While I don’t believe in anguishing over the purported health benefits of individual foods, I do think there is great value in striving to achieve a generally healthy pattern of eating*. Below are four principles that underlie my decision-making when it comes to choosing not just what to eat, but also how to eat it.
FIRST, I try to steer clear from foods widely acknowledged to be harmful to the wellbeing of humans, animals and planet. What this means for me is that I do my best to avoid buying anything ultra-processed, intensively-farmed or ecologically-destructive (I am lucky enough to be able to afford to do this; it is a privilege). I also try to avoid buying too much to avoid unnecessary waste or overconsumption. It’s not always easy and I ain’t perfect. I just do what I can.
SECOND, I aim to have a diverse and colourful range of plant foods over the course of any given week: seasonal vegetables and fruit, herbs, grains, spices, legumes, nuts & seeds. Surrounding myself with these ingredients at home makes eating them a breeze. It also helps that I’ve figured out how to enjoy cooking.
THIRD, the hows: I like to eat with others, preferably at a table (although sharing a meal over a picnic blanket is always a treat) and really enjoy the experience. Setting the table with thought, selecting music with care, and truly savouring what’s on the plate. Life’s a lot more fun when you delight in the everyday.
LASTLY, it has to taste good! If a meal doesn’t excite my palate or elicit any positive feelings, I am unlikely to eat it again – no matter how sustainable it is.
If you think that’s a lot of principles to keep in mind, that may be because it is. Eating this way did not initially come without effort (and despite being easier now, it still requires work). After all, no matter our intentions, the food environments we currently live in make it far easier to fall into unsustainable and not-so-healthy eating patterns than they do healthier and more sustainable ones.
But once you start paying attention and making intentional choices wherever and whenever you can, you may find (like me) that eating well isn’t always all that difficult. I have personally found that simply shifting toward eating more plants more often can quickly become habit — a positive behaviour that has unintentionally influenced many around me to start doing much the same.
*More than a matter of opinion, this sort of thinking formed the basis for Brazil’s national food guide — currently considered a model for the rest of the world.