Halloween Hangover

Halloween Hangover

I guess my Party Pooper costume was a hit . . .

Halloween Hangover

We got egged last night. I’m guessing it was because I didn’t pass out candy for Trick or Treaters. Normally, I pass out cutie oranges. But our street gets very little traffic and I didn’t want to answer the door all by myself only to disappoint. I pretend not to see the eye rolls behind the masks as I toss the orange goodwill into the seas of candy. But it’s a trick, not a treat by definition. So this year, I left the light off and played the happy chauffeur for my kids and their friends.

I love Halloween. Typically, our home features a graveyard filled with the undead, man-eating spiders, and spooky music with synchronized strobe lights. But I’ve been traveling the last few weeks. I didn’t have time for all of my favorite costumes and decorations. Yesterday, it was all I could do to make a good meal so that my kids might fill their bellies with something healthy before heading to Jonestown for the kool-aid party.

The analogy may be extreme, but mass-suicide usually is. We’ve been brainwashed by Big Food into buying poisons wrapped in pretty packages. Every holiday, birthday and party is now defined by the candy and crap that is corroding our insides and destroying our health. That’s not an exaggeration. It is an absolute fact that diet is the primary cause of disability and death in this country. According to current projections, 44 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030 — not overweight or heavy, but obese. Half of us will get cancer. Most of us need daily medications to manage the side effects of the standard American diet. We’re now cracking open chests, surgically banding stomachs and injecting ourselves with insulin in defense of our diet.

It’s Jonestown on a much bigger scale. But nobody wants to hear that. Blaming the Food Bullies  is downright blasphemy. Messengers are shot (or egged) on sight.

I recently wrote a (not so popular) article called Kid Food Kills to explain that one piece of candy is about as safe as one cigarette. I asked people to consider how they would feel if their kids were given the choice between menthol and regular instead of Snickers and Milky Ways. I was blasted with comments like, “For God’s sake let kids be kids! Just stupid!” and “All good things in moderation is key,” and “don’t deprive yourself. This causes overindulgence,” and “it’s one night, and kids don’t have to eat it all. Give me a break. It’s for fun.”

Huh? Kids don’t have to eat it all. But they do. So do adults. Candy (and endless junk food) is everywhere, every day. My own kids came home last night with pillowcases filled with poison, as did all their friends. That’s not a good thing. It’s not moderation. It’s complete overindulgence. Why do we collectively agree to the illusion that eating crap that makes us sick is fun? Is it fun to deal with allergies, asthma, digestive disorders, depression and anxiety, inflammation, weight gain and all of the potential diseases we face?

Feeling good is fun. Life is so much better when the act of eating is based on foods that heal, nourish and energize the body, mind and spirit. Cooking my Halloween-inspired buffalo tempeh soup and homemade sourdough bread was FUN. I went to the store and bought the ingredients and spent about an hour in the kitchen. The same amount of money and time could have been used to buy candy (or cuties) and prepare for trick or treaters. Instead, I chose to prepare something my kids need, instead of something they want. (I made them do their homework too.) 

I’m not going to pretend that cleaning up smashed eggs is a feel-good venture. But I’ll treat this Halloween Hangover with leftover soup and sourdough bread and move on . . .

Buffalo tempeh in a cauliflower cream base with tomatoes, kale and smoke-seasoned onions, homemade sourdough bread topped with cashew cream, made with love.

Buffalo tempeh in a cauliflower cream base with tomatoes, kale and smoke-seasoned onions, homemade sourdough bread topped with cashew cream, made with love.

I guess my Party Pooper costume was a hit . . .

Kid Food Kills

Kid Food Kills

Just relax. One won’t kill you . . .

Kid Food Kills

It was once socially acceptable to smoke. More than half of Americans did. Public smoking is now shunned with nasty comments and dirty looks. And if a whiff of smoke enters the vicinity of a child, confrontations are justifiable.

