Pay the Grocer

‘It’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor’

I was struck recently by the above quote, which is an old Italian saying, that goes really close to summing up my attitude to life. Apart from being a sceptic on the virtues of areas of modern medicine, in it’s simplicity there’s a whole lot implied that goes unsaid. Not rushing things for example, or support the small businessperson rather than the rich guy. Of course though, the obvious connection is that if you eat healthily then you’ve no need for the doctor – rather like ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ – although the Italians seem to take a broader approach than the Anglos.

The saying may have worked 100 years ago, nowadays I think the saying ‘it’s better to pay the supermarket than the doctor’ is a little more problematic. The food industry is a massive profit-making machine – and to provide food for everyone and dividends for shareholders they are compromising our health. Changes like speeding up production rates, genetically modifying crops, feeding animals to animals, or adding unneeded chemicals are subtly altering the end food product in damaging ways.

Industrialised diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes are not solely related to high junk food diets, there’s bad things in most of the food you buy in the major supermarkets as well. Food we all buy and consider healthy when doing so.

looks good, smells better!Eating healthily so you don’t need to pay the doctor is harder than it seems – bread is no longer just flour, yeast and water; butter often gets substituted for margarine, a grey-black product that starts as the leftovers from vegetable oil production and is injected with air and colours and flavourings to make it appear like butter. The examples are endless.

Above all else though, the main areas that should concern everyone are animals and animal products – the most unethical section of the industry. It’s no great surprise that the rates of those first world diseases have risen with the amount of animal products we are consuming.

The first step towards reversing these trends does not need to be vegetarianism – many of you will be happy to know – but finding out what has happened to your meat, fish, eggs, milk etc before it got to your grocer. I urge you to do it! This means a bit of reading, and probably paying a little more for the sake of your health. You’ll be able to read my thoughts or research from time to time on this blog as well.

An easy, immediate, non-research choice is to buy organic. This may not have been the original motivation of the Italians’ saying, but it certainly rings clear in today’s gastronomic world.

Small Habit Change – Read more about the food you eat, make sure you know where it comes from. Try for once a week, learning about something new each time. Become an informed consumer.

A few links on the above topic….


Four Years of ‘Freak’

As it turns out, I quite like to read. The last two or so years I’ve been getting through books like a Norwegian through dried fish. I thought I might try a little writing too, it turns out I’m taking to it like a dog with a ball….it’s fun to keep me occupied until food turns up and then I forget all about the ball. Thinking about ethics and morals of food has occupied a large frypan in my mind the last few years, which developed into reading lots about it, morphing into an attempt to write about it, and hopefully change some folk’s thinking about it.

A little over four years ago I made the permanent switch to vegetarianism and it’s become clear to me that I feel I’m doing the right thing. When someone discovers you’re a vegetarian there’s two common questions – 1) Why?; 2) Don’t you miss meat?

Here then are my answers, happily unchanged the entire time.

Why? I think it is the right thing to do. Right for me, right for animals, right for the planet. What has changed from four years ago is my knowledge and passion for the whole topic of happy food choices, and the more I learn the more I agree with myself. Vegetarians have probably already taken a bigger interest in happy food choices than their carnivorous cousins, and that interest has increased with every book I read on the topic. Each book inevitably leads to another, each time confirming my choices will make either me, animals or the planet happier…and more often than not all three at once.

Don’t you miss meat? There are two parts to this, firstly the answer to ‘don’t you miss the taste of meat?’ is a big fat juicy steak NO. Occasionally I can be caught sniffing a seafood dish just to be reminded of how that tasted, but it’s incredible how delicious fruits and vegetables are when they are the meal and not just an accompaniment. Legumes and seeds are not merely a substitute but an amazing replacement. In answer to ‘doesn’t your body miss meat?’, the proof is clearly in the apple pie. I have four years of healthiness, energy and happiness to show that it’s possible to not eat meat (and do without nutritional supplements also).

So, I reckon I know a bit about happy food choices and I want to share them with everyone through this blog. There are a thousand million different ideas about which food is bad or good for you, there will be plenty more every week that scientists keep looking into the microscope, and I’m not here to say which is right and wrong because sure as eggplants different choices work for different people. What I hope to do is to encourage people to make the healthiest choice as often as possible and turn it into routine.

Too often our food choices are based on price rather than health. When selecting a stereo or car or dining table or tech support service or shirt or nailpolish or mobile phone contract or potplant or holiday package, by all means take the cheapest option, but what a silly idea to sacrifice your health for a few bucks. As an example, think about buying a pair of shoes – there’s no way you’d choose a pair that was two sizes too small just because it was cheaper, it wouldn’t be good (healthy) for your feet. Why is it then that when we go to the supermarket the number one consideration is price and not health? If there are two competing products on the shelf that look pretty similar but one is way cheaper, bet your last banana that it’s because a healthy natural ingredient has been substituted for a cheaper unnatural version.

At it’s simplest, bread is made from flour, water and yeast….now go to the kitchen and check out the ingredients on your bread packet. Do you even know what that ‘acidity regulator’ is? Do you know what effect that ‘emulsifier(diglyceride)’ has on your body?

Helpfully, it is law in most countries to display a list of ingredients on food packaging, and in most cases they must be displayed in weight order. Two simple reasons to leave an item on the shelf are – 1) if you don’t know what an ingredient is; 2) if it has more than 5 ingredients.

It’s not a chore think more about food, it’s a joy to make the right choices. After four years of being a vegetarian ‘freak’, it comes naturally to me now and I realise that healthy choices apply to everyone – vegan, vegetarian, only-eat-chicken-if-it’s-sustainable eater, or meat with every meal – whichever type you are start taking a greater interest in where your food comes from.

Small habit change – Reading labels takes time, don’t do it all at once or you’ll go mouldy quicker than bread without that acidity regulator. Limit your research to a couple of items every shop, or next time you cook a meal just quickly check out the label on a few items. If they don’t fit the two criteria above, change them – start taking the happy food choice for yourself!