Tag Archives: food

America throws away 40% of its food – under the supermarket model

One of my big ideas is to get away from the supermarket model in America. Not only has it made two-thirds of the country overweight or obese, but it also wastes an incredible amount of…well, everything.

From an NRDC report (pdf):

Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten….That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land. Moreover, almost all that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Nutrition is also lost in the mix—food saved by reducing losses by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables.

 

I’m convinced the supermarket model isn’t working and suggest we replace it with a more sustainable model. I’m writing a book to explain my solution, but here it is in three parts. A food system made up of farmers markets, non-profit food cooperatives, and for-profit markets.

I’ve traveled across the country and seen this model in effect and successful in large and small communities. It favors both the rich and poor, is sustainable and, best of all, creates quality jobs.

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Easy recipe for drying basil – use the microwave

Summer is coming to an end and it’s time to pick all that basil. Don’t forget or you might find all the leaves fallen off. And thanks to some friends and HomeGrown.org for this easy recipe – drying basil in the microwave:

  • Wash and dry basil.
  • Place leaves on a paper towel in microwave and cover with another paper towel.
  • Let the microwave run for 30 seconds. Turn leaves over and run for another 30 seconds.
  • Repeat as necessary (can take 1.5 minutes).
  • Before storing (whole or crushed), make sure all moisture is gone (option: place in plastic wrap overnight to get rid of moisture).

 

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Research: cheaper food means less nutrients

A few weeks ago, I shared a study that found nutrients in the U.S. food supply are declining. Which could explain why millions of Americans, who prefer to be thin, are overeating to get more nutrients.

Another study found that industrial farming techniques – including the use of petroleum-based fertilizer – reduces nutrient levels in food, while dramatically increasing yields. This means we have abundant cheap food with lowered nutrient levels:

This article summarizes three kinds of evidence pointing toward declines during the last 50 to 100 years in the concentration of some nutrients in vegetables and perhaps also in fruits. It has been noted since the 1940s that yield increases produced by fertilization, irrigation, and other environmental means tend to decrease the concentrations of minerals in plants.

Jarrell and Beverly (1981) reviewed the evidence for this well-known “dilution effect.” Although their review has been cited over 180 times (60 times from 2000 on), few mentions of the dilution effect contain a reference, suggesting that the effect is widely regarded as common knowledge.

Common among scientists perhaps, but the public is unaware. When I share this among friends and readers there is a strong disbelief, with the most common response being - food is cheaper. Yes it is, because it has been hollowed out like a pumpkin and there’s nothing left on the inside.

And that makes it a struggle to get the message out. How do I explain the dilution effect to a public obsessed with everything but this – from diet programs to food labels to coupon cutting that encourages cheaper food?

 

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Research: nutrient levels in U.S. food supply are dropping

I’ve written a lot about the benefits of shopping entirely at farmers markets, the difference between organic/GMO/seasonal, and how food is more important than working out. These topics have interested many people with many asking for more data.

Here is one piece, possibly the most important in explaining our obesity epidemic. The findings reveal farming practices and seed choice that have led to lower quality food. Compared on a nutrient-nutrient basis it can be a 1/3 drop in nutrient level for some foods.

This means that the typical person will need to eat 3x as much to obtain the proper nutrients. If true, that would provide the ideal explanation for our overweight problems. It’s not so much our sedentary lifestyle or even our poor choices in food, but our simple desire to get the nutrients our bodies need.

The report is worth a read and I will be sharing several more like it over the coming days.

 

 “Nutrient levels in U.S. food supply eroded by pursuit of high yields” 

Full Report (pdf)

2-page Newsletter Summary (pdf)

“High yields and jumbo produce deliver more water, starch, and sugar per serving, but less vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.”

4-page Research Summary (pdf)

“Farmers have doubled or tripled the yield of most major grains, fruits and vegetables over the last half-century. They have done so by capitalizing on the work of plant scientists, crop breeders and companies manufacturing a wide range of inputs—from fertilizer to water, pesticides, sophisticated machinery and diesel fuel.

