What is Biodynamic Farming?

What is Biodynamic Farming?

That’s the question driving one of the biggest breakthrough ideas to move into the mainstream in 2017: Biodynamic Farming

If you haven’t yet brushed up against biodynamics at the grocery store, in your meal-delivery kit or during a recent restaurant outing, expect to soon.

Why? I tackle that question in my latest column with Clean Eating Magazine: Is Biodynamic the New Organic? But it's part of a broader push by good food innovators to rethink what's possible when it comes to agriculture...how can we go a step beyond organics to farm in a way that's resilient, restorative, and helps regenerate not only the quality of our food, but also the planet?

Read More

4 Reasons Bee Health is a Huge Opportunity for the Food Industry

4 Reasons Bee Health is a Huge Opportunity for the Food Industry

While there’s plenty of buzz right now about plant-based veggie burgers upending the status quo in meat cases in markets across the country (Safeway recently joined the meatless trend), there’s another breakthrough idea that's reshaping the food system in an equally powerful (though quieter) way from the ground up. It’s bee the health of bees.

Read More

3 Healthy Food Disruptors to Watch Now

What are some of the major forces rapidly reshaping America’s food conversation?

That was one of several questions a group of leading food innovators wrestled with at this year's  Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Foods Institute.

Here are 3 healthy food disruptor trends shaking up the food and nutrition world now:

 

Sustainable Food1. Explosion of an “ecoystem mash up.” Will Rosenzweig, founding CEO of the Republic of Tea Executive Director of the new Food Business School at the Culinary Institute of America talked of the new “ecosystem mash up”. As food is such a powerful leverage point for addressing multiple challenges countries are facing (human health, sustainability, corporate responsibility, social justice, etc.) an unprecedented number of entities are entering the Forum of Food: social entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, food activists, Silicon Valley executives, urban farmers, NGOs, and passionate consumers- all are rapidly disrupting traditional frameworks of the food and nutrition ecosystem. While this is creating some growing pains as industries adapt, it’s also a catalyst for creating dynamic partnerships - such as chefs Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi’s new venture serving up healthy, fast, inexpensive food in some of the country’s poorest neighborhoods.

 

 

Social Media Food Advocacy2. Growth has moved from linear to exponential. A slew of new technologies and platforms have exponentially increased the amount of sharing, the level of transparency, and the reach of conversations people are having about food, which means that traditional linear models of business and influence no longer apply. Think of AirBnB upending Hilton Hotels, Instagram shuttering Kodak, or Chiptole taking a hefty bite out of the traditional fast food model . In the digital age, food innovations, conversations and resources that were once siloed have been unleashed-allowing for faster synergies and cross pollination. Incubators and new food crowdfunding sites are adding additional power behind the New Food Movement (such as Barnraiser), eroding the traditional pathways that took new companies decades to gain a foothold on supermarket shelves and in consumers hearts and minds: collectively these disruptors are rapidly changing the way consumers think about, purchase and consume food-reshaping supermarket shelves as startup brands go“from garage to grocery store” in fewer than 5 years. In fact, this week both Ad Age and Fortune served up stories on how major packaged companies are struggling to stay relevant in this new food ecosystem.

 

 

slide_425996_5493142_free3. Food waste + ugly produce are joining the New Food Economy. While policy has done an admirable job of making food cheaper, one dark side of all of this abundant cheap food has been a dramatic increase in food waste: in the U.S. alone, the per capita food waste has increased 50% since 1974 to an average of 1,400 calories per person per day. Globally, 1/3 of food produced is lost or wasted.

With 1 in 6 to 7 Americans lacking access to fresh, healthy food, the waste/hunger paradox in America is ripe for disruption, and many social entrepreneurs are stepping up to the plate. Ben Simon, Founder and Executive Director of the Food Recovery Network, says America could "cut hunger in America in half by recovering just 15% of the food America wastes". Simon sees higher education as the first sector where food waste recovery will soon be the norm rather than the exception (driven by millennials); his company works with over 110 colleges and has donated over 800,000 meals to hungry Americans. Many of America’s largest foodservice companies are also making food waste a top priority-some, like Bon Appetit even have first-ever positions as food waste specialists, recognizing it as supporting the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits.

A host of new companies are also helping to give a massive makeover to mishapen fruits and vegetables. Not only is this helping put a dent in food waste is at the farm (roughly 30% of perfectly good produce never even makes it to the store because it's not up to snuff cosmetically) it is often helping make nutrient rich fruits and vegetables more affordable. Imperfect Produce will put a lovable spin on misshapen produce, delivering funny looking fruits and veggies straight to Californians' doors for 30-50% less than supermarket prices, with a special emphasis on penetrating urban food deserts where fresh produce options are often lacking. Other companies are creating dehydrated fruit snacks or pressed fruit and vegetable juices from produce that would otherwise be wasted.

While change in this area often requires rethinking well intentioned rules and policies governing leftovers, food waste, and even unpicked produce, successful models-and legal clearance-often exist for those willing to pursue it. The payoff is making nutrient-rich foods more accessible and more affordable to people who need them most.

Towards the end of the institute, third generation California organic farmer and author David Mas Matsumoto tweeted: “I’m not waiting for the food revolution anymore. There are a lot of good things happening now.”

I couldn’t agree more. (Disclosure: I was given a media pass to attend the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Foods Institute)

5 Must Have Items For A Sustainable Menu: The New Menus of Change 2014 Report from the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard

Menus of Change 2014 What is the future of food in 3-5 years?

In 10-20 years?That’s the question I spent the last 3 days grappling with at the 2014 Menus of Change Summit, a ground-breaking conference that sought to tackle the most critical issues sitting at the intersection of human health and environmental sustainability (disclosure: I was given a free Media pass to attend).

A joint venture between the Harvard School of Public Health  and the Culinary Institute of America, Menus of Change is trying to lay out a new vision for what two-time James Beard Foundation award winning chef Michel Nischan called “our brittle food system”. Seeking to de-silo the worlds nutrition, foodservice, culinary and tech, the ultimate goal is threefold:   to forge a new dynamic, viable roadmap for serving food that’s utterly craveable and compelling to customers, in a way that is attractive to investors and business, but that’s  also sustainable and driven by health and nutrition. In other words, to really plumb the often preached...but less often practiced triple bottom line of “People, Planet, Profits.” And to attach hard, measurable metrics rather than soft, feel good language.

It’s a tall order, to be sure. And it was apparent that some of the companies present were more tied to the teat of the current status quo than others (for example externalizing costs associated with cheap livestock production that enables a $1 burger or soda). But to have the honest conversations, even if tense at times, was refreshing.

5 Must Have Items On A Sustainable Menu

To usher in the New Face of Food, to truly drive meaningful change and not just tinker at the margins, the group sought to identify targets that are  focused, clearly defined and transparent. In the ultra distill version, conference organizers challenged the audience to adopt the following 5 specific metrics in their Report:

  • Add 10% more produce every year (year over year) for the next 5 years. This will not only increase customers’ access to vegetables and fruits, it will likely reduce sodium levels.
  • Reduce meat portions in half of your menu items. Introduce recipes and concepts where meat plays a supporting role-leverage strategies from seasonal/local flavors to regional cuisines.
  • Always offer a 50 to 100% whole grain option with rice, pasta, potato, side dish and bread choices.
  • Tell your beverage suppliers that you want more innovative, natural, and less sweet beverage options-or better yet, craft them yourself.
  • Raise your standards for protein sourcing, including supporting producers who don’t administer antibiotics to healthy animals and doubling the different kinds of fish and seafood you offer, sourced from sustainably managed fisheries.

