The Green Grocer: Learning how to eat



While on vacation at Yellowstone National Park last week, I had many opportunities to learn about the wildlife. In every animal I read about I noted that the young learn to eat from their parents, first being fed by their parents, then watching and modeling their hunting skills. Although this isn’t a novel idea, the point was further driven home when at a meal, my sister-in-law said to my daughter, “you still need some protein on your plate,” which prompted a recurring question by my daughter throughout the rest of the trip: “Is this protein?”

I am acutely aware that eating is an act of community, but I don’t always think about how that necessarily makes it an instructive act. When we eat, we’re teaching others — and particularly our young — how to eat. So what are we teaching them? Are we teaching them that food is worthy of our attention, our care, and our time? Or are we teaching them that food is an after-thought, something we can just grab in a store and gobble on the go? Are we teaching them that our food choices can honor our earth, our bodies, and the hard work of others? Or are we teaching them to ignore those connections in their food choices?

There are several ways we can model healthy, respectful eating. Here are just a few ideas:

1. Build a balanced plate. Consider your dietary needs, but as a general rule of thumb, your plate should include one protein, one fruit or vegetable, and one whole grain.

2. Buy local. When you support your community’s farmers and eat food that was grown closer to home, food starts to take on more meaning.

3. Practice mindful eating. Eating slowly, portioning out meals, and only eating when you are hungry can encourage mindful eating.

4. Avoid mindless munching. The opposite of mindful eating is mindless eating. Snacking while working, driving, or watching TV can be examples of mindless eating.

5. Say a simple thank you before your meal. It’s likely that in addition to the earth’s resources, many hands took part in getting your meal to you. Expressing gratitude for that in whatever way you see fit can create a different view of food.

Italian Sausage with Fall Vegetables

• 2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced
• 1 small sweet potato, cubed
• 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
• 1 tablespoon fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon dried)
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
• 1 pound uncooked Italian sausage links
• 1/2 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped


1. Heat the oven to 400°F. In a large roasting pan, combine the parsnips, sweet potato, red onions, garlic, sage, pepper and salt, and drizzle with vegetable oil. Toss to coat. Pierce each sausage link four times on one side with a paring knife, then turn over and pierce four more times. Place the sausages on the vegetables and cover the pan tightly with foil.

2. Bake for 20 minutes, then uncover the pan, stir and turn the sausages, and roast for 15 minutes longer, uncovered. The vegetables should be tender when pierced with a paring knife; if the vegetables are in larger chunks, they may need more time to cook. When the vegetables are tender, add the kale to the hot pan and stir, then roast for 10 minutes longer. Serve hot.

Serving suggestion

This is an easy and filling fall dish, and the ingredients are very flexible. Substitute your favorite root vegetables for the parsnip and sweet potato, or use any type of link sausage.


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