by Tom Sims
We are trying out a new column with Tom Sims–Healthy Eating In The Valley. Let us know what you think and if you have any suggestions of your own for us to check out!
Getting Started with Some Healthy Tips
You can eat healthy food in the Fresno/Clovis area and it is easier than you think.
Grow Your Own Food
If you want to go to the bottom line of healthy eating, get down to earth. I mean real earth, dirt. Compost organic material and cultivate your own soil. Buy good seeds, plant and grow your own organic garden. If you have a yard, you can have a mini-farm. If you have a patio, you can have some plants. If you have a window sill only, you can at least have some herbs. Raise backyard chickens depending upon where you live and the local ordinances. The ultimate method for insuring the integrity of your food is to grow it in your own soil.
Fresno is a foodie community. There are many resources for growing your food and there are many people who will support and advise you.
Buy From Farmers
If you can’t grow any or all of your own food, and most of us cannot, buy directly from farmers you trust. Some farmers and farmers’ markets are certified organic. Some use all the same methods without the certification. Ask the right questions and make your own choices. Some farmers sell from their front yards, some on the sides of roads, and some in markets.
If you live in the Fresno/Clovis area, there is an explosion of new Farmers’ Markets. Of those I have personally visited, several stand out. See my list below. If you live outside the Fresno area, follow this link: www.localharvest.org.
When you go to the farmers’ markets, talk to the farmers. That is what they are there for. Ask them for information about how they grow their food, about how to prepare what they are selling, and about anything that comes to your mind. In some cases, they will have samples for you to taste. Take your time and shop. This is not only about buying things; this is about educating yourself.
Another way of buying from farmers is through CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). Community-supported agriculture is a way of distributing locally grown food. It is a network or association of people who share risk and harvest by subscribing for a season to a regular box of weekly shares of vegetables and fruit. Some CSAs include herbs, honey, eggs, dairy products and meat.
In our area, one of the most established CSAs is run by Tom and Denisse Willey from T&D Willey Farms. Tom Willey has be the “go-to-guy” for the healthy food movement in Fresno for a number of years with his expertise in turning a 75 acre plot into an abundant harvest year in and year out.
Having tasted Tom’s food and heard his lectures, I am convinced. I have also savored the harvest of The Farmer’s Daughter CSA and have found the results delicious and healthy. There are others and they actually work together to promote healthy lifestyles in the valley.
Specialty Grocery Stores
It is not always possible to buy from farmers or to get everything you need from them. The next step is to find some specialty grocery stores in Fresno. One can shop at Fresno State or wander over to one of my favorite markets, Kristina’s.
At Kristina’s everyone from the owner to the cashier is willing to talk with you and answer your questions. Some of the food is prepackaged and some is local and fresh. Kristina’s Natural Ranch Market is located at 761 E Barstow Ave, Fresno, California (93710) (at First). Their number is 559-224-2222. It is a fun shopping experience.
There are also at least two noted, healthy, national stores in Fresno, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market. I like both. Sometimes, Whole Food wins at lunchtime because of their selection of hot and other ready-to-eat foods that can be served on a plate with and taken to a table for a relaxing meal. One must pick and choose, count one’s own calories, allow for one’s own needs, and make the appropriate selections, but it is available.
If you are tagging along with the rest of the family to where the family likes to shop, look for a growing number of aisles in mainline grocery stores that cater to vegetarians, vegans, organic food eaters, and people with special dietary needs such as gluten-free foods.
Perhaps the most challenging task for a person committed to healthy eating, especially vegetarian eating, is finding a way to eat out and stay true to one’s lifestyle. I will continue to write about restaurants that specialize in local, organic, and healthy foods, but it is possible to eat well anywhere developing the right kinds of ordering skills. Sometimes it requires some detective work, but it is necessary.
You eat out with family; you are someone else’s guest; you have to do a meeting–you must mingle outside your own culture and maintain cultural sensitivity and competence. You do not, however, need to abandon your core eating commitments.
Sometimes, your own specialty restaurant will have options that your carnivorous friends will find appealing. For instance, Organic Fresno now has a meat option, especially for its mystery dinners.
