It’s easy to eat poorly or inadequately in our fast food culture. Overworked and stressed we rush out to find a quick bite and often find solace in a burger or a hot dog. The temptation of sugar, salt and fat feel good while you are eating it but it really does little to satisfy you. It’s convenient at the time and stills your hunger. Dinner might be a quick microwave meal, frozen pizza ready in minutes in the oven or even take out. Looking at the long term effects, it will make you and your family fat, lazy and sick!
We know that! However, I am still surprised when I read articles or watch reports that show over two third of us are overweight and one third are obese. More disheartening is the fact that over one third of our children are overweight and the CDC says that of the children born in the year 2000 - 30 - 40% will become diabetic in their lifetime. We’ve read these dismal statistics so often - over and over.
Often parents preach to their children about the value of food, but send them mixed signals when meals are eaten in front of the TV or computer or take out food is ordered every other night. In our fast paced life, time is of essence and convenience becomes the main issue. In America, one of every four meals is eaten at a fast food restaurant; one in four is eaten in a car and one in three in front of a TV or computer!
Consider what these children are learning about the value of food. We are teaching them that it is “easier” and “cheaper” to purchase this type of “food” than to prepare real foods at home.
In one article I was reading recently a mother had never prepared a home cooked meal for her 4 year daughter! I was appalled and it prompted me to write this article.
In their recent articles, Manisha talked about invisible expenses and Peter about home economics to help you manage your costs and finances better. While the immediate cost of fast food might seem low, there are other types of costs we might also want to consider.
What is the long term cost of CO2 emissions, pollution, obesity and diabetes that inevitably comes from eating processed foods?
Enter the Slow Food Philosophy.
“Slow Food” is more of a philosophy than a cuisine. I am not talking about cooking a dish in a crockpot all day, but rather how slow food is defined by how it's prepared, and how it should be enjoyed. It's also the name of an international movement, founded in Italy.
The Slow Food Movement arose in 1986 in Italy as a response to the negative impact of multinational food companies and is spreading around the world – slowly! Today the Slow Food Movement has branches over the five continents, in 130 countries, with about 80 000 people.
Slow Food protests against the standardization of taste, it protects cultural identity, which is connected to food and seeks to safeguard processing techniques inherited from tradition. It also involves valuing time to prepare, eat and build a community through food. Sometimes the movement has been criticized as having an upper class pursuit, however far from extravagant eating, slow food is about the celebration of the connections that food can make with sustainable production and local food traditions that are often lost in our economy.
The slow food concept is about good, clean and fair food. It’s about allowing fruits and vegetables to ripen on the vine before being harvested and making breads from scratch. Slow food is about locally grown ingredients, traditional cooking methods and the producers and chefs who follow the creed.
And all of us can do join in on this philosophy to celebrate this kind of good, healthy food.
Here are a few ideas:
Buy locally: Shopping for produce is an action with a huge impact. I cannot stress this enough! You make the choice to spend money on foods that are grown and picked in your region by local farmers and brought to the market, instead of traveling great distances. Point out the sources to your kids when you are at the grocery store or the farmer’s markets. Now that Soeren can read he makes sure that the produce that lands in our shopping basket is from our region. Sometimes he will frown at me if I place a mango from Brazil in the cart! ;-)
Go for Organic: Whenever you can. This reduces your family’s and your exposure to pesticides and chemical fertilizers. You will soon realize that several of the items simply taste better too. Several years ago when I made the decision to buy organic produce there were two things I always had in my mind. One was the fact a close friend of mine was diagnosed with a rare cancer type. Her doctor told her that the tests were showing high levels of certain chemicals found in pesticides, deducing that the cancer might have been a result of the food she was eating! I decided that this was not what I wanted for my child or my family. I paid the extra cent for organic produce happily. This brings me to the second point. The fact I am paying a little more for organic food – I take more care of what and how I am preparing food. I buy less and make sure we waste less. Today I would say we are eating 90% organically and regionally. Yes – I am proud of this fact. Also read: Organic Food - What is it? Is Organic Food Healthier?
Grow your own: If you have a garden, grow your own produce. If space is tight fill a few pots with herbs and tomatoes. The point here is you are not only picking and enjoying fresh food from your own backyard, you will also be giving your children priceless values about the concept of food.
Cook at home: Even if you're short on time, you can still enjoy delicious homemade meals that can be ready in 30 to 40 minutes. We’re not saying no to burgers but rather saying yes to healthy homemade burgers, where you control what goes into them. This is healthy fast food and you will find a plethora of great recipes to get you started on the Internet. A few you will find on iVillage 19 30-minute meals. You’ll also find several great lunch box ideas for healthy meals for you and your kids right here on the DT.
Get your kids involved. It’s part of the slow food picture – to spend valuable time with your family. Not only are you spending quality time together with your children in the kitchen, but you are teaching them how to be involved in the food choices that they make. By getting actively involved they are learning that they can make choices about the foods and ingredients that they consume. Be creative with the food you prepare and let your kids express themselves through their recipe choices and presentation.
Finally share food. Use food to help others who might not be able to provide or cook for themselves. From a simple doubling a recipe and taking a home-coked meal to someone who is ill or donating food to the food drive, are all aspects that will teach your children the value of food. Soeren and his school collect food every year in December for our local food drive here in Weimar.
This year I have organized with his class to host our very own Drop In and Decorate event, which is a charity event started by my dear friend and DT alumni writer Lydia (more on that later).
Become a part of the slow food manifesto. You do not have to join the movement but you can use the same principals to make changes in your food culture. It’s important we practice what we preach and set the right examples so our children grow up making the right food choices.