When we run out of food at home, we all go shopping for our groceries. Once we are in the supermarket we rush to get over with our shopping experience, just to get the stuff for our empty fridge and get out as soon as we can. The truth is no matter how quickly we do the shopping, we actually spend tremendous amount of time of our lives ‘hunting’ for food.
What surprises me is that if somebody asks about the difference between apple types or carrot types, not so many of us can give a more interesting answer than colors vs. taste. So why don’t we fill the time we spend doing the groceries with more meaningful things? Why don’t we actually learn about what we grab from those shelves? We have to eat everyday, and we will shop for food a significant part of our lives.
Breaking the attitude to food shopping and the way you choose your food will lead you to a healthier lifestyle and more meaningful eating habits, as well as awareness about food that surrounds you. If you are ready for the change, but don’t know where to start, just start from the beginning, in this case let’s start from “mother earth foods”: Plants.
First of all change your view on fruits and veggies. They do not grow on supermarket shelves. They are actually grown in the gardens, fields or industrial farms. Plants don’t just pop up out of nothing. It is actually a long process before you can get the eatable piece into your hands. Each plant has its own character, its own preferences, just like us having different backgrounds and our different experiences, and habits. And yes, of course all plants are alive. That is why when you choose them, choosing with love is important. You don’t want to befriend the first person on the street and take him or her home. Then why do you do it with your food? You have to first get to know it, and then take it home.
See shops as dating services: You can get all information about the subject you are interested in, if you know how to look for it. If you only rely on appearance, most likely you won’t be satisfied at the end. A few common mistakes that people do when they choose the tomato, for example: If the tomato has a tiny branch on it most of us think that that is an indicator of freshness. Well that is actually not an indicator of freshness at all. Judging the look of a veggie is like getting to know someone by the cleanliness of their shoes. Clean shoes do not necessarily mean that the person is clean and tidy at home. When in doubt what type of tomato to get, looking at the price is not going to give you good answer, either. Forming an opinion based on price is never a good option. It is like choosing your boyfriend by the car he drives.
Ok, so what are those magical things you should look for to make your connection?
Country of origin is one of the best indicators of the nutritional quality of food. Look for the country that is closest to you. Don’t get carried away with fancy sunny countries, they are so far away that most likely your fruit was traveling in a metal container for weeks or months. When the plant is harvested and put into a container for transportation, no matter how good were the travel conditions, it loses its valuable nutritional content slowly but surely.
The other bad thing about fruits and veggies that have to travel so far is that they get harvested premature, to avoid getting rotten during transportation. Fruits and veggies take all their nutrients from the soil and ones disconnected the development of nutrients decreases drastically. The immature plants don’t have the full range of nutrition. The plant can look good, but have very few nutrients inside. The veggie that was picked unripe will have a scar or stem that shows where the fruit was connected to its mother plant. If the fruit fully developed it will gently fall off the plant without getting scars of premature disconnection from the mother plant. The fully developed veggies and fruits will appear full rather than taken of the plant with force.
It might sound a bit scary, but do not worry as you will find almost everywhere in the world seasonal local plant foods. Just make an effort and don’t pick up the first fruit or veggie that you see, give it some mindful thinking. The plant that comes from your country will be better than the one that traveled a long distance. If you see something that was grown locally, pick that one! It will have more nutrition than another food. What to do if there is nothing in season and nothing is from your country? Well, the frozen fruits and veggies will be the best option. If they were fully developed and then frozen, they will contain all the nutrients that unripe food will not have. It is better to eat frozen than non-seasonal, non-local foods.
It is difficult to get the best quality in the supermarket. If you are really ready to maximize your healthy eating habits than it will take more effort than just going to the store. Make your research on local farmers or maybe find a cooperative or organization that sells locally grown food. It might take some research, but it will be worth your time. You will be surprised: There are farmers everywhere! The amazing thing about the local farmers and organizations that support those movements, is that they can deliver your food to your home or to an organized spot where you can pick it up. It is a win-win situation. First, you do not have to spend time in an overcrowded supermarket. Second, you do not have to spend time thinking of the quality of the food. There will be no worries about how long your nutritional food was traveling before it met you. Locally grown food from small farms, will have the best nutritional quality straight from the plant to your table.