By: Leanne Ely
If you’ve been reading our Saving Dinner posts and articles for any amount of time, hopefully you’ve grown aware of the dangers of the GMOs lurking in our food chain.
Sometimes it feels like a never ending battle to avoid these foods. Everywhere we turn, there’s a new food danger to be aware of.
GMOs are hiding where nobody would suspect. One place you probably have GMOs in your home is in an ingredient we all have sitting in our pantries: white vinegar.
I can hear you now: But I am so aware of GMOs and eating organic! How did I not ever consider vinegar?
Probably because most of us have never stopped to think about where vinegar comes from!
White vinegar is made from corn. Yes. Corn.
Corn is distilled into corn alcohol. That corn alcohol is then mixed with water and fermented into vinegar. From there, the vinegar is filtered to make it clear before being bottled. There are more steps to the process than this, but that’s the gist.
White vinegar comes from corn, and at least 88% of the corn grown in the US is genetically modified. And, honestly, that is a conservative estimate.
I’ve always considered white vinegar a non-food anyway, using it only for cleaning. White vinegar is too acidic for cooking, and given the fact that it is GMO, I strongly advise that you keep it out of your mouth at all costs!
In households where white vinegar is mainly used as a cleaning agent, I wouldn’t worry as much about splurging on an organic brand. But, if you’re washing your fruit and veggies with vinegar, it might be worth splurging on a GMO-free brand like Spectrum.
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By: Leanne Ely
Navigating the grocery store in this day and age feels like tiptoeing around a minefield. With everything we’re hearing about GMOs, hormones and chemicals in our foods, it makes you wonder if it’s safe to eat anything anymore.
In a perfect world, we would all be able to buy everything fair trade, organic and grass-fed, but in reality, even if you live in a place where the best of the best is available to you, it’s simply not feasible for the average person to be able to afford the “perfect” diet.
Luckily, there is a trick to prioritizing your grocery dollars so that you can stretch your budget to cover the items that are worth spending more on, while saving on some other areas.
The first thing you need to do here is to change your mindset. When you stop buying the chemical-laden processed foods, you’re saving money on all those boxes of nutritionally inferior items. When you spend the money on organic items, you’re less likely to waste food, so you won’t be throwing as much in the trash. It might feel like you’re spending more on a whole food diet, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Where to spend your money at the grocery store
Organic meat and dairy. If your grocery budget is very tight, invest in organic dairy and meat over organic produce and grains. Conventionally raised animal products have been shown to contain the highest concentrations of pesticides and hormones. With your milk, cheese and dairy, try to buy full fat organic because full fat is better for you. With meat and poultry, look for organic first, and grass-fed and pasture raised second.
Shop based on the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. Some foods tend to be heavily contaminated with pesticides. These foods are logged each year by the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. This list serves as a great way to determine which foods are most important to buy organic. The Clean Fifteen list shows us which foods are relatively low in pesticide residue. Shop according to those lists and you’ll save lots of money on organic produce. For instance, rather than forking over the cash for expensive organic potatoes, go for the conventionally grown sweet potatoes which are on the Clean list!
Hit the farmers’ market first. Organic is great, but local, in-season organic is the absolute best you can do. Get whatever items you can from the farmer’s market and then get the rest at the grocery store later.
Shop from the freezer. Some stores carry bulk organic produce in the freezer section. See how economically you can buy your organic veggies and if it works out better for your budget, go ahead and stock up with frozen. Frozen organic will be better for you than pesticide-ridden fresh!
Transition gradually. It’s not necessary to go nuts replacing all of your condiments and spices with organic varieties all at once. As an item like cinnamon or peppercorns runs out, replace it with an organic version. For condiments, consider making your own from organic ingredients, especially if your children eat copious amounts of it. Ketchup, for instance, is generally chock full of high fructose corn syrup, chemicals and lots of additives. If your children eat everything dipped in ketchup, I would start making it from scratch or at least buy an organic variety.
Oh, and one more note! When it comes to honey, purchase local, not necessarily organic. It’s very difficult to control where bees pollinate, so organic honey isn’t entirely possible. Buy local, though, and you’ll be good to go.
By: Leanne Ely
What if every bite you put in your mouth gave your body something that would make you stronger and healthier?
How many times have you wished it could be easier to lose weight, to get healthier?
