Frisee or French Fries
by John Lee

Spring is always a good time to be thinking about being hungry; at least in the sense of having an appetite. For those of us who are lucky enough to have enough to eat, hungry is a good thing; sated is even better; well-nourished is the best yet. With the December holidays well behind us and our waistlines beginning to recede if ever so slightly, we can now ponder what the rest of the year will do (or not!) to our bulging midriffs.

How can we stave off starvation, trim the budget, eat the treats and keep our waistlines in check? A tall order, you might think.

In fact, not so. We can eat in or out and eat well. We can modify our diets so that eating generally is less deleterious. We can do this with a little bit of planning. Early on, i was told to never go to the grocery store without a shopping list. That way i would come home with what i needed and not what i necessarily otherwise wanted. This was supposed to be a way of economizing (read “avoiding impulses”) but doing so is a great planning tool. So, here is the prescription for a happier waistline all year long.

Diets do not work for most of us for a variety of reasons. So forget that! We will need an alternative strategy through which success is both achievable and pleasurable. This will be the decade of “grow your own.” Even if you have only a window box or a few square feet of garden space, growing (at least some) of your own is, in fact, achievable and the rewards are both real and psychic. if you have only the smallest growing area, grow greens, small rooted crops like baby beets or radishes; there are even miniature lettuces available. Plant and replant!  Grow a few cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket. Grow what most pleases your palate and grow foods of different colors to brighten your plate and kick up the nutritional value of your harvest. In fact, you don’t even need to have a “garden” per se. You can create large or small container gardens in your driveway, on the rooftop or porch/fire escape.  Now you have significantly increased your possible harvest and can have homegrown produce every day; you will save money, get a bit of exercise and have put a little extra thought into your next meal.

Having decided to take more responsibility for your diet, don’t forget that there are those out there in restaurant world who are also honestly concerned about your health. You may have to do a little homework to find them, but they are out there (and on the following pages). Go online, research their menus, choose what you will order ahead of time and balance your food fantasy with a little common sense.  Like the aforementioned grocery list, foreknowledge about what you are going to eat tends to ward off temptation and a poor choice in our all-too-common moments of weakness. Balance your craving for a good burger with a hefty (if lightly dressed) salad. And remember, life is short; maybe tonight you should skip dessert and walk home!

Most importantly, failing at a rigorous regime only invokes guilt, which usually means another bad food choice. So, be kind to yourself.  Sustenance should be an art form and you are the creative genius. if you miss a stroke, it’s OK! Slap a band-Aid on it and go pull a head of lettuce and a few carrots for a great snack or dinner.

John Lee is the manager of Allandale Farm (Boston’s last working farm), which specializes in naturally grown local produce. Each summer, John manages an outdoor children’s program on the farm. He writes for local new outlets and is deeply involved with farming and locally grown issues in Massachusetts.