How We Eat: Sustainable Whole Food Nutrition

What you choose to eat or not eat in this time in history is probably one of the most confusing and baffling parts of life. This is true, especially, if you are interested in good health, animal or environmental welfare, or your pocketbook. If you are at a point in your life where you don't care about aforementioned concepts, by all means, skip to the next blog post. If figuring out the "best" way to eat is a constant internal conversation, stay and have that conversation with us for a bit. Let's talk about Sustainable Whole Food Nutrition. Kristl and I have come to this way of eating after struggling through thousands of dollars of mediocre restaurant food, easy convenience food, and home cooked food ranging from the lavish to the very simple. We have been those people who eat out every meal just because there is a restaurant they haven't tried. We have also eaten just potato chips and soda for dinner. Or brownies. And this isn't all like "in the past" either. In December, we definitely existed on nothing but white pizza for three days, and on Easter, we pigged out on candy (and then seriously suffered the consequences. Seriously.) No joke.

Those are the exceptions. Let's talk about the rule. The rule is we want to eat what makes us feel good. We don't particularly care about weight gain or loss, or packing on muscle. We do have some things to take into consideration. I have epilepsy, and my neurologist, who doesn't seem to care about my diet at all, will admit that limiting your sugar consumption is better for your brain. There are numerous studies to back this up. I can tell you, without the help of any studies, that sugar does not make my brain feel good. Sugar also tends to make Kristl's gallbladder issues act up. So, for the sake of feeling good, processed sugar gets the boot.

Ok, back to Sustainable Whole Food Nutrition. What does it mean? Why is it healthy? What can you feed us if we come over for dinner?!

If you think way back before globalization, before industrialization, people ate what was available to them on their farm, in their community, and what was in season. There weren't factories to break down the food into boxes, and then put it in your freezer so you could heat it up in your microwave. People were confronted with the whole cabbage, the whole chicken, whole food. Now, no one is suggesting that we all go back to subsistence farming. However, the closer you are to your producer, the fresher the product is likely to be (not always, but usually.) This is sustainable because you are supporting the local economy with your dollars, and giant trucks are not going as far to bring you delicious food.

Ok, these are our ideal standards:

  • For meat: Locally raised (five state radius), grass-fed, pastured (able to graze on grassland in appropriate weather), never treated with hormones, only given antibiotics in appropriate situations. Limit beef, and try to only cook with meat 3 days a week. Try to eat parts other than muscle.
  • For fish: Salmon should be wild caught from Pacific waters, small fish are almost always better, avoid farmed seafood, especially from Asia. Eat fish 1-2 times a week.
  • For eggs: Locally raised, grass-fed, pastured in season, organic feed otherwise. We eat as many eggs as we want.
  • Limit tofu, but fermented bean stuff, like tempeh is a-ok
  • Limit dried beans, only because they upset Kristl's stomach in large quantities, but see above, we are experimenting with tempeh
  • For dairy: We eat only grass-fed dairy products, and only whole fat (4%). This is a lot of Kerry Gold cheeses and Kalona cottage cheese and sour cream. Also, for butter we usually get Kerry Gold or Organic Valley Cultured. Grass fed is preferred, then organic local, then local, in that order. But we always want to avoid added hormones and antibiotics in our dairy.
  • Eat all the fermented food! This includes pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, yogurt, kefir, etc, etc, etc. If it's cultured, we want it. Good bacteria to the maximum. Anything is easier to digest with fermentation!
  • Consume bone broth daily. We make bone broth from bones left over from other dishes, and vegetable scraps. We do not necessarily consider bone broth a magical cure all, but there are lots of good minerals and collagen inside.
  • Eat 8-9 servings of locally grown vegetables a day. "Locally grown using sustainable practices" trumps "organic" from California/Mexico/Peru. If it is not the growing season, we check out the Environmental Working Group's Pesticide Residue Data (a la Dirty Dozen) and make an informed decision about buying organic. We do eat frozen organic green beans and peas, because they are frozen very fresh, contain no salt, and are a great value from Costco.
  • Eat nuts sparingly. Nuts are a great snack, and we enjoy a mixed nut butter called Nuttzo, but since few nuts are found locally we don't pig out on nuts.
  • Eat fruits sparingly. The sugar from fruit is still sugar, so we snack on vegetables over fruits, but we probably average about 1 fruit a day.
  • Limit natural sugars. We love honey and maple syrup, but they still give Rachel a little bit of brain fuzz, so we use them sparingly
  • Avoid processed goods. If it comes in a bag or a box, isn't in the same shape it was when it came off the plant, has more than five ingredients, contains alcohol, and/or includes preservatives, "natural flavors" or fake colors, you can bet it's not coming home with us.
  • Avoid processed sugar and alcohol. It makes us both sick and sad, but if processed sugar is as addictive as science says it is, then it probably makes a lot of people sick and sad. And Kristl is super allergic to alcohol. Womp.

