Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Food Labels

image source
The area that we live has several different options for grocery stores, but mostly big box stores such as Publix and Kroger.  We also have Food Lion, Sam's Club, Wal-Mart and Harris Teeter and are lucky to have a Fresh Market, although it is about 25 miles away (but close to my office).  I wish every day that we had a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's option in the area (Hilton Head Island, SC in case you wondered), but we do not and it does not appear that we will be graced with either any time soon.  Therefore, I have been forced to research and review as much as possible before I buy products.  Don't get me wrong, I know that I can find good, real food at the available stores in my area AND I know that every item at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's is not the perfect specimen of health food, but they would make it a lot easier. 

This brings me to the conundrum of food labels and the questions: What do all those labels mean?!?!  With the big box grocery stores that give me 37 different options for ketchup and 14 different kinds of eggs, how do I know which is the right choice for me?  When I'm looking for food that is good for my body and the environment how does one decipher between all the different claims.  Do I need organic or cage free or natural or grass-fed or Fair Trade or Salmon-Safe or certified something something?  With so many labels, a little research is for sure needed.  Are all these labels true?  Who is certifying these labels?  What are the standards? Do I need to pay extra for that?  My trips to the grocery store have become more like research missions than actually shopping.

Fortunately, I came across a great list from Grist that gives a quick-and-dirty run-down of what is important and what you can ignore.  Here's what they have to say:

These labels can't be used without independent verification
  • USDA Organic
  • Fair Trade 
  • Rainforest Alliance
  • Food Alliance
  • Demeter Biodynamic
  • Salmon-Safe
  • Bird Friendly
  • Certified Humane Raised and Handled
  • FishWise 
  • Non-GMO Project Verified
  • Healthy Grown Potatoes
These should be taken with a grain of salt -- they may mean something, but they don't have to:
  • Raised Without Antibiotics
  • Natural
  • Free Range
  • Grass Fed 
  • Nutri Clean Residue Free Certification
  • Marine Stewardship Council
These can be used by anybody at any time and are therefore basically meaningless:
  • Cruelty free
  • Cage free
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Nature’s friend
  • No chemicals
  • Vegetarian fed

Grist's list is based on the full article by the Audubon Magazine that is available here.  They have advised that "[t]here’s a reason for all this green branding. Since 2003 U.S. organic food sales have more than doubled, to roughly $25 billion. The booming demand for organic foods is making greenwashing more tempting—and more lucrative—than ever before."  The Audubon article provides an explanation and description for each of the labels or (so-called) certifications listed above.

And in case you need a few more references there is a great post at Treehugger and one more from Eat Drink Better.  Take an extra 15 minutes this week, before you go shopping, and review.  Maybe even print out the list above for reference.  Not only do you want to be educated on what the truth is and what you are putting in your body, but you want to make sure you aren't paying for a BS sticker that doesn't mean anything.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Non-GMO Project

"The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization, created by leaders representing all sectors of the organic and natural products industry in the U.S. and Canada, to offer consumers a consistent non-GMO choice for organic and natural products that are produced without genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technologies."

Looking for real food that is not genetically modified?  Yes, in fact, there is an app for that.

source: www.nongmoproject.org

Check out the other information and resources at the Non-GMO Project's website too!  Product lists, store/shopping recommendations, history, health facts and tons more about locating food that is NOT genetically modified. 

Wow... it's kind of sad that we have to spend all this time and effort looking for real food, when we would never have this problem if we hadn't effed it up in the first place.....

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Resources from the Humane Society

The internet is filled what all the information one could ever need.  Obviously, I've used it at great lengths to review information and data regarding pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan and other 'flexitarian' foods, facts and information.  I was pretty surprised, although I'm not sure why I was surprised, at the full suite of information available at The Humane Society's website regarding living meat free.

Interestingly enough, the information from Humane Society also touches on a lot of the myths that we reviewed previously.  Topics such as variety (spice up your meat-free life), flexible options (you can be a flexitarian), health (protein, calcium, and vitamins.. oh my!), desserts (Crispy Peanut Butter Treats by Alicia Silverstone!) and more are covered.  Here's a great quote from one of the articles:
"[It] doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Whether your primary incentive is helping the environment, improving animal welfare, or addressing health concerns, you can take a significant first step by becoming a flexitarian. The term blends “flexible” and “vegetarian” to describe those who take a part-time approach to avoiding meat."
Also, and this is my favorite part, they offer a weekly email that will deliver to you every Friday which provides a meat-free recipe that you can prepare for Meatless Monday!  All the information that is provided on the Humane Society's website is also available in a convenient downloaded PDF information packet or the provide an option to request it via mail as well.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Myths About Vegetarians & Vegetarian Food

Earlier this week I ran across an awesome guest blog post by Daniel Koontz over at the Fooducate Blog.  While Daniel's post, Eight Myths About Vegetarians & Vegetarian Food, provides some amazing information that you might want to check out, I wanted to offer you my take on the myths based on the last 7 months of my meat-free life. 

