A Treatment Center’s Farm to Table Approach to Healthcare
Written by Carrie Cusack
Executive Chef, Balance Treatment Center
The culinary philosophy at Balance Treatment Center is deeply rooted in a local farm to table approach. Our clients often arrive at the house never experiencing a real food diet. They have been living off of processed foods high in fat, sugar and calories. They don’t realize the power that food has on their mental and physical wellbeing. They hear terms such as “local”, “sustainable” and “farm to table” each and every day, but what does it mean in regards to them and what they eat? How do we as chefs instill the knowledge and passion into them that food can heal and change their lives?
Locally produced farm to table food is as simple as it sounds. Food that is grown and produced in the area in which you live and that comes directly from the producer of that food. This food usually comes from local farms, farmers markets and grocers who follow the local food philosophy. No mega-warehouse grocery chains, convenient stores, vending machines and definitely no drive up windows. Food is fresh, not overly processed in a giant factory thousands of miles away, but prepared from its real form in your home kitchen.
The benefits of this type of eating are massive. Firstly, food tastes better and is better for you. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are grown until they are ripe. They are picked when they taste the best and when the nutritional content is at its maximum. Fruits and veggies that travel across the country are often picked unripe and then left to ripen as they travel. An example are tomatoes which are gassed with ethylene to produce the red color desired by the consumer. This results in a mealy texture and no taste. Doesn’t the idea of a tomato picked less than a day before consuming sound like a better option?
Purchasing locally instills a sense of seasonal eating. Seasonal eating is enjoying fruits and vegetables in the specific time of year that they should be harvested. These foods are abundant at the time of year they are grown. They are affordable and readily available to the consumer. They taste the best when they are in season and are packed to the brim with all of the nutritional elements our bodies are craving. It allows us to broaden our ideas of what we should eat at certain times of the year. Enjoying a sweet and succulent farmer’s market strawberry in July is completely different than consuming a bitter, unripe berry in December. It’s simply not in season.
We also speak to our clients about sustainability. This means buying from farmers and producers who care about the environment and the impact that they are leaving in the wake of their production. They are consciously aware of their use of non-renewable resources, water conservation and environmental protection. They want their land and animals to be healthy and for its use to be available for many years to come.
Once we educate our clients on our philosophy, then we set it into action. Communication is key. Health concerns are taken into account, and we develop meal plans. There are certainly questions and concerns. Many people believe that healthy food is flavorless. They feel that they aren’t going to enjoy eating something that can actually change their lives. In reality, healthy nutrient packed food is more delicious than the foods they are used to eating. Food is more flavorful and tastes like it’s meant to taste. The first time someone tastes real food prepared properly can change their lives. We see it every day. They taste food as it should be. They don’t describe it as salty, sweet or spicy. They are astonished that something so good for them can taste better than anything they have ever had. Then, the real results begin to show. Inflammation decreases, mentally and physically. Anxiety wanes. Headaches disappear. Mental clarity is abundant. Skin clears. Energy levels are increased and mood is lifted. Pounds are melting away. All of this simply from eating their fruits and veggies.
Each client is sent home with all of the tools they need to continue their path to wellness in nutrition. Recipes, meal plans, shopping lists and knowledge from cooking and educational classes. They are empowered to eat well and often are very enthusiastic about sharing their new healthy lifestyle with others. They feel better than they have ever felt before. They understand the importance of food and that we need it to survive and thrive, not simply because we want it. They leave healthy, determined and educated. We have been told the Balance program is life-changing. We whole-heartedly believe that it is.