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Join a CSA, Eat Well 

By Dr. Jon Metz 

fruit basket Unfortunately, many Americans today get more calories from soft drinks than from fruits and vegetables. There is overwhelming proof that a person’s health will improve by eating well. Eating well means to avoid processed and refined foods and eating real ingredients, especially, ingredients from the plant kingdom. Athletes train daily to improve their performance and their health but all too often, the hard work is negated as a result of poor food choices. Time is a common excuse but what could be faster than eating a carrot or pepper?

A simple shift in eating habits away from highly processed foods will not only help reduce the risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer linked to unhealthy diets, but this shift can also reduce the amount of land, water and chemicals used to produce the food we eat, which in turn helps the environment. 

One way to start eating well and to help the environment and local economy all at once is to participate in community-supported agriculture (CSA), also known as a farm share. CSAs are a form of an alternative food network. CSA is a socio-economic model of agriculture and food distribution.

CSAs usually consist of a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables and fruit, and sometimes includes dairy products and meat. It enables farmers to develop a cohesive consumer group that is willing to fund a whole season’s budget in order to get quality local foods. CSA theory purports that the more a farm embraces whole-farm, whole-budget support, the more it can focus on quality, which reduces the risk of food waste or financial loss. 

As a consumer, the benefits include fresh produce available weekly for approximately 22 weeks usually starting in June. Typically, the farms practice organic growing processes and are located in close proximity to the areas they serve. You cannot get fresher food without growing it yourself!

A good rule of thumb is to always eat foods as close to their natural forms as possible. Food becomes less nutritious and healthy the more it is processed and the further it travels from the growing site. I tell my athletes that food is fuel and it makes sense to fully understand what you are eating, be able to pronounce everything on the list of ingredients, and know exactly where the food comes from. 

To get started, simply find a CSA that is best for you, sign up to participate and pay for the entire growing season. The concept is to prepay and the model is driven by having the money in advance of the season. Each CSA may operate a little differently so be sure to find out any specific details from your own local CSA or farm.

CSAs can be shared with another individual to keep quantities manageable. The system has many variations on how the farm budget is supported by the consumers and how the producers then deliver the foods. To find a CSA local to your area, you can use www.ecovian.com — a search engine that will list nearby CSAs. Click on the names to learn more about pricing and delivery locations and choose the one that works the best for you. You won’t regret it. Some CSAs will also include recipes to go along with the items in the bag. 

Enjoy the summer and eat well!

Dr. Jon Metz is a USA Triathlon Level I certified coach and the President/CEO of TriVault Inc. Jon hosts multisport camps and clinics and coaches individual athletes across the United States. He is a former educator who understands the intricacies of the principles and methods of teaching ensuring that his athletes are truly learning how to reach their goals. You can contact Jon at jon@trivault.com or check out his company website at http://www.trivault.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.

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