Eating Well In the New Year

Dear Shopper,

Hello and Happy New Year to all of you who have been away enjoying your holidays. In case you missed the e-mails last week, we have dropped the winter market at Fairfax Corner and hope that our very few regular shoppers will be able to shop with us on the weekend at either Oakton or Gainesville. You can always check our website for details and timely updates about the weather and how it may affect a market — or follow us on Twitter or become a fan of your favorite markets on Facebook. (Check here for the Facebook links.)

Every year I am amazed and somewhat overwhelmed to read the same articles all over again about dieting and now is the time to start and here is what you need to buy to guarantee that the diet will work for you! Our family is indeed enjoying a healthier diet, but it has evolved by way of a meandering move to a more plant-based diet and to a more local and seasonal diet — most of which now is bought at the market.

It has certainly had a much bigger impact than making a commitment to go on a diet to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain date. I have never even tried that because I know it would not work. And I did not take the road to healthier eating with a specific goal in mind. We like fruits and vegetables, so it is easy for us to eat those in abundance when they are in season. And we like them in their natural state and with little embellishment, so gradually I have moved toward serving a vegetarian meal several times a week or fruit in a salad or a simple dessert, not because we made a major decision to change what we eat, but because we have enjoyed the results.

I admit also that part of it is cost. We do not want to buy non-local meat any more; I just can’t bring myself to do it knowing what we are eating in addition to the meat itself. Besides, the beef, pork, chicken and other meats in our market are fantastic, so we do not need to sacrifice anything to taste to eat local meat. And the benefits are huge — at the table and over time. But we cannot afford to eat local meat as often as we once ate store-bought meat, so we don’t. And of course that too has led us down that path to a more Mediterranean diet, which is heavier on the veggies with meat and pasta in supporting roles.

I have also enjoyed shopping for what looks good at the market and then coming home to figure out what to do with it. Just like Julia Child! I let myself go at the market and admittedly sometimes bring home more than we can eat — but it is mostly fruits and vegetables, so I can do things with those to preserve them for future use. I can’t wait to make a cherry pudding in January!

My point here is that you do not need to make a New Year’s Resolution to change your eating habits, your health and your contribution to sustainability — you just have to come to the market each week, buy as much as you can locally and make those items the centerpiece of your eating experience. At this time of year, we will buy meat for stews, soups and roasts to serve with veggies, and we can buy eggs and cheese for our comfort-food dishes. And while we may have to buy more veggies at the grocery store, we can also still support our new eating habits and the market even in the winter.

One caveat that I try to use as a guide in the grocery store is to pay attention to where the produce has been raised. There are just some countries where the oversight is bound to be less than what we expect, and an “organic” label from those countries means nothing to me — and I am not likely to eat their non-organic produce either. In the meantime I am working with our farmers to encourage more high-tunnel and greenhouse farming — it’s coming even to us here in Virginia, and soon we will be able to buy more local veggies in the winter. It’s much more fun to be in a frame of mind where you can look forward to that than to another diet for the new year.

Happy eating in 2011! See you at the market!