Don’t be Fooled by “Natural” Foods

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We don’t eat cereal in my house.  Nutrition experts like Sally Fallon, Marion Nestle, and Ann Marie Colbin, all say that they are nutritionally inferior foods and should not be eaten.  Cereals have very good marketing – they make us think they give us all the vitamins and nutrients we need to start the day off right.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  A lot of foods in the grocery store are labeled as “Natural,” and most people believe that this label means something.  A label with “Natural” on it should not be confused with “Organic.” Organic actually has a legal definition and companies cannot label something with this word unless it lives up to the definition.  In this video they mention that most consumers believe that the label “natural” means that there are no pesticides and GMO’s but that is surely not the case.

The USDA website lists the exact definitions of the words used on food labels.  This is the definition of organic on their web site:

Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used. 

The USDA definition of Natural is below:

Natural.  As required by USDA, meat, poultry, and egg products labeled as “natural” must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients.  However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices and only applies to processing of meat and egg products.  There are no standards or regulations for the labeling of natural food products if they do not contain meat or eggs.

The last sentence is the key.  Natural food products are not held up to the same standards as meat and eggs when it comes to the “Natural” food label.  That means that cereals, crackers, cookies, granola bars, and any other packaged foods that have the word natural on it does not mean anything.  They could (and probably do) have pesticide residue and genetically modified ingredients in them – which is far from Natural.

Issues like this are infuriating because people are trying to buy healthy foods when they buy something that says natural but they are being fooled by the big food companies.  People shouldn’t have to read every little piece of fine print on every box in the grocery store to make sure they aren’t getting any pesticides or GMO’s.   The only way to really stay away from these things is to only buy Organic foods, and even better only buy un-packaged foods.

It is unfortunate that consumers need to do so much research on food just to make sure they are getting chemical free food but this is the reality of the system.  Staying informed on food labeling is very important for you and your family’s health.

This post was shared in Fresh Bites Friday, Simple Lives Thursday, Friday Favorites, Freaky Friday, Foodie Friday, Life as Mom and Food on Friday

How to Minimize Pesticide Exposure if Organic is Not Available

The food cooked in my house is pretty close to being 100% organic.  We strive to minimize our pesticide exposure as much as we possibly can due to its many dangers.  Health risks from pesticide exposure include the following (but not limited to):

  • brain and nervous system toxicity
  • cancer
  • hormone disruption
  • skin, eye and lung irritation

Pesticides are designed to kill living organisms (pests – insects, plants, fungi) and they do just that.  I consider myself a living organism so why would I want to eat something that is designed to kill?  It has been proven that pesticides pose health risks to humans.  To me, its a no-brainer – avoid pesticides at all costs.

The popular argument against buying all organic food is the cost.  Yes, it is a bit more money at the grocery store but it is less money and pain later in health care costs and illness.

Another reason why people may not purchase organic foods is that it might not be available.  I have encountered this problem myself when traveling and don’t have a local farm resource.

Eating fruits and vegtables is a super important part of a healthy diet so if your issue is cost or availability you should not avoid eating them all together.  One thing you can do is use the Environmental Working Group’s research on the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 to minimize your risk (see the chart below).

Cost. If your main concern when buying organic is the cost, then you can use this guide to help you save money.  You will see the cleanest vegetable is onions.  If you are in the store and you see that conventional onions are a lot cheaper then organic onions then you should purchase the conventional onions (only if your main concern is cost – if your concern is pesticide exposure always buy organic). In this case you can save a little money on buying onions and use the money you saved to buy organic apples because apples have the most pesticide residue on them out of all fruits and vegetables so you never want to buy conventional apples.

Availability. If I am in a place where I can’t get all organic food I use this guide to help me.  For example, if I am looking for fruit to snack on in the summer time and there are no organic fruits available I would choose to buy cantaloupe instead of peaches because peaches are very high on the dirty list and cantaloupe has a decent rank on the clean list.  My main point here in this post is to help you minimize pesticide exposure but another thing to consider is the seasonality of the fruit.  It’s always best to eat fruit that is in season and even better to eat fruit that is locally grown.

Download your own printable version of this guide here: Enviornmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides and Produce

Is this information useful? What strategies do you use to save money on organic and healthy foods?  I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.

This post was shared in Fresh Bites Friday and Freaky Friday

This Could Cause Permanent Damage to Your Child’s Health

One of the most important things you can do for your health is to eat organic food.  Laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time.  There are especially high risks for children.  The below information is from the EPA website in regards to pesticide dangers for children:

Infants and children may be especially sensitive to health risks posed by pesticides for several reasons:

  • their internal organs are still developing and maturing,
  • in relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults, possibly increasing their exposure to pesticides in food and water.
  • certain behaviors–such as playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths–increase a child’s exposure to pesticides used in homes and yards.

