The 100 Mile Diet: Eating Only Local Food

Not a nutritional or weight loss fad, the 100 mile diet is a challenge to eat fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats produced close to where you live.

100 Mile Diet - farmers market

If you're attempting the 100 Mile Challenge, a farmers market is a great place to find locally grown food.

Photo by William D. Adamas

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Want to try eating only local food for a week, a month or a year? Whether you try the “100 Mile Diet,” expand your range to a 250 mile radius of your home or settle on something in between, the experience will be eye-opening.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, hundred-mile dieters J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith quickly discovered they would have no bread or pasta; they were six weeks along (and 17 shared pounds lighter) before they scored a bag of wheat from a local mill. Meanwhile, Smith didn’t think much of MacKinnon’s idea of using turnip slices in place of bread to make a sandwich.

In Minnesota, Sunny Johnson is one of seven friends who have committed to eating locally for a year. “I finally feel at peace with the food I’m eating,” she says. “It tastes good and makes my body feel good. I know who grew it, who touched it and where it was gathered.”

In Maryland, Renee Brooks Catacalos and Kristi Bahrenburg Janzen took a two-family, month-long challenge. “The kids whined the first week, but as time went on, they got into the experiment,” Catacalos says. “Once you get used to farm-fresh food, regular store-bought fare tastes remarkably bland,” Janzen adds. (Read the full story in Suburban Foraging: Two Families Eat Only Local.)

And how about the guy who started all this? One of the pioneers of the local food movement, Gary Nabhan, co-founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH, stuck with foods grown within 250 miles of his central Arizona home for a year, which included many native foods made from cacti, as well as mesquite tortillas and drought-resistant tepary beans. Nabhan’s book, Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods, helped set the agenda for the local food movement. He writes, “My mouth, my tongue and my heart remind me what my mind too often forgets: I love the flavor of where I live, and all the plants and creatures I live with.”