Wednesday, August 10, 2016

the omnivore's dilemma

Awhile back, at long last, I finished reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. While I haven't been an omnivore in decades, it was in any case a very interesting read and one I'd recommend to anyone no matter what your diet currently looks like.

Pollan follows 4 meals through our food chain and sheds light on areas of "food" production many of us would like to ignore. While he doesn't advocate a wholly vegan, or even vegetarian, diet, he does, in my opinion, make a strong case for at least cutting back meat and animal products in our diets and also shares why free range or pasture raised animals are healthier for both the environment and our bodies if we do choose to consume animal products.

I do see his point in the symbiotic relationship between thoughtful animal farming and organic crop farming, but he didn't convince me to start eating dairy or eggs and there certainly won't be a steak on my plate! There are still animal products entering my home in the form of pet food however. While I know there are vegan cat foods on the market, cats are obligate carnivores and I don't feel I should mess with nature, but I can try to source their food as humanely as possible. I have been seriously contemplating making my own dog food for awhile now. I've tried a vegan commercial food in the past but Reilly, my older dog, has issues with some grains so it didn't go well. I've purchased the supplements necessary to try making my own vegan dog food. Making it myself, I'll be able to choose the ingredients and hopefully avoid whatever Reilly reacted to in the commercial food. It'll be more work than opening a bag of kibble, but definitely worth the effort!

Pollan discusses the prevalence of food-like substances in our diets as well. As our food system has become more and more processed, we've lost much of the natural state of foods. Reading labels these days practically requires a biology degree. Simplifying our diets and using mostly whole foods we cook ourselves eliminates the need for label reading though. BTW, it's also good for the wallet! ;-) Since I've switched to shopping from the bulk bins, I've cut out most highly processed foods. Sure, there are still items in the bins with more than one or two ingredients, but a quick glance through the list will make it obvious if there's real food in that bin. I'm lucky to have a local co-op along with a few other options for organic produce and bulk foods.

Though companies continue to mess with natural foods and make eating more "convenient" for us, it is ultimately our choice and responsibility to know what we're putting into our bodies and what practices we are supporting with our dollars. Organic or free range may cost a bit more than conventionally grown/raised products when compared head to head, but isn't that worth it to not subject the farmer to the pesticides or the animals to a short, miserable life in deplorable conditions? Though I choose organic and local foods whenever possible, overall my grocery budget is down now that I avoid the highly processed, convenience foods. That's a big win in my book!

Even if you're not ready to overhaul your entire diet, small changes add up. Commit to making one small change this week, then next week or next month, add another positive change. Your decisions today do matter and have real impact no matter how small they seem. Let's all take one step together toward a more positive impact on the world. 😀

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