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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Letter from The Publisher

Feb 25, 2019 07:48PM

Peggy Malecki

I recently read an article in the Washington Post outlining some of the likely 2019 food trends. It was encouraging to see many are focused more on nutrition than fads, although many are still linked to specific diets. If the predictions are accurate, we’ll see an increase in plant-based food choices, added grain-free options, new dairy alternatives and more limited-ingredient products for people with food sensitivities. In addition to what may be considered niche or specialty labels, some major food companies also seem to be offering alternatives within “conventional” brand names, making the items more accessible to many more people.

It’s good news that food companies are paying closer attention to dietary options, yet it’s also a bit of a cautionary tale, as the grocery trends mostly focus on prepared and packaged foods, instead of fresh fruits and vegetables. The nutritional benefits of new product introductions may outweigh some less-healthy convenient options when we’re juggling grocery bills, food prep time and everything else in our lives, but they are small pieces in the much bigger puzzle of a healthy lifestyle. If we opt to purchase them, we’d do well to balance them as only a portion of our overall diet.

The foods we choose nourish our bodies, our minds and our souls. Each meal we consciously choose can be a personal vote for the lifestyle we want to lead and the worldview we wish to support. Sure, trying new food trends can be interesting and even helpful, but it’s the lifestyle changes that we adapt as our own that will sustain us in the long run. Scientists continue to make the connection between what we eat and how it affects our health. For example, did you know that 70 percent of the immune system resides in the lining of the gut? That’s just one critical issue writer Melinda Hemmelgarn addresses this month in “Nutrition Upgrades: Five Strategies for Better Health.” She suggests we forget about dieting, eat for ourselves as well as the planet, and learn about the care and feeding of our all-important microbiome.

There’s another critical piece in the healthy lifestyle puzzle: know where your food comes from. Education is key to taking control of our daily nutrition. Do some research into the stores and products you prefer to find out where the food is grown and/or prepared, and what company actually owns your favorite brands—you may be surprised. And of course, read the labels. Shop local whenever possible; get to know your store produce managers, as well as your local farmers through a CSA or farmers’ market.

If you can grow some of your own food, that’s a good thing on many counts. Start planning now for this summer’s garden, whether it be a couple of containers on the balcony with tomatoes, peppers and lettuce, or a full-fledged backyard garden. Consider joining a local community garden or helping a neighbor with their garden.

It’s March! The days are warming, early bulbs are getting ready to bloom and migratory birds will soon start heading toward the Chicago region from their winter homes. As always, I encourage you to step outside every day and take notice of the wonders that early spring brings.

 

Happy spring equinox!