Living LifeWise: How to Eat Local for the Holidays

Living Lifewise Sunday, December 8, 2013 Written by

Living LifeWise is a regular column provided by LifeWise Ambassadors – LifeWise employees whose healthy choices are helping them live better lives. Today’s column is provided by LifeWise Ambassador Laura McLeod.

You are what you eat.

A cliché, yes, but there’s a lot of truth in that statement. I spent my teen years snacking on Ding Dongs and Nacho Cheese Doritos, but I learned early that what I put into my body shows up in any number of ways – from my physical well-being (including my hair, skin and nails), to my mental and emotional disposition. Today, I eat well and feel better in every way, and a lot of that is due to eating locally and seasonally.

A world of new foods – and ways to prepare them – opened up to me when I worked on a Cascade Harvest Coalition campaign called Eat Local for Thanksgiving. The campaign was designed to encourage people to add at least one local food offering to their holiday tables to support local farmers during the winter season. (Check your local farmers market schedule for chef demonstrations during the holiday season.) Here are a few ideas to help you eat healthy for the holidays:

  • Local turkeys can be hard to come by and more expensive, but other main course options are worth considering. Seafood, shellfish, grass-fed beef, pork and lamb are all plentiful here and great options for a main course. You can find most at local farmers markets or at a nearby farm. Skagit River Ranch and Ninety Farms are two of my favorites.
  • The Long Beach peninsula is famous for its cranberries, but most of its berries go directly to Ocean Spray. For a tasty alternative, try a savory sauce made from local dried cherries.
  • Local greens come in all shapes and sizes, including kale of many colors and Brussels sprouts. Monroe-based Willie Greens Organic Farm now sells delicious packaged greens at Whole Foods stores.
  • A dizzying array of squash, onions and heirloom potatoes is grown right here in the Northwest. You can find different varieties at PCC Natural Markets from Stanwood’s Rent’s Due Ranch. Local sugar pie pumpkins are terrific in both savory dishes and delectable desserts.
  • Foraging is in and mushrooms are plentiful. If you’re not sure about picking your own, (and please be sure), farmers markets and local stores are flush with options. Try sautéing a few varieties with garlic and butter.
  • For an appetizer or dessert, our local goat, sheep or cow cheeses are second to none. If you’re not sure where to start, turn to Pacific Northwest Cheese Project.

My idea of a memorable Northwest holiday feast? Start with spicy butternut squash soup and roasted oysters, followed by a main course of poached local salmon, side dishes featuring sautéed kale, hazelnuts and pumpkin next to roasted Brussels sprouts with Ferndale-based Hempler’s bacon.   For dessert, a decadent pumpkin mousse or apple crisp with some sharp aged cheddar.

If you’d like to know more about eating healthy and locally, my inspiration was furthered by a Victoria, British Columbia, couple who took on the year-long challenge of eating food grown almost entirely within a 100 mile radius of their home. They documented this adventure in the 100-Mile Diet.

While I don’t plan to eat only foods produced within 100 miles, I do try to add at least one local ingredient to most of my meals. To find your own inspiration, check out Puget Sound Fresh for some delicious recipes and resources for buying local in the Northwest.

Bon appetit!


Laura_McLeodLaura McLeod is an internal communications manager at LifeWise, and is convinced that lifestyle trumps genetics. Because her genetics include many lifestyle-based illnesses, she strives to eat well, exercise and get regular check-ups. While she’s officially reached ‘mid-life,’ she believes you’re only as old as you feel.  Laura lives in Ballard with her long-time partner and her energetic, playful cat. Learn more about Laura in our Living LifeWise video series