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FRESH, WHOLE, FLAVORFUL—AND MADE WITH LOVE
HERE'S A FACT ABOUT ME THAT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU (unless you've seen my Twitter or Instagram feeds): I'm crazy about food. Nothing makes me happier than cooking an amazing meal for my family or good friends. Even if it's a hectic Tuesday night and I've had back-to-back meetings at The Honest Company offices and then came home to deal with end-of-day meltdowns--you know, one of those days--I'll still spend 2 hours making a homemade dinner of Cornish game hens and roasted butternut squash and invite over six friends. I swear it's how I unwind. (For me, a bit of vino and a nice playlist while cooking are pure bliss.)
Okay, yes, it's a ridiculous amount of work and I can be a mental case, finding recipes on my laptop, and racing outside to grab another handful of rosemary from my wall garden. But when everyone sits down to the table, I'm so happy. There is no better way to spend an evening than with great food, great wine, and great conversation.
When I was growing up, dinner was the time of day when, no matter what, my family came together. My grandmother always had carnitas (that's a Mexican braised pork dish, and it is the bomb) simmering all day in the slow cooker for tacos or snacks. And my mom made everything from fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy to pork chops, lasagna, and steak dinners. I'm not sure she even knows how to cook for, say, four people because we always had enough to feed 10 or 20. I loved helping them out in the kitchen from a pretty young age, and what I remember best was the sense of connection and comfort. We were the kind of family who prayed before meals, and whatever your religious beliefs, I love taking that moment to be grateful for what you have and who you get to share it with. There's something about the love and time you put into making food for your family--I think people are nourished by that energy as much as by the meal itself.
So that's the foundation of my love for food. Honor is already an awesome sous chef, so I encourage her to participate in food prep whenever possible- -it's such a cool way to talk to her about where food comes from and to develop her taste for fresh ingredients. Yes, kids make a mess in the kitchen and slow you down, but they also make the whole process way more fun! I want my girls to love food and respect how much effort goes into growing and preparing it.
Some Honest Challenges
UNFORTUNATELY, WE'RE ALL so busy today that it's easy to lose that connection to our food. We're eating in our cars, at our desks, out of our handbags . . . no judgment, I'm right there with you. On any given week, I might be in the Honest office, on location for a film, or traveling. Believe me, you have to fight hard to create any kind of stability, let alone a regular meal schedule for yourself, when life is that erratic. Even at home in LA, some days are so hectic I'm lucky if lunch is one of my co- workers' half--eaten sandwiches left in the fridge.
Whether you're eating on the go or shopping to cook at home, it's often an ordeal to find fresh, healthy food, because frankly, a lot of what ends up on restaurant menus and grocery store shelves can't even be called food in the first place. As we've seen in the past year alone, with the outrage over pink slime additives in ground beef and the use of antibiotics in chicken, the quality of our food has declined now that most of it is raised on enormous factory farms. Many of these chemicals and additives weren't used in food production 30 years ago, so we're just beginning to understand what they can do to our health. But science is showing links between the industrialization of our food and the rise in obesity and the earlier onset of puberty in girls, as well as medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. I can't say that I'm surprised. How could we have thought these chemical exposures weren't going to affect our health? We are what we eat.
It can be so overwhelming to sift through the claims on food packaging and try to figure out what will nourish your family and what's a "health halo" designed to trick you into thinking some processed, additive--laden food is a smart choice. My personal strategy is to avoid foods that come in packages as much as possible. I call my food philosophy Honest Eating, and it means feeding my family whole, fresh foods that look as close as possible to the way they did on the farm. But it's also about a lot more than that--and I don't mean a diet. Honest Eating is an attitude, not a prescription. And it's darn tasty. Let me explain.
Why I Eat Honestly
MY FOOD PHILOSOPHY has been evolving in this direction ever since I announced I was going vegan at age 12. As you might imagine, with all the carnivores in my house, that decision wasn't too popular! My grandmother was all about her coffee can full of bacon grease--she used it to cook everything!--so when I said I wasn't eating any meals with meat, dairy, or fish, I was out of luck.
