Organic Fare


Remember that commercial?  I loved that little old lady who shouted, “Where’s the beef?”  It was a hit during it’s time.

If someone were to really ask me, “Where’s the beef?”.  I would probably respond, “Who cares?”.  I admit I am not a huge meat eater by any means.  Meat actually grosses me out a little.  I hate preparing it.  The feel and smell of raw meat turns my stomach.  I don’t even like to patty up hamburgers.  Disgusting! 

However, that doesn’t mean I am totally against meat.  I do love a good cheeseburger now and again.  I just don’t ever really crave a steak, or a juicy chicken and you can just forget about eating pork.  Don’t even get me started on pork.  Pork is repulsive.  You know the whole pig/toxin thing don’t you?  Now if you are talking overly processed bacon, that’s another story for me.  I love crispy bacon.  I am a total mixed bag on meat.  However, I recognize that protein is vital for a healthy diet.  Protein gives our bodie’s cells structure, assists in making hormones and enzymes, and also is needed for growth/tissue repair.

Due to my transient and totally emotionally tied repsulsion for most meats, I try to look for more sources for protein than just meat.  I stumbled upon this great list a while back, and while I already use many of these food items in my own diet, I found a couple more great ideas.  I am a firm believer that the lower you eat on the food chain, the healthier the food. Meaning, meats are higher up on the food chain and usually have more toxins.  Plants, minus human applied ferilizers, tend to have few to no toxins. These protein sources fit that criteria as well.

Go to fullsize image1. Quinoa (pronounced KEE-nwah)  Known as the mother grain of the Andes this delicious nutty flavored grain has amino acids, a high iron content, and is quick to cook.  Look for this also in breads, pastas and other grain products.  I learned to love this grain when I was going “wheat free” for a while due to an elimination diet.  I still crave the yummy bread made with this I found at the health food store.

Go to fullsize image2.  Veggie Burgers  That’s right!  It’s a burger but absolutely no beef can be found in these.  Usually made with protein rich soy and organic vegetables, these no meat alternatives come in a bunch of tasty varieties.  Don’t be afraid of veggie burgers, they don’t taste like the cardboard veggie patties from days past.  I admit we don’t eat too many of these at my house.  Tomas thinks the only burger is one made out of beef.  I have yet to find a veggie burger that fits “his beefy manly needs”.

Go to fullsize image3.  Almonds  You all know about the delicious almond, right?  It’s the perfect snack!  High in protein and calcium while low in carbs, this little nut provides a tasty and easy meat alternative.  For best results, eat them raw.  But, don’t just eat the nut itself!  Try almond milk too!  I try to pretend that almond paste is equally as healthy when I am eating danishes or pastries, but I don’t think that counts.

Go to fullsize image4.  Yogurt  Packed with protein, calcium and good bacteria, yogurt is another healthy staple.  Stick to the organic varieties to avoid the processed extras that many brands contain.  Plain, organic, full-fat yogurt is best for you.

Go to fullsize image5.  Tempeh  I haven’t tried this yet, so I will assume that this really would be tasty.  Made from fermented soy beans and rice, tempeh is high in protein and fiber.  I have heard it has a nutty flavor and tastes great in stir frys.  Let me know what you think.  I am usually not an adventurous chef.

Go to fullsize image6.  Legumes  My favorite category!!!  Love these!!  Lentils (yum), chick peas (yum yum) and black beans (yum, yum, yum) are full of protein and fiber.  Find a healthy recipe to combine all three for a protein power pack.  We use all three in combo to make an awesome burrito.  No beef in those babies!  Just legume goodness!  Oh, and don’t even get me started on how great hummus is!

Go to fullsize image7.  Cheese  Oh, my beloved cheese!  I love cheese!  Buy all natural cheese for an awesome addition of protein to your diet.  All natural cheddar and mozzarella are the best choices for protein content. 

Eat up my friends!  As a bonus, you will save a TON of money at the grocery by switching out some of your meat for these protein choices.  Have you seen the price of meat lately??  Who needs it?

Go to fullsize imageI previously wrote about KIND Fruit and Nut Bars.  They were so delicious.  I still think about those little beauties and wish I had more right now.  In the meantime, I have tried the Boomi bar.

Here’s what the Boomi Bar has to offer:  All natural ingredients.  Most have a good amount of fiber.  Gluten free.  GMO free.  No preservatives, sulfur or hydrogenated oils.  No added sugar.  Dairy and soy free.  Totally wheat free.

I have been looking for all of those things in a good snack bar.  So, I picked one up from the health food store and to give it a shot.  I brought it home and that poor lonely bar just sat for ages in the cupboard.  Finally, I decided to give it a shot.  I was afraid that the ever so yummy KIND bar had shot my chances of liking any other bars.

