By Nick Metcalf
Spring, Renewal, and Food – Healthy Living…
It’s Spring time. Yay! We’ve made it through another Minnesota winter. I’m hopeful that you got a chance to hear stories and reconnect with family. This month I want to talk about food.
I realized recently that there are quite a few people disconnected from our food sources. The amount of junk food people buy and eat is astounding. At corner stores and convenience stores, people are buying food-like-substances (junk food).
Here’s the deal – your body needs nutritious food. It is essential. Vegetables and fruits are crucial to our body. Chips and soda are horrible to your body and for your body. Please stop. If there is anything that you take away from this month’s column it’s this – garbage in, garbage out.
We Natives experience high rates of diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and depression. These diseases are because of our diets. We are eating our way into misery. We must stop this.
It’s that time of year that we should be planting our foods. We need to teach our children, our friends, and our families the importance of having a healthy, productive relationship with food.
We must first understand our relationship with food. I grew up in a household that served quick and easy food. No seasoning. We were not forced to eat something we didn’t like. I had teenage parents who enjoyed junk food so that is what our diet consisted of.
What did I learn? I didn’t learn anything. I didn’t learn to value food. I didn’t learn how essential food is to my well-being and how it impacts my health. I don’t blame anyone for this. As an adult, I had to learn about food.
What can you do for yourself? Here is a list of tasks that you can begin with.
• Learn about food: schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietician. Call your local clinic to find out if they have one. A Dietician can help you learn about food and meal planning. I’ve used their services and learning quite a bit. It was an amazing experience.
• Eliminate bad foods: I’d like to challenge you this month to eliminate a food that has no nutritional value. If you eliminate soda from your diet, then you’ll be making huge strides in healing your body and improving your dental health.
• Water: Drink more water. Our bodies are mostly made up of water. We are continually eliminating water so we need to replace it. Caffeine and sugary drinks do not replace it. They make us thirstier. Get a reusable water bottle, fill it up, then drink away.
• Gardening: Get involved with community gardening. Ask questions about plants. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know something. Knowledge is power. Reconnect with food.
• Traditional foods: Connect with community Elders and Spiritual leaders to learn about traditional foods. They have a sacred knowledge that we need. Learn about how we hunted and gathered foods. Many of the plants are still readily available. And, no, Frybread and Indian Tacos are not traditional foods.
• Meal planning: It’s important to sit down and plan your meals for the week. Spend some time looking for new and healthy recipes. Meal planning will also help you budget your money.
• Prepare meals together: My favorite memories are in the kitchen preparing food. It is a time that I sit and talk with friends or family. We catch up. We share information. It is an incredible bonding experience.
• Being poor is not an excuse: Living in poverty can make it difficult to learn about food. It’s not an excuse, but when the only food available near where you live is horrible, you don’t seem to have much choice. If it’s cheap then you buy it. Hunger is real. We need to put food in our body, no matter if it has nutritional value to us or not. Affordable, nutritious food is available if you look for it.
As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate food. I can honestly say that I’m not that adventurous in food, but I’m willing to try different foods. I’ve learned that I’m sensitive to the texture of food. I dislike slimy food.
On the other hand, my son is a Foodie. He is the one who is willing to try different foods. He is the one who wants to try a new recipe. Annually, we go on a food adventure to the Minnesota State Fair. Our latest adventure was a road trip to New Orleans where he tried different foods, but I stuck to hamburger and fries.
Remember this, ‘Garbage in, Garbage out’. If you want to feel better and experience better health, then eat food that helps your body to thrive. Make small changes. By this time next year, if you eat better, I bet you’ll feel better. Happy Spring.