Laura Stec talks to us about a way of eating that is just as good for us as it is for the earth.
Host: Gloria Tsang, RD
Guest: Chef Laura Stec
Did your New Year’s Resolutions include switching to an environmentally-friendly way of eating that can be sustained long-term? Welcome to the Nutrition Tidbits podcast. Chef Laura Stec, co-author of the book Cool Cuisine, talks to us about a way of eating that is just as good for us as it is for the earth.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Did your New Year’s Resolutions include switching to an environmentally-friendly way of eating that can be sustained long-term? Welcome to the Nutrition Tidbits podcast. This is Gloria Tsang, editor-in-chief for HealthCastle.com. Joining me today is Chef Laura Stec, author of the book Cool Cuisine. She is here today to talk to us about a way of eating that is just as good for us as it is for the earth. Laura, thanks for joining me.
Laura Stec: Thank you.
Gloria Tsang, RD: You refer to fruits and vegetables grown in healthier soil as being “high vibe”. What exactly is high vibe?
Laura Stec: High vibe is exactly the food we want to eat, which is foods grown in healthy soils – with hands of loving grace from farmers that we may even know. Our machine cuisine or what term the global warming diet in the book, is based in efficiency and not flavor. When we start looking at the solutions to global warming, we realized that some of the solutions can be the best thing that can happen to the culinary world in a long time because they start with the basic important idea of treating and caring for the soil. We should look at the soil not as some kind of irrelevant thing that doesn’t really matter, but we should look at as a fine Bordelaise sauce. This is the analogy we used in the book. Thinks like putting in compost, putting in seasonings and flavors just like we would as cooks, pulling things out of our spice cabinets. So seasoning our soil with basically our leftover food and good quality manures that can then give us the minerals, seasonings and flavors that we need to produce better tasting product and we call that high vibe food.
Gloria Tsang, RD: For the average person, how do we know that a specific fruit or vegetable is grown in healthier soil when we go to a grocery store or a farmer’s market?
Laura Stec: Well you can’t actually but there is a label called the USDA organic in the United States which means they are grown organically. That could be one start but there are different levels that farmers can achieve that certification. The best thing to do in any state in the US is to search out your local farmers. That starts at the farmer’s market. Get to know them, find out where their farm is. If you have the opportunity, visit them no matter what month they may be growing (fruits and vegetables) – attend events at their farm if they are open to the public and get to who is growing your food. That way, you can be assured of one of the most important things that people require from our food system, which is food safety. The closer you are to the source of your food, the more safe your food will be, as well as delicious and healthful.
Gloria Tsang, RD: You mentioned energy efficiency. One of the things that you talked about in your book with regards to seafood choices is to eat “low”. What do you mean by eating low?
Laura Stec: Eating low would be fish that are low on the food chain. That would be fish that don’t eat other fish or are vegetarians such as tilapia, which is actually a vegetarian fish. Or fish that are eaten by other fish, such as herring and anchovies. Other things that are low in the food chain in the sea are mussels and clams. When we do that (choose seafood low in the food chain), we can have the sea be more efficient at being able to produce food. It so happens that for every level of the food chain that you go up, it takes ten times the amount of food to create that fish .
Gloria Tsang, RD: Now let’s talk about cows. Six months ago, we had written an article about going on a low carbon diet. We discussed how beef and dairy products can lead to a higher emission of methane gas, what about grass-fed beef. Would that be a better choice?
Laura Stec: Well in the book, Cool Cuisine does not take the position of being a vegetarian book so we encourage people to reduce their meat consumption and eliminate it if they’d liked. We have a whole chapter called “holy cow”, which is about the role of the cow in the environment and the importance of the hoofed animals to the health of the soil and the land and the sequestration of carbon. That’s actually one of the most controversial aspects of the book. One of the things that is becoming more of interest to eaters is grass-fed beef. There are definite ways that grass-fed beef reduces the amount of carbon and lowers your carbon footprint. Specifically grass-fed beef are eating feed that is grown by the planet, eating solar power food, which is grass and forbs (herbs other than grasses), and that reduces dramatically the amount of pesticides and herbicides that are used in a beef eating diet. Twenty-two billion pounds of fertilizers are used per year in the United States just to grow the feed to feed our cows. Seventy percent of the antibiotics used in the country are used to grow our cows too. So we are using too many resources to grow and feed our cows. What we need to do is get back to the lessons of the planet and to feed them the diet they are naturally used to eating which is best for their health and for things such as methane emissions – this is a grass-fed diet.
