Kindness Through Mindful Eating (Guest Blog 2)

This weekend I was lucky enough to listen to some incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking discussions surrounding the idea of kindness (a post about the Kindness Conference is on its way). One of the many amazing moments for me was when one of the speakers talked about how out-of-touch we are with the seasons and rhythms of mother nature. She also produced this little gem: The life’s work of one bee is equivalent to quarter of a teaspoon of honey. It was an astounding thought. The next time I eat honey on toast I will certainly think about the four or five little bees that worked their whole lives in order for me to have just one yummy breakfast.

It’s so easy to forget that every day we rely on animals for so much sustenance. And it’s easy to be in denial about whether our food is produced in a way that is as ethical and as kind as possible to animals. But recently we have been confronted with some harsh realities in the news. Like so many other injustices in the world, it makes me feel overwhelmed thinking of all the cruelty that is occurring against animals every day. But the guest blogger of this post, Lesh, gives me so much hope that we can be part of the positive solution by making the simplest of changes to our eating habits. She is an amazingly creative cook and inspiringly passionate and ridiculously well-informed animal rights advocate who writes a beautiful blog called The Mindful Foodie. Bon Apetit!

* * * * * *

Kindness can be shown in every act we make – not just to others, but also in so many other ways that are not immediately obvious. Like choosing the food we eat. I don’t think many people realise what a great opportunity that is for showing kindness. I call it mindful eating – where you’re conscious of the impact your food choices have on you and everything around you, including the planet and its creatures.

What I’m most passionate about is the impact food has on animals. I became aware of the inhumane treatment of animals in the food industry through Animals Australia’s campaigns on bobby calves and the live export trade of cattle to Indonesia. Everyone I know is against animal cruelty, but many aren’t aware of the animal cruelty that goes on behind the scenes in food production ¬– it crosses the line by leaps and bounds.

So how did we get here? It has to do with industrialisation. Commercial food is produced on a large scale, and cheaply. So, not only are we are far removed from food than we once were, we don’t know what goes into it. I bet you can remember your granny or a great-aunt making jam, or even churning butter. Do you know anyone who does that now? Now we rely on the shops for these things and have no idea about how many foods are processed – or what impact they’ve had on the environment or any living being for that matter. But there are easy steps you can take that will help you make kind food choices. Here are 5 tips to get you going:

Eat less meat
This is not a sly ploy make people become vegetarian. 😉 It’s just a simple and easy way to show kindness to the planet and its animals (you can read more here). Besides, the Western world eats copious amounts of meat – way much more that what’s necessary for our health. There’s so much variety and colour (read: nutrients) to be had with adding a few vegetarian meals to our diet, and they’re yummy too! To start off, you could try Meatless Mondays. Or, if you’re up to it, why not try being a weekday vegetarian? If you’re stuck for ideas on what to cook, take a look a some blogs – 101Cookbooks and thePPK springs to mind – or some great veggie cookbooks – like Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson, Plenty by Ottolenghi, World Vegetarian by Madhuri Jeffery or The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. These sites and books well and truly bust the myth that vegetarian food is boring!

Shop at farmers’ markets
Shopping at farmer’s markets hits so many kindness acts with one stone:
* you’ll support local farmers, making sure they get a fair price
* pesticide-free and organic produce is easier and cheaper to purchase – they are kinder on the environment and your body
* the produce hasn’t travelled far, is generally freshly picked and is in season, which not only benefits the environment but also your health because it’s full of nutrients
* you can support suppliers who offer humanely treated animal products

To find a farmers’ market near you check out the Australian Farmers’ Market Association.

Choose to eat only ethical animal-based products
If you’re not vegetarian, you can make kind choices by avoiding factory farmed meat, eggs and dairy products. This is what Peter Singer, the author of The ethics of what we eat, calls being a conscientious omnivore. Make sure you ask questions and not taking labels like ‘free-range’ for granted! Find out the living conditions of animals, before you choose a product. These products may seem more expensive, but the higher cost is for good reason – the cost is not shifted towards poor living conditions for animals. The cheapest way to get cruelty-free animal products is at most farmers’ markets (another reason to shop there) or directly from the farm gate – some farmers have an online ordering system and will home deliver.

