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Microwave Minute vs Treadmill Minute: a Tale of Perception and Priority

Agriculture, food, and health are complex. To feel good and confident in your choices, go to the source.

Updated 12/2020

Anyone who has ever used a treadmill or a microwave can see the humor in this – and the reality. The thing is, we know the minute is the same. How we perceive it though, that’s what makes it seem different. There are SO many layers to the conversation surrounding food, nutrition, and agriculture that the perception can be that it’s too overwhelming to make a wise, informed choice.

Here’s the deal – you can be overwhelmed by information, or you can organize and prioritize. If you have medical conditions, medications, allergies or other particulars, those need to take center stage, as do cultural/religious and personal beliefs.  You can work that part out individually with the help of a trained nutrition professional, so here, we are going to focus on some big buckets to manage the choices and help you sort through what really matters to you, the community, and the planet.

What you choose to eat is up to you. That’s the fun of it. There’s not one perfect diet. There’s just what’s perfect for you. Get informed so you can be confident and make wise choices that support your health and keep the planet in mind, too.

Food safety – Learn how to clean, separate, cook, chill. If you don’t do this, all the other topics sort of don’t matter.  You can get sick or even die from bad management in this area. Get good at it.

Heart health – Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide, so a pretty good place to start is to take care of our ticker.  The really good news? A heart smart plan is helpful for several major chronic conditions, both from a prevention and management point of view.

General human being-ness – Maintain your health and body. Drink water. Eat regular meals to fuel your body and brain. Don’t eat too much or too little.  Mix it up – balanced meals with multiple food groups offer a mix of nutrients.

A great visual to help build in balance.

Food budget – (the cool kids are calling this one food waste) – if you have a plan for what you buy so you don’t throw it out, you save money. And you help reduce food waste. Don’t shop willy nilly. Get your core group of favorite meals, see what you consistently have left over when you make them and after the initial meal, and get recipes for those things, too. If you do this once, you’ll have a plan moving forward for those favorites that are regularly in your rotation.

Values – Ahhh, now we are getting really personal. You have to think of these other things as foundational. Once those are comfortable, you can make these more particular choices. Is packaging something that drives you crazy? Do you have a passion to support local farmers? Do you love to learn every single detail about a nutrient?

What do you want to do within your budget that is food safe and meets your general needs for health that makes you happy?

That’s a focus that feels good and can help remove the fears and anxiety that may have been bombarding you via social media or pressure from others. You know who you are. You know what matters to you. If you are choosing foods from peer pressure, it’s not going to feel good. For anyone.

Consider as an example, the (not complete) list of questions I’ve heard asked regarding a fruit or vegetable bucketed by category. Which set of questions speaks to you loudest? Now we’re getting somewhere that matters to you.


Where did it come from and where is the best place to grow it?

What were the weather patterns were during growing season?

How it was harvested?

What if I want to learn more about and support farms/farmers in my state/community?

What about pesticides (used in both organic and conventionally grown)?

How far has it traveled?


What is the packaging made of?

When is it in season?

How will it fit into your life?

How do you prepare and store it?

What does it taste like?

What nutrients are in it?

What happens to the nutrients when you cook it?

Does it pair well with other foods from a menu or nutrition point of view?

What other varieties are there, what are the substitutions in a recipe if I forgot to buy it?

The questions change if we talk about a health and beauty product or other type of food/beverage or even a cleaning product.  You get the point.  If we learn how to prioritize and focus on what matters most to us, we can make an informed decision without becoming paralyzed by the details.

Learn how to use questions to your advantage. Go into a conversation or a search with a positive mindset, excited to find the answers. That’s how I approach things. It’s fun to learn from credible people and sources and benefit from it.

Here are a few tools that may help you think through choices professionally and personally – there are SO many others that are good and more specific to unique needs, too! The most important thing is that you get accurate information that isn’t based in fear or someone making a fast buck off of your anxiety about making the wrong choice. Look at the source as you sift through information on your own:

Foods That are Good for Your Heart and Brain (American Heart and Stroke Associations)

Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging

USDA Farm to School Decision Tree: How Will You Bring Local Foods into the Cafeteria?

Decision Trees for Vitamin D, Fluoride, and Women of Child Bearing Age (WIC resource)

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.