That's our way of eating. That's the long and short of it. That's what keeps us healthy, makes us happy, and shines a little light on the world around us.

What I always tell people is that if it's not sustainable for you, then it's not going to be sustainable for the planet. If we had jumped in and tried to start eating this way when we started this blog two years ago, we would have started the week with an armful of vegetables and sunshine and ended the week with a bucket of frozen custard and shame.  The vegetables would have rotted, we would have wasted our money. We weren't ready then. Big changes don't necessarily happen overnight, and it often takes more than good intentions to push you in that direction.

The purpose of this post isn't to coerce you into adopting a Sustainable Whole Food Nutrition diet. Although, let me tell you, it is quite tasty. The purpose of this post is to demystify what these Sustainable Queers are doing over here and to inform you.

We'd like some company. We are essentially pinging the depths. We want to know if there's anyone out there who eats like us. Do you eat a lot of vegetables? Do you value local food? Do you geek out over fermented foods and making sustainable choices? Do you cook most of your own meals? Maybe you don't right now, but you could find yourself heading that direction... let us know in the comments.

Grocery Delivery Series: Door to Door Organics

Welcome to week 1 of our Grocery Delivery Series! Today we are featuring Door to Door Organics. The concept here is very simple. First, you choose a type (all vegetable, all fruit, or mixed) and size (bitty, small, medium, or large) of box. Then you are given delivery day options based on your location. You can customize your box with up to five substitutions, and then you can buy additional items from Door to Door if you need. They have a variety of fruits, vegetables, local meats, dairy, eggs, and pantry items. There's even a sale section! Or you can just get your box. You confirm the box, and then it shows up on your doorstep on the appointed day, ta da! This process will happen every week (or every other week, depending on what you choose) indefinitely, but if you want to go on vacation or stop getting deliveries, just put your account on hold. EASY! Door to Door Vegetables

 

Our box was delivered on Monday, 3/2/15. Let's look at what we got:

 

Medium Veggie Box Contents

We ordered a medium veggie box and it contained 1 lb of rainbow carrots, 4 bananas, 1 red bell pepper, 2 pieces of ginger root, 1 green cabbage, 1 cauliflower, 1 bunch of red chard, 1 cucumber, 3 yellow onions, 1 OrganicGirl 50/50! blend, 2 d'Anjou pears, and 2 lbs of regular carrots. We used all five of our substitutions when we ordered, and definitely liked not being locked into getting things we didn't want or already had enough of. One really cool feature is that you can set account preferences - if you have an allergy or just hate a certain item, add it to the list and Door to Door will automatically swap it out for you. You can also add things that you would like more of. Talk about customizable!

Additional Items Screenshot

This second screen shot is of things we added on, because the medium veggie box was just not enough for us. We added another cauliflower, a whole chicken, a bunch of kale, a bunch of broccoli, another cabbage, and another container of mixed greens. These additions brought our total to $76.93. The chicken alone was $13.99, which is a pretty competitive price for a 4 lb organic chicken (full disclosure, it was on sale).