Despite the obvious, (has anyone ever lit a cigarette and thought, “this feels super healthy?”) it took one hundred years for truth to trump addiction. In 1944, the American Cancer Society’s official stance was still, “no definite evidence exists between smoking and lung cancer.” (Sick smokers didn’t count as evidence, I guess.) When the whistle was blown on Big Tobacco, an array of deceitful tactics were revealed. Cigarettes had been chemically altered to make them more addictive. Industry insiders had wormed their way into government appointments to ensure public policies did not impede sales. Non-profit research committees (funded by the tobacco companies) were exposed as fraudulent.

In hindsight, the truth was obvious, albeit inconvenient.

People who start smoking at an early age begin to get cancer in their mid to late 40s. It peaks in the late 70s. If you smoke, you know the risks. No one wants you to get cancer, but if you do, you earned it. Many smokers are betting the odds. If they can entertain their addiction and still live an average length of life, who cares what they die of? Life has a 100 percent mortality rate regardless of good behavior.

Unhealthy eating catches up with us even faster than smoking. Our kids are not expected to live as long as the generation of smokers before us. And aside from death, a bad diet reduces our quality of life. Many kids are already overweight and unable to be as active as they should be. They suffer from allergies, asthma, ADHD, diabetes or other disorders. Low energy levels, depression and anxiety are common. It has become normal for children to go to the doctor as often as their grandparents. 

Childhood onset of chronic conditions is a new thing. Many of us graduated high school feeling like rock stars despite bad eating habits. We didn’t have peanut free zones or carry epi-pins in our bags. We grew up with the notion that kids can eat whatever they want and get away with it (as long as they are somewhat active). But these days, kids are suffering from grown up afflictions and take as much medication as the elderly.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this modern malaise. But the two most common scapegoats have little and nothing to do with it. We have not become a nation of lazy people lacking willpower. And our DNA has not changed in a single generation. The problem is external, not internal–perpetrated upon us by the profit models of Big Business.

Fun Fact: In 1985, Philip Morris purchased General Mills for $5.6 billion. R. J. Reynolds bought Nabisco for $4.9 billion. In 1988, Phillip Morris also acquired Kraft foods for $13.1 billion. Big Tobacco strategies are alive and well behind the brands of Big Food.

Our food supply has been chemically altered in the same ways that cigarettes are. Strawberry Go-Gurts contain no strawberries; Trix Cereal‘s fruity puffs contain no fruit. Kraft Mac & Cheese contains no cheese. Flavor technologies and the power of suggestion manipulate the mind into believing we’re tasting ingredients that aren’t there. The lack of fiber and nutrients generates an insatiable hunger for sustenance that can’t be satisfied with more of the same. We’re eating chemicals that damage our organs, wreak havoc in our bowels, screw with our mood and stimulate the pleasure centers of our brain (creating addiction).

You can’t legally smoke before the age of 18. But I’ve seen people put soda pop in baby bottles. Toddlers are given food that adults won’t eat. You see it all the time. When “kid treats” are served, weight and health-conscious grownups decline. Cake is for kids. We know it’s probably cheap and overly sweet anyway (no one splurges on quality food that will be wasted on children).

Our kids are routinely offered foods that we’d never allow our pets to eat. 

We take our children through the drive-thru and give them carte blanche, yet order the salad and lemon water for ourselves. We settle for coffee and fruit at meetings while our kids stuff themselves with doughnuts and chocolate milk. We go to nice restaurants and order a “clean” meal, but let our kids order junk from the kid menu. Why do we eat differently? Because adults are feeling the effects of a lifetime of bad food. Most middle-aged people are overweight, diabetic (or pre-diabetic) and suffering from gastrointestinal distress, immune disorders and other health problems. We’ve learned from experience that kid food makes adults fat and sick.

But have we really learned?