Rodale Organic Farm and Institute

A Taste of What’s to Come: Higher Quality Protein. More Produce + Whole Grains. Less Sugar.

You can read the CIA-Harvard 2014 Menus Of Change Report here . A blend of East Coast effeteness and West Coast innovation, it highlights the hot button issues at the crossroads of health, sustainability, and the business of food-including top nutrition concerns including sugars, whole grains, and the protein problem, which I've blogged about here. For a quick snapshot, check out the Principles Infographic here.

Memo from Millenials: “Share Not Just My Palate, But My Values” Millenial preferences are disrupting the landscape of corporate concepts and legacy brand. The quest for shared values is one of the top drivers of the mighty Millenials purchasing decisions (they will soon overtake Boomers in their buying power). And millenials have moved the consumer from being reactive to proactive: with today’s instantaneous access to information and social connection, brands need to be especially cautious-these values can’t be green washed and simply slapped on a label, they must be authentic, verifiable, and true to the brand’s core. Or Millenials will sniff them out, and fast.

To meet growing consumer expectations on cleaner, greener, leaner food-check out this a specific list of step by step principles developed by Menus of Change.

At the closing comments, Arlin Wasserman of Changing Tastes said simply: "Unlike many industries facing today's new world of resource constraints, climate uncertainty and economic risks, our solutions don't require massive investments in new capital or political legislation. We have only to change our menu."

You can check out all the conference discussion on Twitter at #CIAMOC.

Unleashing the Power of Womenomics to Fix the Food System

WomenomicsWho Rule the World? 

Some acts are small, powerful moments that ultimately ripple around the world, such as Malala Yousafzai. Some women are prominently forging new paths from the corner office, such as Sheryl Sandberg or Janet Yellen. And some women lead at the grocery cart.

Yes, that’s right-the grocery cart. The more I think about it, the more I see that Beyonce is right: Women, who rule the world? We do.

 

And it’s called Womenomics.

This Saturday is International Women’s Day. Which has me thinking about all of the inspiring national and global figures who remind me that there’s immense power to finding your voice, and to wielding your power “from whatever size stage God has given you” - as Oprah said to me once. And rather than a feel-good sounding moniker that’s soft on substance, womenomics is about power, and about making good business decisions that can change the marketplace.

Here’s the surprising truth. We women do most of the buying. In fact, we control  roughly 80% of consumer spending. That gives us enormous power.

Which means that our best resource to change the food system doesn't lie with Washington - or even with companies - it lies with us. We are our own most underutilized resource.

This is a profound revelation, and frankly, it’s one that many companies are hoping we don’t figure out.

But we have. Or at least, we are starting to. So how can we wield our considerable collective influence to press the levers that matter most for fixing our food system and keeping our children healthy? (if you doubt companies’ ability to change quickly in response to consumer demand, consider the current surge of gluten-free products at the grocery store).

 

Getting Antibiotics Out of our Meat and Dairy

To me, this is one of the most pressing crisis looming for our food system. In fact, at the risk of sounding dramatic, it threatens to unravel modern medicine as we know it. And it is something that isn't even required to be listed on a food label.

Over 70% of all antibiotics are being used on industrial farms :subtherapeutic, low dose antibiotics produce meat faster and more cheaply, and help compensate for crowded, unhygienic conditions. Yet the science has become clear - we are accelerating an antibiotics crisis. Here is an excellent evidence-based summary of the issue.  In fact, the Pew Charitable Trusts have compiled such compelling science on the impact of the misuse and overuse of drugs in factory farming, they've launched the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for all of us. A recent report from the NRDC even found previously undisclosed FDA documents showing that feed additives don't even meet the agency's own safety standards.

And you don’t have to be a meat eater to be concerned about drug resistant bacteria: research is finding people who live nearby these large farming operations are also at higher risk of MRSA.

Womenomics | Kate Geagan

As a parent, the notion that we are dangerously close to returning to a time when we lack the drugs to fight common childhood mishaps such as strep throat or a skinned knee terrifies me. As a nutritionist, I see that it falls squarely on my plate - because antibiotics are used to produce much of the conventional milk, meat and poultry products we put in our grocery carts, and order from restaurants and foodservice operations.

 

Using Womenomics to Change the Way We Eat

As women, science has zeroed in on some key differences in the ways our brains work: we are hard wired for collaboration. For finding common ground. For building consensus. For compassion. And for considering risk. (In fact, one famous comment made during the last Economic Forum in Davos noted that “Lehman Brothers may not have fallen so far so fast had there been a few sisters around”). Far from being soft skills, they are some of what enables to find our voice-and the conviction to forge powerful new paths forward.

While Washington drags its feet on meaningful fixes, womenomics is hard power- a roadmap to tell companies clearly and consistently a simple message: We want better from the food system. From the companies we trust to feed our children. And we are prepared to spend our dollars somewhere else (namely, on brands that choose to go antibiotic-free, or a restaurant serving animal products produced without low doses of antibiotics). It can be done. Read this piece to see how the Netherlands - a country with a similar dependence on antibiotics for industrial farming - is reaping real benefits from making the switch.  Here are 4 simple steps to get you started.

Will you join me? I hope so.

 

4 Steps to Take Now

  1. Invest in the Best: Buy only meat, poultry and pork that is certified Organic, Certified Humane,  or has a USDA “Process Verified’  antibiotic claim (explained in the EWG’s Meat Eater’s guide here). To afford the higher price tag, choose smaller portions and serve with robust servings of vegetables and legumes, and enjoy plant based meals (no meat or a little meat) a couple of nights a week.
  2. Spend Strategically: Spend food dollars on foods-and at restaurants-that serve antibiotic free meat and poultry. Many chains that are trying to source such products, such as Chipotle, will display this on their menu or website).
  3. Make Your Voice Heard: Speak up on social media! Or sign this petition asking the FDA to insist on responsible antibiotic use in agriculture. Think it’s not possible to drive change from the ground up? Check out how this food blogger convinced Chick-fil-A to go antibiotic free.
  4. Empower Women Globally: Look for the Fair Trade Certified seal on coffee, chocolate, tea and other products to help women around the world tap into their power.

 

How are you using Womenomics to change the way you eat?  I'd love to hear from you!

National Farmers' Market Week Kicks Off

Farmers-Market.jpg

Farmer's MarketIf you have ever stood in the sunshine nibbling warm, sweet snap peas directly from a farmer’s market box, if you have ever sampled a perfectly garnet strawberry and had a gush of fragrant berry juice trickle down your chin, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that one powerful food experience can shift your entire relationship to food.

This Sunday kicks off National Farmer's Market Week, a time to showcase the growing resiliency of local food systems across the country-and to celebrate some the most important foods that can lead us to new paths of health and healing-namely, fruits and vegetables.

“Of all the food systems innovation in the last 20 years”, says Richard McCarthy of Slow Food USA, "the resurgence of farmers markets may represent the best DIY expression of community involvement and reinvention.”

Farmers Markets offer us connections we crave, such as local food, sensuous eating pleasure and vibrant regional economies. And most importantly, they help us put a face to our food-something rather rare in today's global food economy.

