No matter how conscious we are about our eating habits, there is always more that we can do in our pursuits of truly healthy food. After all, how you eat is a process, and most people don't go from a diet of McDonald's one day to locavore vegan the next. Even if you've given up meat, are you still buying tropical fruits? If you're committed to eating organic, are you still buying processed organic snacks? There's always a change that we can make no matter who we are. So wherever you are on the conscious eating spectrum, here are a few healthy food resolutions to incorporate into this year.
1. Use fewer foreign ingredients
Sure, you may not cut out coffee anytime soon, but identify what's in your pantry and see if there's anything from across the globe that you can envision living without and replacing it with something that comes from a little closer to home. Eat a New Zealand apple if you're in New Zealand. Otherwise, find something that grows in your back yard or not too far from there.
2. Buy locally milled grains
When was the last time you gave flour any thought? While it's one of the oldest ingredients, most of us don't give flour the time of day it deserves. Start asking around at farmers market to see if you can get your hands on locally grown and locally milled grains, not only does it cut your footprint, but it also gives you a better chance of finding flours that aren't stripped of all their nutrients.
3. Learn what's in season in your local area and use it to guide your shopping
You shouldn't be eating tomatoes in January. Sure, they're available, but those watery, bland rounds shouldn't even be called tomatoes. Identify what's in season, and make a commitment to crafting your grocery list based upon what's available. There are several helpful food apps that you can use to do just that.
4. Make your own condiments
If you're looking to consume less processed food, condiments are a great place to start. Ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, Sriracha; it can all be made at home, and usually, without too many ingredients and without too much effort, turning them from a potential hazard into a truly healthy food.
5. Grow whatever you can
Growing your own food is the best, and most local, choice you can make. Don't use the "I don't have space for a garden line." If you have a window and sunlight, something can be grown, even if it's as simple as kitchen herbs.
6. Grind your own nut flours
Stop paying a silly amount per pound for delicious ingredients like hazelnut flour and almond meal: you can make them yourself. Buy the nuts in bulk, put your food processor to work and save on money and single-use plastic packaging in the process.
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7. Take a reusable container for leftovers
You've been getting coffee in your to-go mug for years now, which means it's time to step it up. Start bringing a reusable container for your leftovers when you eat out. Think about it: how many times did you take food home last year? That's a lot of packaging. Clean your conscience by taking your own containers to take your food home in.
8. If you're craving fast food... make it yourself
There's no harm in indulging once in awhile, but the harm lies in our quick access to the indulgences. If you have to put the time and energy into preparation, you not only appreciate the food more, but you know exactly what you're putting into it. Because I doubt you've got a jar of Yellow 5 on the counter as seasoning. Even Chinese takeout can be made at home.
9. Eat less meat
If you're not ready to make the vegetarian jump yet, you can still commit to a certain amount of meals per week without meat. Or choose a number of days per month that you feel comfortable eating meat.
10. Give yourself an extra 30 minutes a day to eat
Chances are, you're busy. It's 2014 after all. But eating shouldn't be a task, and if you're putting a lot of time into thinking about what you eat, it's important to think about how you're eating. This year, devote more time to sitting down and enjoying your meals. Eating shouldn't be done on the go.
11. Eat real food
Vow to yourself not to be swayed by nutrition marketing. You know what your body needs. Use your common sense in navigating the food world. Just because it's a bag of organic potato chips, it's still a bag of potato chips. Make this the year of real food. Your body, your community and the planet will thank you.
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Image: D. Sharon Pruitt