As parents, we know we have to teach our kids to do things they don’t want to do. It takes about 18 years to instill a lifetime of values that will help our children thrive as adults. We drive them to and from activities that foster the rewards of hard work. They must do homework, help with chores and sit still in church. We help them set goals, hold them accountable and reward them for their efforts.

Too often, those rewards include movie popcorn and Starbucks lattes. Maybe a pizza party for them and their friends. For sure, dessert is earned by swallowing a few bites of vegetables.

We use bad food to bribe our kids to do everything. Seriously. They won’t even sit on Santa’s lap without the obligatory sugary sweet hot chocolate, candy canes and gingerbread cookies. We make them hot dogs, chicken nuggets and butter noodles because that’s what they want and that’s what’s easy. Fast food fundraisers, concessions and candy sales support their school activities. Ice cream socials, Muffins with Moms and Doughnuts with Dads lure them to family and community gatherings. The PTA sells popcorn and cookies. We might remind them to eat fruit and offer them vegetables, but they get far more bad food than good.

We might as well tell our children it’s okay to smoke. Processed foods are just as harmful and addictive. Sugar causes diabetes and is eight times more addictive than cocaine. Lunchmeat causes cancer. Artificial flavors and seasonings aggravate allergies and asthma. Food coloring is made with petroleum, which is why all of Europe has banned them.

What’s wrong in America?

We are raising a generation of addicts. We’re giving our kids the very foods we’re trying to avoid. We might as well be lighting their cigarettes and giving them money for drugs.

Some of us have a sense that this is a problem. But we’re on the wrong side of socially acceptable. In group settings, we feel obligated to feign polite gratitude as our children fill themselves with poison. Because someone was kind enough to stop at the grocery and pick up whatever processed crap will make the kids happy. As though offering cheap and processed foods is an act of love and servitude, or that the cumulative effects of bad food make anyone happy.

The definitions of love, servitude and happiness have been hijacked. Big Food has inserted their products into every corner of our lives, and they are making a killing on us. Literally. Subway sponsors the Olympics, Burger King provides playgrounds and McDonalds passes out pedometers. General Mills has health educators collecting Box Tops. Market Day has school boards advertising their packaged products. Kids love their food, these corporations want to serve us and it’s happiness for all if we just work together. 

Just as public health officials once debated lung cancer while smoking cigarettes, rising disease rates are discussed at events catered by the very foods responsible. In hindsight, the truth will be obvious, albeit inconvenient.

We have been completely brainwashed. Big box stores, filled with acres of packages labeled “all natural” and “no artificial ingredients,” only sell real food in the produce department (sorry, but fried veggie sticks in green packages don’t qualify). And just because they’ve removed the trans fat from the Oreo and replaced it with another shelf-stable synthetic doesn’t mean that it’s safe! Conscientious consumers that buy brands because they promise “No HFCS” need to ask themselves what new fake ingredient has replaced it. It’s a life and death game of whack-a-mole. Flavor engineers have simply gone back to the lab, made a few tweaks and Voila! Customers are satisfied. 

But we’re not healthy. Look around and see for yourself. 

We blindly trust that processed products are safe for two reasons: our government has approved them for sale and everyone eats them (there is safety in numbers). Well, cigarettes are for sale despite the billions of people that have died as a direct result of smoking. Heck, full page ads for cigarrettes are showing up in magazines again . . . right next to ads for your favorite brand of food. We must realize that processed food is a product like any other on the market. Despite the promises of convenience, health benefits, flavor and “all natural,” your favorite brands are marketed by corporations with only one goal: profit. And they will promise whatever customers need to believe in order to make the sale.

Food makers spend billions of dollars every year to bypass our natural instincts to feed our children a nutritious diet. Children are very vulnerable to marketing messages (evidently, grown ups are too). These evocative appeals foster eating habits and create customers for life. In contrast, fewer than 100 commercials air each year promoting fruits and vegetables. This pathetic attempt to promote healthy eating is even less effective than government attempts to discourage smoking. 

