NYC Registered Dietitian Celebrates The Slow Food Movement

Slow Food is Sustainable, Healthy, and Accessible

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Joyful living, passion, great films, magical seascapes, mountains, vineyards, rich flavors, and a history so decadent, seeped in art and architecture, Italy and Italians are models of great living. So it’s no surprise the Slow Food Movement was born in the 1980s in Italy’s capital. 

Carlo Petrini and a group of activists organized a demonstration against McDonald’s on the Spanish Steps in Rome in 1986, the site for McDonald’s next restaurant. Here was the birth of The Slow Food movement. Shortly thereafter, in 1989, the Slow Food Manifesto: International Movement for the Defense of and the Right to Pleasure was signed in Paris, making this an international affair.

Going back in time to experience the joy and traditions of food, slow food, is having its own Renaissance. In fact, since founding The Slow Food movement, there are over 100,000 members and 2,000 food communities that practice sustainable agriculture. Petrini has been voted one of the most influential ecologists in the world, most likely to save the planet, as well as been awarded The UN Environmental Award (Champion of the Earth). All because he believes every human being has the right to a pleasant meal.

As a mom, and grandmother, I understand our definitions of pleasure might vary. For many years, a pleasant meal was one I could eat while it was still hot. The Slow Food Movement, though, challenges the way we view food, and the toll our food choices have on the world and our health.

It’s hard to imagine a supermarket without packaged goods, a city without takeout and drive-thrus, a convenience store without microwave burritos, and how “essential” these conveniences are to our lives. The Slow Food movement challenges these ideas. It goes beyond sitting at the table with the family (which is important). It’s about eating clean, reducing our carbon footprint, supporting local farmers and agricultural projects, and providing accessibility to good, healthy food at a fair price for everybody.

I understand that a lot of this can feel overwhelming. Organic food products are more expensive. Also, “organic” doesn’t mean a food was grown sustainably. Many people live in places where they don’t have access to fresh foods. Most people don’t have a backyard where they can raise their own chickens. Many people don’t want to raise their own chickens. I understand. But there are some things we can all do to embrace this idea of Slow Food, improve the way we eat and view eating, and reduce the impact we have on the environment.

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  1. Bring your own bag. Something as simple as not using the plastic bags in the supermarket can have a powerful impact over time.  
  2. Get naked. Purchase products that have minimal to no packaging. Go straight to the butcher, for instance, instead of buying pre-packaged meats. Buy fresh produce, instead of packaged. 
  3. Meet your local farmers. Many communities, at least during summer, have farmers markets. Meet local farmers. Learn about their practices. And buy products, in season, from them. During winter months, you can still choose in-season fruits and vegetables to reduce your carbon footprint.
  4. Get a green thumb. Anyplace is a good place for a little herb garden. Basil, oregano, rosemary, mint … all can be grown in a small little herb garden in almost any space. For those who have space, grow a garden. All summer and fall can be a celebration of a harvest and sustainability.
  5. Pasture-raised livestock is more environmentally friendly and humane. If you can afford it, it’s a more flavorful, healthier, sustainable, and humane choice.
  6. Eat more … produce. Fruits and vegetables are healthier for your body … and the planet! 
  7. Order from the tap. Tap water, beer on tap (😊) … avoid the bottle and the waste.
  8. Make more. Cooking food takes energy. Instead of making pasta sauce or soup for one meal, make a double batch and freeze it. 
  9. Take the local meal challenge. What’s growing around you? Cook one local meal each week, using only local ingredients. Connect with local growers and producers.
  10. Eat together! Mealtime doesn’t begin when the food is served. 

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Food is culture. Food is tradition. Food is family and history and stories and connection. We all have the right to pleasure. And being conscientious of our food choices will help us make more mindful decisions and, in turn, make us healthier.

Slow down and enjoy your meals today!