Here’s how you can get involved:
.
  1. Visit your local farmers market. Summer is the most glorious time to eat produce at its peak ripeness, teeming with good-for-you nutrients in their fullest expression-nature’s whole package. The best part? When food is at it’s peak, very little needs to be done to it-Much of it can be eaten delicious RAW-fresh salads and fruit...saving you the time and energy of cooking.
  2. Host a GROW dinner. This new project from Oxfam is “the brand new way to feed your family in the 21st century”. It’s 5 Simple Steps offers a roadmap: cooking and buying food efficiently, reducing food waste, buying what’s in season and produced locally, reducing meat consumption (and adding more plants) and buying products that benefits small scale producers. With gorgeous seasonal recipes and easy videos to get you started.
  3. Get growing with your children. Check out my recent Earth’s Best article  to discover the latest research on how to help your children cultivate a fresh, lasting connection to food by growing something themselves. And it’s based in something every child loves-dirt.

How often do you enjoy farmer's markets in the summer? I'd love to hear about your experiences...

See you at the market!

Celebrate Summer and Sustainable Seafood with this Grilled Barramundi and Avocado Orange Salsa Recipe

Grilled-Barramundi-with-Avocado-Orange-Salsa.jpg

Grilled Barramundi with Avocado Orange SalsaDive into the summer grilling season and celebrate the warm weather and sustainable seafood with this recipe. Avocado orange salsa dazzles the tastebuds, while grilled barramundi makes this the perfect recipe for holiday cook-outs like the upcoming 4th of July, Labor Day, or even just your everyday, backyard family gathering.

Interested in learning more about barramundi? Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's barraumundi factsheet for more info.

.

Serves: 6   Prep Time: 2   Cook Time: 10

.

Grilled Barramundi and Avocado Orange Salsa

Ingredients:

  • Six, 6oz Barramundi fillets (each should be 2 to 3 inches wide)

  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp per fillet)

  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil

Avocado Salsa
  • 1 ripe avocado

  • Juice of 1/2 lime

  • 1 red bell pepper

  • 1 orange

  • 1 scallion

  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Prepare the grill: Start by setting the grill up for cooking with direct high heat. Preheat the grill for 15 minutes, then clean the grill grate thoroughly. For my Weber Summit, I turn all the burners to to high and wait fifteen minutes. Then I brush the grate with my grill brush, and wipe the grate with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.

  2. Prepare the barramundi: While the grill is preheating, sprinkle the barramundi filets with the salt and pepper, then rub with the vegetable oil.

  3. Prepare the avocado salsa: Cut the avocado into a 1/2" dice, and toss in a small bowl with the lime juice. Cut the red bell pepper into a 1/2" dice, section the orange (directions here), and dice the scallion. Add all these to the bowl with the avocado, and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Grill the barramundi: Place the barramundi on the grill over direct high heat, flesh side down. Grill for three minutes, then gently work a spatula under the barramundi and flip skin side down. Grill for three more minutes, or until the barramundi is just opaque in the thickest part; I check by pushing along the natural seams with a paring knife. It is OK to let it cook longer on this side; the skin will protect the fish from burning. Once it is done, gently work a spatula under the barramundi and move to a platter.

To serve, spoon a heaping tablespoon of avocado salsa over each barramundi filet. Serve, passing any extra salsa at the table.

3 Lessons from the Sustainable Seafood Institute

school-of-tuna.jpg

Sustainable Seafood...Who Will Be Winners and Who Will Be Losers in the Coming Sea Change?

On April 29, 2013, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii made a startling find: for the first time in human history, CO2 concentrations in the earth's atmosphere had climbed above 400 parts per million. Just one more data point marking the dawn of the Anthropocene era. .

We are in the Age of Man. 

In case you missed it, there is growing agreement that we are now living in a new epoch: the Anthropocene era, or the Age of Man. Having just recently returned from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Seafood Institute, it’s clear that the Anthropocene era is bringing a change to the seas, too.
.
First, some facts to bring you up to speed on the state of our plate in 2013 when it comes to fish.
  • Seafood is the largest traded food commodity in the world.
  • 86% of the seafood we eat is imported.
  • 50% of imported seafood is from aquaculture.
  • According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), 2012 marks another major milestone: for the first time in human history aquaculture is expected to outpace wild stocks as the top source of the seafood.
  • Over 1 billion of the planet’s inhabitants in developing countries rely on seafood for high quality protein.
  • There will be winners and losers in climate change. Read on to see who they are.
.

Ocean Chemistry is Changing. 

Here’s what else was clear at this year’s Institute: a suite of factors is driving unprecedented change in ocean chemistry. Sea levels are rising as polar ice caps melt. Ocean temperatures are hotter, so fish are moving-migrating towards both poles in search of cooler temps. Which means fleets have to travel farther, and fish deeper, to catch fewer fish. And tropical fish living near the equator are reaching their thermal maximum.
.
While there are higher temps, there is also a lower pH (meaning an increase in ocean acidity) as carbon pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution is absorbed by the oceans.  According to Dr. Tessa Hill, a marine researcher from at University of California Davis (whose team grows sea creatures in conditions predicted in the next 100 years), mussels and oysters are already having a harder time extracting the minerals they need to make shells out of the water-resulting in smaller, thinner weaker shells that make them more susceptible to predators. Love oysters? Her research suggests that they may not be able to survive the coming changes.
.
Jellyfish, on the other hand, are thriving in all of this change.
.
Fun stuff, right? Not the easy-breezy topic of most blogs, I’ll admit. But this quote has stuck with me:
.
"The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have."  
.
As consumers at the top of the global protein seafood chain, what America buys at the seafood counter and in sushi bars are key leverage points in the system. Indeed, one of the big challenges is that it’s hard to grasp any of this from looking at your local fish counter or sushi menu.
.
Here’s what you can do to help heal our oceans-and ensure that we preserve some of the planet’s healthiest protein sources for our children.
.

The Fish Counter Is A Key Leverage Point.  Try these 4 New Fish Now.Fresh sardines on wooden board

Currently, more than 1/2 of the seafood we consume come from “the big 3”: shrimp, salmon and tuna. To give some of these species (as well as those, like Chilean Seabass, which have been overfished) a break, check out these 4 new delicious fish right now, from my latest Dr. OZ blog, to help heal the oceans and nourish your body.
 .

Other resources: 

.
Monday I’ll share one of my favorite recipes with one of my favorite buys - barramundi - to get you started! Stay tuned!

5 Ways to Green Your Grilling and Thai Soy Sliders

The summer sun is almost here, which means grills across America are about to be fired into high gear. I love grilling - for me, there's an almost primitive pleasure I derive from stepping outdoors and bidding adieu to the oven for a few months: the smoke. The smells. The sounds. And in our family, the consensus is that practically every food tastes better grilled-slices of crusty bread from the farmers market, fish or poultry with a snip of summer herbs, garden vegetables, even stone fruit like apricots and peaches.
You grill can not only be good for you, but it's good for the planet. Here are 4 of my favorite tips to keep your diet a cool shade of green during grilling season:
.
Green Grilling Ideas:
1.Cook once, eat twice. When you fire up the grill, use all the available space to cook dinner tonight, plus enough for extra leftovers to take to work or school tomorrow. Like I said, practically everything tastes better grilled. And maximizing the food you grill means cooking with less energy per calorie of food.
 2. Marinate meaty mushrooms. Drizzle portabellos with a generous amount of olive oil, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar and let sit for 30 minutes. Grill until soft and smoky on each side- as a side dish, a "mushroom burger" or in an omelet or salad, these are divine. With just 40 calories per cup, it's also a great way to also slash calories and saturated fat while still delivering bold flavor.
. 3. Grill an outdoor veggie pizza. The act of grilling utterly transforms pizza. The real flames and high temp create a deliciously crispy crust, with a fantastically smoked flavor. Simply buy some pre-made whole grain dough for your crust, and top with your favorite veggies and fresh sliced tomatoes (or your favorite sauce) and a small amount of good mozzarella for a fun dinner treat. Bonus points if you put on basil or oregano from your garden.
.
4. Grilled veggies make excellent sandwich toppings. The grill can also help you shake off a lunch rut: Try roasting your favorite veggies on the grill (lightly brushed with olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper) and wrapping them with a whole grain tortilla and some hummus. Grilled sliced eggplant (like mushrooms) is another fantastic "meat like" alternatives.
5. Fire up Shrimp or Chicken Kabobs. Kabobs are a fun, easy way to serve smaller portions of animal protein-in a way that most people don't even notice. You can round out kebobs with  a side of whole wheat cousous and a yogurt dressing, or on top of summer salad greens.
.
.
Want more ideas? Here's one of my all time favorite creations- my Thai Inspired Soy Sliders.  You can prep the elements in advance and then people can build their own (which kids especially love to do). These savory, smoky  bite-sized sliders have a refreshing contrast-the crisp, pickled vegetables with creamy sauce. Even carnivores will crave one.
.
Have any more green grilling ideas? I would love to hear them! Please drop me a line.
.

