If you’ve come across mindful eating before, you’re probably be familiar with the idea of tasting and eating slowly, giving food your focus and generally trying not to scoff down bites of food in between checking your Instagram feed, binging on your latest fave boxset and having a half conversation with your partner or kids.
Yes, this is all indeed part of mindful eating, the very ancient practice designed many centuries before our multi-screen world. However there’s another important element of mindful eating that’s particularly relevant this month as we celebrate Organic September.
This extra consideration is about reflecting on where your food comes from, the hands and humans that produce it, and how our food choices can affect the planet.
Sometimes it’s easy for many of us non-farming, non-producing folks to forget our food doesn’t just come nicely packed from supermarkets. I have a HUGE admiration for the people who get up early every day, who look after their animals with care, and who grow our fruit and vegetables with love. All of this means I have amazing and tasty produce in my kitchen.
Organic farming layers an extra component and challenge on top of this. Organic means fewer pesticides, fewer antibiotics, no GM and always free range.
I actually can’t quite remember what it was that made me turn more and more to organic food. I think initially it was the lingering thought that I wanted to try and minimise my impact on the planet a little. And because I just loved hanging out in health food shops. I am a little bit of a hippy at heart! Even when I first moved to London and had little spare change, I made sure that at least few food items a week in my shopping basket were organic.
Being able to make more of my own food choices away from home was a real starting point for me wanting to understand more about food systems and food production (though I should say I’m by no means an expert on either).
I wanted to take responsibility for learning about what I was putting in my mouth, and where and who it came from. This was of course before I had any concept of mindfulness or mindful eating, but this has certainly added another layer onto why I care about food provenance.
Easing into organic
There is still ongoing debate about whether organic is ‘better’ for your body (though personally prefer to hedge my bets and avoid putting too many pesticides into my mouth or on my body). However one of the main reasons I’m a huge supporter is the positive impact of organic production on the health of our soil and wildlife. Organic farming has been shown time and time again to increase biodiversity.
There are also some crops, like cacao, that are still incredibly manual in their production. This means the farmers and workers can end up with pesticides on their hands and bodies, and well as in any water run off from crop production. So even from a human perspective, choosing organic can make a difference. I highly recommend reading about the impact of organic versus non-organic cotton production in India if you’d like to see another example of just how organic can impact lives in a hugely positive way.
Now, of course, organic isn’t the only way to eat sustainably, but the organic label is a good indicator of a minimum level of thoughtfully-produced food. You may also find that some people produce food to organic or better standards, but haven’t gone through or can’t afford the certification (as is often the case with cacao in developing countries). So how do you find out? Talk to the producers or read websites of companies you buy from! Self-education is really important as it’s not always possible to leave responsibility in the hands of big corporations (hello, horse meat scandal).
I know organic can sometimes feel off putting as it seems expensive. Of course, I could tell you the little extra is worth it in the short term versus the long term cost of overly intensive farming. However I get this isn’t a very sexy argument, particularly if you’re strapped for cash.
What I would suggest if price is an issue, is choosing just one or two store cupboard staples to switch. As with so many issues in life, this doesn’t have to be a completely black and white issue. Maybe even just for Organic September you could start with a few small changes and see where it takes you.
- buy organic fruit or vegetables in season, particularly everyday root veggies like carrots, as they are only a teensy bit more expensive (in September in the UK this includes apples, carrots, potatoes, leeks and plums)
- swap to organic eggs; this is a better way to ensure the chickens are kept in good conditions and the eggs really do, in my opinion, taste much better
- upgrade your morning porridge for organic oats
- try baking with organic flour
- if you’ve never tried full fat unhomogenised organic milk, you’ll be amazed at the difference in taste – so if you eat dairy maybe once this month try organic milk instead
My parting thought for Organic September is to encourage you think just a little more about how your food gets to your plate. This doesn’t have to be about guilt-tripping yourself about your food choices, but is really just about being a little more curious.
What could you do to support the organic farmers, producers and makers that will ensure organic keeps coming for many years more?
Want to know more?
You can also read more about organic goings on this month at Organic September site.