Chances are you also struggle with some of the challenges I have been thinking about. We are told some basic ideas for eating well and taking care of ourselves, yet find that doing so may not be great for the planet’s health. What’s a health-conscious person with a conscience supposed to do?

Take eating fruits and vegetables, nine servings a day as recommended. We want to eat high quality, preferably organic, and in-season produce. But we live in North America and except for certain small areas like southern California, the growing seasons just don’t allow for much growing during a big part of the year. Sure, the grocery stores are full of every kind of produce all year long. But at what cost to the environment, not to mention to the quality of the produce? Most fruits and vegetables have to be picked long before they are really ready to be eaten, packed, shipped long distances, and distributed to trucks which take them even further, until they finally show up at your store. Of course this is true even when the produce grows in the USA and gets shipped across country, just maybe not picked as early and not shipped as far. This is why I prefer local produce – I feel it is fresher and I know it took less fossil fuel to arrive at the market. Yet I chafe at the lack of variety some months and cringe at the price of some items not easily grown here and wonder how I’d cook if I couldn’t get bell peppers all year long. Then I read about a group of women in a poor country who got helping starting a farm and they grow vegetables for the American market (because we are insatiable) and now they can send their children to school. How can I not want to help support them?!

The next challenge I think about is that of drinking water. The general opinion is we should drink 64 ounces a day or thereabout. It can seem difficult to consume that much water but it’s really not and the benefits are worth forming the habit. Of course we want that water to be clean and free of contaminants, and preferably come out of our home faucets like that. But many areas don’t trust their tap water or don’t care for the ‘taste’ (which probably means they are right to avoid it because water shouldn’t ‘taste’, should it?). If you don’t like or trust your tap water what do you do? There are various filtering options for the home, and there’s also home delivery of those big bottles. What about the times you are away from a ready source of good water, like hiking, biking, traveling, etc. and need to carry water with you? With so much controversy over BPA and phthalates leaching from plastics and being known hormone disrupters, we don’t want to use containers made from polycarbonate plastic or polyvinyl chloride (those have #1, #3, #6, or #7 stamped on). But glass won’t work for these activities. I have a stainless steel bottle, but it is not large so if I needed more water than it holds I’d have a problem. I encourage you to avoid purchased bottled water because it is a trash hazard, a waste of plastics, and due to news of some heavy-handed bottlers diverting water from towns and buying up water rights. Yet bottled water helps people in crisis situations have clean water, at least short-term.

The third challenge I have been pondering is eating fish. Not from a vegetarian or vegan point of view – that’s a subject for a different post. We omnivores are encouraged to eat fish several times a week for the omega-3 properties. I like fish so that’s not the problem. What is a problem are the warnings we get about mercury and other contaminants in many species. And another problem is the over-fishing that depletes the fish stocks, and the bad fishing practices that causes many fish to be caught and killed but not brought in for consumption. So how do we eat fish a few times a week if we can’t get fish that is safe to eat? I avoid farmed fish, fish from countries with poor food-safety regulations, and foods on the watch list from Monterey Bay Aquarium. Good info on their site – I recommend checking it out.

I can’t claim to have answers to these puzzles. There are many ways to solve them for you, in a way that works in your life. And there are many other challenges in the world of eating well – which ones are puzzling you these days? We can only do so much at one time, so pick the issues that bug you the most and work to do what you can do to relieve it.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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