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New Year's Food Resolutions

Launch yourself into dietary health

According to my oldest nephew, who runs the gym in a college town, the first two weeks of the New Year are total chaos at work. Hordes of us show up, resolved to be fit, irritating staff and regulars with our passing health whim. By mid-January we've given up and returned to our La-Z-Boys and cubicles, patting ourselves on the back that at least two weeks of exercise beats zero weeks. Maybe if we put that Rascal scooter on our Amazon Wish List...

Well, I'm here to encourage us non-exercisers (and if you are a regular exerciser, you can just feel extra smug while you read the rest of this post): exercising isn't the only way to improve your health. Diet is the other. And New Year's Diet Resolutions have a better shot of becoming habits.

Check out these possibilities and just pick one or two:

  1. Dump one processed food product permanently. It could be cake mix or pancake mix, storebought cookies, instant oatmeal, protein bars, anything! If it's something you could make easily at home, try it. I would love love love to get my family off breakfast cereal, but they gag over anything porridge-like, and I gag over the thought of having to cook every morning.
  2. If you can't afford organic dairy, at least go hormone-free. As Prevention put it in their article entitled "7 Foods That Should Never Pass Your Lips," growth hormones lead to "higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers." Eeks! When it isn't Bellevue Farmers Market season, our family tries to stick to Organic Valley (pastured products) or at least Tillamook (hormone-free).
  3. Pick the one food your family eats regularly and make sure it's the best you can afford. If it's salmon, stay away from the farmed stuff. If it's ground beef, go for grass-fed or switch to buffalo. Going with the farmers market options may cost you more in the short-run, but hey--you may get to avoid the Rascal scooter later, and that's a savings.
  4. Eat vegetarian for one dinner a week. If you already do this, try two meals. This can defray the cost of Resolution #3. Our family regularly does breakfast burritos or lentil soup or homemade mac & cheese. If you must have some meat, it could just be some Skagit River Ranch bacon thrown in for flavor.
  5. Stay away from soy. As I've noted in this blog, 90% of soybeans grown in America are genetically-modified to resist Round-Up. Processed soy has been linked to hormone issues in people and possibly to the rise in food allergies. This is a toughie to eliminate because the American soy surplus, like the corn surplus, motivates the food industry to find millions of uses for it. Other than the tried-and-true fermented soy products (tofu and soy sauce), we stay away.
  6. Serve two healthy vegetables at dinner. Potatoes, corn and bagged-lettuce-salad covered in soybean-oil-based dressing don't count. In fact, you better add a third vegetable to the meal to make up for them.

If you have food resolutions for the New Year, feel free to share. My personal ones for 2011: (1) switch from canned tomatoes to boxed--per the abovementioned Prevention article; and (2) dump the seed oils (canola, safflower, etc.) for olive oil, butter, and Skagit bacon fat.

Happy New Year!

Emmer & Rye Opens!

If you've been a fan of chef demonstrations at the Bellevue Farmers Market, you may have caught Chef Seth Caswell at one time or another. Chef Seth believes in "seasonally inspired, locally derived cuisine," and he puts this ethos to work at the new Emmer & Rye restaurant on Queen Anne. I would advise that you NOT look at the menu if you happen to be hungry because you'll be drooling all over your keyboard. Consider just the "shucked oysters, bacon, smoked porter mignonette" as a starter, or the "gathered mushroom tart, goat cheese, leeks, spinach, pears" for an entree...Emmer & Rye is open Monday through Friday 5pm-10pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-11pm, with weekend brunch Saturday and Sunday 9am-2pm. For reservations call 206.282.0680.

 In other news foodie news around the planet, the NY Times reports that the USDA is tightening organic dairy requirements so that large operations like Aurora Organic Dairy must be required to pasture their herds for the entire length of the grazing season and ensure that 30% of the cow's food is pasture during that time. Prior to this, the larger operations might only allow cows access when they weren't giving milk or would feed the animals exclusively on grain. Since this was the very reason I avoided Aurora and other store organic brands, this is great news. I'm still sticking with Organic Valley's Northwest Pastures, but nice to know I can grab the other in a pinch.

Speaking of large livestock operations, according to the Financial Times, the UN is considering a tax on livestock flatulence. If it ever passed, so to speak, not only might it reduce greenhouse emissions, but it would also provide unlimited fodder for late-night comedy monologues.

And, finally, to end this post on a sweet note, a Times Online article finds that processed food has been getting more sugary over the last thirty years, especially that go-to favorite, the breakfast cereal. Kellogg's Cornflakes--the nutritional equivalent of a black hole to begin with--went from 7.4g sugar per 100g in 1978 to 8g. That wouldn't be such a big deal, were not the rest of your daily menu sweetening up as well, from your can of tomato soup to your grilled cheese on wheat bread to the fresh fruits and vegetables on offer at the store! Yikes. Take comfort, though--manufacturers claim most of the sugar increases were to cover loss of flavor from reducing salt.