This is a cultural war. And the health of our children is the battlefield. It is our responsibility to make changes in our home and then start promoting changes outside of it. Yes, that takes work–but thats our job as parents. We need to spend just as much time teaching our kids how and what to eat as we do helping them with their math or shuffling them to and from activities. Food is more important, as math skills and foot drills only matter if you are alive and well. 

If the thought of someone giving your child a cigarette and encouraging them to smoke makes you mad, good. Let that same anger inspire you to protect you child when someone hands them a “treat” that isn’t.

Start with Halloween. The zombies are en route with truckloads of candy to sell. Your children are the target market.

Please share this. We need to to fight back.

Treat or trick? Treat or trick?

cupcake with a cigarette for a candle

Update #3: The Rule of Exceptions

Update #3: The Rule of Exceptions

The Rule of Exceptions

Life is full of rules. Most rules are meant to minimize chaos by providing a semblance of predictability. But nothing expected is exciting. Picasso advised, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Unfortunately, the line between art and anarchy is easiest to see in hindsight. 

This past weekend, I played hostess for a precious life event: my family’s reunion. Aunts, uncles and cousins descended upon Lake Wawasee via planes, cars and boats. There were 18 adults and 15 children (by legal definition). But being a “grown-up” is a state of mind that’s hard to maintain while wearing a gorilla mask and a feather boa. We reminisced the people and stories of our familial bond, reverent of the lighted torch such gatherings bestow upon the next generation.

Individual identities and collective cultures arise from the rules that create tradition. Who we are, how we think and what we do are rooted in who they are, how they think and what they do. Families are powerful creators of life. This is why it is so important to examine the lighted torches we are passing to the next generation for unconscious beliefs and unquestioned habits that will undermine future health and happiness.

The most important details of this weekend were centered around food. As my mom, my sister and I did not bear the cost, constraints and logistics of travel, the only thing we expected anyone to bring was their appetite. We planned 8 major meals for 35 people. For several days prior, we each shopped, chopped and cooked the feasts that would bring us all together. And we knocked it out of the park. 

But in hindsight, one detail that must be examined in this modern notion of “kid food.” While the mature palates of our group appreciated the fermented vegetables, homemade breads and succulent summer produce, the children demanded cheese pizza, pop and junk food. And for the most part, they got it. Because it’s a party, and parties rank high on the list of Acceptable Exceptions to the “healthy food” rule. 

It is the exception that reveals the rule, however. Despite unlimited platters of delicious homemade food, including snacks and desserts, discrete outings were made to stock reserves of processed food. As there wasn’t an extra inch of counter space, the bags and boxes were routed to private rooms. The healthy food was a welcomed exception, but Kid Food still ruled.

Is it enough to expose our children to good food, while still allowing the junk because it’s normal and easy? It’s a start, but it’s going to take far more than that to counter the 40,000 advertisements aimed directly at our kids. It seems kids can eat about anything and “get away with it,” but chronic diseases take years to manifest. Sooner or later, we all discover that the longer you eat “like a kid,” the quicker you get sick and old. Hence the sincere appreciation for homemade food (especially when someone else makes it for you).

The powerful influence of family is one we must harness for the sake of our kids. We deliberately show them how to love, how to be thankful and how to forgive. We demonstrate respect and integrity. We train them to work and to contribute. We nurture their talents and encourage them to follow their dreams. And if we want them to be strong and healthy enough to do the same for their children, we must know which food rules we are following before we can decide which food rules to break.

Natural Remedies for Nausea During Pregnancy

Natural Remedies for Nausea During Pregnancy

Causes of Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy

During gestation, the body produces large amounts of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hGC). Once placenta is well established between 12 and 14 weeks, nausea often eases. Other hormones such as estrogen and thyroxine also play a part, and can create symptoms well beyond first trimester.

