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Diet

02/11/08 7:55AM By Helen Labun Jordan
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(HOST) Commentator Helen Labun Jordan works for Vermont's Agency of Agriculture. And as Americans think about ways to take on our rising obesity epidemic, she's decided to put to the test the overlap between health advice and the local foods movement.

(LABUN JORDAN) Like many other Vermonters, I've resolved to lose weight this year. I've got a great wardrobe from 15 pounds ago and I want it back. The problem is that I'm also part of the local foods movement; the concerns of which really don't include whether or not I can get the zipper closed on a red skirt from five years ago. On the other hand, most lists of reasons to buy local include the benefit of a healthier diet. And so, I dutifully invested in several dieting guides and sat down to check them against my all-local meal plan.

The first piece of dieting advice is to stop thinking about food. This seems like an unrealistic, if not impossible, thing to expect from someone who has just bought a book about food - but, it fits in well with the life of a localvore in February. I don't have to think about food because I know what it is - potatoes, cabbage, pickled things  and beets. Especially beets. For some reason I can't stay ahead of the beets in my winter CSA share. We've had beet pancakes, beet and barley risotto, beets in cider vinegar, and a grated beet and kohlrabi salad. I might even have tried beets, honey and heavy cream in Vermont's very first beet ice cream. . . and it would have gone great on top of beet chocolate cake, which, don't laugh, is actually good. Except neither chocolate cake nor ice cream are on the diet.

Corn syrup isn't on the diet either. Corn syrup appears to be very, very bad. Localvores and nutritionists both avoid it at all costs. But corn syrup is also the secret ingredient in my mother s best caramel recipe. And I'm not giving up Mom's caramels.

Next come whole grains - an easy sell. These are good for us and also almost the only kind of grain you'll find from a local source. Another simple connection is made by skipping the fat and calorie laden sauces we often use to make vegetables more appealing. Many diners find that local vegetables tend to have better flavor, thus reducing the need for heavy sauces. And in the local foods world, where many things are made from scratch, the dieter's admonition against snacking throughout the day is easy to follow.

Obviously there are also differences between weight loss guides and localvore guidelines. I'll skip the handful of walnuts recommended to induce fullness before meals and the artificial sweeteners for lo-cal desserts. But as my list of common items between a local diet and a weight loss diet grows, I'm beginning to see the philosophical overlap. There's a shared understanding that the food we choose does something beyond providing daily nutrients. The local foods movement looks at community, environment and the local economy. Diet books sell the ideals of beauty, self confidence and the energy to do more with your day. And if I take the intersection of each, do I end up with the perfect life? Maybe. I'll let you know.
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