Myth #1: You can’t get enough protein eating vegetarian food.
This has been a very large concern of mine since I have cut meat out of my diet.  Come to find it, it's not hard to get protein at all.  There are tons of non-meat foods such as grains, legumes (beans), nuts, vegetables and even fruits!  I also recently began using a new food logging program (app) that provides me with fat, protein and carb levels and I've been in good ranges over the last several weeks.

Myth #2: There isn’t enough fat in a vegetarian diet.
As mentioned above, according to my food logging program, I'm getting all the right amounts of fats, proteins and carbohydrates in my meat free diet.   Additionally, if you really want, you can eat all sorts of non-meat foods that are loaded with fat like ice cream, prepared foods, cheeses, snacks and other stuff.  Since I've been also targeting weight loss via my vegetarian journey, I'm more than happy to skip the fats.

Myth #3: Vegetarianism has to be all or nothing.
I've clearly proved this as I've self-proclaimed myself as a pescetarian, essentially a vegetarian that eats fish.  Also, as you have read over the last several months, I've had a little nibble of meat here and there.  A good way to start on a vegetarian diet is to try a few days a week, or even just a few meals.  (check out Meatless Monday!)  I am leaning more and more towards meat-free completely, but I'm still swishing the idea around. 

Myth #4: Vegetarian diets are limited and boring.
No even close to true!  I've cooked more exciting, fun and new dishes over the last several months than I have in ages!  Previously, I'd been stuck with a handful of dishes that I would make each week for Dan and I.  Now, its always something new.  I've even got a Thai Curry dish planned out for dinner tonight that uses coconut milk, tofu, noodles, broccoli and all sorts of spices and excitement!!  (I will admit that I haven't been cooking meals as much as I should but this is mainly due to our schedules.  Sometimes like two ships passing in the early evening, it's hard to plan weeknight meals together...  but really that has nothing to do with vegetarianism).  You've also seen all sorts of dishes that I've posted here so you know it is not meat loaf or spaghetti night at my house.

Myth #5: You can’t eat junk food on a vegetarian diet.
Uh, really?  The only junk food that I've had to say no to complete is beef jerky.  Chips, popcorn, candy, cookies... on and on.. all vegetarian!

Myth #6: Vegetarian food never fills me up.
This evening for dinner I cooked up a veggie burger and put that on a flat-bread with a slice of cheese, some mustard, mayo and ketchup, some sauteed onions, a couple hamburger dill pickle chips and a handful of romaine lettuce.  Not only was it amazing but I was super full at the end (and this only took me about 10 minutes to make).  Also, veggies are a super filler and because they are low in fat and calories (in comparison to meats), you can eat a TON without worrying too much about your intake.  Drinking lots of water helps, too.

Myth #7: Vegetarian culture is too weird. And I don’t want to wear tie-dye.
The only culture changes I've made this year, I think, are for the better.  I'm conscious of what I'm putting into my body.  I'm trying to take care of myself and get fit.  I'm educating myself on what is in food and where it comes from and I'm trying to look at the bigger picture of my impact on the enviorment, my community and all sorts of other good things.   And no, no tie-die and no big changes.

Myth #8: Vegetarians are freakish militants intent on banning all meat.
Not at all!  We'll I'm not anyway.  I can't really be a militant when the man I love and lives with me is a meat-eater.  Vegetarianism and pescetarianism wasn't for him, so he's gone back to eating meat and that's OK with me (but I'm working on ensuring that it is good meat only).  Don't get me wrong, I've been sharing my journey for months now and that is because it's working for me.  I haven't felt this good in years and I enjoy being able to educate people on what I've learned and discovered about myself and I do hope that some of the things I say or type might help someone else too.  Maybe even you?

**Check out more info from Daniel Koontz at his website: Casual Kitchen "a food blog focused on food philosophy, money-saving ideas and easy and inexpensive recipes."**

Monday, August 01, 2011

Could you live without animal products for a month.... or longer?

Over the last several months, I've often wondered this for myself.  Could I cut out all animal products from my diet and be vegan?  I've already ditched the pork, beef, chicken and other meats, with the exception of seafood (which honestly might be on it's way out the door too).  We've switch to soy milk (but still use regular half-half) and I'm buying more and more organic produce (while not animals, it makes me feel better).

But what about everything else?  Eggs, cheese, fish (omg.. including sushi!), butter, canned beans (see below), baked goods and more non-apparent animal proteins and by-products such as gelatin (please tell me that you do know what gelatin is made from, right?  if not, learn.) and honey.  Further?  Some vitamins, medicines, soaps and tons of other everyday items contain animal by-products.