But American agriculture’s single-minded focus on increasing yields over the last half-century created a blind spot where incremental erosion in the nutritional quality of our food has occurred.  This erosion, modest in some crops but significant in others for some nutrients, has gone largely unnoticed by scientists, farmers, government and consumers.”

 

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The key to losing weight – the mindless margin

In writing the last post on WordPress development, I came across an interesting lesson on food. Here is Matt Mullenweg on the book, Mindless Eating:

“It’s not actually a book about food, it’s a book about people. About the human condition and human behaviors. I love food because it’s intrinsic to the human experience, it brings us all together. What Brian talks about in the book is the mindless margin. Most people who overeat don’t overeat by a lot. They overeat by about a 100 calories/day.

We’re talking about a cookie here, 1/6th of a Snickers bar. 100 calories/day over a year adds up to 10 lbs.

On the other end, less 100 calories a day is below the threshold for what many people notice. Over the course of a year it can cause a 10 lb weight loss.

This is what I thought of when researching WordPress development.”

 

I have not read the book but the idea is something I practice. In my daily habits I try to extend the time between meals and eat a bit less. If I can say no to even the tiniest amount then I feel like a conqueror, knowing I am losing some weight. It also reminds me I will eat again so no need to overload on this meal.

I think it’s those tiny, daily victories that make a big difference in weight loss. Again, from Mindless Eating, this time from Wikipedia:

The encouraging premise behind Mindless Eating is that the obesigenic environment that people have set up for themselves in their homes and at work can be reversed. Just as this environment has led many people to slowly gain weight, it can be re-engineered to help them mindlessly lose weight. Consuming 200 fewer calories a day would lead a person to weigh approximately 9 kilograms (20 lbs) less in a year than they otherwise would. The first sentence and the last sentence of the book are, “The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.”

Instead of deprivation dieting, Mindless Eating recommends a person choose three small changes in their environment that would lead them to eat 200-300 fewer calories a day.

 

I’ve already mentioned two of my small changes, extending periods between meals and eating a small amount less, and the third would be learning to only eat when I’m hungry. This means skipping the urge to snack in between meals. I think of it like this, “if I’m craving chocolate am I also craving a vegetable? If no, then I should wait until I’m craving the vegetable.” Every time I do so it works. The craving goes away and I eat proper food later when I’m truly hungry.

What about you, do you have any tips for small changes?

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New study – we’re not getting fat because of inactivity, it’s diet

A piece from the N.Y. Times that discusses what’s more important for weight loss, diet or working-out:

Debunking the Hunter-Gatherer Workout

All of this means that if we want to end obesity, we need to focus on our diet and reduce the number of calories we eat, particularly the sugars our primate brains have evolved to love. We’re getting fat because we eat too much, not because we’re sedentary. Physical activity is very important for maintaining physical and mental health, but we aren’t going to Jazzercise our way out of the obesity epidemic.

 

It’s good to see a big publication talk about food in this way. It supports the argument made in my last piece - How Farmers Markets can give you a superior workout.

 

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Mexico’s wine country – Valle de Guadalupe – is on the rise

Baja California seems like the perfect place to recreate that Italian sense of wine. Both are peninsulas with rolling hills of heat and fresh ocean breezes, perfect for a multitude of grape varieties. Food is central to the culture, like it is in Italy, with most Mexicans in the area practicing some sort of agriculture, aquaculture, or livestock herding. Finally, both have a bustling tourist industry more than ready to accommodate wine loving visitors.

Mark my words, Baja California is on the rise as a wine destination.

A review of Deckman’s seasonal restaurant located on the El Mogor winery:

My dear pal took me to Baja’s wine country – the Valle de Guadalupe near Ensenada – to lunch under the pine trees at Drew Deckman’s new seasonal restaurant at the charming Mogor Badan winery…there is no dearth of fine eateries in the Ensenada area.

And all take full advantage of what the region offers including organic produce; regional cheeses in both the farm and European styles; hand-crafted wines that are winning accolades throughout the world, and meats and seafood that are cultivated locally.

