Tips for the Farmers Market Diet

It’s farmers market season and everyone is feeling the pull toward the street markets. Shopping at them can be confusing and overwhelming. To help you get through the season happier, healthier, and with more money in your pocket, here are some tips.

Cost

Every newbie to the markets talks about cost. I call it the supermarket hangover. They have trouble understanding why they should pay more. Isn’t food at the supermarket and the farmers market the same?

Definitely not. The supermarket food is priced correctly, cheap because it is cheap food. It has low levels of nutrients, vitamins, and other essential health elements. Which results in shoppers buying 2-3 times more than they need to and all of the weight problems associated with it.

Farmers markets food is high quality, or it can be. The point of these markets is to get you food when it is of the highest quality (fresh, in season, ripe). If done right you will find yourself eating much less food and the smaller amounts should help your budget and your waistline!

Fake Farmers Markets

I always try to warn folks about the fake farmers markets. You can easily spot a fake market by looking for the fruit and vegetable stands. The best markets have a good assortment of fruit/vegetables compared to everything else (bakers, cheese, meat). The worst markets have a surplus of dessert vendors and folks selling meat, bread, and cheese.

Now I have nothing against meat, bread, and cheese. I buy my fair share at the market. The problem is with markets who make no effort to balance their offerings. Folks need to be able to find healthy delicious fruits and vegetables, beyond the loaves of bread and steaks.

Foggy-Bottom-Farmers-Market-brocolli-radish-DCAnother type of fake farmers markets are those with no standards. Places that allow folks to buy from supermarkets or wholesalers and offer them at the market for a mark-up. Places like this really make me angry since they are using the market prestige to swindle customers.

Typical markets are “producer only” which means that farmers can only sell what they grow. To figure out if your market is producer only you can look it up on their website, ask the market manager or the vendors, look for/read their signs. In fact, you want to shop at the places with more signs and more transparency. A good rule is that if they aren’t telling you then don’t trust them.

The Back-up Store

You love farmers markets but it’s monday and no markets are open on monday. Stayed late at work or slept in. It happens to the best of us. Here are a few options for supplementing your farmers market diet.

Get to know the bulk foods in the bins at your local health food stores. They are often the freshest, cheapest, and healthiest items in the whole store. I regularly buy rice, beans, and nuts at my local store.

Another, but more limited option, is the local food at supermarkets. Stores like Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Market tend to carry a few local items. Usually greens and mushrooms. Which can make for a great salad especially after a slight saute and some balsamic vinegar. They also offer local eggs and milk.

Finally, look around for your local food coop. These are community formed grocery stores that allow you to choose what they stock. Many of them are locavore havens but not all. If you happen to have one close, join-up, get the member discount, and make sure they know how much you love local foods!

PS – my local coop is the TPSS coop :)

photo by mastermaq

How To Choose a Good Nutritionist?

Choosing a nutritionist can be a tough decision to make. With all of the diet advice and vitamin choices it gets confusing real fast. To help you decide here are two simple things to remember when choosing your diet yogi.

Bumpy Ride

Any good nutritionist will tell you right away that food science is shaky at best. We are in a period of unprecedented period diet related diseases including the leading killers in America. The obesity and diabetes epidemics are raging across the country. There is definitely something wrong and it may just be “the latest study shows” lifestyle we have become accustomed to.

For example, take a look at these two images from David McCandless who took the time to research and compare a large portion of the studies on nutrition.

The first image shows vitamins, minerals, nutrients of no proven value.

Every single item in this picture has no evidence proving its value for health. Now, I’m not saying this is definitive or I am an expert, I’m just saying food science is shaky. Take a look at the next picture to see the ones with conflicting evidence:

There are so many on this list that many would consider absolutely essential to health and yet the studies have not shown that yet. The question is then, where we getting this proof from, is it social proof, marketing proof?

One better make sure to ask any nutritionist about this before making major changes.

It’s the Food, Stupid!

Like the Bill Clinton’s ringing catchphrase, it’s about the economy, stupid! In the world of nutrition its all about the food and no amount of pills, supplements, or working out can replace it. The right nutritionist will make sure to talk with you about this and ask you to focus on the quality of the food you are eating.

Quality is an essential element to food, but many would have you believe that selection is more important. All to often the advice will be to eat less meat and more vegetables. Or, you have a deficiency of XX so you should eat more of YY. This can be extremely problematic especially if one is always selecting low quality food.

A good nutritionist will provide expert advice on how to find quality food. They will tell you about the difference between supermarket vegetables and farmers market vegetables (I have yet to find one doing this). With the difference being extreme, sometimes as much as three times worse for you. Supermarket vegetables are grown for hardiness and long lasting at the expense of nutrition. Whereas farmers market vegetables are grown from high quality seeds (called heritage seeds), grown in specific seasons to maximize nutritional value and sold as fresh as possible to capitalize on the vitamins/minerals before they degrade.

The same type of story can be told for fruits, nuts, meats, cheese; for everything you eat. Eating quality food can often make or break a health routine. After all quality food not only tastes better but provides more nutrition per ounce. This means that you will need to eat less to feel full and meet your nutritional needs (i.e. lose weight).

Further, studies are showing that seasonal, fresh, and high quality food contains not only more nutrients but extra ones too. It might be possible that one can get all the calcium they need from fresh, seasonal broccoli and avoid the need for all those calcium pills, soy cartons, and expensive seafood.

Make sure to choose a nutritionist who understands food quality and makes it an important part of their advice.

