Tips for being a 'locavore'

Heather Pierce

Heather Pierce

A “locavore” is a person committed to eating and learning about food that is grown locally. Some have even committed to eating only food that has been grown within a 100-mile radius. While that may seem overwhelming, the benefits of everyone trying this are immense. Typically, the minimum number of miles produce travels from farm to plate is 1,500. The typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table. Research shows that agriculture and the overall food system are responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. So, if we can purchase produce locally, we can begin to reverse this environmental threat.

Many are moving toward eating locally to help reduce the pesticides and other chemicals used in foods. Some research has suggested that organically grown produce may be more nutritious than conventionally grown produce. For example, one study found that organically grown tomatoes had a higher flavanoid (disease fighting compounds) content than conventionally grown tomatoes.

The United States Department of Agriculture does not make claims that organic always is safer or more nutritient-rich than comercially grown produce. One thing all nutrition experts agree on is that a diet rich in produce can help defend against heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and several cancers. The USDA recommends that we consume 4-½ cups of produce daily.

Not only does food grown locally benefit the local economy, the taste is superior to something that has traveled 1,500 miles. If you buy a tomato directly from a farmer, chances are it was picked that morning or the day before. The farmers also are good resources if you have any questions about how the food was grown or if you need suggestions about preparation. The following are five ways you can become a “locavore” and support the local economy .

Start small. Just having one or two meals from local resources each week can be a great beginning. Having at least one item per meal that was grown or produced locally -- or just focusing on one food group such as vegetables is another way to begin.

Find the farmer’s markets and local farmers. Visit www.agriculture.state.tn.us and www.maryvillefarmersmarket.org to learn market schedules. Visit www.localharvest.org to see what type of produce is offered each season.

Make visiting the farmer’s market a weekly family event. If Saturday morning is not your cup of tea, then try the weekday markets. Maryville now has a market on Wednesday evening. Get your favorites, but try new items, too, and learn how to prepare them. Getting children actively involved in picking produce is a learning opportunity.

Grow a few of your own fruits or veggies. This can be a fun learning experience. Children can help with planting, growing and harvesting. In turn, they will be more likely to try fruits and vegetables.

Support restaurants that provide local produce or meats. Because of the increasing public demand, local restaraunts are offering meals that are made from local ingredients.

Heather Pierce is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center and the Blount Memorial Wellness Center at Springbrook.

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