Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The hundred mile diet or Prehistoric cooking?

We have been bombarded by a variety of diets over the last decades, mostly promising to help us loose weight. Concerns about the obesity epidemic are met and maybe even surpassed by concerns about global warming and other environmental issues. Agriculture and how and what we eat contributes strongly to green house gasses globally, and the CO2 ‘foot print’ of especially meat and other animal products is impressive.
The growth of the organic movement and the dissemination of organic produce in main stream supermarkets show that many people are willing to make changes in their food choices to contribute to a more sustainable way of feeding ourselves. However, now that organic foods and produce have become mainstream, the production has increased enormously, and a big challenge is to remain true to the real basis of ecological farming and production. Many organic product travel thousand of miles before they reach your supermarket, grocer or butcher, making their true contribution to a more sustainable environment rather doubtful. This issue is very nicely described and discussed in Paul Roberts (see book, ‘The end of food’.

Another interesting way to try to contribute to a more sustainable way of eating is to eat locally, and thus to reduce the transport-related CO2 fingerprint of the foods we eat. In Michael Pollan’s ( books ‘The omnivore’s Dilemma’ and ‘In defence of food’ he very clearly illustrates the possible ecological differences between foods that may carry the organic label, and locally produced foods, and a case is build for buying locally. The growth in so-called farmers markets is a sign that buying locally is getting more and more popular.

The so-called ‘hundred mile diet’ (see is a way to strive to eating more locally. This ‘diet’ is based on the experiences of Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon ( who realised that the average food they ate had travelled at least 1500 miles. They decided to try to eat only foods that were produced within a hundred mile radius from their apartment in Vancouver, British Colombia. Since then, many other have decided to try similarly.

A very different way of eating, but that links to local food production, that has received attention here in the Netherlands is the ‘Oerdis’ (see for a description in Dutch) which is prehistoric cooking (see and ) and eating. Oerdis reconstructs the way of eating and cooking of our prehistoric ancestors based on archaeological, anthropological and historical research. Some research indicates that our hunting and gathering prehistoric ancestors had similar height as we do today and may have enjoyed long and healthy lives, suggesting that such prehistoric eating habits, with, for example, more animal protein from wild omega-3 fatty-acid rich animals and fish, and less carbohydrates, contributed to a healthy diet.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cycling in the Alps

The past week I have been cycling the Alps together with my wife and two friends, and my mother in law as the team director. With, among others, the Joux Plane, the Colombiere, The Iseran, the Telegraph, the Galibier, the Sarenne, Glandon and Madeleine on the program we burned between 2500 and 4500 kcal on our bikes. Rather difficult to keep a neutral energy balance on such days...