Reduce your food waste Did you know that Australians throw out 5.2 billions dollars worth of food per year? That’s $239 per person, per year (1). That money could be spent towards pesticide-free produce and cruelty-free animal products. Food waste also has a considerable impact on the environment (by producing gases in landfills). So another all-encompassing way to display kindness is to reduce your food waste. Here are some quick tips:
* Store your leftovers properly so you can take it for lunch or eat it for dinner another night instead of buying takeaway
* Make a menu plan for the coming week and only buy what you need
* Get creative and make up some recipes using what you’ve got left in the fridge
* Use your limp, older veggies to make homemade vegetable stock – you can use vegetable peelings too, especially if they’re free of pesticides
* Buy less packaged foods, and cook more things from scratch. This will reduce food-packaging rubbish.

Check out this excellent book for more great ideas.

Choose fair-trade foodFor some things we can’t go local, like chocolate, tea and coffee. Such products are usually grown in third world countries. To make sure you buy products from companies that don’t exploit their workers, go fair-trade for fairer income and kinder working conditions to those who bring us these yummy treats. Look for the fair-trade symbol and check out their website.

I hope these tips give you some insight on how your food choices can make a powerful statement of kindness. I find that thinking about food – where it comes from and how it affects all beings and our planet – makes me want to make kinder food choices, naturally.

21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stevepmoore
    Jul 24, 2011 @ 22:25:53

    Great post. I feel that the biggest impact we can have in being kind to our planet surrounds our food choices. I have been vegetarian (fish-eating) for eight years now, although last weekend I ate goat! It had been shot and killed by a friend and he described the whole process. By the end of it, I was convinced the animal hadn’t suffered at all, and had been treated with dignity right to the end. I feel we should have the courage to admit to ourselves what we are eating, where it has come from, and that what is on our plate had the capacity to suffer, just like us.


    • Lesh @ TheMindfulFoodie
      Jul 25, 2011 @ 07:16:29

      Thanks Steve. Couldn’t agree with you more. Just because an animal is killed for our consumption, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated with compassion and respect.


    • happydancecat
      Jul 26, 2011 @ 22:21:59

      That’s funny, Steve, I worked out the other day I’ve been vego for eight years too – 2003, first year of uni studying Peter Singer, never looked back! One of the biggest reasons I stopped eating meat was because I was so in denial about the fact that it was an animal at all, let alone how it had been killed. It is a very personal decision and I certainly don’t think its reasonable to think everyone will go vego, but it is reasonable to think that everyone can make well-informed, ethical decisions.

      How did you go eating the goat? I always wonder how the body might respond to meat after having been without it for so long!


  2. Eric Winger
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 00:43:12

    There’s a good movie called Food, Inc. which outlines the changes in our food sourcing and food supply over the past 50-100 years.

    After we watched that, I started purchasing more of our foods locally, from known sources, and going to restaurants which make an effort to buy from those same sources. It’s only a few dollars, but each dollar is a vote.

    And those votes add up. For example, Walmart has made some forays into sustainability and organic produce which wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago.

    It’s one of the small things we can do collectively to have a large impact.


  3. enermazing
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 03:15:02

    The Mindful Diet 🙂 🙂
    Excellent post, thank you both!


  4. Roberta
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 05:37:23

    We have cut back on our meat eating..It is disturbing to hear about methods of mis-treatment of animals for our benefit of eating them. I always new bee’s worked hard but for the small amount they work for I have new respect for them.. (:


  5. Lesh @ TheMindfulFoodie
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 07:05:01

    Hello beautiful girl! Thank you for sharing my post on your blog, and for your lovely introduction 🙂 Yes, it’s a ridiculously small amount of honey that a bee produces in its lifetime! It’s important to remind ourselves of these sorts of information once in a while – so we have an innate appreciation for our food. Thanks again, Cat. You are truly an inspirational woman. I look forward to hearing about your kindness conference soon 🙂