Pesticides may harm a developing child by blocking the absorption of important food nutrients necessary for normal healthy growth. Another way pesticides may cause harm is if a child’s excretory system is not fully developed, the body may not fully remove pesticides. Also, there are “critical periods” in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individual’s biological system operates.

For these reasons, and as specifically required under the Food Quality Protection Act (1996) , EPA carefully evaluates children’s exposure to pesticide residues in and on foods they most commonly eat, i.e., apples and apple juice, orange juice, potatoes, tomatoes, soybean oil, sugar, eggs, pork, chicken and beef. EPA is also evaluating new and existing pesticides to ensure that they can be used with a reasonable certainty of no harm to adults as well as infants and children. 

Usually government agencies don’t say things like this becuase it interferes with big businesses.  There are a lot of financial ties between big corporations and the government which is why it’s hard to beleive it when the government tells us things are safe.  When there is a governement agency like the EPA is saying that something is not safe it means it’s pretty serious.

One major reason why people are hesitant to buy organic food is the cost.  In reality this isn’t a really good reason becuase eating a lot of pesticde ridden food will lead to health problems which will be much more costly then organic food.  One great way to save some money on the grocery bill is to follow the Enviornmental Working Group’s Pesticide in Produce Guide.  This will show you which fruits and veggies you must buy organic and which you can get away with buying conventional if organic is not available or not affordable.

Personally, I buy all organic all the time unless I am away from home or in a place where I can’t get organic.  This is so important for your health and especially your children’s health.

This post is listed in KellytheKitchenKop’s Real Food Wednesdays

Here is another great blog post on Toxins in our life, great information here!

Eating Real Healthy Food…On a Budget

The current state of our economy hasn’t made things easy for anyone. A lot of us are trying to be smart with our money and make the most of every dollar. To make matters even worse the rise in gas prices has increased the cost of everything, especially groceries. These factors are leading to unhealthy eating habits for many people. Eating well is so important for your health and there are things you can do to make it more affordable.

Organic vs. Conventional Fruits & Vegetables. Organic fruits and vegetables are unquestionably better for your health. They are free from pesticides, irradiation and are never genetically modified. The downside is that they are more expensive then conventional produce. Research done by the Environmental Working Group shows that consumers can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 90% by avoiding the 12 most contaminated conventional fruits and vegetables and eating the 12 least contaminated instead. This means that we can pick and choose the vegetables we buy from the organic section to help reduce our grocery bills. There are 12 fruits and vegetables that you can get away with buying non-organic –

  • onions,
  • avocado
  • frozen sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • mango
  • frozen sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • kiwi
  • banana
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • eggplant

All other vegetables we should buy organic as often as possible to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals. Pesticides have been shown to cause cancer, liver, kidney, and blood diseases and cause extra work for the immune system to do its job well. This is an essential part of a healthy diet.

Bulk foods. Most grocery stores have a bulk food section where you can buy a lot of the staples for a healthy diet at much lower prices. If you’ve never explored this section of the store it is well worth it, they have huge bins filled with rice, beans, nuts, grains, even some healthy snack foods. You can buy as much or as little as you like so it’s also a great way to try new things. It is inexpensive and environmentally friendly because there is little to no packaging involved since you scoop out what you want into a small plastic bag. For example, a pre-packaged 1 lb bag of organic brown rice costs anywhere from $3.50 – 4.50 in most grocery stores, in the bulk food section its usually $1.99 per lb. That is a huge savings!

Smart home cooking. Preparing meals at home cuts costs significantly and increases the nutritional value of the food.  The key to making it work is leftovers; cook once, eat three or four times. Cook a meal you love and make enough for three or four portions so you don’t have to spend a lot of time cooking. Bring your home cooked meals for lunch at work as well. This method will also reduce your electric bill since you are only doing it once. A trick that I use often is to put on a pot of brown rice or beans to cook while I’m doing other things like laundry or paying bills. Just make sure to set a timer so it doesn’t burn! This way you have things ready in the fridge to throw together a burrito or a quick stir fry when you get home from work. A pot of brown rice can go a long way – a stir fry for dinner, rice porridge for breakfast the next day, wrap it in a burrito for lunch, and then healthy “un-fried” rice for the next dinner. A few other things you can make at home to save money include salad dressings, muffins, fruit salads, and smoothies. Buying any of these items pre-made is very expensive.

These three ideas will significantly cut the amount of money you spend on food. It is common for our diets to suffer when money is tight but we cannot let this happen. Eating poorly will lead to long term problems and huge medical expenses. A healthy diet prevents many chronic and life threatening illnesses that occur as a result of poor food choices. Start exploring your grocery store and put a little more thought into each meal and you will be able to afford a very delicious and healthy diet.