Eating tons of fruit, veggies, and whole grains makes your skin amazing and gives you way more energy.
At the time, I thought giving up animal products was the sole key to healthy eating. Plus I was really concerned about animal welfare and creeped out about killing anything. I stuck with a vegan diet until I was 15, and since I couldn't eat almost any meal my family was eating, I had to learn to get creative in the kitchen. I started experimenting with putting fruit, nuts, and avocado in my salads and making my own soups using beans or lentils flavored with cumin, sage, and garlic. I discovered so many amazing foods that weren't prepared the way I grew up eating.
The more I explored vegan cooking, the more I realized how much healthier I felt eating a mostly plant--based diet. I've suffered from allergies my whole life, and I found that I was sneezing and wheezing way less without dairy and foods with highly processed ingredients. This makes sense: Cow's milk is one of the eight foods most responsible for allergic reactions. While cow's milk allergies are most common in babies and little kids and are often outgrown, dairy may continue to play a role in allergies and other health problems as we get older. Plus eating tons of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while reducing sugar and processed foods, makes your skin completely amazing and gives you way more energy. It's also super important for long--term health stuff like preventing cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. And--isn't this a lovely coincidence?--it's better for the planet, especially if you eat organic.
You'll notice that I said mostly plant based. Unfortunately, a 100 percent vegan diet just didn't work for my body in the long term. I struggled to get enough protein and ultimately became anemic without any meat in my diet. Plus I really disliked how many processed and packaged foods seem to be marketed at vegetarians or other blank--free diets--whether you give up dairy, gluten, or any other food group, it seems like food marketers will figure out a way to slap that label all over to lure you in. Usually, those products are pretty devoid of nutrients and often contain more calories, additives, and other crap. No, thank you.
Bottom line, I like beef, poultry, seafood, and cheese (preferably unpasteurized)! My body feels and works best when I'm eating a varied diet with plenty of lean protein. The more I educate myself on these issues, the more I believe that if you purchase and consume animal foods thoughtfully, you can be just as healthy and environmentally conscious as your average vegan--if not more so. I promised no lectures, though, so if being vegetarian or vegan makes sense for your body and your lifestyle, rock on.
Honest Eating Is . . .
• Fresh and whole
• Pure ingredients
• Mostly plant based (whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits)
• Flavor! Herbs, spices, oils, and good fats—yes, please
• Lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish
• Made with love—by you or someone else
• One day a week of eating whatever—because life is short
Honest Eating Isn't . . .
• Processed or packaged
• Meals that require a microwave
• Bland or boring food
• GMOs (see page 9)
• Counting calories
• Unpronounceable ingredient lists
• Denying yourself
• Getting superhung-up on "the rules." It's called "Honest Eating," not "Perfect Eating."
Honest Eating: My Definition
HERE'S A QUICK overview of what this whole Honest Eating thing means to me, and how to incorporate these strategies into your own life.
WHETHER I'M BUYING produce, meat, or dairy, the USDA "Certified Organic" label is a must for me. It's the hands--down biggest deal, whether you're worried about your health, the environment, or animal welfare--or, like me, you think all three are important and intersecting. When you see the organic label on a whole, fresh food, you can relax, because you know you've covered your bases. If it's a fruit or vegetable, it wasn't sprayed with toxic pesticides or fertilizers, and the farmers couldn't use genetically modified (GMO) seeds (see page 9 for more on what that term means). If it's meat or dairy, the animals weren't given antibiotics or growth hormones, and they were fed a 100 percent organic diet and given access to the outdoors. The USDA regulates how food brands can use the organic label and checks to make sure they're upholding all of these standards.
Organic isn't a perfect label--some advocates believe regulations should be even tighter. But it's the best protection we have right now, so I always buy organic--the more we support this label, the more the food industry and the government will realize how important it is to us.