Hyperemesis gravidarum occurs very early, usually before 5 weeks, and causes excessive vomiting. This can lead to dehydration and nutritional deficiencies, and create a cycle that is difficult to break. IV fluids, nutrition and medications may be necessary.

Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins can cause nausea, as they are loaded with minerals, herbs and vitamins in large doses. The large horse pills often have a revolting smell and are difficult to swallow. A normal pregnancy and a well-balanced diet generally provide the RDA of all nutrients except elemental iron and folate, both of which must be supplemented. A standard prenatal vitamin formulation contains the following supplements:

  • Iron – 30 mg
  • Zinc – 15 mg
  • Calcium – 250 mg
  • Vitamin B-6 – 2 mg
  • Folate – 0.4 mg
  • Vitamin C – 50 mg
  • Vitamin D – 5 mcg

Of course, contents vary by individual formulation, and nutrient supplementation should be chosen with attention to individual patient needs. If you choose to forgo a prenatal vitamin, do a thorough accounting of your diet. Most people think they eat well enough; most people are wrong. 

Prenatal vitamins aren’t necessary, but they are prescribed to most patients for various reasons. A major reason is that a nutritionally compromised pregnancy can be difficult to identify, and the potential benefits of routine supplementation overshadow any risk that can be attributed. Also, the psychological impact of supplementation cannot be overlooked. Many patients are uncomfortable with the idea of foregoing prenatal vitamins and are reassured by their prescription.

Tips for Preventing Nausea When Taking Prenatal Vitamins

  • Take your pills right before bedtime or naptime. Lack of body movement often helps reduce nausea.
  • If you’re gagging on size of your pills, switch to a chewable or liquid supplement, or even a product with smaller pills.
  • Not all prenatal vitamins are the same. Try a brand that doesn’t have a nauseating odor or aftertaste.
  • Taking prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach is a recipe for queasiness. Eat your meal, let it sit for a few minutes, and then take your pills with lots of water.
  • Wash your vitamins down with peppermint tea instead of water. The American Pregnancy Association recommends this soothing tea for easing nausea.
  • Drink Teas, dried herbs and aromatherapies: fennel, ginger, thyme, peppermint, lavender.
  • 1 gram of Ginger/day has been shown to reduce nausea during pregnancy.
  • Eat stomach-settling foods: nuts and peanut butter, citrus fruit, fruits and vegetables, water and carbohydrate rich foods such as potatoes, bread, crackers and pasta.
  • Use Drugs with caution: OTC antihistamines such as benedryl, and anti-nausea dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) can provide relief and are generally less risky than stronger prescriptive therapies. But when benefits outweigh the misery and nutritional deficiencies, Zofran, gabapentin and other options are available.

What to Eat for Prenatal Health

Iron (30 mg/day) 

  • Cook in cast iron. Each meal prepared will have approximately 1 mg of iron.
  • Chicken Liver: 3 ounces contain 12 mg of iron
  • Beef Liver: 3 oz of liver contain 7.5mg of iron, also high levels of vitamin A. Eat no more than once/week.
  • Beef, chuck braised: 3 oz has 3 mg iron
  • Prune juice: 1 cup of prune juice has 3 mg iron
  • Oysters. 1 mg of iron per oyster
  • Blackbeans: 1 cup cooked black beans = 3.6 mg of iron
  • Lentils: 1 cup cooked lentils has 6.6mg of iron
  • Spinach: ½ c boiled/drained has 3 mg of iron.
  • Chicken: 3 oz chicken has 1 mg iron
  • Turkey or ground beef: 3 oz of turkey or ground beef contain 2 mg of iron
  • Molasses: 1 tbsp has 1 mg of iron
  • Nuts and seeds: 1 cup cashews 8.22mg; sunflower seeds 4.24mg, pumpkin and squash seeds 11.38 mg; pine nuts (pesto!) 7.47mg; Hazelnuts 5.41mg; pistachios 4.96mg; almonds 5.29mg

