This article is written by Justyna Kalka and is taken from the current Great Health Guide (April 2016 – issue 10).
Great Health: Importance of Shopping Locally written by Justyna Kalka
During their evolution, our ancestors lived in harmony with nature, where food was mostly collected locally and hunted on foot and human dwellings were usually located close to food sources. Apart from the odd banana leaf or basket made of bark or reeds, there were certainly no packaging food industries in those days. Fast-forward around 10 000 years and there has been huge agricultural and social advances so that most of our food is no longer locally grown. It is grown in many distant locations, in different seasons to ours. With increasing rapid movement in transportation, most of our produce is flown in freshly picked from interstate or another country.
Much of what we eat has travelled a long way to reach our plates. It is estimated that a typical forkful of food now travels some 2,000 miles on average. The realities of food sourcing are changing at an increasing speed. Even just 50 years ago, we bought our fruit and vegetables at the local greengrocer, walked a few doors down to the bakery, then to the local butcher and milk was delivered to our door in glass containers. Business owners and farmers lived locally, produce was picked ripe, fresh and seasonal. Now seasonality of produce is disappearing and we can enjoy a wider variety of food choices at the supermarket, take for example strawberries and navel oranges from California, cherries from Washington in June, baby corn flown in from Thailand and out-of-season kiwi fruit from Italy. But is there more to the food on our plates than meets the eye? There are some concerns about the global movement of food.
There are the environmental costs and the issue of greenhouse gases when trucks, planes and ships move produce from one part of the world to the other. Governmental regimes of chemical sprays and quarantine restrictions of foods to control the foreign diseases and pests are all very clear aspects of international import of food. Produce is often picked green or unripe, weeks or even months before maturity in order to survive the long journey. It may be artificially ripened after arrival, often with a loss of flavour. Although you never see it, kilometers of plastic pallet wrap, tonnes of wax, polystyrene boxes and various packaging are all part of the way we eat today.
For the environmentally concerned consumer, eating locally produced food is no easy task these days but there are some simple things that we can do.
Learn what’s in season (seasonal produce charts are easily accessible on the internet or farmers’ market websites).
Take a weekend drive with the family to the local farmlands. You are sure to find farm stalls and local growers eager to inform you on what they grow and talk to you about the seasonality of their produce.
Learn more about gardening and how food is grown. Does it grow in your area? Does anyone grow it locally? Can you grow it yourself?
Choose Australian produce when shopping for food or go even one step further and choose food from your state. Each time you make that choice, you are supporting your local growers and the community.
Ask your suppliers for local and fresh food. If you don’t ask, you don’t get! Consumer demand can be powerful.
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How to Create a Healthy Food Culture at Home?
Food culture starts at home, in the way we source and prepare the food for ourselves and our families. It is more than ethnicity and heritage.
Children mirror what they see in their parents. Our attitudes around buying food, cooking and eating directly shapes how our children approach food and they will one day feed their families. It is never too early to plant a seed of healthy eating. Seasonal produce, sustainable farming and wholefoods are topics that can all be introduced to children in simple ways they can understand. Your efforts will help your child connect the dots between the environment, health, food and enjoyment, as well as create a strong base to good lifetime dietary habits. Making an effort in the way we buy, prepare and eat healthy food gives more than nourishment for growth and development of our little ones. It will provide them with the necessary tools to take care of themselves long after leaving your nest, rather than being misguided by confusing nutrition trends, trusting the outside world and the food industry to do a good job of educating our children.
Most likely you already shop for food with your children by your side so take the opportunity to make it fun and educational. Family trips to the farmers’ market to source fresh ingredients can be filled with wonder and laughter. Naming fruit and vegetables together and picking a new one to taste at home is not only taking full advantage of their natural curiosity but also simultaneously educating them about wholefoods. Include them in the decision making process, let them pick favourite fruits and vegetables for their lunchboxes. Welcoming little ones into the kitchen to cook or bake with you may at times require patience, but you will be contributing immensely to their development. Children are like little sponges and soak up information, so always explain what you are making, in simple terms talk about each ingredient, where it comes from and what makes it special and good for us.
Author of this article:
Justyna Kalka is a qualified nutritionist for Zak Australia. She is devoted to educating others about the true vitality that comes from a careful balance of real food, the right mind set and healthy exercise. Justyna educates parents and children about the importance of proper nourishment for growth and development. She is a professional speaker and health educator who specialises in promoting optimal health through wholesome, nutrient dense food and movement.
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