thai slidersThai Inspired Soy Sliders

Yield: 5 Tofu Sliders
Inspired by the popular bahn mi Thai sandwiches that many Thai food trucks sell, these tofu sliders are a delicious twist on the typical slider, and are packed with fresh flavors.

.

Burgers: 5 whole grain dinner rolls 1 cup bean sprouts 1 small handful fresh cilantro sprigs 1 small handful fresh mint sprigs 1/2 hothouse cucumber, peeled and julienned 1 small jalapeño, seeded and julienned (or with seeds, if you prefer more heat)

Directions: 1. The night before, slice the tofu into 5 equal slices (about 3/4 inch thick). Cover with paper towels, place in a bowl, and drain overnight. 2. Place the drained tofu in a marinating dish. Place remaining marinade ingredients in a large liquid measuring cup. Using an immersion blender, puree all the ingredients together into a paste. 3. Cover both sides of tofu with the paste, and marinate for at least 1 hour. 4. Preheat oven to 400°F, and preheat your grill or sauté pan over medium-high heat. 6. Grill the tofu 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through (and with grill marks). 7. While tofu is grilling, place dinner rolls directly onto the upper rack in the oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes, until toasted and slightly golden on top. Remove. 8. To assemble: Slice heated dinner roll in half. Spread 1/2-1 tsp of burger dressing on each side of the roll. Stack grilled tofu with some bean sprouts, cilantro, mint, cucumber, jalapeño, and pickled vegetables. Top with other half of dinner roll and enjoy immediately.

Tofu Marinade:tofu marinade 1 carton extra firm tofu 2 cloves garlic 1/2 a large white onion 1/2 tsp ground black pepper 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce 2 tsp sugar 1 tsp canola oil

Burger Dressing: 1/4 cup canola mayonnaise Juice from 1/2 lime 1 tsp sriracha

Pickled Vegetables - Kate GeaganPickled Vegetables: 1 tsp soy sauce 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar 3 tsp sugar or honey 1/2 tsp salt 1 bunch small Daikon or other radish, julienned 1 large carrot, peeled and julienned

Pickled Vegetables Directions: Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Add carrots and radishes. Marinate 30 minutes - 1 hour (can be made the night before). Drain well before use.

Burger Dressing: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until combined. Taste and add more sriracha if you prefer more heat. Set aside.

Join Me and Pregnancy Magazine: How to Have a Green Pregnancy

Pregnancy MagazineDo you have questions when it comes to things like how to pick the best seafood when you’re pregnant (getting essential omega-3 fats for baby’s development, while protecting her from potential mercury and PCB toxins?) Or about which eco-labels to buy and which to avoid as “greenwashing”? Or even just how to nurture your baby the purest way possible, starting day one? How do you have a more sustainable and green pregnancy? As a mom of two children myself, I know how confusing it can be to sift through all of the information out there when you merge the the pregnancy space (prenatal vitamins! preparing a nursery!) with an intention to do so in a greener, healthier way that’s better for your baby and the planet.

I hope you’ll join me and Pregnancy Magazine on Wednesday, April 4th at 10 am PST as we tackle just this topic. I will be hosting a fun Google+ Hangout: “How to Have a Green Pregnancy”.   I’ll be joined by two fantastic colleagues: Kimberly Pinkson, Founder of Ecomom and the Ecomom Alliance, as well as Rebecca Scritchfield, incoming Nutrition Contributor to Pregnancy Magazine, and founder of the #MeFirst Movement. Together we will share secrets on how to green your home and your diet as soon as that pregnancy test says “positive”. Our goal is to have you leave inspired and empowered!
.
We hope you can join us!
.
Program Details:
.
How to Have a Green Pregnancy
   Date: April 4th
   Time: 10 am PST
   Location: Online
   You can catch the show on my Google+ Page or here
.
 Hashtags you can follow to get in on the discussion:

Natural Products Expo West 2013: Top 4 Trends in Natural & Organics

Natural Products Expo West 2013I’m just back from Expo West 2013, where I was looking for the latest trends in organics, natural and eco-friendly eating. Here are 4 of the top trends that seemed to stand out:  

Trend #1: Our (Natural) Sweet Tooth Reigns

This first trend I noticed within about 10 minutes of arriving: it seems that organic and natural folks have as big a sweet tooth as the rest of America. While I certainly like the fact that the sugar may be organic, or the product may contain stevia (an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener) instead of say, aspartame my first thought as I cruised the Fresh Pavillion on Day 1 was ... things sure tasted sweet.  Agave, too, was everywhere. This sugared trend continued in the main expo hall: aisles teemed with sweetened foods from granola to energy bars, smoothies and energizing pouches, desserts to chocolate.

While I absolutely applaud the cleaner ingredients - and in many cases - noble sourcing, the caveat for health professionals and the public is clear: many “organic and natural” products still qualify as indulgences - comparable in sugars (and salt and saturated fats) as conventional - so be sure to read the label. Especially if you are watching your weight. As a good rule of thumb, the American Heart Association recommends no more the 10% of your total calories come from added sugars per day-which I easily sailed over as I sampled my way through the Expo.

Trend #2: Greek Yogurt 2.0

Chobani's new Flip line pairs their greek yogurts with a variety of toppings

While I did sample some deliciously simple Greek yogurts, there’s a whole lotta newness in this space. Blessed by a health halo and a darling of dietitians for years (thanks to its high protein content, probiotics, and calcium and vitamin D), Greek-style yogurt was everywhere - but in its newer, more adulterated forms. Many products I saw seemed more akin to dessert than a nourishing staple; Greek yogurt coated pretzels, dessert bars, pouches & yogurt drinks filled the Expo. And Greek yogurt packaged with a side of sprinkle-in sweets was big too, like Chobani’s new line of Flips, with indulgent flavors like chocolate-coconut-granola and key lime graham cracker.

Powerful Yogurt for Men: Find Your Inner Abs

Great marketing props go to Powerful Yogurt: This brand new macho Greek yogurt for men boasts 25 grams per cup in original plain, dark manly packaging, and a hefty 8-oz. serving-a nice change from traditional yogurts, which seem to be whittling their sizes down on a regular basis. Other flavors have 20 grams of protein (compared with 10-14 grams for a standard 5-6 oz. cup of Greek yogurt), and are sweetened with a combo of sugar and stevia to keep the carbs and calories down.

