The 100-Mile Diet


by Saw/iStockPhoto

Local produce fuels the 100-Mile diet (Credit: saw/iStockPhoto)

— by Nuño Dominguez

For decades, diets were designed to make people lose some extra pounds or push them into healthier lifestyles. Now, things are going holistic: Eat better while you fight global warming and save your local economy. It is the 100-mile diet.

Thousands of people looking for fresh and sustainable bites across the US and Canada are shifting to local food from a 100-mile radius from their homes. The local food networks are also getting bigger with hundreds of new farmer’s markets appearing every year. 

It all started in March 2005, when freelance writers Alissa Smith and James McKinnon ran out of food up in their holiday cabin in a remote region of British Columbia, Canada. Far from any road to reach the closest town, they decided to feast on what the wilderness had to offer. They fished a Dolly Varden trout in the nearby stream and harvested chanterelle mushrooms and dandelion greens in the woods. They also used some of the potatoes they planted in their garden the previous spring. “It was delicious, because everything was so fresh,” says Smith. Driven by the soft bouquet of wild trout and the juicy taste of those wilderness-thriving mushrooms, the couple decided that, for a year, they would eat only products within 100 miles of Vancouver, where their apartment is.

The couple quickly realized their shift to local food was not precisely a smooth change. As they figured out which products were inside their food zone, they found out there was no source of local wheat or rice, so forget about good old pasta or bread. Sugar – not your typical British Columbia produce – was also a bitter drop-out. Smith and McKinnon are mainly vegetarians -they only eat meat and fish once in a while- so their local diet had to stick to seasonal greens, which were scarce from March to late May. They mainly fed on kale, cabbage, turnips, rutabagas and leeks. There was also an ever present star: the potato. The couple had to wrack their brains to fight monotony in their dishes. A veggie sandwich using sliced roasted turnip instead of bread was one of their outstanding innovations. During the first six weeks, they lost 15 pounds.

Just as Smith and McKinnon thought they could not go on with their challenge, the new season started and fresh vegetables returned to markets again. From May, the couple enjoyed a culinary spring that turned into a tasty summer with juicy strawberries, crunchy carrots and multiple salad greens. Even in the midst of their green feast, they had a premonition of the long Canadian winter. Like in the old fable, they started playing the ant’s role and preserved as much food for the cold months as they could. Their one bedroom apartment became a small grocery store with boxes of sauerkraut under every chair, rows of chilli peppers drying in the closet next to their coats and a three feet tall by two feet wide cube freezer stuffed with reserves seizing most part of their kitchen. “It invaded our decor a little bit,” says Smith, who nevertheless says their new lifestyle was worth the starving and the hard work. “I learned that I didn’t want to go back to my old way of supermarket eating,” she says. Although the couple now consumes 85% of their food locally, they have indulged in some hard-to-leave goods like beer, olive oil and rice…… (Click here to read the rest of this story.) 

Check out farmer’s markets in the Boston/Cambridge area – Listing courtesy of

Posted by Joseph, under environment  |  Date: October 6, 2008

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