You may have seen me mention SLOW food in previous blog posts. But what exactly is it?
Let’s take a step back a generation or two. Back then there was little or no fast food restaurants. People use to buy their bread and milk on a daily basis from the corner store. Others grew their own produce (pesticide free) and shared it with neighbours, friends and family. Supermarkets didn’t look like the collossal giants they are today. They were the size of a small shop with basic ingredients.
Fast forward a generation or two and it’s a completely different world we live in. We are bombarded with advertisements everywhere for fast and convenience foods. People are encouraged to buy these foods as they save time and can get them ‘out of the kitchen’ to do other things. Just what other things though? And what if you like being in the kitchen? And what exectly are these fake foods doing to our bodies and the environment?
Someone once said to me a few years ago that you should only buy from the perimeter of the supermarket. If you think about it, thats where the ‘fresh’ food like meats, dairy, fruit and vegetables and the bakery sections are. The aisles are just filled with packets and packets of processed foods. It made sense. But not so much anymore. The meat and dairy come from animals that have been raised using grain feeds and growth promoters. The fruit and vegetables are grown using a plethora of pesticides, some you can’t even get rid of with washing. And the bakery section really is just another processed food section. Since when does a loaf of bread require 20 ingredients?
Enter the SLOW food way of thinking. Most people think of slow to mean that their meal takes longer to cook. However it is really just a simple acronym for Seasonal, Local, Organic and Whole foods and the benefits of eating that way.
Let’s look at each of the SLOW components.
When you look around the supermarket (and many markets as well) these days it’s no surprise that you’d be confused about what’s in season. The food industry has developed techniques over the years to preserve and store foods so that they are available to consumers all year round. These techniques often involve chemicals and practices that increase the toxicity and reduce the nutritional value. Buying seasonal ensures you get the freshest produce with the highest nutritional value. And it tastes better too!
When produce has to travel, it also requires treating with chemicals and irradiation to enable storage and extended shelf life. Local usually means seasonal, fresh and of high nutritional value. Not to mention buyng local supports local businesses. Farmers markets are wonderful places to source local produce.
Organic foods have been grown or raised without the use of artificial chemicals, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms. This method of farming is also more environmentally sustainable.
There is some debate about the nutritional value of organic vs conventionally grown produce, with many claiming orgnaic produce is superior. This debate is most likely due to natural variation in food handling and production as well as soil quality, weather conditions and when the crops are harvested.
Personally I always choose an organic option over a conventional one if available simply due to the lower chemical load. You never know what it will do to your body now or in 20 years time.
Whole foods are unprocessed and unrefined, or done so as little as possible, before being consumed. This means fruits, vegetables, animal products and whole unprocessed grains. Whole foods provide greater nutritional value than their processed versions. Basically this means that you don’t eat (or at least limit) the processed and packaged foods that have more than one ingredient! Of course homemade goods aren’t included in this if they are made from a variety of whole foods.
This may seem unachievable but I always follow the 80/20 rule. My pantry and fridge isn’t completely devoid of things with more than one ingredient. But those that I do have, I know exactly what ingredients it contains and they are always of high quality.
How do I start?
It doesn’t mean you have to replace the entire contents of your pantry and fridge. Just simply don’t replace something when it runs out or look for an alternative whole food or healthier options.
It may seem overwhelming but start by asking yourself some questions and following these tips.
- Check where the produce you buy is from. Are there local options you could choose instead?
- Find out what produce is in season and eat more of it.
- Try to source more organic produce. More and more organic options are becoming available due to demand. Often the difference in price to conventional food is not much anymore.
- Find a farmers market with local sellers.
- Is it something your grandmother would recognise? If not it’s probably not something you should be buying and eating.
- Eat less packaged and processed foods and more whole foods.
- Read your food labels (not just for the kilojoule or fat or salt content). Does it have an ingredients list as long as your arm? Do you know what all the ingredients are? If you don’t know what something is (i.e. the ubiquitous ‘natural flavouring’ that isn’t natural at all) don’t buy it.
- If you can’t make a farmers market there are ‘farm to your home’ businesses that will deliver fresh produce directly to your door. Many exist these days.
- When eating out, try places that serve food that is made from local and seasonal produce. More and more places are offering this now.
- Trying growing some of your own food. Even if you only have a small space you’d be surprised at what you can grow. And it’s satisfying and rewarding. We had cucumbers almost as tall as my two year old this year!
Changing to a SLOW food philosophy takes time. Every step you take in the right direction is a positive one.