Mama Chia squeeze pouches embody several trends at Expo West

Trend #3: Hot Ingredients & Packaging

In addition to agave, gluten-free, chia, and all things coconut were also on the hot list. Closely tied to the gluten-free trend was quinoa. This, to me,  is a good thing, as it's rich in protein and iron, quick cooking, and a delicious gluten free alternative that's a lean and green addition to any diet. Chickpeas were another strong trend: in flours, snacks, and main courses (tied to another hot trend-vegan). And when it comes to new packaging, get ready for a sea of pouches for grownups, from fruit purees to energy boosts to breakfasts. This Mamma Chia Squeeze was a great example of how many of these trends came together.

Saffron Road's sustainably sourced chickpeas pack plant protein and ethnic flair into snacks-two worthy trends.

My two top picks for lean and green super-snacks go to two chickpea products that I love for portability, sustainability, and kid friendly protein rich snacking. First round of kudos go to  Hope Hummus , who debuted their brand new portable hummus tubes; as a mom and a frequent traveler, thank you! These held up stunningly during our family's Disneyland escapades the next day. The uber tasty  Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas also should be a pantry staple: made from sustainably-sourced organic chickpeas, these are a great alternative if you’re craving a plant protein snack (with 6 grams of protein per serving). With no refrigeration needed, these are perfect for portioning out on-the-go in advance and stashing in your briefcase, desk or gym bag.

Trend #4: “Better for You” Popcorn and Chips

These tomato Snapz were satisfying, delicious, and may just be the next best thing for getting your lycopene

The quest to clean up chip’s reputation as junk food has been in the works a while, and the chips I crunched my way through continue to move that trend forward: with ingredients including lentil or garbanzo flour (boosting protein a bit), dehydrated vegetables (which may add a few more phytochemicals), seeds (like chia!), and  root vegetables. My personal favorite was a new company from the UK called Snapz whose dehydrated fruits like tomatoes proved one of the best taste experiences of the Expo. And the ingredient list couldn't be simpler: tomatoes. Well done, chaps.

With California lemon peel, sea salt and canola oil, Quinn had me at first bite.

Then there was popcorn. By itself, simple (non-GMO)  popcorn earns high marks for lean and green: at just 93 calories for a hefty 3 cup serving, it counts as a whole grain and is packed with antioxidants.  Quinn Popcorn earns my “best in show” green star award for turning microwave popcorn on its head. Fueled by two parents on a mission to make microwave popcorn healthy (read about the problems with traditional microwave popcorn here), Quinn popcorn starts with non-GMO corn, no rbST added cheese, 100% natural ingredients that sound like they come from your kitchen. The real innovation is the clean bag technology: Made from a 100% all natural bag that’s compostable, wth zero of the potentially harmful chemicals found in traditional microwave popcorn bags. And the taste? Innovative and fresh. Suffice to say I raised a few eyebrows as a 'oohed' and 'ahhed' my way through every sample of their booth.

.

What other trends are you seeing in natural and organics? Or what's your takeaway from the Expo if you attended? I'd love to hear your take!

 

American Academy of Pediatrics: Changing Their Organics Tune?

American Academy of PediatricsIn a total disconnect, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued two papers in the past month on two of the hottest topics in the nutrition and health world: organics and pesticides. And the messages couldn't be more mixed. First, on October 22nd the AAP weighed in on Organic Food for Children (I was lucky enough to attend the press conference live). Their conclusion? Looking primarily at nutrient value of fruits, vegetables and milk,  the authors concluded that organic foods provide the same vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other nutrients as conventional foods.

What happened next? For most major news outlets, some version of the headline “Organic no better than conventional” rapidly spread throughout the digital world.

While the report did acknowledge that there may be a reduction in exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and antibiotic resistant bacteria, and paid token respect to it better for the environment, these points seemed to get lost in the report’s final conclusion that “in the long term, there is currently no direct evidence that consuming an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease”.

 

But hold on...

 

This week, the AAP issued a surprisingly strong (in my opinion) policy statement which struck a different tone when it came to pesticides, one which painted the issue as potentially more serious in children, and something that pediatricians should bring up at your child’s next checkup.  The report, titled “Pesticide Exposure in Children” (and to be published in the December 2012 issue of Pediatrics) provided these takeaways:

There’s a real health benefit to children of choosing an organic diet. The Policy cites food as one of the primary sources for children of pesticides-writing "for many children, diet may be the most influential source" (p.e1758).

The case continues to build for organicsStudies are getting more sophisticated (for example, we are now able to look at things like combined exposures and genetic susceptibility), and the past decade has seen a great expansion in the evidence supporting the adverse effects of chronic pesticide exposure. In fact, according to the authors, prospective studies have found early life exposure to a class of insecticides used in agriculture - called organophosphates- is linked with reductions in IQ and abnormal behavior associated with ADD, ADHD and autism.

What To do? First, Do No Harm. Then, Choose Organic (even just strategically)

It’s true that the first step towards healthy eating is to be sure you’re plate is loaded with the right foods: a diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and heart healthy fats is the cornerstone of good health for growing bodies. But then, if your goal is to continue to maximize health and minimize risk, the evidence suggests that minimizing pesticide exposure is a sound next step that may provide real health benefits-and choosing organically produced foods to the extent that you are able is the best way to do that.

While I can understand that the AAP doesn't want to discourage families from eating a wide array of fruits and vegetables (and agree with that logic), to mention food as a primary source of  pesticide exposure in this policy, and then not  follow up with a recommendation to minimize that exposure through choosing foods produced without them, seems a disservice to parents. In fact, if this disjointed line of thinking were happening in my pediatricians’ office, I’d probably start looking for another pediatrician.

All of us deserve access to the best possible food for our families. And many, many of us are concerned about how to do this on a budget. Even just starting with the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen (which the organics paper cites as a viable resource) is a great step towards cleaning up your diet and protecting your family. Or check out my 9 Easy Ways to Go Organic on A Budget blog post for more tips and tricks.

 

GMOs Are the Tipping Point of Taking Back Consumer Power

GMO.jpg

Right to KnowHow I wish I lived in California right now. Not because as a Utahn I often fall prey to food envy, thinking of those lucky Californians with their oh-so-delicious produce, unfettered access to a plush supply of seasonal, local foods, or even the ridiculous ease with which they can savor delicious organic or vegan foods at every street corner. That’s all still true-but the reason I am so envious of Californians now is because on November 6th, Californians are poised to decide the “food fate” of America when they vote on Proposition 37, which would require labeling of GMOs on food labels (Prop 37).

We Have a Right to Know. Over 90% of Americans favor labeling of GMOs, one of the widest majorities of any food issue in history.  As a health professional, a mother, and an American, I believe everyone deserves the right to decide for themselves whether whether or not buy foods containing GMOs. And NOW is our time to speak up.

Let’s not let Monsanto shape the conversation for us, or lead us down murky, sidetracking debates about safety, “a nanny state”, or increased costs to consumers.  I just want a food label, so I can decide for myself. It’s that simple. But then again, it’s not. The food industry has spent tens of of millions of dollars fighting to convince Americans there’s no need for labeling; they understand that as California goes, so goes America, as Mark Bittman blogged about recently here. It’s a power struggle that is poised to shape the food landscape in America for decades to come.

Yet fresh questions about safety arose earlier this month when a newly published study in Food and Chemical Toxicology, the first ever peer reviewed long term study, looked at the effects of consuming GMO corn over time-and found it linked to significantly higher rates of tumors, organ damage, and premature death in rats. The study’s findings, while only one piece of data in the entire GMO story, nonetheless raises significant concerns, and at the very least reminds us that we are still learning the impacts of a food technology that’s only been around for 15 years. In fact, the results were alarming enough that this week Russia announced it’s banning GMOs. Russia now joins 50 countries around the world that require labeling-but the U.S. is not one of them.

