Interested in joining the flexitarian movement but confused about where to start? Outlined below are the first ten steps of co-proprietor Julie’s flexitarian journey with one resource to inform you what was behind her decision to change each particular habit. Every person will have to craft their own journey to their personal values, but hopefully this journey will help you in your own process.
A Roadmap To Healthier Eating
It’s important to note that these steps are just the first ten, and it was a gradual process that unfolded over four years. Take your time, switch one habit, educate yourself about something new, and incorporate that new info into your journey.
- Organic Animal Byproducts
After doing taste tests on eggs, milk and cheese, the flavor convinced me to make an immediate switch. I could TASTE the difference and the “conventional” products were unpalatable from this point on. I also discovered how the antibiotics and hormones used in non-organic production were so harmful to my health.
More Info: http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/dairy/
- Dirty vs Clean
Used the “Dirty Dozen” list of most toxic produce crops & the “Clean 15” to guide my shopping habits so that I reduced my intake of pesticides. More Info: http://www.foodnews.org/
- Organic Poultry & Pork, Eliminated Red Meat
With the Mad Cow scare and connection between red meat & heart disease, it was pretty easy to just stop eating it, replacing it with ground turkey or omitting it all together. I also learned about factory farming, so I also made sure to research the company to understand their husbandry practices. This step actually dramatically reduced my animal consumption all together, as I could not afford the high price of small-scale organic animal products very often. As an effect, I learned how to prepare more vegetarian meals and soon realized I didn’t miss it all that much, and felt better, while my digestive system noticeably improved.
More Info: http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/factoryfarming/ and http://www.eatwellguide.org/
- Eliminate Fast Food
This happened over time during the first three steps, with McDonald’s French Fries being the only thing I would allow myself to by for an entire year before I finally read The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, which nipped that habit in the butt after a few pages.
More Info: Fast Food Nation (Book & Movie) by Eric Schlosser
- Just Say NO to Coke
I was a 7-11 Big Gulp junkie downing three a day during my college years. Learning about Coca-Cola’s exploitation of its workers in South America was the tipping point for me, as I could sacrifice my body but not those of the factory workers.
More Info: http://www.killercoke.org/
- Read Ingredient Labels
I started to say no to artificial colors, preservatives, genetically modified or ingredients I could not pronounce and high fructose corn syrup. Once I started to read the labels, I found myself switching from the regular grocery store to Whole Foods, where the purchasing standards are much higher.
More Info: What to Eat by Marion Nestle or http://www.whattoeatbook.com/
- Homemade, Whole Foods
At this point I realized that fresh veggies, fruit and whole foods were much preferred over processed convenience foods and I joined an organic delivery service to help me explore more exotic (to me) foods like beets, kale and radishes. Every week was a new adventure when I opened my basket and searched online for recipes and I became much more confident in the kitchen, so much so that using the microwave was pretty much eliminated as well.
More info: http://LocalHarvest.org
- Homegrown: once I got accustomed to eating organic veggies, I wanted to experiment with unusual varieties and planted a garden outside where I grew cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, peas, herbs and more. Homegrown was by far the best flavor I had experienced yet.
More Info: Simple Living Institute has monthly Organic Growers Meetings, http://simplelivinginstitute.org/
- Open Dandelion Communitea Cafe
To be fair, this is an extreme step, and I recommend coming to EAT at the cafe instead of opening your own, as it is more work than you can imagine! I was so in love with food at this point, I wanted to share it and knew that if people only had access to this type of cuisine (ie real food that was healthy for them), they would fall in love with food all over again. So, I opened a cafe that mirrored my new found food philosophy using organic, vegetarian, additive-free food that was homemade and affordable.
More info: http://dandelioncommunitea.com
- Go Vegetarian: You would think I was vegetarian BEFORE opening a vegetarian cafe, but attachment to comfort foods, even those you know are not the best for you, animals or the planet, are strong indeed. Bacon and hot dogs, yes, I said hot dogs, were the most difficult things for me to give up and I went on a meat-eating binge while opening the cafe for my own personal rebellion against…well, I still haven’t analyzed that one fully. However, after opening Dandelion and having easy access to all this delicious vegetarian food and finally doing some much deeper research into the benefits of animal-free food, I finally took the leap and became one myself.
More info: Earthlings, The Movie http://www.earthlings.com/ and http://goveg.com/theissues.asp
Please feel free to make comments and share your insights below.