A Year of Living Less Dangerously

by Laura on January 17, 2012

in Blog

If we listened to all the news about food security and food safety, we’d surely believe that we were traveling on a dangerous path that ends in a steep cliff.

Not to be an alarmist, but there is some credibility to all this news. The choices we make on what we eat are important. But all too often we half-listen to the news, then get on with our lives and take the ‘If it doesn’t make me sick today, then I don’t need to worry about it,” approach.

As we make our way through January, I got to thinking, what is it that I (we) could do without? If not for me, then for our children, I’ve decided to act upon a few lifestyle changes that will definitely benefit us all.

In our Year of Living Less Dangerously post, Family Eats takes a look at five changes we can make in our daily lives that will lessen our impact on the environment, lessen our exposure to things which may be making us sick, and allow us to reconnect with the food we eat and the family we love.

We hope to inspire your year of living less dangerously.

1. Reduce the Amount of BPA in Our Lives

The prevalence of BPA in our lives has been brought to the forefront in recent years. First we heard about its appearance in plastics, next we heard about its ubiquity in canned foods, and by that time, we were all pretty alarmed.

Upon hearing this news, many of us made changes right away: We switched from plastic sippy cups and water bottles to stainless steel bottles, stopped microwaving food in plastic containers, and became mindful of our canned food purchases. But, Family Eats still has a ways to go. The plastic containers seem to multiply in our kitchen, and those thought previously lost, still find their way back into our kitchen drawers and the fridge.  And despite our attention to buying bulk foods, canned beans and tomato sauce somehow make their way into our cupboards. (I even find myself shoving a plastic spoon into lunch boxes for yogurt.)

Sometimes, we just need a little reminder to act upon things. Ours was the study reported last year on ABC News, which found that a family who cut out canned and packaged foods for three days, lowered the BPA found in their bloodstream by 60%. That captured my attention.

This year, Family Eats will make the effort to cut all that out. No more canned food. No more questionable plastic containers holding our leftovers and lunch fixings. We may even say “No,” to receipts (yes, the thermal paper used in many receipts contains BPA).

2. Consume Less Processed Foods (but if we do choose processed foods, choose those with fewer ingredients)

Many of the ingredients that are found in processed foods (including artificial colors, preservatives and nitrites) have been linked to the skyrocketing amount of obesity and cancer found today. Additionally, heavily processed foods are high in fat and salt, and are believe to be lower in nutrients and fiber than whole foods.

We’re pretty good at eating whole foods, but reading the multitude of articles discussing the ills of processed foods, we are further motivated to cut out more of the processed foods we feed ourselves, and get back to eating whole foods.

As I take a look around our kitchen, I eye a few items that we’ll have to cut out – those crackers, pasta (oh, do I have to make pasta every time?), cereal . .  I know in the coming months, I will unearth yet another few processed foods that I’ll have to phase out.

Perhaps I may not cut out processed foods totally, but I will at least take the suggestion of one of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules “Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.”

3. No More GMOs

This is going to be a hard one, and dovetails our “eating fewer processed foods” challenge. GMOs have worked their way into nearly 70 percent of our food supply. Chemical corporations continue to work tirelessly to get approval of new genetically engineered crops onto the market, which will withstand heavy sprayings of chemicals that are known to be harmful.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicinestates, “Several animal studies indicate serious risks associated with GM food…There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects, there is causation. GMOs have been suspected of being responsible for everything from autism and cancer to diabetes and allergies.”

I’m convinced, but know it will be a hard things to enact. It will mean no more packaged crackers (sorry, kids) as there are very few GMO-free crackers on the market.

It will mean perusing food labels, checking company websites, and truly paying greater attention to the details of food buying (whew, just thinking about it makes me feel exhausted).

Our move to cut out GMOs will do a lot for the environment, a lot for our health, and will even help species, including the bee. (read more about bee Colony Collapse Disorder here). @@page

Considered one of the great inventions of the 20th century, more than 90% of American homes have at least one microwave. We also find them in office break rooms, restaurants, and almost anywhere someone wants to warm a cup of coffee, defrost dinner, and warm up a day-old pastry. Generally, public health officials and  government agencies, believe that microwave use is not harmful when used as directed.

Taken in small doses, non-ionizing radiation is not believed to be harmful to us – and our microwaves fall in that category. (The FDA limits the amount of microwaves that can leak from an oven in a lifetime).

But, microwave use is only one of the growing number of products we use that emit radiation. And, considering there is growing evidence linking radiation exposure to many other ‘waves’ from cell phone use, for example, our decision is made with the belief that small doses add up.

We have lived without a microwave for several years. However, our new house came equipped with a microwave, and while it sat unopened for several months, we find ourselves welcoming the convenience a bit too frequently lately – warming up our coffee, softening butter, defrosting one thing or another.

And, now that the kids can reach it, they are finding it a bit to convenient. I think it is time for me to tape up the microwave and opt for softening butter in the sunlight.

5. Eat/Drink Less, But Eat/Drink Better Quality

For our health, for our pocketbook and for the life of our planet, Family Eats will be taking greater strides to focus on the pleasures of eating – of eating fresh, homemade and home cooked meals . . . slowly! The desire to cut back on our consumption, but up our quality, is a great way to ensure we’ll be healthier – of body and mind.

How will that translate into our daily lives? That means, upping the ante on my coffee buying (although, I do a pretty good job of buying quality), buying more in-season produce (sorry kids, no strawberries in January), and slowing down to take the time to savor food with our family and friends.

We’ll be focusing on experiencing the real taste of whole foods, as opposed to packaged foods pumped up with artificial flavorings, added salt and unpronounceable things that make mouthfeel more appealing.

We’ll be putting the flavor and taste of whole foods high on our list of priorities; We will be checking our portion sizes; We will be eating foods with more fiber (including dried beans, bran, vegetables, and grains); and,  We will find the patience to sit through the kids’ complaining that they don’t like dinner. (Perhaps my resolve should be “Perseverance.”)

So for breakfast it will be a high fiber cereal, for lunch some split pea soup, and for dinner, a grain such as farro, quinoa and cous cous (the non GMO kind, of course!).

Living Less Dangerously

We’re not talking about knife safety, turning pot handles in to the center of the stove when boiling water, or reinstating the ‘no running in the kitchen’ rule, we’re talking about the food we put in our bodies.

As we choose to live less dangerously, we realize that these changes may be less convenient. But our hope is that in a year’s time, we will become accustomed to this new way of living, and not turn back.

Throughout the year, Family Eats will revisit our Year of Living Less Dangerously post, to write about our successes, challenges and our new-found lifestyle.


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