Stephanie over at the Coexist Cafe just completed her own vegan  month long journey.  She was on a full out animal-free diet for 31 days.  She challenged herself and did amazing.  Check out her series of posts on her blog.  I'm not only super proud of her and her willpower but I am very inspired!

I'm leaning more and more towards this path.  Why?  I'm not sure yet.  I'm still working out my feelings on the topic and know that I would have a lot of work ahead of me if I was to make the vegan switch. Shit, I haven't even been able to be fully pescetarian, let alone vegetarian, so I have no idea what has gotten into me!

One thing that I learned this weekend and that I have mentioned previously is that besides research and knowledge and understanding, I've overlooked the basics a handful of times.  READ THE LABELS.  I ran into another failure on this front over this past weekend. 

Chicken and Pig and Fat... OH MY!!!
This one really got to me.  I know in the last 7 months I have had a bit here and there of meat but this was like a big, fat slap-in-the-face fail on my part.  It's not like the ingredients are in another language or that they are hidden by-products.  Nope... straight up animals.  I would expect that in all that I have learned this year that the last thing I would do is assume that a can of beans was vegetarian.  Stupid.  If I plan on moving toward full vegetarianism or especially veganism, I need to be seriously conscious all the time.  The icing on the cake... I still ate some of the dish that included these beans; yes, after I read the label.  I feel guilty.  Again, not sure why and still working that out, but unprepared for veg*n is an understatement.

Facts from Food, Inc.

As a follow-up from yesterday's post regarding the profound documentary film, Food, Inc., I wanted to share the following list of facts that was published in the film's press kit.  I know many will not have the opportunity to view it, so there is lot of info here that is directly from the film.  

  • In the 1970s, the top five beef packers controlled about 25% of the market. Today, the top four control more than 80% of the market.
  • In the 1970s, there were thousands of slaughterhouses producing the majority of beef sold. Today, we have only 13.
  • In 1998, the USDA implemented microbial testing for salmonella and E.coli 0157h7 so that if a plant repeatedly failed these tests, the USDA could shut down the plant. After being taken to court by the meat and poultry associations, the USDA no longer has that power.
  • In 1972, the FDA conducted 50,000 food safety inspections. In 2006, the FDA conducted only 9,164.
  • During the Bush administration, the head of the FDA was the former executive VP of the National Food Processors Association.
  • During the Bush administration, the chief of staff at the USDA was the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry in Washington.
  • Prior to renaming itself an agribusiness company, Monsanto was a chemical company that produced, among other things, DDT and Agent Orange.
  • In 1996 when it introduced Round-Up Ready Soybeans, Monsanto controlled only 2% of the U.S. soybean market. Now, over 90% of soybeans in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented gene.
  • Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was an attorney at Monsanto from 1976 to 1979. After his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion in a case that helped Monsanto enforce its seed patents.
  • The average chicken farmer invests over $500,000 and makes only $18,000 a year.
  • 32,000 hogs a day are killed in Smithfield Hog Processing Plant in Tar Heel, N.C, which is the largest slaughterhouse in the world.
  • The average American eats over 200 lbs. of meat a year.
  • 30% of the land in the U.S. is used for planting corn.
  • The modern supermarket now has, on average, 47,000 products, the majority of which is being produced by only a handful of food companies.
  • 70% of processed foods have some genetically modified ingredient.
  • SB63 Consumer Right to Know measure requiring all food derived from cloned animals to be labeled as such passed the California state legislature before being vetoed in 2007 by Governor Schwarzenegger, who said that he couldn’t sign a bill that pre-empted federal law.
  • Corn products include: ketchup, cheese, Twinkies, batteries, peanut butter, Cheez-Its, salad dressings, Coke, jelly, Sweet & Low, syrup, juice, Kool-Aid, charcoal, diapers, Motrin, meat and fast food.
  • Corn, which is the main ingredient in animal feed, is also used as a food additive. Those products commonly include: Cellulose, Xylitol, Maltodextrin, Ethylene, Gluten, Fibersol-2, Citrus Cloud Emulsion, Inosital, Fructose, Calcium Stearate, Saccharin, Sucrose, Sorbital, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Di-glycerides, Semolina, Sorbic Acid, Alpha Tocopherol, Ethyl Lactate, Polydextrose, Xantham Gum, White Vinegar, Ethel Acetate, Fumaric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Baking Powder, Zein, Vanilla Extract, Margarine, and Starch.
  • 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes; Among minorities, the rate will be 1 in 2.
  • E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks have become more frequent in America, whether it be from spinach or jalapenos. In 2007, there were 73,000 people sickened from the E. coli virus.
  • Organics is the fastest growing food segment, increasing 20% annually.

Here's one more resource for you... I love lists!
 (click image to enlarge)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...