06/06/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Growing Green: We're Moving in the Right Direction

It is no secret that our bones, heart, brain and every part of our bodies is made up of the matter that passes between our lips. But how many of us stop to think about this while rushing through dinner or supermarket aisles?

We are what we eat, and unfortunately for most Americans, that means that we are made up of the same unhealthy, chemically-infused and unsustainably produced food that we put on our plates every day.

When I moved to the United States in the 60s, I was shocked to find that people lacked a relationship with their food. Supermarkets were full of lifeless sameness: packaged and processed foods without any diversity, and no seasonal or local foods! Americans were (and increasingly are) plagued by horrible diseases like cancer, obesity and diabetes.

And after learning about how food was produced in the U.S. -- with fields covered in pesticides, animals pumped full of antibiotics and safety sacrificed in favor of the bottom line -- it all became clear to me:

Americans were eating themselves sick.

That's why I opened Restaurant Nora in 1979, hoping to inspire diners to rethink what they were eating. At that time, it was nearly impossible to find organic sources. I remember searching long and hard to find organic staples like olive oil and sugar, only to have farmers tell me that they were too risky or costly to produce organic.

Thankfully, the organic industry has grown by leaps and bounds since then. In 1999, Restaurant Nora became the first certified organic restaurant in the U.S., meaning that 95 percent of what you'll find on our menu is organic. From our grass-fed sirloin to locally grown radicchio, we try to offer a return to healthy, seasonal food that has been sorely lacking from the American diet for decades.

I recently helped select the winners of the Natural Resource Defense Council's 2010 Growing Green Awards, and was incredibly inspired by what farmers, producers and business leaders are doing all over the country to transform our food industry. Far beyond just producing organic foods and wine, they are drastically cutting their global warming pollution, conserving precious water and educating their communities about eco-friendly choices. These pioneers are making healthy, sustainable food fashionable again.

Taking care of our bodies and minds (and our environment) means looking holistically at the food we eat, from water to farm to you. The NRDC will announce its 2010 Growing Green Awards winners in mid-April, and I encourage you to read their stories, get inspired and spread the word. You can make the choice to improve your well-being and the future of this planet, one bite at a time.

See last year's winners of NRDC's Growing Green Awards here:

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