This month in Food, Nutrition & Science, Gale Compton, author of Skinny Ms. Slow Cooker, talks about the value of local farmers and sustainability in the kitchen.
Gale Compton spent her childhood cooking in her grandmother’s kitchen, forever fostering a love for family and cooking – though the recipes may not have been the healthiest. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time five years ago, Compton did a complete overhaul of her eating habits. The result of her diet transformation is documented in two cookbooks she co-authored using whole food recipes, Skinny Ms. Slow Cooker and Skinny Ms. Superfoods. Compton also founded Skinnyms.com in 2011, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and fitness, and quickly gained a regular readership of over 300,000. We talked to Compton about what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle – and how to do it in an Earth-friendly manner.
What is the main focus of your cooking?
My focus tends to be primarily on preparing recipes made from whole foods. I've discovered that not only do fresh fruits and vegetables provide a wealth of health benefits, they taste so much better than the canned or processed varieties.
Is there a particular nutritional focus of your menus?
Yes, my menus are planned a week in advance. I've found that planning is one of the keys to staying on track with preparing healthy, nutritious meals. Each meal always consists of a lean protein, complex carbohydrate and healthy fat. The lean proteins might be a lean cut of meat, poultry or a serving of low fat Greek yogurt. Carbohydrates are often perceived as being associated with weight gain. Carbohydrates are not all created equally. For example, the carbs I'm talking about are mainly whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Simple carbs are the ones I typically avoid, and those consist of things like pastries, candy, ice cream and other sugar laden treats.
What is your relationship with local farmers?
I support local farmers by buying their produce when in season. By buying local, we can be assured that we're getting fresh produce rather than fruits and vegetables that are typically brought in from other countries that have been transported in refrigerated carriers. In addition to the Farmer's Market, a lot of local farmers sell directly from their farms. It's also a good feeling to know that you're supporting the community by buying local.
Are you incorporating locally grown foods into your dishes? How?
Yes, I always use locally grown foods when available. Since most of my meals consist of fresh vegetables, I use locally grown for almost all of my recipes. The focus of my cookbooks and website, Skinnyms.com, are nutritious recipes and fitness. Since I create new recipes on a daily basis, I use a ton of locally grown produce. Also, cost savings is a must with all the recipes I prepare. Buying local is a lot easier on the pocketbook than buying at the grocery store.
What are the major concerns today of your readers when it comes to healthy eating? And how are you addressing them?
Our readers are mostly concerned about how to eat healthy without spending hours in the kitchen. We have over 300,000 Facebook fans who love to slow cook and provide healthy meals for their families. Not all, but most of the recipes on the site are slow cooker recipes. Our readers want convenience and are attracted to our site because we focus on healthy slow cooking.
How important is sustainability?
Sustainability is a very important reason to buy from local farmers. With all the genetically modified foods now in our grocery stores, it is extremely important to know where our food comes from and how it is produced or raised. Unfortunately, the produce and meats in most grocery stores don't tell the whole story. You must be a very savvy shopper to know what labels mean and whether or not the information is even accurate. Most of us don't have the time to research where produce and meats originate. Sustainability is always a concern when buying both produce and meats – yet another reason to buy local.
What steps do you take toward conservation in your meal planning?
Conservation is always in the back of my mind when planning meals. Planning ahead is crucial toward not allowing food to go to waste. One of the best ways I've found for successful conservation is to freeze foods for planned meals. For example, I have a recipe on my website for Hearty Vegetable and Bean Soup. I chop and dice all the vegetables and herbs ahead of time, freeze and toss in the slow cooker for a particular planned meal. This way, I absolutely have no wasted food. Since I do a lot of cooking for our website, I often take food to my parents and other elderly family members or friends. Again, there is no waste, and several families are fed rather than throwing out leftovers.