 

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Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

Imagine this for a food pyramid – topped off by dark chocolate and red wine, dairy nowhere to be seen, and fruits/vegetables as the foundation.

 

(drweil.com)

 

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How zero waste, local food, and sustainable transport are a part of the London 2012 Olympics

Pulled from the London 2012 Olympics Sustainability report (pdf):

 

If everyone lived as we do in the UK we would need three planets.

Our unsustainable lifestyles have meant that for the last 30 years we have been ‘eating into the Earth’s capital’ rather than ‘living off its interest’.

The promotion of sustainable development has become one of the fundamental objectives of the Olympic Movement…through its Agenda 21– Sport for Sustainable Development.

London 2012, WWF and BioRegional have developed the concept of a One Planet Olympics.

Staging a One Planet Olympics in London would help achieve the first sustainable Games. Sustainability has been at the heart of the London 2012 Bid and Masterplan.

 

The principles, goals, and legacy of the One Planet Olympics:

 

Zero Waste

Developing closed resource loops. Reducing the amounts of waste produced, then reclaiming, recycling and recovering

Goals

  • No Games waste direct to landfill – all treated as a resource
  • Zero waste target a pivotal procurement driver
  • Closed-loop waste management at all venues
  • Public information campaign to promote high quality front-of-house waste separation

Legacy

  • Zero waste policies extend across East London based on high recycling rates and residual waste converted to compost and renewable energy
  • Increased market for recycled products
  • Closed-loop waste management to be standard practice for major sports events

 

Local and Sustainable Food

Supporting consumption of local, seasonal and organic produce, with reduced amount of animal protein and packaging

Goals

  • Promotion of local, seasonal, healthy and organic produce
  • Promotion of links between healthy eating, sport and wellbeing
  • Partnerships established with key caterers, suppliers and sponsors
  • Composting of food waste as part of Zero Waste plan

Legacy

  • Increased markets for farmers in the region
  • Markets, catering and retail outlets supplying local and seasonal food
  • Composting facilities integrated into closed-loop food strategy

 

Sustainable Transport

Reducing the need to travel and providing sustainable alternatives to private car use

Goals

  • All spectators travelling by public transport, walking or cycling to venues
  • Low/no emission Olympic vehicle fleet
  • Olympic Park Low Emission Zone
  • Carbon offset programme for international travel
  • Individualised travel plans as part of integrated ticketing process

Legacy

  • Increased connectivity across and between legacy developments and neighbouring communities
  • Reduced car dependency
  • Car free events policy adopted for other major events
  • Greater market for zero carbon transport

 

 

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MLE – Major League Eating – championship contests for eating any kind of food

MLE - Major League Eating is the world body that oversees all professional eating contests. The organization, which developed competitive eating and includes the sport’s governing body, the International Federation of Competitive Eating, helps sponsors to develop, publicize and execute world-class eating events in all varieties of food disciplines.

The world’s top competitive eating stars — such as Joey Chestnut, Sonya Thomas, Patrick Bertoletti, Eater X Tim and Bob Shoudt — are all Major League Eaters.

MLE conducts approximately 80 events annually, including the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, and generate more than a billion consumer impressions worldwide each year.

Events:

  • World Boneless Buffalo Wing Eating Championship
  • World Slugburger Eating Championship
  • World Pulled-Pork Sandwich Eating Championship
  • Rib-Mania Eating Championship
  • Oyster Eating World Championship
  • Pepperoni Roll World Eating Championship
  • World Gyro eating Championship
  • Cheesesteak Eating Championship
  • Sweet Corn Eating Championship
  • Deep-fried Asparagus Eating Championship
  • World Cupcake Eating Championship
  • World Crawfish Eating Championship
  • World Catfish Eating Championship
  • World Class Corned Beef Eating Championship
  • Cake Eating Championship
  • PB&B Sandwich Eating Championship
  • Meatball Eating Championship
  • Pickle Eating World Championship

 

…and 100s more – MLE Eating Contests

 

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