January 11, 2012

My New Year’s Muse – From Local Resolutions to Global Wishes

new yearsYes, it’s that time of year again where we reflect on the past and move into the future with goals to better ourselves in the year ahead. In my bailiwick the focus is squarely on eating healthier and being more physically active.

I’ve posted my resolutions here, along with a handful of global wishes. It is said that if you state your goals, actually say them out loud, you’re more likely to see them through. I figure putting them out in the blogosphere for all to see is one step better. I’ll report back on these at the end of 2012.

I’ve got five, what I’ll call local resolutions. Actions I want to take close to home, my backyard and kitchen table to be precise.

Here’s my run-down:
1. Prepare and stock homemade salad dressings, ditch the bottles: For several years I’ve wanted to rid our fridge of bottled salad dressings. But I eat a lot of salads and they’re, well, just so easy to open and drizzle. However, because I eat at least one salad a day, they’re a good place to target to taper fat grams, calories and particularly sodium milligrams, to make a significant dent in our daily intake. Homemade dressings will also limit our intake of unneeded additives and preservatives. Got any recipes for healthy salad dressings I can blend up in volume and stash in the fridge?

greens2. Eat greens more often, taste test new ones: Thanks to my DC Green Grocer deliveries, we’re eating more greens – some I know well and others not so well. That’s great because its pushed my culinary explorations. Greens are chock full of nutrients including ones Americans are known to be lacking - from calcium to potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and fiber. Plus, they’re filling with few calories. We’ll eat more spinach (raw and cooked) and Swiss chard. I'll experiment with beet greens, kale and collards. Again, any recipes?

3. Cook and eat more dry beans: I’ve been pushing more rinsed canned beans the last few years because their nutrition is simply hard to beat, particularly for the cost. Their fiber content (including great source of resistant starch), folic acid, and no fat plant-based protein are enough to sell me. Chick peas show up in salads. Lentils in soups. Black beans in brown rice. But I’ve been reticent to take the longer route to putting beans on the table – starting with dried beans. Now I’m ready. They’re just a bit healthier – nearly no sodium, preservatives, and less environmental waste. I’ll  experiment with cooking dry beans in a pressure cooker (which will be my next kitchen gadget to buy). I hear they cook lickety-split, just what I need.

4. Lighten up on cooking oil: Regardless of the type of oil, they all contain about 120 calories per tablespoon. I stock vegetable oil and EVOO – extra virgin olive oil. But the amount I’m pouring to sauté vegetables (and I do that a lot) has ratcheted up (OK being honest here). I’ll steam instead of sauté when possible and simply use a lower heat and less oil when sautéing.

5. Commit volunteer hours and get my hands dirty. I’ve been looking for a local effort which works to grow sustainable local foods and teach the messages of healthy eating to children and citizens at large. Finally I’ve zeroed in on a very local project, Arcadia Cener for Sustainable Food and Agriculture. I’m excited about their efforts and they're oh so close. I’m now on their mailing list and gave a small 2011 contribution. They’re growing produce, working in local schools, running mobile markets and more. I hope to get my hands dirty when the seeds need planting this Spring.

Global Wishes: I've got five wishes for how, in 2012, we can work to keep the winds of change moving in the healthy direction to change our eating habits, food choices and food availability and sustainability.

1. Parents will take the job of feeding their children healthy foods more seriously. Parents need to take this important job on and realize that through our actions we model and teach our children skills for a lifetime. Skills that can keep them healthy for their lifetime.

2. Restaurant nutrition information proliferates further and is put front and center in restaurants for all to see. Then that consumers look, react (because the information can be shocking) and revise their choices and portions based on their new enlightenment. The regulations, which stem from a small piece of the Affordable Care Act (aka health care law), requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to provide calories on menus and menu boards, and make other written nutrition information available upon request. The FDA expects to put regulations into effect by mid-2012.

3. Fruits and vegetables become more plentiful, accessible and reasonably priced. It’s clear that eating more fruits and vegetables is nutrition goal numero uno, but it’s a challenge to get at least 5 servings (more is better) a day. It doesn’t help that for people on the go and/or in food desserts that they’re hard to find, lack in variety and are overpriced.

4. More supermarkets sighted in food desserts so it becomes easier and more reasonably priced to purchase and prepare healthier foods.

5. Reinstate or don’t remove physical education from our schools (and children). Children and young adults need to be physically active more than ever and for a variety of benefits. Let’s figure out how to integrate more activity into our kids lives rather than offering easy outs to take less PE.

All in all I believe 2011 was a good year for a heightened awareness about the importance of healthy eating habits and maintain a healthy weight. More and more small and large efforts are growing, efforts which range from country-wide initiatives to efforts taking root in community after community. As more efforts are born and existing efforts snowball we’ll come closer to tipping point where the healthy choice becomes the easier choice.

A few efforts I’ve been exposed to this year and will continue to follow in 2012 – Partnership for Healthier America, Arcadia Cener for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, 95210 (Northern Virginia’s Healthy Kids Coalition), Food Corps, Farm to School and Through the Kitchen Door. Yes, these are exciting times!