Yes it can be a struggle to get on (and stay on) that healthy path.
But what if you simply started by focusing on replacing empty calories with calories that deliver nutrition to your body?
Here are three things for you to think about—some food for thought if you will:
1. Grains may not be your friend.
I know—we’ve all been told to eat our whole grains, right? They’re heart healthy after all.
But what if wheat wasn’t good for you. What if you could actually be damaging your digestive system by eating gluten containing grains? And it’s not just those with celiac disease that need to be concerned. Gluten does damage when it passes through your gut. Gluten can actually create tiny holes in your gut’s lining, allowing toxins and undigested bits of food to enter parts of your body they shouldn’t. This leads to food sensitivities, inflammation, and all sorts of assorted trouble.
You can break up with bread. I promise you won’t die. There are options out there. Try wrapping your sandwich in some nice crisp lettuce leaves and you’re getting a great source of fiber and nutrients.
2. Sugar is also a well-known enemy.
Sugar is very bad news. No surprise there, but the new research has really shed light on how bad it is.
Not only is sugar just about as addictive as heroin, sugar wreaks havoc in the body, putting you at risk for a slew of diseases and different types of cancer. Sugar can actually even disrupt brain function.
And just when you think you’re doing good to say no to obvious sugars, there’s sugar hiding in everything– from granola and fruit juice to marinades and bread.
Nature has provided us with plenty of sweetness in the form of honey and maple syrup, two forms of sugar that actually possess many health benefits (in moderation, people!).
3. Pesticides are the most evil of all.
If you think organic produce is an unnecessary extra expense, think again. The scary truth is, the pesticides and herbicides used on today’s conventionally grown produce are horrifying. And the really scary part is, we don’t know how these cocktails of chemicals are going to behave in our bodies.
Many of those chemicals are messing up your hormones leading to a whole host of health threats, including breast and prostate cancers. And while organic food is not a cure-all for cancer by any means, eating as organically as you can will lower your risk as long as you have a healthy lifestyle, too like exercising, sleeping well, lowering your stress levels, not smoking and eating a lot of veggies.
Plus, studies show that organic produce actually includes more nutrients and antioxidants than their non-organic counterparts.
There you have it: 3 things. Three major changes: Avoid gluten containing grains, avoid sugar, and avoid chemicals. What if you started to eat like your life depended on it?
PS–Speaking of major changes, you should hear what Diana said about our 30 Day Paleo Challenge:
“It has helped me most definitely! When I stay on plan, I have more energy, fewer seasonal allergy and sinus problems, and hardly any joint and muscle aches, and I used to have a LOT. I’ve also experienced better sleep, weight loss, and a real change for the better in my blood work. I think you’ll really like it, and all the support you’ll receive here.”
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By: Leanne Ely
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is evil. Lord knows I’ve written enough about this poison over the years. But a disturbing new tactic by the corn growers makes me think we need to have this conversation again.
In case you need a refresher. HFSC is a man-made sweetener that you find in hundreds of packaged foods on grocery store shelves. It’s cheaper to use than sugar, so food manufacturers use this stuff in everything from breakfast cereal and ketchup to children’s vitamins and cough syrup.
HFCS is making us sick and overweight. Why?
• It’s a preservative (it’s not good to eat preservatives, y’all)
• Your liver can more readily convert HFCS to fat than it can straight sugar.
• HFCS blocks leptin, a naturally secreted chemical in your body that is responsible for regulating your appetite. If your leptin isn’t working, your appetite can get out of control very easily.
• HFCS is linked to high cholesterol and diabetes in animals, and for us humans, well, I don’t know about you but I think we should all be avoiding it too.
• In a recent study, a group of animals was fed a high fructose corn syrup diet. Six out of ten animals had liver tumors within six months.
• HFCS contributes to your risk of developing cancer because it causes DNA damage and inflammation and leads to an increased production of free radicals within the body.
• HFCS is linked to an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
• 90% of the corn grown in the US is genetically modified and, as a result, so is that HFCS.
So, back to the corn growers. There have been ads issued by the corn growers recently, telling the public that corn syrup is natural and not really any different than any other form of sugar. That it’s not really all that bad for you. This is according to “scientific” research, of course.
What these ads aren’t telling you is that the research backing up these claims is supported by a grant from the Corn Refiners Association.
How unbiased do you suppose these claims might be?