Conclusion

I’m not a doctor nor a nutritionist but I have spent the past year studying these issues for my own personal health and for this non-profit. I have talked to hundreds of people, including doctors and nutritionists. Only a handful of them even consider what I wrote about in this post, even though they seem like common sense.

These issues are common sense to me and I hope they help you to choose the right nutritionist.

Images pulled from Snake Oil? Scientific Evidence For Health Supplements

Cravings Don’t Make You Fat

2968102780_7ca4f9bec7Cravings don’t make you fat. Being inactive doesn’t make you fat. On the flip side working out will not stop you from being fat. Diets won’t help either.

It’s all about the food.

It’s the food you put into your body. Every bite and every morsel.

It’s very simple. Put food, real food, into your body and you will lose weight.

The complex part is determining what real food is. Nobody really knows anymore. Most of us know more about the “recommended daily nutritional intake” than we do about ripe fruit. Our minds are inundated with marketing slogans. They come upon us so fast that we have become accustomed to new products and new “needs”, like new non-fat cookies.

If you separate yourself from the swhirl of science, diets, and nutrition, it’s actually very easy. Somewhere out there exists real food. Take a trip to the farmers markets and you will see it. It’s not in a bag and its not in a box. Its just sitting there in a pile after being picked from the ground, tree, or bush.

You can buy and eat an apple and feel good. You could also buy a can of chopped apples and not feel good. The reason why this is so is simple too.

The fresher your food the better it is. If it was picked yesterday and you ate it today then it was the best for you. It also helps to have it picked during its peak maturity and not when its to young. Almost nothing in your local supermarket is fresh. All of it is picked too early or arriving weeks later. Often items in cans and boxes are months older (some don’t even go bad).

And, the older food is the worse it is for you. The impact it will have on you decreases over time. I have no research, yet, to give you real numbers, but I will posit that one fresh apple does as much for you as ten canned apples. If this is true, we can eat much less food, orders of magnitude less.

This could mean less money spent on food and less time cooking. It could mean a natural way to lose weight. It could mean no more diets, no more overeating, and no more cravings. It just could mean that.

A theoretical example. A craving hits for some vitamin C. Pop a vitamin C pill and you’re still hungry. Eat brocolli that is picked before its ready and a week old. The amount of vitamin C in that piece is probably very small, so you’re still craving some vitamin C. Okay, then pop the vitamin C pill and then eat 3x as much brocolli. Now you might feel satiated. Chances are you’re not. There are not many people I know who get full, stop eating, and go about their day. Most eat, feel tired, and start thinking about their next meal.

Now just imagine eating a piece of fresh brocolli. You get a powerful dose of vitamin C as well as a powerful dose of many other nutrients. Craving is satiated. You’re full. Energy abounds, mind activates, and you go about your day.

Again, it could be possible.

Now, I leave you with these thoughts. They are radical yet natural. The science is not there, but sometimes science can be corrupted. Try this fresh food for yourself. I have and so have many of my friends and family. There is no mistaking the impact it has had on us. Perhaps you can join us and experience the same liberating healthy food that we have.

Shop More, Buy Less, Eat Healthier

One of the most important features of a start-up is its founders. As my friends and I go down this journey to the trashatorium I think its crucial that we “walk the walk”.

This will mean something different to each of us and I hope we can each share our journey.

Here is one of my most basic but fundamental lifestyles:

Shop More, Buy Less, and Eat Healthier.

Grocery Shopping

I started down this path several years ago but only recently went “extreme”. By extreme I mean completely changing my grocery shopping routine. I wanted to spend less and eat better.

No more soggy sandwiches or trailing leftovers. I wanted to bring back a little European zeal, you know the vegetable stand on the way home. Or, the locally produces delicacies.

So, here is a quick wrap-up of how I changed my grocery routine.

Shop More

Sounds counter intuitive, I know. But, if you want fresh food you have to hit the store more. I wanted to have a regular amount of fruits and vegetables in my kitchen. Then I wanted to keep on hand fresh breads and cheeses (and chocolates!).

Of course, these natural items decay and ‘go bad’ real fast. This meant that if I wanted to keep around the good stuff in life, I needed to go more often.

Buy Less

Of course, I’m a frugal (extremely cheap) guy. I could not stand to double my food bill. I wanted to decrease that bill, allĀ  while shopping more.

More opposite thinking.

It worked, though. I got into the habit of only buying what I needed for the next few days. There was an intense burrowing need to “stock-up” on things, which is still there today. But I keep reminding myself that I will be back in a few days. I can get what I need then.

Eat Healthier

With each additional trip to the store a few things began to happen. Simple things like buying less and stocking-up on fewer items. I also began to spend much less time in the store, escaping what Jerry Seinfeld talks about in his comedy bit below.

More importantly, though, I began to buy better foods. I could manage to bring home fruits and vegetables. They would get eaten and not wasted. I bought less of the packaged food that is designed to last for weeks.

In addition, to these better foods in my life, I started noticing that I eat closer to my needs, with cravings. I could buy stuff for one big meal I wanted, have fun cooking it, and eat it for the next few days.

All in all, I can’t complain that I’m eating better foods and feeling better everyday.

Conclusion

I love my new lifestyle. Being a regular at the store. Spending less money each time and all together. Feeling better and healthier in my diet. You should try this and/or let me know your routines.

P.S. My current favorite treat is apples with peanut butter (thanks Meredith). And, here is a clip from Jerry Seinfeld talking about the scary grocery stores: