By Kat Nielsen
It’s not often when both you and your horse can follow the same set of guidelines in life. When it comes to setting goals/rules/guidelines/resolutions for the way you eat, some pretty easy changes can be made to better the lives of you and your four legged friend. Cheers to saying goodbye to 2013, and starting off 2014 on the right foot!
1. Shop local. Even if you can only buy fresh carrots for you and your horse once during the summer from a local farmer, that small amount of cash will stay in your community. Obviously the more you buy, the more the farmer and you will benefit. It’s of course cash flow, but in terms of your ecological footprint. Did you know that on average from time of harvest to consumption, it could be as much as two weeks before that fruit or vegetable enters your body? That’s a tremendous amount of time in between. More than likely this means that your fruit or vegetable was harvested underripe, valuable nutrients were lost during storage, all before it finally getting to you. If you buy local, you’re almost guaranteed that that farmer worked tirelessly the day of, or day before the market to ensure beautiful produce that was just picked, at the peak of nutrition.
2. Read labels. Companies spend a tremendous amount of time setting up their labels with a lot of valuable information. The front of the container will usually showcase the main points of the product. What I find valuable is the organizations, standards or practices the product falls under. While the equine industry may not have a lot of verification processes like we do with USDA Organic or Non-GMO verified, there are some things like National Animal Supplement Council which are a third party testing agency helping to verify stated information. If you have a set of guidelines you want to follow for both your diet and your horse’s, you can look for these key symbols to identify with each time you go to make a purchase.
3. Understand your ingredients. Processed food of any kind will more than likely contain ingredients which you’re unsure of. If you can’t pronounce it or don’t know what it is, look it up! Not only will you learn more about our food systems, you may even find something lurking which you don’t care for (Castoreum-ick!).
4. Learn what things to buy organic. Some produce is genetically modified, others have such high levels of pesticide and insecticide – it’s staggering! Going organic is the best way to avoid these things. but if your budget can’t afford it, then there’s information out there to help you make the best informed decisions. Find out what crops are most susceptible to genetic modification and which are high in harsh residual chemicals. The more you know, the better you’ll feel!
5. Buy the best you can afford. Sometimes convenience is just that, convenient. But when our health is at risk and we’re feeding into that long term, it may not be the best case scenario for our health. Indulge when you have the means and make informed decisions in the interim.
6. Grow what you can. Just like your cat may enjoy fresh catnip, your horse might enjoy some grass when the weather is anything but desirable. Of course your horse can eat a lot more grass than probably you can grow, so consider starting small with herbs you can both enjoy. Something like holy basil is a great stress reliever for both you and your horse. Put a little under your own pillow to help you sleep better, or enjoy feeding it to your horse for similar calming benefits.
7. Stock up. Buying in bulk has some awesome benefits. If you can join up with others in your barn or around your home, that’s the best place to start. You can save money of course, but sometimes you can get product before it goes mainstream. For example buying in wholesale or from a distributor usually means you get first dibs on it. Items can sit in warehouses or barns for extended periods of time in unknown conditions. It works in your favor to get in before shipments arrive, or even the item is produced to reserve your order and claim stake.
8. Make what you can ahead of time. “Try” to plan out a few days or even a week of meals, that way you always have convenient food on your side. If you’re feeding certain things to your horse, stock up first and then spend a day divvying up your spoils. The barn staff will love you and your horse will benefit from the extra care. For you in your home, plan out meals while you can. Take a day to get your ingredients purchased and prep work done. Make a roast in the beginning of the week, chop up leftovers for tacos, and use any bones for a base for a vegetable soup. It’s a great way to utilize time and money, of which you probably could use more knowing you’re into horses.
9. Save scraps. Most horses are happy if you’re bringing treats out to them, they love being spoiled. You can save money by feeding them celery tops, carrot tops, apple cores and even mushy bananas. Find out what your horse likes and save bits here and there. As for human folk, cheese rinds work amazing in soup and sauces (just throw them in the freezer till ready to use). Extra vegetable pieces and bones can be frozen for making stock.
10. Take time to enjoy your food. Your horse may not be able to slow down gobbling up an apple, but if it’s cut into pieces you know it would take longer time to indulge. It may not make much a difference to him, but for you it’s a rare time to sit back and enjoy watching the pleasure of him indulging. That goes for you too, put down the smartphone and taste what you’re eating- someone went through a lot of work to get that food to your plate!
Wishing everyone a great start to this new year! To full plates and eating your tarte out.
About the writer: Author Kat Nielsen is a horse enthusiast turned food blogger. She maintains a day job in the horse world handling marketing and brand support to various companies while enjoying her evenings and weekends writing recipes and blogging all about her culinary experiences. Visit her blog at EatYourTarteOut.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.