I didn't write what will follow. But I did say some smart things. When Ms. Jaclyn Desforges emailed me about an interview for a journalism assignment, I happily agreed.
As I embark on the challenging task of getting people to let me interview them for my podcast, I am consistently surprised by who will make the time to talk to me and who will not. My personal feeling when I get approached is simple- treat everyone like they're Oprah calling for an interview and one day, maybe Oprah will call for an interview. Besides, I like talking about nutrition. I digress- What I wanted to say was that Jaclyn asked me to review her article to make sure she hadn't misquoted me. She wrote such a great piece that I wondered if I actually said all those things. They sound so much smarter when someone else writes them down. Without further ad0- the prose of Jaclyn Desforges.
Three simple ways to change your diet... and the world!
By Jaclyn Desforges
Trust me; I'm no health nut.
As much as I try to be, I tend to burn out quickly. About six weeks after my New Year's resolution takes effect, I'm back to eating MSG-laden frozen dinners and classifying cherry cheesecake as a fruit. Not to mention my environmental track record-- all that packaged food sure takes a toll.
But four years after Meghan Telpner made her commitment to health, she's still going strong. As a certified nutritionist and holistic lifestyle consultant, she works with clients to help them lead healthier lives. And her healthy eating habits aren't too shabby in the environmental department, either.
So when I set out to find ways to eat healthier and become more environmentally friendly in one fell swoop, Telpner was the first person I went to. As it turns out, becoming healthier-- and saving the planet while we're at it-- might not be so difficult after all.
According to Telpner, the first step we should all take is to eat fewer processed foods and more good old-fashioned fruits and vegetables.
"Buy foods that don't come in packages," she says. "If you're buying predominantly plant-based foods, whether it's from your supermarket or a farmer's market, you're already reducing the cost and fuel that went into the processing and production and packaging."
By doing the processing in our own kitchens, we can limit the amount of packaging that gets tossed in the trash. But avoiding processed foods isn't just good for the environment-- it's also important for our health. Telpner explains that eating whole foods offers a nutritional double-whammy that my trusty frozen entrees just can't compete with.
"When you buy a whole food, you're getting all the keys, all the bits and pieces of why we eat. The vitamins and minerals and essential fatty acids and enzymes and fibre and all of that stuff," she says. "If you can stick with the whole foods, you essentially get everything your body needs."
So don't try trading in that apple for apple juice-- instead of nutrition, Telpner says all you'll be getting is sugar and water.
Here's another reason to stay out of the freezer aisle: When we don't get the nutrition we need, we add vitamin supplements to our diet that don't measure up to real food-- and those supplements come with a hefty price tag and a lot of excess packaging. Not to mention the fact that when our bodies don't get adequate nutrition, Telpner says we actually end up eating more.
"If you start eating something that's very sugary like refined sugar, which is not only void of nutrients but also strips your body of nutrients, you end up craving more sugar because your body wants that quick energy," she says.
No kidding-- I can't count how many times one little cookie has turned into seven. But Telpner says that if you stick to whole foods, you can satisfy your cravings and your body's need for vitamins all at once.
"One apple is more satisfying than a handful of licorice, because you're getting the nutrition," she says. "The same goes for whole grain bread versus white. You'll feel a lot fuller if you eat a sandwich that's on whole grain bread with seeds."
Take some time
Of course, buying all the unprocessed foods in the world won't help if we're not going to eat them. And that can take a little more time and effort than just picking up takeout on the way home. But Telpner says it doesn't have to be complicated-- it just takes a little bit of planning.
"Take some time at the store to look at things," she says. "Go to the store with a shopping list. Before you even leave the house, pick out a couple of recipes you're going to make that week. I think what happens with a lot of people is that they go to the store, buy their food, and realize they don't have anything to make a full meal."
Telpner recommends starting with a food you know you like and working from there. There's no need to buy expensive, unfamiliar health foods like cacao or goji berries if you're not up for it. Besides, we Canadians have plenty of superfoods in our own backyard-- ones that have probably spent less time in transit. To get the biggest environmental bang from your food, eat locally-grown, nutritionally-dense foods like leafy greens, broccoli and cabbage.
You can even go one step further by growing your own ingredients. Telpner recommends starting small by growing bean sprouts in your kitchen.
"The seeds are the starting place for essentially all plant food," she says. "When you start sprouting a seed, the nutrition multiplies by the hundreds in terms of the enzymes and the protein value in it... It's a really simple, easy thing to do."
Sprouts can be eaten on sandwiches, in smoothies, or thrown into soups and salads. Telpner says cooking doesn't have to be scary-- I'm not sure about that, but it sounds a little easier than I thought.
"Cooking can be nice," she says. "It doesn't have to be like everyday you come home and cook for an hour. It's maybe picking a couple of Sundays a month and spending a couple of hours in the kitchen to have things prepared and ready."
In the end, taking the extra time to put a little effort into our meals is worth it.
"If we aren't putting energy and life into our meals, what are we putting into our bodies?" Telpner says.
Start where you are
Don't clear the processed food out of your pantry just yet.
When trying to eat healthier, people often make too many changes too quickly-- but that can be difficult to maintain. That's why my New Year's resolutions rarely make it to Feb. 1. Doing a diet 180 without giving yourself time to adjust is a recipe for disaster.
"Often people will swing too far one way and then crash back to the other," Telpner says. "It doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. Make the changes gradually and as you start to feel better, you'll start to make more."
While Telpner blogs about eating entirely organic, she takes a more toned-down approach with clients. She says it's better to start small than to get overwhelmed.
"If you're already buying lots of vegetables, then buy organic. But just buying broccoli is a good start for a lot of people," she says.
If you are interested in going organic, there are certain foods that are more susceptible to pesticides than others.
"My personal rule and feeling is that if the part you're going to eat grows above the ground, then it's a good idea to buy it organic if you're going to eat the peel," she says.
She recommends that leafy greens and strawberries be bought organic, as well as slow growing foods like squash. But quicker growing foods than you need to peel can be bought conventionally.
Similarly, Telpner avoids meat herself, but luckily for me, she doesn't think others necessarily need to follow suit. But she does suggest cutting back to leave room for plant-based foods.
"I think people rely too much on eating meat, or have a feeling or belief that they require meat with a meal in order to be full," Telpner says. "That's not true at all... You can have a complete meal with beans and lentils and nuts and all that good stuff."
According to Telpner, it's important to remember that going vegetarian isn't necessarily a healthy choice. You may be helping the environment by replacing meat with bread and potatoes, but you're not doing your body any favours. If you do start eating less meat, make sure to introduce new vegetables while you're at it. But start small.
"If you're eating meat three meals a day, try having it two meals a day. If you're having it five times a week, try having it two times a week," Telpner suggests.
Ultimately, making your body and the earth healthier is about taking one step at a time.
"Success comes when you make a gradual transition so you don't feel like you're missing out on anything," Telpner says. "Focus on all the new experiences and new foods and new people and places that are coming into your life."
Soon you'll be pulling something new out of the freezer: healthy foods you made yourself.