know that Spurlock’s fiancée, Alexandra Jamieson, who nursed him back to health after he put his stomach and veins through such punishment, is a gourmet natural foods chef with a delightful website, Healthy Chef Alex, at www.healthychefalex.com. I’m eager to try out her simple, appealing recipes for Morning Glory Oatmeal Porridge, Stewed Winter Veggies, and Carolina Kale—and I’m not even a vegetarian. Moreover, her reading list and links pages are among the best I have seen on this subject. Bravo!
If you want to learn from chefs who see their mission as broader than just filling our stomachs, I encourage you to visit the website of the Chef’s Collaborative at www.chefscollaborative.org. The Collaborative sees itself as “a national network of more than 1,000 members of the food community who promote sustainable cuisine by celebrating the joys of local, seasonal, and artisanal cooking.” Although the website is geared primarily toward chefs and others in the food industry, their online Member Library showcases some first-class food books by talented cookers and writers. And the menus to be found via this website’s Member Restaurants listings are mouth-watering.
Those of us who do not wish to be super-sized and who support the Chef’s Collaborative’s mission to rehumanize mealtimes might want to join the international Slow Food Movement, which aims to “protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenization of modern fast food and life”. Slow Food USA, the movement’s national arm at www.slowfoodusa.org, can connect you to the many “convivia” across the United States which hold gastronomic events that support the enjoyment of seasonal and local foods.
If you are a seafood fan, it is important to remember that certain fish are being dangerously overharvested, threatening these species with extinction. To get clear on which fish are the best to land on your plate, I recommend the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood WATCH website at www.mbayaq.org/cr/seafoodwatch.asp. This resource is comprehensive, yet it also plainly indicates which seafood to eat, which to avoid, and why.
Of course, you don’t have to go to a restaurant, supermarket, corner store, or even a farmstand or pier to eat naturally. Few in America know that better than “Wildman” Steve Brill, naturalist, expert forager, and author of The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook. His website at www.wildmanstevebrill.com contains information on how you can find and identify useful medicinal and edible plants and mushrooms. From berries to burdock, from persimmon to Poor Man’s Pepper, the Wildman will show you how to identify wild food that’s fresh and free for the taking.
Personally, I’m more likely to find myself in a back yard next to a juicy tomato stalk when it comes to foraging, so it with great interest that I came across the website of the non-profit group Kitchen Gardeners International, at www.kitchengardeners.org. I knew they were kindred spirits when they write “Kitchen Gardeners love food, both product and process. They do not dream of eating a good tomato, but a true tomato, picked warm and juicy from the vine at the peak of its ripeness.” Ahh, heaven! Their resource pages contain essays such as “In Praise of Dandelions” and “Gardening in Tight Spaces: Small Can Be Beautiful”. Plus, their free monthly e-newsletter contains gardening tips, recipes, and “nourishing thoughts on sustainable eating and living the Good Life”. Worth a visit.
Carrot-Chomper, as you digest these many helpful resources, notice the centrality of food in our lives. How we eat in years to come will determine the kind of world we live in. Do we want to live in a Fast Food Nation or on a Veggie Planet? The answer is on our plates.
First published in Boston Natural Awakenings magazine's November 2005 "Ask Karlo" column. Thanks to Healthy Chef Alex for the useful links page.