“Choice is a Good Thing” The food industry has been reciting this mantra for decades. Choice in labeling is a good thing, too. If Prop 37 is approved, it will have a powerful ripple effect in cleaning up our food supply-lets let consumers decide with the power of the purse whether they want GMOs in their foods or not.  Food advocate Robyn O’Brien summed up perfectly what’s at stake for all of us when she wrote:

“We have a right to independent, long-term studies that examine what the impact of these novel technologies and manufactured chemicals might be on the health of our loved ones, our pregnancies and our children, we have the right to know how our food is produced, and like 50 countries around theworld, we have the right to labels on these genetically engineered ingredients, so that as mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, as Americans, we can make an informed choice when it comes to feeding our loved ones. “

(Read her entire blog here)

California, now’s our chance. Let’s take it!USDA Organic Certified

What You Can Do to Stay GMO Free:

- Buy foods bearing the USDA Organic Certified label

Non GMO Verified- Look for foods with the Non GMO Project Verified Label (see right)

 

 

Learn More at http://www.nongmoproject.org and tell the FDA to label GMO foods at www.justlabelit.org.

 

Posted with assistance from Lindsey Toth, MS, RD

Arsenic in Organic Baby Foods: Duped by the Organics Promise?

arsenic.jpg

A new study from Dartmouth University is making many moms pause and wonder if perhaps they have been duped by the promise of organics. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives  tested a total of 17 infant and toddler formulas, 29 cereal bars, and 3 energy shots for the presence of arsenic.  One ingredient in particular - organic brown rice syrup (OBRS)- seemed to be the common culprit, as products that contained OBRS contained up to 12 times the EPA’s safe drinking water limit for arsenic. Organic brown rice syrup is a commonly used sweetener (and carbohydrate source)  in organic foods, and is viewed by many as a healthier alternative to high fructose corn syrup. In the study, researchers found that the two toddler formulas containing OBRS as a primary ingredient had arsenic levels more than 20 times greater than the formulas that didn’t contain OBRS. The cereal bars and energy drinks containing OBRS also had significantly higher levels of arsenic than those bars and shots without the ingredient.  Arsenic is known to affect brain development in children (who, because of their rapid growth and development are particularly susceptible to the toxin), and may increase the risk of certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

 

What Does This Tell Us About Organics?

To be sure, headlines like “High Arsenic Levels Found in Organic Foods, Baby Formula” touches (or rather, stabs) at every mother’s soft spot and fear factor.  As a mother of two young children myself, the idea of arsenic in anything is at once terrifying and maddening, especially when it comes to our little ones. Many of us feel particularly irked by a finding like this if we’ve parted with our hard earned cash for organics in the belief that it’s a better choice for us and our children.

While the research is indeed newsworthy, here’s how I see the key takeaways.

Takeaway #1:  This story is about rice.

This study did not find that organic brown rice syrup contained more arsenic than conventional brown rice syrup. So the wrong conclusion would be something like “see, I knew organics weren’t any better!” or “shoot, does this mean organic is just as ‘bad’ as conventional?”.

What this study does do is highlight the fact that rice, because of how it likes to grow, can be a source of inorganic arsenic (“inorganic” in this case refers just to the chemical structure of the arsenic, not the USDA Organic certification program).  You see, rice plants like to absorb silica from the surrounding environment, which helps it stand up in waterlogged soil. The problem? Apparently arsenic looks a lot like silica to the rice plant, and is also absorbed to varying degrees depending on the rice variety (brown rice typically contains higher levels than white rice because the arsenic stays in an outer layer which is removed with polishing). To me, the takeaway is that we need to address lingering arsenic in our soil from past agricultural or industrial practices, especially when we are growing molecule-grabbing crops like rice. That we need a federal program to test arsenic levels in our food and beverages (see Takeaway #4). Or that if maybe (for now) it’s wise to limit products with brown rice syrup (including OBRS) listed as a primary ingredient until we have more information.

Takeaway #2:  Organics are still the best choice for you and your family.

Part of the clash in the “organic vs. conventional” debate comes in defining what we mean when we say  “better”.  While the science on the absolute nutritional benefits is still being established  (The Organic Center has the latest science here), when I personally use the word “better”, I mean that because organics protects you from added hormones, antibiotics, GMOs, irradiated food, potentially harmful pesticides and more (Stonyfield has a helpful list of specific differences between conventional and organic here ).  I believe you should buy organic as much as you can afford to-especially with key purchases like meat and dairy products, plus produce on “the Dirty Dozen” list. To help you, here are my tips to buy organics on a budget .

Takeaway #3: Organics are not immune to laws of nature.

Alas, just as organics isn’t immune to the laws of dieting (organic ice cream is still loaded with saturated fat and calories, for example, and organic candy bars are still candy bars), organic plants must still subscribe to Nature’s laws.  This study offers a good reminder that organics doesn’t automatically mean “safe”, but is a system like any other, that still needs to continually strive forward in best practices.

Takeaway #4: It’s time for federal regulations on arsenic in our food and beverages. 

Most of us are shocked to think that there are currently no US regulations regarding arsenic levels in food or juice. Hopefully, that’s set to change. Earlier this month, two U.S. Representatives introduced a bill that would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to set safety standards for arsenic and lead in juices within 2 years.  (Shortly after Dr. Oz broke a controversial story last year about arsenic in apple juice, Consumer Reports issued its own findings: of 88 apple and grape juice samples tested, 10% had arsenic levels that exceeded federal standards.

From Bean to Bar: 7 Ecofriendly Chocolate Picks for Valentine's Day

ecofriendly-chocolate.png

Fair Trade Chocolate Valentine’s Day’s promise of dark chocolate offers us nutritionists a glimmer of hope: make the right choice and indulge only on the Big Day, and chocolate is a sensual, deliciously healthy treat. BUT...succumb to a month-long “free for all” that starts each morning at the barista (“Valentine’s drink”, anyone?) and ends each night on the couch with the clicker, downing sweets with your sweetheart and... well... you get the point.

Of course, I love chocolate because it’s one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet (you may want to skip this paragraph if you already know about the health benefits). High quality dark chocolate is teeming with bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, which research suggests help improve our arteries’ endothelial function, lower blood pressure, and increase blood flow to the brain.  Dark chocolate is also high in antioxidants called proanthocyanins that mop up free radicals. And that rush of pleasure you feel when you indulge? Chocolate helps trigger the release of feel good neurotransmitter dopamine, boosting your mood instantly.

Everyone deserves to eat good food. In these extraordinarily turbulent times, talking about high quality, ecofriendly chocolate may make you think I'm posturing more like a foodie than a food revolutionary. But my interest in pointing you to the best ecofriendly chocolate available isn't because it's more elite, but because all the health benefits I mentioned happen only with high quality dark chocolate (containing 70% cocoa or higher).  Secondly,  many of the companies I've listed below are having powerful, positive economic and environmental impacts on people and the planet-precisely the type of change to "the system" that people around the world are rising up and demanding. So please, resist the urge to dump a bag of cheap candy into your shopping cart these next few days, and purchase smaller amounts of higher quality confections if you can. Bargain priced, highly processed chocolate products typically have a litany of unsavory ingredients tagging along like barnacles, such as high fructose corn syrup, waxes, trans fats, binders, and palm oil (and I won't even bore you with the research showing how much more you'll eat just by having tons of it lying around).  Steer clear, too, of those new versions of traditional candy bars that claim to be loaded with healthy flavonols - if they aren’t Organic or Fair Trade Certified, you’re missing out on all the sweet rewards that come with greener, ecofriendly chocolate.