 Zinc (15mg/day)

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds: 6.6mg per cup
  • Cashews: 7.7mg per cup
  • Spinach: 1.4 mg per cup cooke; 0.5mg per 100g raw
  • Pork (lean shoulder) and chicken: 4.3mg per 3oz

Calcium (250mg/day)

  • Dark Leafy Greens (water cress, curly kale): ~ 130 mg per 100 g raw
  • Arugula, Collard greens ~55mg per 100 g raw
  • Low fat Mozzarella: 269mg/1 oz; 1086mg/cup
  • Fortified tofu: 434mg per ½ cup
  • Almonds: 378mg/cup

B6 (Biotin)(2mg/day)

  • Sunflower seeds: 1.88mg/cup
  • Pistachios: 1.38/cup
  • Tuna: 0.88mg/3 oz
  • Wild Salmon: 0.80 mg/3 oz
  • Turkey and chicken (light meat): 0.69mg/3 oz
  • Lean Pork: 0.67mg/3 oz
  • Prunes: 0.98mg/cup
  • Beef (sirloin steak, filet, rib eye): ~ .55 mg/3 oz
  • Bananas: 0.43mg/fruit
  • Avocados: 0.39mg/fruit
  • Spinach: 0.44mg/cup cooked

Folate (0.4mcg/day)

Excellent sources of dietary folate include romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip, collard and mustard greens, parsley, cauliflower, beets and lentils. Calf and chicken liver is excellent source. Folate from food has an average bioavailability of 65%. 

Supplemental folate (Metfolin, Solgar, Designs for Health, Thorne, Metabolic Maintenance and Pure Encapsulations brands) is 5-methyltetrahydrofolate of 5-MTHF. Avoid folic acid supplements. 


Juice Plus: Folate for pregnancy is 400mcg (0.4 mg) 2 capsules of Garden Blend contain .28 mgs and 2 capsules of Orchard Blend contain .14mg and Vineyard Blend .360mg. This is a total of 780 mcg per day!

Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate. Get as much natural folate as possible from food. High intake of supplements with folic acid can mask B12 deficiency.

Vitamin C (50mg/day)

  • Red Bell Peppers: 210 mg per large pepper
  • Yellow Bell Peppers: 342mg per large pepper
  • Green Bell Peppers: 132 mg per large pepper
  • Guavas: 377mg/cup. 126 mg/fruit
  • Kale: 80mg per cup chopped
  • Kiwi: 64 mg/fruit
  • Broccoli: 81 mg/cup chopped
  • Strawberries: 97mg/cup sliced
  • Oranges: 96 mg/cup sectioned
  • Tomatoes: 55mg/cup cooked
  • Green Peas: 58mg/cup
  • Pineapple: 78mg/ cup chunks

Vitamin D (5mcg/day) (Often measured in IUs instead of micrograms. Multiply IUs by 0.55 to convert to mg.)

  • Cod liver oil: 1 tbsp 1400IU or 770 mcg. 1 tsp 500IU or 275 mcg.
  • Oily fish: 3 oz trout 579 IU or 319 mcg; 3 oz Smoked Salmon 597 IU, 329 mcg; 3 oz swordfish 561 IU, 309 mcg; 3 oz salmon 448 IU, 247 mcg (Fish low in mercury and safe for 2-3 servings per week in pregnancy: farm raised rainbow trout, wild caught salmon and whitefish.)
  • Portabello mushrooms: 1 cup diced 384 IU, 211 mcg
  • Tofu (firm light): 3 oz 132 IU, 73 mcg


http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/259059-overview – aw2aab6b7








Teenage Rebellion: Vegan versus Raw Vegan

Teenage Rebellion: Vegan versus Raw Vegan

Empowered: For years, I used Lent as an opportunity to try out life as a vegetarian. I didn’t actually want to give up meat and cheese; I wanted to loose some weight before spring break and figured this was my best bet. For 40 days, I would survive on pretzels and Diet Coke, and slide into Easter weekend ready to go on a killing spree. When I accidentally woke up vegan, I took a different approach. And since I’m still (mostly) vegan 5 years later, and you couldn’t PAY me to go back, I must have stumbled upon the secret to success.