I tried the Cranberry Apple Boomi Bar.  Right away, you can see the large amount of dried fruit in the bar.  It has 4grams of fiber.  Watch out however, other Boomi Bars only had 1 gram.  The ingredients in this bar are almonds, honey, apple, cranberries, dates, crisp rice and amaranth.  That’s it!  I do think I could make this bar myself (If I took the time or had the time, that is).  The first couple bites were great.  It was a little crunchy, really sweet and tasty.  About 1/2 way through the bar though, I started to get sweetened out.  I needed a little more nut to balance out the fruit.  By the end of the bar, I felt like I had just eaten a bunch of dried fruit and a couple almonds.  Plus, 20 minutes later.  I was still hungry for another snack. One day later, I saw no effects from the fiber like I had with the KIND bar.

I am trying not to be to biased but I had spent $1.90 on this bar and wanted something more satisfying.  It might be my personal taste of course.  I like more crunch than squish in my food.  This Boomi Bar tasted fine it was just too sweet for my salt addicted taste buds (since pregnancy, I just crave salty foods). 

 My one major thought was this, for the price and what you tasted/got in the bar, why not go to the grocery, get a bunch of dried fruit and some nuts and make a trail mix?  You would save money per serving (I am sure) and you could control the balance of crunch vs. squish.  In other words, save your $2 for some other healthy treat that gives you a little more satisfaction.

Next up in my quest for the perfect healthy snack bar:  The Larabar.  The Larabar shares many of the same offerings as the past 2 bars and was voted best snack bar by “Men’s Health”.  We’ll see if those men know what they are talking about.  I hope so, because hubby picked up a whole box of them from Sam’s Club.

Go to fullsize imageIf you are like me, you are trying to be a “greenie” type person.  You do your best to buy mostly organic foods (minus the donut and pastry weakness) and you attempt to buy all natural or organic products whenever you can.  I have been doing pretty well with this overall.  I still have my “issues” and so does everybody else.  I try to think of it as a balancing act.  Such as, “if I put this donut laden with processed sugars into my cart/body, I will balance it by drinking 2 cups of all natural pomegranate juice today AND I will reuse my son’s ziploc snack baggies for tomorrow’s snack”.  Usually that works for me.

One area in my life that I have made virtually no attempt to “greenify” is my wardrobe.  Honestly, have you looked at the prices of organic cotton or ecofriendly clothes?  It’s ridiculous.  Plus, I can never find eco-friendly or clothes made with organic cotton at Goodwill or Salvation Army (which at least I am still regularly shopping at for quality used clothes to put a little dent in my fashion eco-world).  How else am I going to afford clothes made from organically grown cotton?  Heck, the tutoring business is really slow in the fall and the bedrest for the past month has not been helpful to the budget.  (Not that we have trillions to spend normally).

Why buy organic clothing anyway?  I don’t have a skin sensitivities and I am not taking bites out of my shirt when I get hungry.  So, it’s not like this non-organic stuff is getting into my body to damage organs.  Well, in doing a little bit of reading I found that it’s not just about putting something directly into my big mouth.  It’s about affecting the world around me, which in turn affects my health and the health of everything around me, including my kids.

Buying organic cotton makes a big environmental impact.  Less than 3% of the world’s agricultural land is used to grow cotton.  But 25% of the world’s pesticides (many of those are known to cause cancer) are used on that 3% of land.  Not quite balanced is it?  Besides the pesticides that end up on the cotton, think of the pesticides that go into the ground, into the water, on the workers, and into the air to be inhaled.  Oh, and let’s not forget the pesticides that can remain on the cotton fiber and rub on your skin all day.

Just think, if millions of people switched to buying mostly organic cotton items, we could do some great things.  Here’s a short list of 5 great things you would be doing:

1. Protect our fisheries
Runoff containing pesticides from cotton fields killed 240,000 fish in Alabama in 1995.
 
2. Prevent chronic health problems in Egyptian cotton workers
In the 1990s, fifty percent of Egyptian cotton workers suffered from chronic pesticide poisoning, including neurological and vision disorders.
 
3. Prevent health disorders in some of the poorest workers in the world
Chances are that famous-label tee shirt you’re wearing was made in Bangladesh where ninety-one percent of Indian men working in cotton eight plus hours/day suffered illnesses related to chromosonal aberrations and cell death.
 
4. Save American lives
Each year, more than ten thousand Americans die from cancer associated with pesticides.
 
5. The life you save may be your own
A third of a pound of fertilizers and pesticides are used in the growth and production of every cotton t-shirt you pull over your head.

