Here’s the thing about resolutions: we make them because we want to do better—be better, even. So it’s no surprise that food often becomes the focal point for New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, “Eat better!” isn’t a resolution. That is an unrealistic goal that doesn’t give you any parameters for success. And when it comes down to it, what does “eat better” really even mean?
Want to eat better, live better and be a better steward of your community in 2014? Then here are nine food resolutions that will help you do just that. This is not a list or rules and regulations; it’s a collection of ideas for how you might start to have a better relationship to what you eat. You may be able to do one thing on this list. You might want to do all of them. Simply use it to inspire you to do better tomorrow than you did today. Change is an accumulation of small steps after all.
1. Strike a few foreign foods from your diet—aka: actually commit to eating locally
We all like to say, “I eat local” but how local are you really eating? When it comes to where your food comes from, you have to pick your battles, and coffee and chocolate may not be foods that you are willing to strike from your list of consumables, but commit to skipping on a few other foods that you can live without. Seriously start thinking about how far away your food came from. Maybe it’s as simple as refusing to eat apples from New Zealand, or maybe you want to go as far to say that you will only eat produce from within a certain geographic proximity. Whatever it is, don’t just say you choose to eat locally, really do it. While you’re at it, the same goes for eating seasonally.
2. Eat one, or two, or three or four more meals a week without meat
Even if we’re not able to make the full commitment of being a vegetarian, we all need to eat less meat. It’s a question of personal and environmental health. Choose a number of meals a week that is realistic for you to eat a plant based diet and stick to it, and when you do eat meat, really think about what you are buying and putting in your body.
3. Work on a farm
It was a cold November day and I had my hands in the dirt pulling up turnips. The next day my back, legs and arms were sore, proof that I certainly do not live the farmer lifestyle, but I couldn’t have been happier. We feel good when we get our hands dirty. Volunteer once a month on a farm or in a community garden, more often if you can. If we spend time taking part in the process of getting our own food from farm to table, we reconnect with what we eat. There’s no better way to have an appreciation for food.
4. Shop small, and often
This is something that I recommend in “The Culinary Cyclist,” not just because it makes transporting your groceries by bike (another great resolution!) more simple but also because it helps you eat better proportions and reduce your food waste. 40 percent of the food in the U.S. today goes uneaten; buying less and only when you need it allows you to be part of solving that problem.
5. Raise plants
It doesn’t matter if you live in a cramped studio apartment—grow something, anything. You’ll be surprised at how much joy can be had from getting to harvest your own herbs. And you’ll quickly fall in love with your baby plants, I promise.
Quit throwing your food scraps in the garbage. Invest in a vermiculture system that allows you to compost at home (again, it can be done with small urban living too) or find a community garden that has a compost set up and welcomes your food waste. And while you’re at it, use some of that food waste. Carrot tops and kale stems? Yes, you can eat those.
7. Ferment something
Part of appreciating our food is engaging more in the process of making it, and fermented foods are a great way to go about this. Getting your own kombucha going, experimenting with a sourdough starter, fermenting your own pickled vegetables, making your own yogurt; these are all ways to start having a better connection to your food and concocting something delicious and healthy in the process. Need help? Some good resources out there are “Mastering Fermentation” and “Wild Fermentation.”
8. Host a communal dinner once a month
Food isn’t just about what we eat. It’s how we eat it, and the social part of eating provides just as much emotional sustenance as the nutrients provide physical. Host a communal dinner and get your friends together to break proverbial bread. Talk about food and what it means to you. Invite a neighbor. Expand your community. No one says no to a dinner party after all.
9. Choose a few condiments that you will stop buying and make yourself
Sriracha, mustard, ketchup, pesto—you can make all of them yourself. If you’re looking to eat a little better, getting rid of processed foods is the first step, and there’s no better way to ensure that you’re eating good, pure food than making it yourself.