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Eat Alive & Well, Be Alive & Well

Fresh fruits and vegetables. Stock photo.

Food Wise by Carmen Greger:

This column has been created as a space to highlight the benefits of and guidelines for selecting, preparing and consuming fresh, clean, healthy and local foods. Insights on specific nutritional content, preparation techniques, savory and quick recipes and pairings will be offered here.  We will often spotlight specific fruits, vegetables, nuts, nut-butters, spreads, seeds, grains, herbs, spices and cooking (or non-cooking) oils and let you know where to find them or even how to grow them. We will also provide important info on selecting and cooking lean meats, poultry, fish and plant proteins. This column will also serve as the home for our celebrity chef interviews and mindful menu challenges as it evolves.  We welcome you to submit your favorite recipes and photos!

Place a tomato on your kitchen counter.  Notice its vibrant beauty.  Now, grab a bottle of ketchup out of the fridge and place it next to the tomato.  Not nearly as stunning.  You can do the same thing with a potato and a potato chip. Be aware of the difference. Same basic ingredient, but the processing and addition of salt, sugars and oftentimes chemicals and dyes, has spray-painted a monster onto nature’s art. Believe me, I am a huge fan of it all… tomatoes, potatoes, ketchup and chips… and thankfully, we can actually make the proactive choice to enjoy all of it mindfully, organically, without unnecessary sugars and dyes- without the toxicity.

If you do eat any packaged or processed foods, it is absolutely vital to read the nutritional value and ingredient labels of the food you consume.  A general rule of (the green) thumb is that if you can’t not pronounce it, do not eat it.

Purchasing and consuming recognizably sourced foods that have been organically and/or sustainably and locally grown, harvested, produced or cultivated, is the best way to go.  (An example of a recognizably sourced food is an apple; you see it, you know it grew on a tree.  Apple pie is a different story). Check in with your markets and ask specific questions. Did you know that some smaller companies have an extremely high eco-quality standard of best non-toxic growing practices as a priority, but opt not to pay the certification fee for the label ‘Organic’ so that it need not be transferred to their consumer? Investigate mindfully and thoroughly and you will likely be happy you did.

Farmers market fruits and vegetables. Photo courtesy of Maya Hawk.

Food is fabulous, festive and should be fun! I am not suggesting not to indulge in whatever it is that makes the heart of your palate sing. Enter, the concept of crowding out.  I first learned of this term from a wonderful pioneer Integrative Health Educator Joshua Rosenthal.  It’s so simple, so potent, so easily applicable. For our purposes here, eat as many clean, healthy recognizably sourced foods as you desire, as a first priority, and then, with whatever remaining room you may have left available, fill it with whatever your soul is still hungry for.  The mind games cease and success (in this case, greater vitality through better nutrition) is achieved.

Fortunately, here in Lakeland, we have two sources for fresh produce – Aldi and Sprouts.  Aldi, located at 9970 Highway 64 boasts an extensive line of organics, gluten-free and vegan foods.  Sprouts Farmers Market, located at 9050 Highway 64 claims that eating clean and living healthy is more than just a trend, it’s a passion.  And just on the other side of Highway 64, right outside our city limits, is a 3rd option with Kroger. Kroger not only has organic produce offerings, but they also have their own organic line of grocery items called Simple Truth.

I invite you to utilize these local options and challenge yourself to eat primarily whole, unprocessed, unpackaged, clean, organic/sustainably produced healthy foods and beverages for one week and simply take note of how you feel. Perhaps be adventurous and try some new-to-you items, such as herbs, vegetables, fruits and spices that are not your normal go-to’s. Spice it up a little and enjoy!