Congressman Tim Ryan recently published a book, The Real Food Revolution, about healthy eating, green groceries, and the return of the American family farm. Though he's admittedly a lover of chicken wings and ice cream and not a health nut by any means, he addresses concern over the exponentially growing rate of chronic disease, especially those caused by our lifestyle, and what this might mean for future generations, raising the question, "How do we keep America thriving?".
From starting an herb garden on your windowsill to helping implementing food education in your child's school to petitioning your elected officials, Ryan offers simple, actionable steps we can all take to move towards a better life. Ryan is also a big advocate of how eating from local farms and greenmarkets is one of the best things we can do for our health and planet.
In the excerpt below, Tim Ryan offers six ways you can start eating better now:
1. Read nutrition labels.
2. Good nutrition starts right at home.
Take a look in your cupboards, fridge, and freezer. If you've now become an expert in label reading, this step will be a snap, but even if you didn't you'll be able to improve your food supply. Really read the ingredients on the foods you most commonly buy. If you want to make a dramatic shift, throw out anything that has fake, unpronounceable ingredients in it. If you're looking for more gradual change, find a couple of processed foods that you can do without. Make it a goal to replace those things with fresh, healthy, whole foods. Remember, you vote with your dollars at the supermarket.
3. Document what you eat to see how you feel.
In a journal — or even a document on your computer — keep track of everything you eat over the course of a normal week and how you feel following the consumption of those foods. Can you identify anything that made you feel low-energy? Did you experience a high and then a crash? Did eating something full of sugar inspire other cravings in you? Simple awareness will help you make better food choices.
4. Eat in season.
Eating fresh means eating what's in season in the region where you are. The Natural Resources Defense Council has put together a website where you can click on any U.S. state to see what's in season during any month of the year.
5. Go meatless, at least one day a week.
You may have heard of Meatless Monday, a program that was started in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Their goal is to influence people — and even entire communities — to embrace the idea of going meat-free for one day each week. As their website says, "Skipping meat one day a week is good for you, great for your nation's health, and fantastic for your planet." This movement has now spread to 34 countries across the world.
Meatlessmonday.com has great resources and recipes to help you implement this idea in your own life. And if you're really inspired, they have toolkits to help spread the world through your community.
6. Try the Fed Up sugar challenge.
The makers of the movie Fed Up, released in May 2014, want viewers to take action, so they have set up a challenge to help people cut sugar out of they diets for ten days. See Fedupmovie to sign up for the challenge and to download a toolkit to help educate others about food issues in America.
Great things happen in small groups. With any of these approaches, you can put together a small band of brothers and sisters to get things started. Whether it's Meatless Mondays or the Fed Up Challenge, we need a support system to not only get us started, but to sustain us so we can befit personally and raise awareness throughout our community. It's the same for the community projects. Build a small team and watch success come your way.