My partner and I have recently started to transition to more local and organic foods. We know that this should have always been a priority, but the reality of choosing products often comes down to the amount on the grocery receipt. Already requiring gluten free foods necessitated an increase in grocery budget so it wasn’t a priority just yet to increase the bill a little bit more.
But then we signed up for LufaFarms and tasted true organic and local produce and we’ve been converts ever since. Initially the price deterred us – but we quickly discovered that the fruits and vegetables lasted longer (therefore saving money and waste) and the meats were significantly more flavourful.
Since experiencing the deliciousness of local products, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how eating locally makes a difference in terms of nutrients, taste, waste and environmental health. This lead me to do some research on the 100-mile diet that I’d like to share with you!
What is the 100-mile diet?
The 100-mile diet gained popularity when two Canadians wrote a year-long memoir of their adventures in eating locally. They decided to only eat items that were grown, manufactured or produced within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of their location. This meant discovering new local delicacies, investigating alternative options to certain ingredients (honey vs sugar) and going a year without items like rice and olive oil.
While not everyone might be as strict, there has been an increase in ‘locavores’ or ‘localvores’ – people who prioritize eating locally.
Why Eat Local?
There are so many wonderful reasons to start eating more local foods!
- Environment: The biggest distinction of the 100-mile diet is the emphasis on the environment. Local food requires less transportation from ‘farm to table’ which helps reduce the carbon footprint of your meals. There’s a repeated statistic that says most ingredients in our meals have travelled over 1500 miles.
- Transit time: Less transit time often means that the food is still fresh when you bring it home. It also might mean fewer preservatives or pesticides used. There are different regulations around the world about chemicals, so it guarantees that the food meets Canadian standards.
- Local Economy: You get to support local farmers and producers which also encourages sustainable agriculture.
- Nutrients: We can’t officially claim that local food is more nutritious as nutrition is based on a variety of things like crop variety, soil quality, storage, etc. However, often long-distance foods like fruits are picked ‘too early’ and left to ripen during transit while eating locally allows food to naturally ripen for longer. Some foods are also susceptible to losing nutrients during long transport.
- Taste: From personal experience, local food often tastes better than the same imported products.
- Shifts in Eating: Most processed foods won’t have been produced locally, which means that there will be a shift in the way you eat.
- Discovery: It is a perfect opportunity to learn what your Province (or State) actually produces! You might discover whole new foods that you love. You’ll also get to discover new markets and communities.
Why Not Eat Local:
Of course I had to mention a few of the downsides, but I won’t linger too long on them.
- Cost: As mentioned, local food is often (but not always) more expensive than imported foods. It feels like it should be the opposite but it is a sad truth.
- Variety: Not all foods are available year round, which makes certain seasons like winter tough to meet your fruit and vegetable requirements. Some people learn to can foods but… you have to be okay with doing that.
- Staples: There are some foods that aren’t produced locally like sugar, rice, olive oil, etc. These are often staples in a diet and you aren’t necessarily doing any favours to yourself by cutting them out of your diet.
- Favourites: There are some things that you just won’t be able to get – like pineapple in Quebec. It just can’t be grown locally and life without pineapple is pretty sad.
- Labelling: It isn’t often evident in grocery stores where certain foods were grown or produced.
Is it Too Strict?
Many people find that the 100-mile diet is too strict for their lifestyle. I personally would have a hard time following the 100-mile diet in every aspect because there are some healthy products that are impossible to source from Quebec. In fact, unless you’re planning on conserving produce for the winter and really focusing on eating a variety of food groups and nutrient sources – the 100-mile diet isn’t necessarily the healthiest option. Our bodies need a variety of foods and nutrients and we shouldn’t neglect our nutritional needs just because we can’t find them down the street.
This is where we can make modifications that fit our own lifestyles. I want to focus on eating more local foods, but I am also going to make sure that I get a wide-variety of whole grains in my diet and exotic fruits. I’m going to use olive oil to cook my vegetables and use in my salad dressing recipes. I’m going to treat myself to some goodies that weren’t locally made. I believe in moderation, which means that I don’t support extremely strict diets (unless there is a medical reason).
However, taking the principles of the 100-mile diet and changing the way we eat to be fresher and more sustainable is still a good thing. You don’t have to do the extreme, but making a conscious effort to eat more local foods can make a huge impact on your life and your community. Depending on where you live, you can always expand the radius! I’m lucky enough that Coaticook ice cream is within 100 miles of my home, but you might not be as fortunate!
How to Eat Locally in Montreal:
It’s always a good idea to shop locally! Here are some Montreal resources that can help you get started!
There are certain foods that will be produced and available from Quebec all year round. There are some foods that are seasonal. Shopping for local fruits and vegetables becomes significantly easier if you know what is in season. Thankfully, there are already produce calendars [Trousseals] and availability guides [Quebec Produce Growers Association] to help us out.
Fermiers de Famille (run by Equiterre):
Organic basket subscription. Choose your pick-up point and receive a fresh variety of produce each week during the summer and every two weeks during the winter. All food is organic and from Quebec.
This is what we use! LufaFarms grows their own food on the rooftops of Montreal and partners with local farmers and artisans. Each week you customize your grocery basket (min $15) and then pick it up at a local pickup point.
On the Island of Montreal there are a few public markets that are guaranteed to have local farmers and local products. These public markets include the Atwater Market, the Jean Talon Market, the Maisonneuve Market and the Lachine Market. You can check out the site for all operation hours and more info about smaller markets called ‘Solidarity Markets’.
This farm has a booth at Jean Talon Market but it also has pop-up shops in a couple of other places. I’ve been to the one in Westmount and the produce was fresh and delicious! It even has discounts on food if you buy a fidelity card.
Located close to my house – this little grocery is a hidden gem! Filled with organic, local and specialty foods (including some gluten free items), I am always surprised at how cheap my bill is. Make sure to bring a re-usable bag with you!
This is an online shop that only hosts products that have been made in Quebec. This site is on the more ‘luxurious’ end but there are some really interesting products (including one of the few Quebec-made flours [Buckwheat]).
Have you ever tried following a strict 100-mile diet? Do you try to eat more locally? Let me know in the comments and feel free to share any other great resources!