Hmmm…maybe I should be making more of an effort to buy organic cotton.  I did also find some pretty reasonable sources for organic cotton clothing, once I started to really look.  Walmart is now carrying some organic cotton clothing.  Victoria’s Secret has some lovely organic cotton underthings.  I know that many major clothing brands are trying to incorporate something organic to jump on the green wagon.  Granted, you may not be able to buy an entirely new organically grown cotton wardrobe.  But, you could replace items little by little, and lots of little steps can lead to big change.  If you have any suggestions of where to buy affordable organic cotton clothing, let us know!

Go to fullsize imageHi MEEPS!  I am so glad that you joined me for my first post on becoming a MEEP (My Everyday Earth Partner as explained here).  We have a great group going!  So far, it’s just me and my cat.  We really need your help to boost this group to the top of the environmental pyramid! 

Our first action today to become Everyday Earth Partners is to really give a big message to non-ecofriendly corporations and manufacturers.  It’s going to be tough.  It’s going to be brutal.  But best of all, it’s going to be stealth.  Those big dogs will never see us coming.

Try and guess what we are going to do?  Nope, we are not going to only shop high end designers who are making $150 dollar organic jeans.  We are not going to throw out all of the non-organic food currently in our cupboards and head to the health food store to buy all new.  We are not going to write letters or prank the CEOs. 

OOOH!  I am so excited, you will never guess!  At least my cat (the only current MEEP to achieve lifetime member status), has not guessed yet.  We are going to do nothing.  That’s right.  NOTHING.  Put your pocket books away.  Don’t run out to that best Earth Day sale ever at Macys.  Don’t drive across town to get your one free reusuable shopping bag and burn a hole in the ozone with exhaust fumes.  Don’t deliver letters to congress people or sit on the computer emailing heart wrenching letters imploring companies to change.  Just stay home.  Stay home and be happy with what you have.  Stop buying crap you don’t need.  Stop worrying about if the tshirt you just bought from Walmart was truly made with recycled material but dyed with a nonplant based dying process.  Just stop.  Our houses are full enough and our lives are full enough of activity.  Earth toxic products only last on the market because people are buying them.

Stay home for one day.  Look at the trees.  Look at the sky.  Pet your cat.  Think about how much you contributed to the environment by just appreciating what you have and not wanting anymore.  Then get up and advise a friend to do nothing as well.  This will start a chain reaction of do nothing-do gooders that will save the earth everyday for the rest of the year.

Thirdly, don’t forget to be MEEP.  My cat and I are really nice and not weird at all.  We would LOVE it if you joined our group.  There are no initiation fees.  Just quiet appreciation.

Tweenie’s Greenies

Week 3: Eat It, on Purpose

How many times don’t we all go to the supermarket to get goods to feed our family?  How many times don’t we load our carts with deliciously waxed and over processed produce/foods because they are on sale and convenient?  I do it all the time.  I don’t get a chance to go to several places for my groceries since the addition of the second and third child.  I just don’t have time.  So, I end up buying what ever is at the supermarket and go ignorantly merrily along my way. 

What I never stopped to consider if how far the food I am buying has traveled.  Where has it been?  What’s been on it?  Who grew it?  Is my purchase benefiting a cause or process I would agree with?  I have just consumed in the past with little to no thought.  Well, ignorant no longer, I am determined to be a better, healthier, more environmentally friendly person.  Therefore, I am going to try and buy food that is truly fresh and food that supports producers in my area or preparation practices that are better for my family and the environment.

Produce generally would spoil fast unless it is treated by “unnatural” processes.  Depending on the season, the fresh produce in your grocery may have been on the road for thousands of miles and for about 10 days.  To do this, things like bananas and tomatoes are picked while still green.  Then they are chilled, warmed, and treated with gases to make them ripen.  Fresh is all relative in the supermarket.  That’s why produce from the store, usually tastes so different from that in the garden.  Plus, don’t get me started on how the food is treated with chemicals as it is grown.

Produce

Here are some steps that I am going to take while shopping for my families groceries.

1.  Pick My Own:  No, not my nose, my fruits and vegetables.  It’s summertime and there are many farms in our area where I can pick my own fruit and veggies that are in season.  For example, right now blueberries are ripe for the picking.  I can walk right out into the field with my bucket and bring it right home to my table.  Maybe 10 miles travel time.  Plus, I am able to inquire about the growing process and select organic.  Plus, Plus, I can support local growers and the local economy.  Whew!  That’s a lot of good from one action.

2.  Buy local produce:  If I am at the store, I won’t buy strawberries grown in California, when I can buy locally grown strawberries.  This is for basically the same reasons as above.  Even better than the store, I can buy at the cities Farmers Market.  The kids love to go and help pick out the produce.  Usually, they are even allowed to try different veggies and fruits for free as we contemplate our purchases and chat with the local growers.

3.  Buy Organic:  For all the obvious reasons.  I will try to pick out organic produce/food items.  Here’s a list posted by Mama Speaks as to the dozen foods that you should always buy organic.