If you notice on the second screen shot that there is a "Credit" line item, that's because we had two missing items. We did not receive the rainbow carrots or the second cabbage we ordered. This didn't ruin our week or anything, but it was confusing. I almost missed it, too. Thankfully, customer support was very helpful, and they credited our account immediately when we notified them (to be clear, they didn't even charge our card for what they missed, which, in our opinion, is even better than getting an account credit).

Let's break it down. Who would be a good fit for Door to Door Organics?

  • You want to eat organic food
  • You have very little time or ability to grocery shop
  • You are trying to stick to a budget and want to avoid those impulse buys that jump in your cart when you go grocery shopping
  • You have somewhat predictable food needs

The food quality is high, the website is easy to navigate, the selections are above and beyond, and the produce boxes are pretty great. Not to mention, the local meat and dairy selections are impressive. Also, the packaging is all recyclable and reusable and you can leave it out at your next pickup for them to properly reuse or recycle. Yay for environmental friendliness!

Our order from Door to Door lasted us about 4 days. According to Door to Door, the medium veggie box should be enough for a "hearty vegetarian couple, or a family with a couple of veggie and fruit minded children." As we mentioned in the introduction to this series, we eat a LOT of produce. We found that the medium box was not nearly enough for us, but we also understand that our needs for produce are much different than the average person. Seriously, guys, we eat ALL. THE. VEGETABLES.  We did end up going to the store 4 times this week to supplement. I think our ideal will be one big grocery haul a week with 1-2 trips to supplement. Such is life when you only eat perishable foods, especially during the non-growing season. In order to get the freshest options, sometimes it's best to shop multiple times a week. Our next vegetable delivery will be on Tuesday, 3/10, with the Weekly Produce Box Program from Newleaf Natural Grocery in Rogers Park. Check out our Week Two Review here.

Have you tried Door to Door Organics? Did you have a good experience? Share your comments below! If you would like to try them out, email us at hello@sustainablyqueer.com for a discount code for $15 off! Yeah!

Good Food Festival - Chicago: Our Overview

Selfie at the Exhibition Hall  

 

Recently, on March 14, Rachel and I went to the Food Policy Conference at the Good Food Festival, because we're giant nerds. (Seriously, we were talking about it and decided to go for it since neither of us could remember the last time we'd done anything "fun" other than going out to eat - yes, we decided going to a Food Policy Conference would be a good use of our fun money.) We opted to skip the morning symposium and arrived just after 10am to explore the exhibition floor before the first talk.

The first talk we attended was called "Urban Agriculture and Local Food Enterprises" and the panel included a couple speakers presenting on community-focused food and agricultural developments in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.  There was also a representative from the City of Chicago's Planning and Development department.  The panel finished up with a speaker from Cleveland's Green City Growers, one of the Evergreen Cooperative's community-owned, job-creating companies that focuses on farming in their city.  The panel was illuminating and a good introduction to our day. We hope to give you a more detailed post of some of these organizations in later posts.

After this panel, we got a whole hour for lunch and some time to browse around the exhibition floor. We got a kale burger from Green Spirit, a pulled pork sandwich from Gunthorp Farms, and mac and cheese with bacon sausage from Big Fork.  We usually take the opportunity to eat meat when we can be sure of the production practices behind it, so we chose the pork and sausage because they were locally sourced from farms we trust.  The kale burger was from a small vegan restaurant in Rogers Park, and the best thing about it was the beet ketchup. Go figure. After eating, we nabbed some Butter Bella cookies for later and talked to the folks from Seeds of Change.  Seeds of Change was giving away cool bags and free grocery items, like jars of tikka masala sauce. We never say no to free food.

Seeds of Change had a #PledgeToPlant photo booth

After lunch, we went to our next panel session on "Creating Justice and Food-Secure Communities with Sustainable Methods," which featured more speakers from the south side of Chicago, working on various projects related to alleviating food deserts and giving people more agency when they are making choices about what they eat.  Most striking from this bunch was Naomi Davis from Blacks in Green, who not only gave us a full picture of their vision for a fully walk-able economy in West Woodlawn, but was also inspiring in a general sense.  Here is a quote from Blacks in Green's website:

"We serve as bridge and catalyst among communities and their stakeholders in the design and development of “walk-to-work, walk-to-shop, walk-to-learn, walk-to-play villages” within black neighborhoods...our walkable villages are designed to increase household income, by increasing the rate at which neighbor-owned businesses are created and sustained, thus keeping resident money active locally, supporting community self interests, and preserving the heritage of a place. Thus, we address the terrible triplets of pollution, poverty, and plutocracy."

