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Eating Green

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Nell Newman got her dad, Paul Newman, to consider adding a line of organic foods to his multimillion-dollar, charity-based food corporation by starting with just one product: pretzels, his favorite snack. And that's a great way to think about making the transition from conventional cooking to a more eco-friendly way of putting food on the table. What does your family eat most?

You know you want to go green, but it seems much too overwhelming and, frankly, too expensive. Instead, start the way Paul did: slowly and with one or two items at a time. Substituting just a few things you buy regularly both reduces your exposure to pesticides and supports more earth-friendly farming practices.

Fruits and vegetables are laden with pesticides, and some of the worst offenders are peaches, apples and bell peppers. Better choices from the conventional bin are onions, avocados and mangoes. For a clip-and-save dirty dozen guide to pesticide-contaminated produce, go to www.foodnews.org. You'll find a list to carry around so that you can make clear choices at the store.

Raw-food practitioners can legitimately trumpet the added nutritional benefits of the way they eat, since more nutrients are saved when food is not cooked. But raw food also eliminates any need for an energy source other than elbow grease. Not everyone, though, is ready to jump on that particular bandwagon. Instead, you can reduce the amount of meat you eat and thereby lessen the enormous amount of energy expended to raise, feed, slaughter and ship conventional beef, which is already laden with antibiotics, hormones and some conscience-troubling feedlot practices. Your great big carbon footprint just got a little smaller.

So you need to switch to fish, right? Sadly, that's not an easy solution either, because so much fish is polluted with mercury and other contaminants. Fortunately, you can find a handy cheat sheet at www.oceansalive.org listing safer choices, like Alaskan halibut or tilapia.

Shopping for locally produced chickens (and their eggs), beef and pork helps too, not just because it reduces the amount of petroleum it takes to truck their more distant counterparts to the supermarket, but it also lets you see just how that drumstick walks around before it hits your plate. Keysville's CCL Farm sells humanely raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free pork, chicken and eggs, and Faith Farm Foods out of Green Bay, sells those products as well as grass-fed beef. Both can be found at the 17th Street Farmers' Market on Thursdays and the Byrd House market on Tuesdays.

Seasonal produce is always fresher, usually local and easy to buy because that's what you'll find by default at all of the farmers' markets around town. You can also ask farmers directly how their food is grown. It'll make you sleep easier at night, too, knowing that because their produce doesn't come prepackaged, it helps reduce the waste clogging our landfills. And by canning those local fruits and vegetables when they're in season, you'll have a whole pantry-full to take you through the rest of the year. For a handy week-by-week guide to what's in season, go to www.eattheseasons.com.

Of course, you could grow your own food in your own garden, which is a great solution for all of you micromanagers out there, and it also gives you a great reason to compost. And for overachievers, composting makes recycling look like kid stuff. Ceramic, lidded crocks with charcoal filters that don't look too terrible on your counter are available at Gardener's Supply at www.gardeners.com. They even have 100 percent biodegradable bags made out of cornstarch to transport the coffee grounds and eggshells out to the compost heap you're going to start in a remote corner of your backyard.

So remember where that road goes when good intentions aren't acted upon? You don't have to save the whole planet (that's what Superman is for) but just your little corner of it, one pretzel at a time.









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