I didn’t over-think it, I just decided to do it. Immediately. And I focused on where I was going, not what I was leaving behind. Because I was done with the insanity. I spent hours in the gym each week (I was an instructor and a personal trainer! I was supposed to know what I was doing!)  read all the magazines (Self, Shape, Fitness, Oprah…) promising big results with a few quick changes.  I was gaining what my mother termed “middle-age weight” and my face looked puffy in pictures.

I invested in inspirational cookbooks, watched documentaries, wrote shopping-lists and planned meals. I recognized the truth and I immediately felt the results, even getting excited to go through detox symptoms.

Five years later, my journey has included many bumps, and I’ve questioned the wisdom of an all vegan diet. I firmly believe it is the best way to eat, and I’m done with dairy forever. But I’ve come to that conclusion that different life phases might require different choices.  I’ve watched my 16 year son struggle to maintain his raw vegan status for 2 years. And he’s just not getting everything that he needs, and my mothering instinct trumps my book knowledge that the vegan diet is complete. Maybe it is for me, but even as he drinks various vegan protein powders and uses more supplements than I can afford, I feel like the obvious and most simple answer for him is to eat a small amount of organic meat a few times a week. But the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, and he’s stubbornly sticking to his beliefs.


8 Ways to Save Money on Organic Food

8 Ways to Save Money on Organic Food

Going organic doesn’t have to break the bank. A few tricks of the trade will help you save money on organic food.

Everyone would “Go organic!” if it was easy. Green is a pretty color, and no one wants to admit they are part of the problem. But cost, seasonal supply, weather related shortages and in-store BOGO offers on name brands just make decisions a little more complicated. You can save money on organic food if you know what you are doing.

First, accept the fact that change takes awareness and effort. It’s OK to work harder for a little less (in the beginning). Resisting the effort it takes to create new habits and try different things will keep you from success. There is nothing wrong with a little idealism. If we want to be healthier, save the planet and live to tell the story, it’s going to take leg action, elbow grease, and trial and error. On the upside, doing the right thing helps you sleep better at night.

Full disclosure: Organic food is not cheaper than conventional or processed food unless it’s a bit rotten or a tad misshapen. Adjust your expectations. But any extra money you spend need not be considered an indulgence. It directly impacts and supports the farmers, little and local artisans and even (gasp) large national corporations that are risking their own bottom line in pursuit of the greater good. Though it’s not a legal tax write off, it’s a moral investment.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered on my organic journey.

1. Buy grains, legumes and beans in bulk.

 Not only will you save money, but you’ll reduce consumption of unnecessary packaging included with the brand name labels. And with the money you save, invest in a rice cooker. I’m NOT kidding. You can cook everything from quinoa, couscous and oatmeal to lentils, black beans (Don’t forget to pre-soak!) and split peas. It’s magical. Oh, and feel free to splurge on a cheap one. The high-end varieties are heavy, counter space stealers. I bought mine three years ago for $17. I use it almost every day.

2. Focus your meals around seasonal produce.

 Get out of your conventional grocery store where acorn squash sits next to lettuce, and strawberries are next to the apples. Go outside to a farmers market or local farm and you’ll learn that there are differences between spring, summer and fall that are not all about footwear and party themes. Get to know your food like you know your holidays. And if you can tell me schedules for off-season, pre-season, playoffs and championships, you certainly have room to know that asparagus is not a summer squash.