 

From Bean to Bar: Why it Matters

Below are 7 of my favorite picks so you can splurge in a way that pairs top notch chocolate with top notch industry practices.  In my opinion, the best chocolates have a fully transparent “bean to bar” story,  ensure sustainable farming practices that help replenish and nourish the planet, preserve biodiversity, and support fair wages and conditions for workers.  If you got it on the cheap, someone (or some vital ecosystem that helps protect the Earth) paid the price somewhere. Given then we are set to gobble 58 million pounds of chocolate this Valentine’s Day, those things matter.

And while Organic and Fair Trade chocolate carries a higher price tag, the nutritionist in me says that in some ways, this is how chocolate should be priced: its higher price helps you to value it (when we value things we treat them with more respect and awareness), to savor it (you’ll be mindful when you eat it), and to see it as a true splurge (which means you’ll make it a special treat rather than eating fistfuls every day). A perfect lean and green strategy.

Eat Right For Your Type: What Kind of Chocolate Eater Are You?

1.  For the Trend Setter: ALTER ECO Dark Quinoa Chocolate is a crispy chocolate like no other. With the fun contrasting crunch akin to a Nestle Crunch bar, but so, so much better: made with cacao and quinoa from Bolivia, this chocolate bar contains 61% cocoa and brings together ancient ingredients from the Andeans. Quinoa adds nutritious iron, protein, and fiber to your splurge.

2.  For the Serious Do-Gooder:  Original Beans. This one really impressed me. For every bar you buy, local community farmers plant a tree that will support the forest; not just rare cacao trees, but a mix of trees necessary for lively biodiversity. And get this: each bar even contains a lot tracking number, which designates the location of a new tree so that you can track your contribution online. Oh, and the chocolate is breathtakingly good.

3.  For Those Who Like to  Double Down: Double your health benefits with Green and Blacks Ginger or Sour Cherries Chocolate Bars. Sour Cherries have powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, and help boost your body’s melatonin, a compound which helps ensure a good night sleep. Ginger contains powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory compounds, and helps  soothe the gastrointestinal tract.

4.  For the Data-Driven: After trying over 35 chocolates for Consumer Reports 2012 taste tests, Theo Chocolate Confection Collection got the testers’ high-rating nod. Attribute it to heavenly things like “lemon ganache, fig, mint, and ginger enrobed in flavorful dark chocolate.”

Theo Chocolate Confection Collection

5.  For the Romantic: Try Theo’s limited edition Ginger Rose and Cherry Pink Peppercorn Valentine Bars. Wrapped in gorgeous pink packaging, their description alone is as steamy as an adult Valentine: “The Ginger Rose bar infuses our rich dark chocolate with essential rose oil that yields to the heat of candied ginger”.

6.  For the Salty/ Sweet: Salazon. Ignore the “bacon and chocolate” trend, this is perfect for those who crave salty/sweet in one fell swoop. Spanish for ‘salted”,  Salazon’s chocolate bars use 100% organic, Rainforest Alliance–certified beans in small batches in the USA, and hand-sprinkled with natural, solar-evaporated sea salt. Other fun contrasting ingredients include black pepper and crushed coffee. Plus, these guys got the idea on a backpacking trip here in Utah, which I love.

Kallari Chocolate Bar

7.  For the Purist: Kallari Chocolate Bar. This award-winning Ecuadoran chocolate is deliciously rich and smooth- and produced by a cooperative of indigenous Kichwa farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. And it’s simple full circle: profits return to the cooperative to support sustainable development, health, and education programs.

8.  For Those Who Don’t Like Chocolate: want to stay calorie free but still tread lightly on the planet? Try to buy organic flowers. According to Pesticide Action Network commercial flowers (often produced in other countries) are the most toxic and heavily sprayed agricultural crops on Earth. Alternately, look for  Florverde Certified flowers- a rigorous certification which requires better treatment of workers and more sustainable farming practices.

 

Want to see even more companies that are offering chocolate with a clean conscience? Business Week  has a great review here.

 

Got other favorites? I’d love to hear about them!

 

Written with assistance from Lindsey Toth, MS, RD

America, We are Occupying the Food System: Interview with Marion Nestle

barilla-pyramid.jpg

Double Food Environmental Pyramid - Interview with Marion Nestle I’ve just wrapped the second day of Barilla's 3rd International Food and Nutrition Symposium , where sessions today focused on"disnutrition" (a term I love that was introduced here to encompass the issues of obesity and malnutrition), the BCFN Double Environmental Pyramid, and the role of nutrition in childhood and aging. Still, I was determined to find a nugget of positive action to bring back to America- what were there bright spots? Reasons to celebrate? To my wonderful surprise, my interview with “food movement mamma” Marion Nestle left me feeling not just a burst of American pride, but even more important, hope for my two children. Here’s what we dished about:

Kate: How do we translate what we’ve learned here into actionable steps in the US at the consumer level?

Marion Nestle: Well we are translating it. I see more action going on in the United States than I see going on here about the kinds of issues that are being discussed at this conference. This conference is way at the leading edge of what’s happening in Italy (she then talked about how meals at her hotel were devoid of veggies).

Kate: Marion, with all the emphasis at this Forum placed on creating an alternative food model, do you have any hope for this in the U.S.? Any bright spots we can feel good about?

Marion Nestle: I think the food movement is very hopeful in the US. I’ve already seen enormous changes, phenomenal changes as a result of the food movement, things that I never thought were possible, and mainstreamed in ways that nobody could have ever predicted.

 

Here’s what Marion Nestle touched on, in both her session and our interview, as bright spots in the US food System:

Seven Bright Spots in the US "Occupy Food" Movement:

1. You can now get a good (“or at least halfway decent, some better than others”) selection of fruits and vegetables in any supermarket in America

2. The number of farmers markets has dramatically increased in just the last few years

3: More and more people joining CSAs than ever before

4: Urban farming is the rage (“in New York City of all places!”)

5: Local food has become really, really important

6: Much better food in schools

7: Greater awareness, like the NYC anti soda campaign.

 

Now that's something to toast on the long ride home tomorrow. What do you think are the  bright spots for seeds of change in the US Food system? I'd love to hear from you!

To see a recap of the twitter conversation check out my handle @greeneating, the conference  hashtag #BCFNforum, or the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition webinar page (who, in full  disclosure, sponsored my posts from the conference).

 

 

 

9 Easy Tricks to Buy Organic on a Budget

mom-grocery-shopping1.jpg

Buy OrganicAs Marc Bittman beautifully wrote this week there are tremendous bright spots in America's growing quest to bring better food to people's plates. As we head into one of the most food-centric times of the year, I thought I'd shun any kind of "dietitian-y" type advice  (i.e. what calorie bombs you should skip from the buffet table), and instead share with you my favorite strategies to help you buy better groceries in every sense of the word this season better for you, better for your budget, and better for the planet. Now, that's something to be thankful for long after the leftovers have been eaten.  

1. Go Generic. Nearly every major supermarket chain now carries its own line of USDA certified organic foods under their own private label (such as Safeway Organics), so look for them the next time you’re at your favorite grocery store. This not only saves you the cost of an extra trip to a more upscale market or a separate natural foods store, but it can cost significantly less than other organic brands.
 
