Start the Year Right: Eat Fresh and Buy Local

With another new year upon us, it's a great time to think about the needs of your body, mind, and spirit. You really are what we eat—and during the heart of the winter it's easy to fall prey to the lure of foods that may not be the most beneficial for our health concerns.

Lower temperatures, inclement weather, and the shortening daylight hours certainly have their effects on your metabolism. Since most no longer hibernate to emerge trim and hungry in the springtime, here are few other positive measures toward physical and mental well being.

Eating a wholesome diet and getting moderate exercise is just the balance you can benefit from. After an afternoon of hiking or cycling, what could be better than to enjoy a meal of seasonal local ingredients cooked up in a healthy simple preparation and savored with a glass of fine Willamette Valley wine? Even in winter you'll find selections of incredible local produce, seafood, meats, and dairy products at better grocers. Look for items from small farms and artisanal producers; they're apt to represent more sustainable methods, less processing, and contain better nutritive value.

When you're shopping, pick two or three fresh ingredients that appeal to you and build your meal around them. Don't be afraid to ask the advice of the produce people or the folks behind the meat and fish counter; building a relationship with your local grocer is part of getting connected to your food shed. Using these winter varieties of fruits, vegetables, and other products will become a source of inspiration in your cooking for family and friends.

You can enjoy the robust character of these winter ingredients by choosing cooking techniques that coax out and meld their rich complex flavors. Risottos, stews, slow roasts, and pasta dishes are all simple preparations with which to celebrate the aromas and tastes of the season.

Cooking and eating fresh, local, seasonal, and sustainable foods is much more than just great taste. It's better for your personal health, environment, and community. The ingredients are fresher, have better nutritional value, less chemical residues, and are minimally transported. Supporting local farmers helps keep food dollars circulating within your own region, strengthening agricultural communities, and connecting all. Letting your grocers and growers know that sustainably produced ingredients are important to you rewards their practices and benefits your environment through improved agricultural land stewardship.

The choices you make in the foods you purchase and consume are the threads from which your food system is woven. Celebrating each season's best from your farming, fishing, and ranching friends nourishes your family and your community.

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