Pretty inspiring, right?  I know, here in Edgewater, we have some semblance of this, especially when the majority of our work, food, and play takes place within walking distance. It's not meant to say we never want to leave the neighborhood, merely that the ideal sphere for human interaction and community building is within a 1/4-1/2 mile radius of your home.  Click through to Blacksingreen.org to learn more about their Eight Principles of Green Village Building.  Clearly, this is fodder for a whole post separate post, as well.

Fair Trade banana from Dill Pickle Co-op

Finally, we thought Rachel would find the "Good Food U - How can Chicago-area higher education support healthy local food?" session a very interesting melding of her professional interests, but about 10 minutes in, we decided to try a different session (mostly because they wanted a group discussion and we wanted to listen and learn).  We hopped over to the session on "Fair Food for Global Sustainability" just as Sharon Hoyer from the Dill Pickle Co-op in Logan Square was finishing up her presentation about Fair Trade Bananas.  We, unfortunately, missed the opening remarks from Nancy Jones of Chicago Fair Trade, but the information about bananas was fascinating (we hope to do a post about Fair Trade in the near future, but for now, check out this video about the bananas!).  Then our favorite speaker of the day, Eric Rodriguez from Café Chicago, started telling us about the issues with undocumented day workers in the Midwest and his group's initiatives to give them more agency and power to control the type of work they do.  Café Chicago is a coffee roasting cooperative based on these concepts and we are 100% hoping to sit down with Eric at some point and possibly visit their location for more information, but their website gives a succinct run-down of what they do:

Cafe Chicago Coffee"Café Chicago is a worker-made, worker-run cooperative that roasts, packages, and distributes great tasting, fair trade, organic coffee in the Chicago area. With a new model of job creation, job training, and social action that create living wage jobs and provide training in coffee roasting and cooperative management, the for-profit Café Chicago also funds the social justice organizing of Latino Union at a time of dwindling non-profit funding. "

 

 

We left that presentation feeling inspired to buy Fair Trade across the board, and if we ever need coffee, a bag of Café Chicago coffee will be the first place we turn. About four days later, we were at True Nature Foods and right there on the shelf was freshly roasted coffee from Café Chicago.  It's very exciting that organizations like this exist and that their products are readily available all over the city!

We then headed back to the exhibition hall for some serious snacking and chatting with reps from all the delightful, local food organizations and companies.  I'm not going wear out our welcome and list everyone we talked to but some highlights were The Brinery (delicious fermented veggies from Ann Arbor looking to get more into the Chicago market), Mo Rub (meat/dip/veggie seasoning from Iowa now available at some Chicago-area Whole Foods), the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (advocacy group supporting our local food system), and the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship (national group of lawyers, based at U of C in Chicago, who focus on providing pro bono legal advice and support for new business owners in the city, specifically local food businesses).

It was a very full day and we learned a lot, but the Friday version of the Good Food Festival is not for everyone.  Last year we went on Saturday, and that was more our speed at the time.  There are more booths in the exhibition hall, and the presentations are focused on topics like "Brew Your Own Beer" or "Home Butchery and Curing" or "Food Co-ops 101", that kind of thing.  It's more focused on things you can do at home and less so on things that are happening in the community and the world of urban agriculture. We're hoping to make it to both Friday and Saturday next year, if we have the energy! (Also, we didn't even mention the Localicious Party! We didn't make it this year, but hope to budget for it next year. It's a party celebrating "the farmers who grow our food and the chefs who transform it.") The moral of the story is that if you like food, the Good Food Festival has something of interest for you, so you should check it out next year!