THE READER
August 2004

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Movin' On Out: Eating Well
on Your Own

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Movin’ On Out!
Eating Well on Your Own
Jan Erik Gjestvang-Lucky
Merchandiser


So... you’re moving out on your own? Going to school? Leaving town? Setting up your very own apartment for the first time? These are exciting times, my friend, but also challenging ones. New places mean new opportunities and changing habits. You get a clean slate; you can start fresh. YOU decide how you want to live. That means a lot of decisions. Along with the whirl of new responsibilities (classes, jobs, doing laundry) comes the chance to meet new people, try new things, and survive on way less sleep and nutrients than your body is used to. This may be fine at first, but after a while it will take its toll. And no matter whether you are taking classes, writing that thesis or dissertation, or even just working three jobs, you want your body to keep working well and stay healthy, even if it’s just so you can have more fun in your free time, what little there is of it.


The Three Biggies
All of these changes, even if they are good (let’s hope they will be) cause stress, one of health’s worst enemies. The things that are best for reducing stress are also the things that are easiest to lose sight of with all of the excitement of new places to go and people to see. The three biggies are: eating good food, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.


Finding Your Local Co-op
Your local co-op can help you with the first one, at least, and maybe all three. Yes, there are other co-ops out there. The easiest way to find one may be to look in your new local phone book. Otherwise, here are a couple of websites that should help: the http://www.wisc.edu/uwcc/links/foodlinks.html or http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/coops. Both of these sites offer searchable listings of grocery co-ops across the U.S. And since your parent(s) are back home and can’t do your laundry, they can at least buy a co-op gift card here in Madison that you can use at many Midwestern grocery co-ops including the Wedge in Minneapolis, New Pioneer in Iowa City and many other locations throughout Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Texas and Illinois. For a complete listing, see http://www.mwnaturalfoods.coop/giftcards. Your parents can even recharge it over the phone from here in town. Remember to treat it like cash, because if you lose it, it’s gone.


How to Eat Well
Eating well, you say, sounds good, but what’s it mean? The single most important thing is to eat a varied diet; it helps us to get all of the good stuff our bodies need, and it keeps eating from getting too boring (variety is the spice of life, and all that). Remember that old saying about eating your vegetables? Well, it’s true: vegetables and plant foods are the best sources for the bulk of our nutrients. Most of our diet, even for non-vegetarians, should come from vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes (edible seeds that grow in pods, like beans, lentils, and peanuts). A good way to make sure you are getting everything you need is to get a good mix of different colors on your plate, and I don’t mean green jell-o and pink marshmallow treats. It’s also important to balance income and out-go of calories, just like money budgeting, another skill you will soon be putting to the test (and I hope you will be better at it than I am). It’s pretty simple: don’t eat more than you can use, or you’ll gain weight. If you are more active (I mean physically, not socially), not only can you eat more, you need to, just to replace what your body is using.


Food Dissected

Food can be broken down into three main parts: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Proteins are what we need to build and repair our muscles and bones and the rest of our bodies. They are found in all foods except fats, but some good higher protein foods are legumes, especially beans, and you can also get protein from meat and dairy products. Carbohydrates are our fuel, giving us energy to study, party, and do laundry. You may have heard of good and bad carbs; that basically means complex carbs and simple carbs. Complex carbs are not called complex because they need therapy, but because they take time for our bodies to break down, giving us a long-lasting, steady supply of energy for our most daunting tasks. We also get fiber from them, which helps fill us up and keep our blood sugar levels steady. Good sources are whole grains, beans, and vegetables. Simple carbs are sugars, and go pretty much straight into our bloodstream, as in "sugar rush," and its inevitable aftermath, the crash, but they can be helpful when we need energy fast, like when exercising (doing dishes, for example). Fats can also give us energy, but their more important job is to help with hormone production and to give us essential nutrients for our brain and nerves. This helps with the studying, and is very important when talking to someone we might want to impress without sounding too stupid. We don’t need much fat in our diet, but the healthiest sources are vegetable oils, especially olive and canola, and nuts and seeds.


Vitamins and Supplements
We also need vitamins, minerals and water. Our bodies need vitamins to build and maintain healthy cells, and minerals for cell structure and essential reactions. The American Medical Association recently recommended that adults take a multivitamin and mineral supplement. They used to say that you should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy diet, and that still may be true. What they finally recognized is that, as a nation, Americans DON’T eat a healthy diet. Even if you do, it still might be a good idea to take a multivitamin to help you keep up your health. And you can find it, guess where, at your local co-op. Water is an often overlooked essential, needed for pretty much every single bodily function. We get some from our food, which is mostly water, but we should still drink at least 64 ounces (that’s eight eight-ounce glasses), and another common suggestion is one ounce for every 0.66 pounds of body weight, and if you exercise you may need even more. An example: 150 pounds x 0.66 ounces per pound = 99 ounces, or more than 13 of those eight-ounce glasses.


Sleep and Exercise
I also mentioned that sleep and exercise are good stress busters. The nice thing about these two is they regulate each other: get enough sleep, and you feel more inclined to exercise, exercise enough, and you will sleep better. The sleep problems of most recent escapees from home are more of the stay-up-late-have-to-get-up-early variety than the trying-to-sleep-but-not-being-able-to kind. I can’t help with the first, but if you have the second, a trip to your co-op’s wellness section may help. There are many natural remedies, like valerian and hops, that can help relax you enough to make sleep come more easily. They’re not addictive, and they usually don’t have any side effects either. Our co-op also has books on Yoga and Tai-Chi, both forms of gentle but challenging meditative exercise. These can not only help with stress, but can also make you more fit, which makes you even more stress resistant. Not to mention buffing up those abs, arms and butt. Good for your own self esteem.


Knowledgeable Staff
Along with books, you will be able to find a co-op’s main product: all sorts of wonderful natural foods. How do you use them? A good way to find out is to check out your co-op’s least utilized resource: its staff. We have people with lots of knowledge about food, in all its forms, in every department in the store. If you don’t know what to do with jicama, ask someone in produce. If you want to know what cellophane noodles are, or how to use nori, ask away; we’re happy to help.


Turn the Pages
There are also some good books at the co-op to help answer your questions. Our featured book this month is The Teen's Vegetarian Cookbook by Judy Krizmanic. Even though it is about vegetarian diets, it has simple, dorm- friendly recipes, as well as advice how to navigate through a school’s food service to eat healthily. If you are living on your own and trying to figure out what staples to get, you may wonder (as did I): where do I begin? I don’t know from tabouli, how am I going to make healthy food for myself? When I moved out, my parents gave me a copy of a wonderful cookbook and natural foods reference: Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day, by the Moosewood Collective (also available at our Co-op). It has sections on stocking your pantry, food preparation and techniques, a glossary of food ingredients (use and storage), and lots of good information about healthy wholesome food. It also has many wonderful simple and quick recipes, including some of my favorites, like the "Six-Minute Chocolate Cake." I know, I know, that doesn’t sound very healthy. Well, one of the other most important guidelines about healthy eating (and maybe life as a whole) is this: “All Things in Moderation.” That means don’t be too restrictive or extreme about this stuff. If you eat a mostly healthy diet, it’s okay to have some junk now and then. In fact, I think it is essential. Healthy food tastes great if you do it right, but so do fat and sugar once in a while. Eating is not just about getting nutrients, it can also be an enjoyable, sensual, life affirming celebration. So, here’s to healthy food and healthy lives!