Gloria Tsang, RD: I noticed that green wines are popping up at the liquor store. What exactly is green wine?
Laura Stec: Yes, the choice for wine in the future could be red, white or green. And by green wines, there are many ways that wineries are participating in greening their vineyards and processing facilities. Certainly the reduction of any pesticides or chemicals on plants is one way. Actually, the pesticides and herbicides are not used a lot in vineyards, not necessary well known to drinkers, because wineries aren’t going through a certification process but simply because it creates a better flavor wine. In the book, we report on different vineyards that are powering their plants by solar power and putting in areas for beneficial bugs. This can reduce or eliminate pesticides and herbicides by attracting bugs that actually eat other bugs so nature becomes its own organic processing plant. People are definitely introducing animals back to the farm, therefore, there is a quick and local source of manure that vintners can use. Also, having water ponds that are creating their own energy is also another way wineries can bring about green wines. Some of these wineries may not be promoting the fact that they are green so go and search and know the stories behind the farmers that are growing the products that you eat and drink and this gives you a better connection and relationship to your food. This adds to your satisfaction.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Now at HealthCastlle.com, we always talked about making small changes. So for our listeners who are new to the ideas of the global warming diet, tell us a few small changes that they can make to start eating green right away.
Laura Stec: We encourage people to not let perfect be the enemy of the good, which is something that French philosopher Voltaire said very wisely many years ago. So in the first chapter, we just encourage people to take this step-by-step and stage-by-stage. You don’t have to do everything at once. You don’t have to do everything. Simply take little steps here and there and celebrate along the way and as you do, you realize not only do you, again, eat better for yourself but also for the planet. We are motivated by pleasure – eaters are motivated by pleasure. It’s important for us to learn, first off, how to cook our food. Take a couple of cooking classes this year. If you have never taken a cooking class, and only a quarter of my students in the classes that I teach have, please go out and learn a little but more about how to cook a vegetable and how to cook a whole grain. In the book, we really talk about that. We mention keeping water as far away from vegetables is the thing that you should do as a cook and we talk about why that’s an important thing. Also with cooking grains, not just cook them on the cook top with two parts water, one part grain, you can bake grains. You can boil grains like pasta and even pressure cook grains. And when you do this you change the texture so that’s important to know that you may not like a certain grain boiled on your stove top with one part grain and two parts water but you may really like it, say millet or quinoa, you may really like it if you boil it like pasta. So that would be the first steps. Learn how to use the foods that basically reduce the amount of meat that you may have in your diet. If you want to reduce your meat, maybe do it once a week, twice a week, three times a week. You don’t have to do it every single day. Look for organic produce once a week, twice a week, not every day. Don’t worry about it. Maybe you go to the farmer’s market on the weekends. There are still some farmer’s markets happening in the country now. Certainly a lot of them start up in April and May. Go there once a week and buy the foods there and learn how to cook them. If you are going to buy bottled water, certainly it’s best to reduce the amount of bottled water you buy – your tap is good enough and it’s actually safer water coming out of your tap than in a bottle surprisingly – try to refill your water bottle. If you do it once a week, that’s terrific. When you have a water bottle, don’t throw it away, refill it once. Then you might get into the habit of actually having a water bottle around then you don’t need to buy bottled water anymore. And if you do buy bottled water, don’t buy it (water) from Fiji, don’t buy it from France for heaven’s sake, buy it from the area that you are around so that you can reduce the food miles on your water. Bring you own bag to the grocery store and encourage your grocery store to put up a few signs in their parking lot that say “Did you remember to bring your bags?”. Because that’s the frustrating thing. People actually leave them in their cars, which is where you should leave them but then they forget to take them out of the car. So with a few signs here and there in the parking lot, it’s an easy thing for the stores to do. Everybody wants to participate now in being more green so encourage them to do that. Simple things like this. We have many, many things. All the chapters have what we call the “book and cook club”, which lists very simply ways that people can participate on a day-to-day basis. The “book and cook club” information relates to the information that the chapter talks about, whether it’s about water, or beef, or vegetables, or eating organically. These things all have specific ways that you can help out so don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good people. Go out there and take simply steps and celebrate what you do. In the end, you are going to find that your food is going to be tastier and healthier and it’s going to be high vibe! And guess what happens when you eat high vibe food? You become high vibe.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Great information Laura. Thank you for joining me today.
Laura Stec: Thank you so much. Happy new year.
Gloria Tsang, RD: We have been talking to Chef Laura Stec, author of Cool Cuisine. For more healthy eating tidbits and information about this show, go to HealthCastle.com.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.