Tweenie’s Greenies

Week 3: Eat It, on Purpose

Have you ever had the feeling that being healthy and being environmentally friendly is A LOT of work?  I have that feeling everytime I go to the grocery store lately.  I am constantly having to read labels, compare and contrast items.  I put one thing down and end up running back across the store to find it again later.  I can’t really do a great job at shopping healthy when I have the three kids.  Well, I can, but it requires a large “family cart” and donuts or cookies.  Does that defeat the purpose of healthy shopping?  I don’t think so, it’s all a balancing act.  Sure they ate one donut full of tasty garbage that day, but I managed to buy organic fruit and cereal to balance it all out later.  Give and Take.  Life is give and take (that seems to be one of my mantras lately with raising children). 

 It usually takes me about 2 hours to do a really good grocery shopping trip.  That includes checkout time and coupon sorting, along with chasing after escapee children and replacing items pulled off of the shelves.  Not usually a fun experience but necessary, so I never want to add more time to my shopping by having to guess about labels or ingredients.  I am sure that most moms who have to shop with children feel the same way. 

I am trying to be more organic in my food choices but have heard rumors that some foods with organic or natural on the labels may not really be organic.  I thought “What a rip off!  If that’s true why bother spending extra money on organic items?”  So in order to save myself some hassle and some money, I did a little research.  Here’s the scoop according to the USDA.The U.S. Department of Agriculture has put in place a set of national standards that food labeled “organic” must meet, whether it is grown in the United States or imported from other countries.  After October 21, 2002, when you buy food labeled “organic,” you can be sure that it was produced using the highest organic production and handling standards in the world. What is organic food?

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.  Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.  Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.  Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.  Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.Is organic food better for me and my family?

USDA makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food.  Organic food differs from conventionally produced food in the way it is grown, handled, and processed.When I go to the supermarket, how can I tell organically produced food from conventionally produced food?

You must look at package labels and watch for signs in the supermarket.  Along with the national organic standards, USDA developed strict labeling rules to help consumers know the exact organic content of the food they buy.  The USDA Organic seal also tells you that a product is at least 95 percent organic.
                                                                       
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Single-ingredient foods

Look for the word “organic” and a small sticker version of the USDA Organic seal on vegetables or pieces of fruit.  Or they may appear on the sign above the organic produce display.

The word “organic” and the seal may also appear on packages of meat, cartons of milk or eggs, cheese, and other single-ingredient foods.

Foods with more than one ingredientThe following photo shows examples of the labels that may be used on a wide variety of products that use organic ingredients.
Click photo of follow this link for larger image of cereal boxes.

The sample cereal boxes show the four labeling categories.  From left:  cereal with 100 percent organic ingredients; cereal with 95-100 percent organic ingredients; cereal made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients; and cereal with less than 70 percent organic ingredients.  Products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients may list specific organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.  Look for the name and address of the Government-approved certifier on all packaged products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients.

Will I find the USDA Organic seal on all 100 percent organic products, or products with at least 95 percent organic ingredients?No. The use of the seal is voluntary.

How is use of the USDA Organic seal protected?People who sell or label a product “organic” when they know it does not meet USDA standards can be fined up to $11,000 for each violation.

Does natural mean organic?No. Natural and organic are not interchangeable.  Other truthful claims, such as free-range, hormone-free, and natural, can still appear on food labels.  However, don’t confuse these terms with “organic.”  Only food labeled “organic” has been certified as meeting USDA organic standards.For more detailed information on the USDA organic standards, visit our web site at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop call the National Organic Program at 202-720-3252, or write USDA-AMS-TM-NOP, Room 4008 S. Bldg., Ag Stop 0268, 1400 Independence, SW, Washington, DC 20250.

Printed: April 2002

I was just reading a post on The Good Human about spring cleaning.  I agree with the thought that there is such thing as using too many antibacterial cleaners.  When I taught high school, I was exposed to so many germs.  After a year of that, I had the immune system of a bionic woman.  Now that I am more isolated in my germ contact, I tend to get colds/flu whenever they come around.  That is also why I choose to let my kids eat dirt.  It makes them strong!

Anyway, here is their list of great alternatives to using antibacterial cleaners:

– You can add 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil to a gallon of water to wash windows, floors and toilets to scrub away the germs.
– To chase away bugs, but a drop of tea tree oil near where they are coming in and you can bet they won’t be coming in that way anymore.
– Lavender oil or tea tree oil can be applied directly to cuts and scrapes where it will cool the pain and help fight infection.
– Mixing a few drops of tea tree oil with some water in a spray bottle can clean mold in the bathroom, disinfect the floor after the dog has an accident, or can clean up
after your child has been sick. (or you, after a night like the ones in college)

Link here for the rest of the post.

On a side note:  I LOVE tea tree oil!  I use it on about every skin problem you can think of. 

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