We need to seriously stop consuming high fructose corn syrup. So, let’s talk about how to get this insidious ingredient out of our homes.
• Let’s get rid of the soft drinks, flavored beverages and processed foods. These are the biggest culprits of HFCS and they are completely empty calories. Replace soda with water. Please!
• Read food labels. HFCS will be clearly marked on the ingredient list. The closer to the top of the list of ingredients, the more that’s in there.
• Eat well because I promise you, you will not find HFCS in fresh fruits and vegetables!
Getting rid of HFCS is a quick way to start optimizing your health. Another way to do it is to join us for the 30 Day QuickStart with Dr. Terry Wahls and me! We have great food, menus, community, coaching…the whole 9 yards, click here for details!
By Leanne Ely
Around here you see a lot of articles and recipes calling for organic ingredients, you probably wonder why. Sometimes it is difficult to get organic ingredients so my feeling is that you should do your best to use the most naturally grown and prepared organic ingredients in all your dishes that you can reasonably accomplish and forget the rest. As long as you are doing your best that is all anyone can ask.
But, I want to explain why organic is best when you can get it. You might have noticed your grocery starting to carry what they call, “conventionally” grown and “organic” products. Essentially conventionally means pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and antibiotics were used in their farming practices.
Organic means that the farmer uses the most natural practices possible using compost, and the science of beneficial insects and or birds to reduce pests. They allow their animals to eat organic feed and to go outdoors. Rather than antibiotics to fight disease they keep their housing clean, and feed appropriate balanced diets to the animals.
Only products that are completely organic can carry the USDA seal. Non single ingredient products that have most of their ingredients, 95 percent can say Organic, products made with mostly, 70 percent organic, can say Made with organic ingredients. Labels that say “all-natural”, “free range” or “hormone-free” may or may not also be organic. These labels are good so that you know what you’re buying.
So why buy organic? Here are some reasons that I believe are true:
• Organic tastes better
• Organic is more nutritious
• Organic has no pesticides
• Organic is best for the environment
• Organic often supports local farmers
Whether or not you can afford to purchase all organic ingredients remember that one small change helps whether it’s just that you want to support a local farmer, or whether you are worried about contaminants in your child’s food.
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Tricks, Tips and a Recipe
Giving the green light to red kale
By: Leanne Ely
It’s time once again for Tricks, Tips and a Recipe. Today you’ll learn a tip, a trick and you’ll get a great recipe to try it out with. Neat, huh?
Today’s focus is on: RED KALE
I am one of kale’s biggest cheerleaders. This probably doesn’t come as a great surprise to many of you, I’m sure!
While your classic curly kale is my old standby, this time of year I like to spice things up by adding red kale to my shopping basket.
Red kale has reddish-purple and green leaves, making it a beautiful addition to a dinner plate. The red color comes out more in colder conditions, so you’re most likely to find red kale in the cooler fall and winter months than in the spring.
You’ll discover that red kale is faster cooking than other kale varieties, and it’s generally more tender as well.
Like all types of kale, red kale is extremely nutrient dense. Red kale is very high in fiber, beta-carotene and vitamins K and C.
I enjoy eating red kale steamed, raw in salads, sautéed in bacon and baked into chips.
Now that you’re craving kale, it’s time for your Trick:
Massaging kale is an excellent way to enjoy it in its raw form. Rinse your red kale well to remove any dirt and or insects. Rip the leaves from the stalks into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Sprinkle with coarse salt and spend a good five minutes with your hands in there, massaging the mixture onto each and every leaf. This process actually wilts the kale and gives it a great texture for a raw salad.
Kale is on the Dirty Dozen list, meaning that non-organic kale can be coated in pesticides. It’s worth the extra price tag to opt for organic when it comes to all kale, including the red varieties.
And your Recipe:
Crock Chicken and Red Kale Soup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 large stalks celery, chopped
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast meat, cubed
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (14.5-oz.) cans diced tomatoes
3 cups low sodium chicken broth, or use homemade
1 pound red kale, chopped, large ribs removed
Melt the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and celery; cook until slightly soft. Add chicken cubes and brown on all sides (but don’t worry about cooking them through). Transfer mixture to a crock cooker then add squash, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, tomatoes and broth. Cover and cook on MEDIUM-HIGH for 3 hours. Add kale and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until chicken cubes are fork-tender.