3. Look for reduce-priced produce, on the downside of ripe, for canning or freezing.

You don’t have to have a commercial kitchen or live with your grandma to do this. Literally, throw those strawberries in a freezer bag (that you will re-use) and enjoy them for up to 6 months. Now, technique can make a difference. Freezing fruit is best done at the peek of ripeness, washed, dried and frozen individually on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, you can combine in a bag. Vegetables need to be blanched (dipped briefly into boiling water) to stop rotting enzyme action, keep color bright, and retard the loss of vitamins. See 

The National Center for Home Food Preservation for specific instructions.

4. Don’t be afraid to buy frozen or canned items during the off-season.

 Organic foods have no pesticides or unnatural preservatives (maybe a little organic salt!), they’ve simply been minimally and properly processed to provide food for the winter.

5. Shop online.

 I use companies like Vitacost.com and Green B.E.A.N. Delivery because this is what works for me. They deliver baking suppliesbulk, dry and spice products and even produce right to my front door. Many of them have for vegan, gluten free and other limited diets, making your shopping experience simple! Though price points of their local products seem higher, my grocery bills are significantly lower since I made the transition because I no longer go to the grocery store on a regular basis. And that’s not a figment of my green-colored imagination. According to a J.D. Roth, more than half of in-store grocery purchases are impulsive. And half of us make “quick stops” at the store three to four times per week, spending, on average, 54 percent more than we planned. As everyone who’s been domesticated already knows, in most relationships, there is a Coupon Clipper being undermined by a Budget Blower.

6. Adjust your spending in other areas.

 I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but supporting the organic movement is part and parcel of saving the world. You can’t expect it to always be easy. According to the USDA, in 2009, Americans spend less than 7 percent of their budgets on food. If we continue to keep the quality of our food in such low priority, the monetary costs of sick care, healthcare, pollution and a toxic environment will continue to rise exponentially and be the least of our concerns.  You get what you pay for. What are you buying?

7. Clean up your diet. 

Buy and eat less crap. Instead of 2 for $5 bags of twenty oz potato chips, buy 1 fourteen oz bag of organic (The salt and vinegar variety are food art!) for $3 and let everyone have a handful. Why the hell would anyone need that many chips? You don’t even notice more than the first few. The rest of the process is only mechanical hand-to-mouth and jaw action. Yes, that sounds bad. And it is.

8. Communicate with your neighbors.

Share your bounty and your leftovers with your friends. Leave a comment here about what works for you. Supply, demand and price are intricately interwoven, and we must work together to right the system.

Food Fights: Where Are Healthy Choices for Kids?

Food Fights: Where Are Healthy Choices for Kids?

Food Fights: Where Are Healthy Choices for Kids?

We need to focus our energies and resources on our future generation to turn the health crisis around. We need to educate ourselves, our children, and our nation about the harmful effects of a unhealthy diet, and teach that healthy eating and exercise are a must.  We need to teach nutrition in schools and follow it up by modeling good nutrition to children throughout the schools, from PTA events, to the cafeteria, to the snacks at sporting events, classroom celebrations etc.

Kids should have minimal exposure to unhealthy choices, just as they should have minimal exposure to second hand smoke.  Along those lines, just as the Marlboro man and the Camel cartoon camel were removed from cigarette ads in 1999 due to the negative influence on children, I think that ads targeting kids to eat junk food should be banned.  Also on those lines, until advertising is better regulated, people need to read labels very carefully to stay clear of trans-fat, sugars, additives, food colorings, sodium etc. 

Food consumers need to adopt the “buyer beware” attitude when dining out and shopping for food. The food industry has their bottom line rather than the waistline of America at the forefront of their minds. I dream of a day that I can send my kids to school, knowing that they will receive real, healthy, nutritious food for lunch and receive positive health messages throughout their learning environment.  I dream of a day when we can take our family to a restaurant and know that the cook has prepared a vitamin-rich, nutrient-dense all-natural, hormone-free meal that is low in fat and sodium and refined sugars.  That is my little soap-box for now.