But I cannot always go there. For instance, every Tuesday morning, I meet with a group of fellow pastors at Jeb’s Blueberry Hill on Blackstone Ave. between Ashlan and Dakota. It is along the lines of a Carrows or a Dennys in its menu items, essentially a breakfast place with lunch and dinner options and breakfast all day. They have all the usual “suspects” on the menu: bacon, sausage, gravy, and steak, but it is a great place for me to exercise my skills at ordering healthy food from a very large menu.
In the first place, they are very nice and I am very loyal; I compliment them and they accommodate me. I might order one egg cooked in the style I want it, or I might get wheat toast. I can pour my own nuts and dried fruit on the oatmeal and not eat the brown sugar or milk that comes with it. They will bring me a bowl of fruit or some cottage cheese. With the cottage cheese, they gladly bring me some salsa and that is delicious! By the way, their fruit is fresh, especially the pineapple! When I want to live large, I get the chili relent. I substitute the cottage cheese for the potatoes, get the wheat toast, and usually have enough food for two full meals.
When eating out, consider these tactics:
Share your meal. You want certain things from the combination plate and your spouse or friend wants the meat. Order the combo and two plates.
Read the appetizer menu and ask questions. At Cool Hand Luke’s, my wife’s favorite restaurant, I find that the sautéed mushrooms are a full meal. I avoid the complimentary beans because they are cooked with pork. The side salads are among the best on earth.
Ordering à la carte is another way to go. Our family, consisting most regularly of me, my wife, a mother-in-law and a seven year old, eats most Sundays at Toledo’s on Shaw and Fresno Street It is a traditional Mexican restaurant and the salsa is amazing! However, its strongest items are meat. Yet, that is not the whole story. We all order à la carte and all four of us generally eat for less than $20 and are full. Their whole beans come in a bountiful bowl and are cooked, as I am told, without meat stock, in their own juices. Order a side of guacamole to share, maybe some sour cream and add salsa. You have a lovely and filling bean soup, and it is healthy.
I have other tricks there, but you’ll have to take me out to lunch to learn more.
Order just the side dishes. Most places, even Denny’s, will let you do that. Ask questions and, if you are a kind customer, ask for special favors. Chef’s can often make substitutions. Chinese restaurants can substitute tofu for meat. I’ll bring you more hints and special, out-of-the-way places as we continue this journey.
For now, know this: Whatever the obstacles, it is very possible to eat healthy in the Valley!
Favorite Farmers’ Markets
CERTIFIED ORGANIC FARMERS MARKET
Saturdays 7 a.m.- noon Year Round
Kristina’s Natural Ranch Market
761 E. Barstow Ave.
Fresno CA 93710
FRESNO FARMERS MARKET
7 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays
Southeast corner of Fulton Ave. and San Joaquin Street
Fresno, CA 93721
FRESNO STATE FARM MARKET & WINERY
Mon-Fri 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Open Year- Round
(see website for extended summer hours)
Located at Chestnut & Barstow Avenues
559-278-4511 Farm Market
KAISER PERMANENTE – FRESNO MEDICAL CENTER FARMERS MARKET
Wednesdays 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – Open Year-Round
7300 N. Fresno St.
Fresno, CA, 93720
MANCHESTER SHOPPING CENTER FARMERS MARKET
Friday from 9:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.- Open Year Round.
Located in the southwest corner of Manchester Center.
One of the few year-round markets featuring 20-30 vendors weekly.
1901 E. Shields Ave
OLD TOWN CLOVIS FARMERS MARKET
Fridays 5:30 to 9 p.m May- September
Near 5th St. and Clovis Ave. in Clovis
Market on the Mall is a certified farmers market.
RIVERPARK FARMERS MARKET
Tuesdays from 5 p.m.- 9 p.m May- September
Located in North Fresno at Blackstone & Nees Ave.
TOWER FARMERS’ PRODUCE MARKET
Wednesday, Friday & Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.- Open Year-Round
Tower District at Olive and Wishon Ave.
VINEYARD FARMERS MARKET
Wednesdays 3 to 6 p.m; Saturdays 7 a.m. to 12 noon. Open Year-Round
Located On the Northwest Corner of Blackstone & Shaw Avenues