Wednesday, December 3, 2008

JENNIFER RABOLD: Your Relationship with Food

How would you describe your diet? How do you feel about it? Do you think you need to change it in any way, and if so, how and why? If you feel you need to change it, but haven't yet, what is standing in your way of making the change?

My diet is very healthy in the summer, pretty healthy in the winter. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, many grown right in my back yard. I never eat fast food, don’t eat junk food, rarely eat processed food. I’m kindof a food snob, honestly. I eat a salad for lunch each day in the summer, switch to homemade soup in the winter. But I tend to crave carbs when the days are shorter. I definitely could do more fruits and veggies in the winter.

I do drink two cups of coffee and/or tea each day, which I know I’d have a problem giving up. I went caffeine-free for a few years while I was pregnant or nursing, so I know I can do it, but my schedule these days is such that I really depend on the pick-me-up at certain times. I also have a real weakness for chocolate, but I do try to be moderate. I’d like to give up a little meat in my diet, maybe go meat-free two meals a week. It’s just hard with kids and a husband who really enjoy their meat. And this isn’t part of the question, but it’s certainly related – exercise! That’s my biggest weakness. Finding the time is always the challenge for me.

How do you (and/or your family) eat? (At home/ out/ take-out/ around a table/ standing at the counter/ together/ at different times/ on the go/ et cetera?) How do you feel about this? Again, do you feel the need for change?

I am very fortunate that my husband makes us all a mean omelet every morning for breakfast, which we eat together. On weekends, we eat lunch together. And most evenings, we eat dinner around the dining room table. It’s gotten a little harder to do that because of my seven-year-old’s swim team schedule, but we do our best. It’s such an important time in our family, and I think it will only be more important as our kids get older. We eat out a lot less than we used to, but I do enjoy trying new gourmet foods at a good restaurant. We often take our kids with us when we do go out, so they’re pretty used to behaving appropriately, which is so nice!

Where do you shop for your food? How do your food-shopping habits reflect your values?

I do most of my shopping at a regional chain grocery store. But I try hard to stay on the edges of the store – the produce, dairy, bakery, and meat and fish sections – and stay away from processed foods. I buy selected organic fruits and vegetables (generally ones that tend to be grown with and/or absorb pesticides the most, like strawberries and grapes) and milk and yogurt. I buy our eggs from our neighbors down the street, who raise very happy chickens which wander around eating bugs all day – much healthier, and I am buying a share of a crop at a local farm next year, an example of “community-supported agriculture,” which is a new trend as folks try to eat more locally grown produce (and support local farmers). It’s meat that I feel I need to make a change on – organic is so expensive, but I know that it’s a lot healthier, without the antibiotics and hormones.

What does your country/ state/ region do to influence how and what people eat? Does this need to change, in your opinion?

The article goes into great depth about how the U.S. has gone wrong in their agricultural policies, so I’m not going to perseverate on this. I’m fortunate that I have options, because of where I live and the socio-economic bracket I’m in. It’s expensive to eat healthily in America and cheap and easy to eat badly. And that’s a result of the U.S. government’s policies. We have reached a point where the consequences of these policies – for health care, the environment, national security, and the economy – are more negative than positive.

What one thing can you do to:a) wean yourself off an oil-based diet and onto sun-based foods?b) improve your eating habits and thus your health?c) encourage others to do the same?

I think everyone misinterpreted question 5a, which means I didn’t write it very well. The oil I had in mind was petroleum, not olive oil! J Oil is the basis for synthetic fertilizers, which have to be used because farmers use unsustainable agricultural practices. Oil is also the basis for transporting food long distances. For the past 50 years, it has actually been cheaper to import and transport, for example, tomatoes from Mexico to Cape Cod than to grow them and buy them right here on Cape Cod. In order to wean yourself off an “oil-based diet,” you’d have to buy local, buy organic, grow your own. I try to do that as much as possible. I grow a big vegetable and herb garden every summer (ask for my secret to great tomatoes!), try to cook using fruits and vegetables that are in season, and I try to make my food-shopping habits more sun-based (see question 3 above).

How to encourage others to do the same? Well, this is attempt #1! And I’d encourage you to look into community supported agriculture, as a way to support local farmers and eat more locally. They’re easy to find online.

My New Year’s resolution this year: cut down meat intake, rotate my crops in my garden more, and exercise more!

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