Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eat, Drink and Be Happy...Finding Yoga on Your Plate, Part Two

Food has changed. Once upon a time, we rarely thought much about what we ate; now there is so much context sitting on the end of our fork that it can be almost too heavy to lift. When we sit down to a meal, any number of questions can appear on our plates. Was the food grown close to home, supporting local farmers and putting less fossil fuels into the atmosphere? Were these fish farmed, spreading disease in our oceans? Should we be eating animal foods at all? What about all this GMO corn, is there some in this breakfast cereal? 

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is new meaning to the practice of ahimsa, or non-harming, where our food choices are concerned. How can we nourish our bodies and our spirits without causing undue harm? Here are some of my thoughts...take from them what you will. I hope they will encourage you to think about what it means to you to tread a little more lightly on the planet.

Eat plant-based meals. Whether this means a meatless Monday each week, a few vegetarian meals a week or transitioning to a completely vegan diet; eating fewer animal foods conserves energy and is good for your health. Consider meat as a condiment at any meal: building your meals around whole grains and vegetables, with meat as feature, is more sustainable from both an economical and an environmental sense.

Choose animal foods wisely. Cheese, one of my favourite treats, is also one of the most resource-intensive animal foods because it requires a great deal of milk from a very energy-intensive animal (the cow). If you eat cheese, choose good quality cheese and savour it. Don't simply cover everything you eat in a fake-orange tinted rubbery substance.  

Give your food animals a happier and healthier life. Buy your meat and dairy from organic sources whenever possible and if you can, from farms that raise their animals ethically. In BC, we have the SPCA certification for farms. If you have a good butcher, they will know exactly how that meat came to be in their counter.

Reconsider "superfoods". So many exotic foods sold as super foods can come with a hefty price tag for the buyer, the planet and the grower. In developed nations, our pocketbooks rule and we can outbid local markets for access to staple foods. A good example is quinoa, which has grown so expensive that many local populations that once relied upon the food have been priced out of the market. In addition, all of these foods have to be transported from far away. If they have travelled by boat, the carbon output is light. But if that pineapple or mangosteen is "jet fresh"...When you do choose super foods, buy fair trade whenever possible.

Eat Fair. As I alluded to above, when purchasing foods grown in developing nations, we should be buying fair trade. Those that toil growing our food, particularly in countries far away, are at risk socially and economically; they rarely earn enough money to raise their families. We often think about fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate. What about quinoa, bananas or sugar? Ask your retailer for fair trade foods and vote with your dollar. 

Eat modestly. We overeat. Period. We do harm to our bodies as we disconnect from true hunger and force our body to process the extra food that it doesn't need; we damage our spirit as we use food  as a substitute for something else that is missing in our lives. All of that excess consumption, whether in food or material goods, causes waste and an increased demand for resources which puts undue strain on our environment. Think of the Japanese tenet, "Hara hachi bu." Eat until you are  80% full. There is plenty of food out there. No need to gorge in preparation for hard times.

Eat real food. Food can be medicine or it can be poison. We honour our bodies when we choose simple, wholesome foods that are prepared with love. When we continuously feed ourselves over-processed, nutrient poor foods such as fast foods and junky snack foods we rob our bodies of nutrients and force them to go into detox mode to clean up the mess we just served.

Savour your food. We eat multiple times daily. Each opportunity can be one for happiness and pleasure when we take the time to focus on eating. Don't just scarf down your food in front of your computer screen or television. Take a quiet moment to eat slowly and truly experience your food. This will help put your body into a relaxed state that will encourage proper digestion, reduce mindless overeating and help you appreciate and enjoy what you are eating. Enjoying your meals is one of the simplest ways to add joy to your day. 

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