    • happydancecat
      Jul 26, 2011 @ 22:30:42

      Lesh, thankyou for inspiring us all to be more *mindful* food consumers. It’s such an important issue but it can be overwhelming so its fantastic that we have you to break it down so beautifully into practical every-day actions. I always feel very empowered when I read your advice! I have just posted about the kindness conference and have set this week’s challenge which is very much inspired by you! 🙂


  6. marypoppinsertraline
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 11:35:46

    Thank you for a deeply insightful and educational guest post, Lesh. I recently watched the excellent documentary “Food,Inc.”, and was riveted while simultaneously wholly disturbed by the content. Equally unsettling, here in the States, there seems a burgeoning trend of wealthy investors/speculators with no agriculture experience snapping up troubled farms like so many pieces of arable real estate. Sickening to ponder:

    It has long been my policy to “Eat local, buy local/fair trade ” whenever possible. You gave some great ideas of more I could be doing in this area of kindness. Mindfulness is a ceaseless exercise in constant fine-tuning and vigilance for me, even still. 🙂

    Thank you as well, for having Lesh contribute, Cat. Hope to read more. Looking well forward to the Kindness Conference post. Cheers!


    • happydancecat
      Jul 26, 2011 @ 22:35:04

      So true – it seems like mindfulness is never wholly complete, but a constantly shifting work of art. Keeps things interesting that way! Lesh is just amazing for how well educated she is on these issues, and makes me realise there are always more ways to be kinder to the earth and its creatures.

      There are more inspiring guest posts on the way! And I’ve have just posted about the conference, it was an amazing experience.


  7. gingerseyes
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 17:01:16

    Wow, this blog really hits home to me!! You know what it reminds me of? A book by Dean Koontz called From The Corner Of His Eye, you might try giving it a read it is really amazing!

    “Each smallest act of kindness – even just words of hope when they are needed, the remembrance of a birthday, a compliment that engenders a smile – reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away.”


    • happydancecat
      Jul 26, 2011 @ 22:37:43

      What a gorgeous quote, I haven’t heard of that one but I will have to see if I can get a hold of it. Thanks so much for reading and sharing, gingerseyes. 🙂


  8. Cameron Brooks
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 00:27:13

    “The life’s work of one bee is equivalent to a quarter of a teaspoon of honey.”

    Thank you for the succinct response to a perennial question, “Why don’t vegans eat honey?”


    • happydancecat
      Jul 26, 2011 @ 22:40:08

      Yes, it’s totally understandable when put like that, isn’t it? Are you vegan, Cameron? I don’t eat much honey but like I said, next time I do I will certainly have thoughts of gratitude for the hard work that went into making it.


  9. themolesworthdiarist
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 13:00:28

    Great suggestions Cat. I used to be vegetarian and then lived with someone who expected meat for dinner every night. Am trying to get back to more veggie meals as I feel so much better and healthier, not to mention better for the planet. Thanks for reminding me of Madhuri Jeffrey, her cookbooks are fantastic!


    • happydancecat
      Jul 26, 2011 @ 22:47:58

      This was actually a guest post by Lesh, she has some great suggestions doesn’t she? I know its definitely tricky to cook vego when you are surrounded by meat-eaters. I don’t have a single vego friend myself but they are all very supportive of my choice. Being meat-free certainly makes me happy, body and soul! I will have to check out Madhuri Jeffrey.


  10. freshrevelations365
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 18:11:23

    This is a wonderful post that bring to mind the impact we have on our planet even with something as simple as what we choose to eat. I greatly enjoyed the suggestions that you offered, and look forward to applying some of them. I have been living in Germany for three years now, and one of the main things that amazed me was how little they waste. Generally, they will walk to their local grocer and by only what they need for that day. They also do not offer grocery bags at most stores. This was a little hard to get use to at first being accustomed to things in America. Eventually tho I began to appreciate the beauty of Germany and the way in which they live their day-to-day lives. Thank you for the great post =)


  11. Trackback: The World Can Only Change From Within « yearofkindness

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