THIS IS MY second priority when food shopping. Most of the food on your supermarket shelves traveled an average of 1,500 miles to get there--even farther if it's, say, February and you're buying strawberries in New York. They cannot grow anything in New York when there's snow on the ground--so the grocers ship that fruit in from Chile or China. And forget about fresh. It takes four to seven days for those strawberries to reach you--that's almost a week of being packed on smelly trucks, ships, and freight trains. This is a huge waste of energy, yes, but it's also bad for you. Produce starts to lose its nutritional value and its flavor the minute it's picked, so a bunch of week--old carrots aren't nearly as nutritious or delicious as the just--dug version for sale at your farmers' market. Bonus: The more we support local farms practicing sustainable agriculture, the more our local soil quality improves.
KEEPING IT REAL
EASY DOES IT
You'd go bananas if you tried to make sure every food you purchased was local. Also, you'd be the saddest person, living on nothing but root vegetables and good intentions all winter. So don't try to turn your entire grocery list local right away--get to know your neighborhood farmers' market, start picking up a couple favorite foods there, and gradually incorporate more local foods into your life in a fun and stress--free way.
MAKE SOME FARMER FRIENDS
"Local, seasonal, organic--sounds delish," you're thinking. "Now where do I find all of this amazing food?" Here's how I get more farm-fresh goodness into our kitchen every week:
SHOP YOUR FARMERS' MARKET.
The number of farmers' markets has doubled in the past decade, so odds are good there's one happening in your neighborhood. And most offer more than just produce--think meats, cheese, eggs, even honey and flowers. Find yours by plugging in your ZIP code to www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets.
JOIN A CSA. CSA stands for "community supported agriculture." You typically pay upfront for a "share" of the farm's harvest and then collect your bounty weekly throughout the season. Find a CSA at www.localharvest.org/csa.
SIGN UP FOR A DELIVERY SERVICE.
We get a box of organic veggies delivered weekly to our home and even to my office from a local farm, and it's been such a game changer! I love knowing I'll always have fresh ingredients on hand, and Honor loves seeing what comes in the box each week. These services aren't available everywhere, but they are becoming increasingly popular: Search www.localharvest.org.
VISIT A U-PICK FARM.
Try picking your own berries, apples, or pumpkins (depending on the season). Find a farm at www.rodaleinstitute.org/farm_locator.
STOP AT ROADSIDE STANDS.
Whether you're running errands or taking a road trip, if you see local farm goodies for sale, pull over! Especially if it's late in the day, these mini- farmers' markets may give you an awesome deal on a dozen ears of corn or sell you a giant watermelon for a song.
GROW YOUR OWN.
I wish I could say we had a fantastic vegetable garden--I'm all black thumbs. But I have started venturing into the world of herb gardening and think it's such an amazing way to teach my girls about caring for living things.
KEEPING IT REAL
THE DIRTY DOZEN
Synthetic pesticides, which are sprayed on most conventional produce, are among the top 10 chemicals associated with an increased risk for autism and learning disabilities. Pound for £d, kids ingest four to five times more fruits and veggies than adults and are more vulnerable to smaller doses of pesticides because their brains and bodies are still developing. I try to buy certified organic when I can, but it's impossible to find (or afford!) organic produce all the time. So don't sweat it; just use this handy guide to make sure you're at least eating clean for those grown with the highest pesticide levels.
Dirty Dozen Plus (Highest in pesticides; buy these organic!)
• Sweet bell peppers
• Nectarines (imported)
• Blueberries (domestic)
• Green beans
Clean 15 (Lowest in pesticides)
• Sweet corn
• Sweet peas
• Cantaloupe (domestic)
• Sweet potatoes
Source: Environmental Working Group, 2012
WHEN YOU START eating more locally grown food, you also have to eat with the seasons. At first, it sounds like such a bummer--no tomatoes in December? Why would anyone live like that? Well, here's the thing--that December tomato? It tastes terrible. You know it does. It's watery and bland, and you're just eating it because it's there. Forget nutrients. Forget flavor. But the tomatoes you eat in July and August? They are the best things ever--change-your-life delicious.