Saturday, July 2, 2011 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

Know your food

I try to pay pretty close attention to what I eat. That means eating as naturally as I can and avoiding the most grievous packaged sugar bombs. I've seen some amazing results from eating more whole foods and I have no desire to go back to a 'normal' way of eating.

I follow something close to what is called a paleo or primal diet. I am not very strict with my diet as I allow myself to eat both potatoes and corn, and even other grains in the form of bread if I feel like it. The only rule I try to follow as closely as I can is to eat only ingredients that I could have found somewhere in nature.

This means I eat a lot of vegetables and fruits as well as meats and eggs. Lately I have started to get more concerned about the quality of the ingredients at a typical grocery store. While eating store bought meats and veggies are miles ahead of eating cream-filled donuts, I still have some questions about what kinds of vegetables ultimately end up on the store shelves.

The first time I started questioning these things was while eating a tomato. The tomato was deep red and nice and firm. By all accounts a perfect tomato, the only thing not quite right was that it didn't taste much like the tomatoes I remember eating when I was a kid. Even more puzzling was the fact that the tomato had been sitting in our fridge for a week. The tomatoes I grew up with would go mushy and unappealing after a couple of days.

A little bit of googeling and some research quickly revealed that the food that is being grown and sold today is not the same kind of food that I grew up with. Long transport routes, new varieties, arrays of pesticides and genetic manipulation has created a different type of foods.

I'm not necessarily against using pesticide and genetic engineering. I am however very much against the lack of labeling and consumer information about these things. I firmly believe that everyone should take full responsibility for what they eat and how that affects their health, but that becomes very difficult when it's almost impossible to know what you are actually eating.

The sad fact is that you don't really know what you get when you rely on a grocery store for your produce (this is even more true for meat, but that is a different discussion). Here are a few tips for what you can do to regain more control over what you put into your body.

Go to a Farmer's Market
For a long time the trend has been to go bigger, faster and cheaper. This might be a good concept when you are looking to buy socks, but when it comes to food it has some side effects when it comes to quality. Thankfully there is a growing trend for people to want better quality food, and they are willing to spend more time and money to get it.

The return of the more quality conscious consumer has lead to an explosion of local farmer's markets all over the United States. Chances are that if you live in or close to a fairly populated city, you will have at least one farmer's market in your area.

Farmer's markets are great for many reasons. It gives small farmers a venue to sell their products and stay in business. They are most often stocked predominantly with locally grown food, but most importantly it gives consumers a chance to connect with their food supplier. At a Farmer's market you can ask when the tomatoes were picked, how they were grown and anything else you might want to know.

Join a CSA
CSAs are another type of food distribution that is becoming increasingly more widespread. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. There are many different business models used by CSAs, but in most cases a CSA lets consumer sign up for a food subscription. This often means that the members of the CSA receives a basket of produce every week. The farm, or farms, running the CSA determines what produce goes in the basket every week.

A CSA is a great way to support farmers in your area. By definition CSAs are local and thrive on the interaction with the local community. Most CSAs will gladly let members visit the farm and see for them selves how things are run. Many places even lets you pick your own basket for an added sense of connection to your food.

Do it yourself
When it comes to having control over what you eat, nothing comes close to growing your own food. Setting up a backylard vegetable garden is the ultimate way to get the freshes and cleanest food possible.

In your own garden you decide yourself what pesticides to you, or if you want to go completely pesticide free. You can pick whatever strain of vegetable you want, and even create your own new varieties over time if that is to your liking. But best of all, you get to eat food that was harvested just minutes ago.

I have a small vegetable garden in my back yard. The tomatoes I harvest still doesn't taste like the ones I remember from my childhood; they are a lot better.

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