WE SHOULDN’T WASTE FOOD, RIGHT? WELL, THAT ALL DEPENDS…
A current popular buzzword thrown around amongst environmentally conscious foodies is “zero-waste.” And, don’t get me wrong, for the most part this zero-waste trend is a very, very good thing. But, blindly following anything, even if well-intentioned, can have negative consequences. Like anything else, it is not that simple…
Labels matter…It is time to reDEFINE food
How many of you sat at the dinner table as a kid after everyone else was finished, with tears in your eyes, listening to your parents as they scolded: “Finish your plate. Food should not be wasted. There are people starving in [fill in the blank with the appropriate country experiencing a famine at the time].” And, how many of us have used the same lines on our kids?
This reasoning has never sat well with me. Repeatedly forcing our kids to manually override their bodies’ signals to stop eating conditions to ignore evolutionary responses to food designed to guide us in determining what and how much to eat and sets them on a path toward a lifetime of unhealthy eating. It also assumes that eating more of whatever is on the plate will make our kids healthier. Will it? Doesn’t it depend on what is on the plate? If so, where do we draw the line? Should we force our kids to finish a bowl of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese just because it is sitting in front of them?
It is a difficult situation to navigate and we do not want to send mixed signals at our dinner tables. After all, eating should be a source of nourishment, not anxiety. How do we send a clear signal to simultaneously value food AND be environmentally conscious if we are not clear on how to do that ourselves?
Our approach in our Modern Stone Age Kitchen may help.
To us, the distinction is clear, but requires thought and effort to navigate. It relies on a clear understanding of what we consider food. To us, food is what you get when you take a natural raw material and transform it into its safest, most nourishing form possible for our bodies. Simple. There is food and there is everything else.
For other animals who have physical adaptations for specific diets, food for them is what they can naturally process inside of their bodies. They don’t consider anything else food.
For us humans, we have lost our way. For some reason grass-fed beef and Kraft Mac-n-Cheese both fall under the label “food.” However, one nourishes and the other, well, frankly makes us sick.
Sometimes we get confused because some things that may not be healthy for us may have been made with great skill, craftsmanship, or love. However, these factors do not intrinsically make something safe nor good for you. That single barrel bourbon, that chocolate chip cookie, that bagel… They may all use the highest quality, hard to find ingredients. They may have even been made with love… but they are not food. They do not nourish our bodies and do not support our health.
How Do I Navigate This Approach?
Don’t get me wrong. There very well may be important reasons to consume them. After all, eating for us humans nourishes both the body and soul by fulfilling both biological and cultural needs. Occasionally a healthy balance means meeting your cultural needs even at the expense of your biological. That drink of bourbon might be exactly what you need to celebrate a promotion or that chocolate chip cookie may have been made by your niece. That bagel might be fresh out of the oven and the thought of eating it with cream cheese and lox has you salivating. Sure, I get it. But, why overdo it and force yourself to finish the leftover stale bagel the next day just because you don’t want to “waste” it? Once the cultural needs have been met any more simply inflicts harm.
So, how do we navigate this? How do we ensure health, allow for wiggle room, and not send mixed signals? Be clear with your labels. Define what food means to you and what constitutes the “other.” Individual circumstances, traditions, and tastes all impact what we allow on our dinner plates on any given night. But, get past the idea that everything on the plate is food. It should be clear that things make it to our plates from both categories – food and “the other” but the only things we don’t waste are the food.
What You Need to Know
So, clearly defining what constitutes food and throwing away, or better yet, composting what your child has left behind on his or her plate might be the BEST thing you can do for their health.