Living LifeWise: Eating Simply in a Complicated World

Living Lifewise Thursday, July 17, 2014 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.” This saying has been around since the 1800s, and today it may be more relevant than ever.

Sure, we eat to satisfy hunger, but what we eat is more likely based on what tastes good and what we’re in the mood for. However some of us (yes, me) eat to influence our genetics; recent research shows our food choices can influence which genes turn on or off.

So what is the healthy way to nurture and fuel our bodies? While everyone’s needs and sensitivities are unique, here are my tips on what to consider when your goal is to eat good-tasting, satisfying food that’s nutrient-rich and simple.

Grow Your Own Food

Grow your own

I’ll take a carrot freshly pulled from the ground, a garden-ripened tomato or an apple warmed by the sun over a candy bar any day. Growing your own fruits and veggies is fun and satisfying—and you always know what you’re getting. You know exactly where your seeds came from, how healthy your soil is (earthworms are a good indicator) and what went into the ground to promote and protect your growing plants. Garden-fresh veggies taste better than anything you can buy at a store, and they’re full of nutrients.

One key to nutrient-dense food is healthy soil. My grandfather swore by fish fertilizer, manure and compost. Those are my go-to soil supplements, but I’m also exploring gardening alternatives; for example, Northwest author David Montgomery (his book Dirt is all about, well, dirt) advocates no-till farming. In his view, agriculture is depleting our topsoil—which, ironically, is essential for food production.

Buy local

We can’t grow everything we need in our own backyards. At farmers markets you can find the best of what’s in season and talk directly to those who harvested it. Do they use pesticides (which can leach into your food)? What do they feed their livestock—grass or grain? Do they have any tips or recipes for the food you’re buying from them? Your local farmer is a great resource for both food and knowledge.

Buy Local Farmers Market Produces

Buy organic

If a farmers market doesn’t have what you need, choose organic products from your local grocery store. Organic labels guarantee your food is grown according to specific standards, three of which are especially important to me: no pesticides, no genetic modification and a priority on animal welfare.

Organic food isn’t just better for our bodies; it has economic and environmental benefits too. If organic seems pricey, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 / Dirty Dozen lists.

Read labels

There are thousands of man-made chemical additives and pollutants in our food supply today. Reading labels is a good defense against ingesting toxins and ingredients like arsenic, aspartame and so many more. Though they’re prevalent in American food, many of these ingredients are banned in Europe and other developed countries.

Foods in or Close to Their Natural State

Best Bets

I know—I sound like someone in Portlandia. But really I’m just looking for minimally processed food with ingredients I’m familiar with.

Try to eat foods in or close to their natural state. These will often be organic or at least sustainably produced. Get to know your local farmers. Experiment with growing some food on your own. Even a window box can produce tasty, beneficial herbs and vegetables, like basil, oregano and even tomatoes!

These days you can’t throw a rotten tomato without hitting a new food trend, including “clean eating.” Still, in my humble opinion, the best way to eat is the simplest.


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