2. Buy the Whole Bird. Don't just "buy the bird" one day a year at Thanksgiving, but if you do this year round you can eat organic poultry and save a bundle. Instead of buying thighs or breast separately, buy a whole organic chicken and ask the butcher cut it up for you; not only will this reduce the amount of plastic waste, but buying a whole organic chicken can cost the same amount as two large chicken breasts. If your'e feeling bold, try carving the bird yourself with this great how-to video by Rodale. Bonus: you'll save money on your sandwich the next day, too; tuck leftover roasted chicken into a whole grain pita with a half-cup of fresh veggies, and you’ll pack in organic protein while spending significantly less than buying pre-cut deli meat.
 
3. Be Picky About Portion Size. At the meat or fish counter, it is standard practice to tell a customer to estimate 6-8 oz per person when determining how much to buy. If you're cheffing up a feast for 12 like many of us do over the holidays, that calculation gets pricey fast. Stick to 3 oz. per person instead and cut your “main course” bill in half instantly; use the extra savings to splurge on organic meat or poultry instead (currently there are no organic standards for fish). Enjoy those 3 oz. portions with an abundance of seasonal vegetables (like a puree of celery root and potatoes)  and a side salad for a hearty meal that still leaves everyone satisfied. Bonus? Paring back on portions will help you stay slim while you savor the holidays.
 
4. Browse Big Box Retailers. Everyday staples such as organic milk, yogurt and produce are often available at big box retailers at closer-to-big-box prices, making these items more within the reach of everyone. And many of the companies who supply these chains offer downloadable coupons on their websites, saving you even more at the checkout counter.
 
5. Fill Up on Frozen. The freezer case is one of the best bargains in the supermarket when it comes to organic; stock up on your favorite frozen organic fruits and vegetables (with no added sauces or syrups) for baking, smoothies, soups and side dishes. The added bonus? Not only are frozen veggies and fruits often just as nutritionally sound as fresh (and in the case of limp looking veggies, even more so), they are on your schedule, meaning there’s no risk of costly spoilage if that last minute holiday party derails your cooking plans.
 
6. Skip the Salad. As a dietitian, of course I love to encourage people to fill up on foliage, but salad greens are the number-one food item that gets thrown out because of food spoilage. According to a 2007 UK report, a shocking 48% of all salad Brits bought was thrown away. If you're someone who commonly has what amounts to a science experiment in your bin because you're not getting to it in time, save money by skipping organic salad and buying something more forgiving instead, such as organic sweet potatoes (which last weeks in your pantry) or frozen broccoli (which lasts for months in your freezer).
 
7. Bulk Up. As Lia Huber noted, bulk bins are not anything like your dusty dim co-op aisles of yesteryear. Bulk bins are one of the best places in the supermarket to save money while still buying organic foods and stretch into new whole grains while you're at it. Stock up on salubrious staples like brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, teff, barley and more.
 
8. Love Those Legumes! Dollar for dollar, meat, fish and poultry are some of the costliest calories in your cart. During this meat and cheese heavy time of the year, serving delicious vegetarian meals on nights you're home from all the merrymaking is not only an easy way to help you avoid holiday weight gain, it also allows you to free up more food dollars to put toward organic options. Use your favorite organic canned beans (rinse first to remove excess sodium) for a satisfying soup or chili; save even more by soaking dried beans or lentils overnight. Sprinkle beans with organic taco seasoning for delicious Southwestern bean tacos that will even have carnivores asking for more.
 
9. Pass on Organic Junk Food. Just because it's organic doesn't mean it's automatically healthy; be sure at least three-quarters of your grocery cart is loaded with whole foods that look as close to the way they're found in nature as possible. Organic soda, whipped cream and snack chips, for instance, are still high calorie splurges that pack on the pounds and pad your grocery bill.
 
 
What are your favorite tips for buying organic on a budget? I'd love to hear from you!
With help from Lindsey Toth, MS, RD

6 Must Have Sustainable Snacks for Summer Roadtrips

road-trip.jpg

road trip sustainable snacksHitting the road this summer? Whether a day trip to the beach or an extended road trip to a far flung relative, when your vacay crams in the car, it’s even more challenging to eat something you can feel really good about. But with new research this month finding that Americans consume 25% of their calories from “snacks” (which weigh in at a whopping 580 calories total) summer dashboard dining habits matter, especially if a bathing suit is in your future. Here are 6 super convenient, tasty lean and green Sustainable Snacks that kids and parents alike will love-that will also have you SAVING Green when as well. My criteria? They had to be eco-friendly, healthy, tasty and fun. And “car picks” must withstand searing hot car temps for a day or two- and couldn’t require fussy utensils or other tricky setup that seems impossibly difficult at 70 miles an hour.

 

Justin's Nut Butter Packets1) Justin's Nut Butter Packs. These high protein, high satiety and uber flavorful nut butter packs are portable beyond compare. And because Justin created his own unique method of grinding his masterpieces,these healthy summer snacks taste richer, and, well, nuttier than any other nut butters on the market (The almond maple butter and honey peanut butter are my kids faves). Most are USDA certified organic. Best of all, they can stand up to searing summer heat (at least, for a few weeks), making them a bit more durable.

 

2) Baba Ganoush. Last year I blogged about these wonderful falafel balls with Greek yogurt and pita - I'm still on a Mediterranean kick with this fantastically portable Baba Ghanoush by Blue Moose of Boulder (available at Whole Foods, but look for any brand in the chilled fancy food area of your grocery store). Tote along some whole wheat pita (I cut mine up with a pizza cutter into wedges and then put back into the plastic bag for the trip, so kids and grownups can just help themselves). Add some bagged carrots and you've got 2 veggies and a whole grain for snacking! Or you can always make your own, with a delicious recipe like this one.

 

Earthbound Farms Organic Snack Packs3) Earthbound Farm Organic Snack Packs. For the perfect lean and green overlap, swing by your local farmers’ market before you go and fill a small cooler with amazing edible eats like seasonal peaches, plums and hydrating cantaloupe. But if you’re on the road already, many supermarkets now carry Earthbound Farm Organic Snack Packs. These snack packs come in a variety of fruit and veggie options, and are not only organic, but are fantastically convenient for car eating as well. Coming in varieties ranging from apple slices to carrot snack packs, these are the perfect way to keep fruits and veggies in the mix while on the road. For a double bonus you can even try dipping the apple slice snackers in a pack of Justin’s Nut Butter, or bring along a small container of hummus for the carrots (I love reusing a container from my kids’ Laptop Lunch for this purpose).

 

liberty bottleworks4) A Liberty Bottleworks Water Bottle. I LOVE these bottles! Liberty Bottleworks’ water bottles are the ONLY Made in the USA 100% recycled bottle, totally BPA free and with a recycled lid to boot. Fill them with water and stay cool  for hours while you sip sustainably- after recently meeting the company founder on a fieldtrip to Rodale, I am a convert. Their full circle commitment to job creation and  keeping iconic brands made America (many of the other top reusable water bottles are made in Europe or China), had me feeling good at the deepest level that this company embodies the way forward to a more sustainable future. And the best part? Not only will the generous size (and splash proof design) remind you that ZERO CALORIE drinking is key (that new snack study found Americans spend 85 minutes a day drinking liquid calories, a 90% increase from 2006) , the artwork is to die for gorgeous and innovative.

 

5) Cucumber. Cucumbers are one of the most refreshing, hydrating and economical summer fruits around. They are loaded with water, to help keep you cool, but their skin also contains silica, a mineral that keeps your own summer skin plump and glowing.

Because we all have enough to pack and prep when hitting the road (or because I’m just lazy), I will either pack 1 giant hothouse cucumber (that I’ve washed well), hacked into 4 big pieces...or else a bunch of individual smaller cucumbers (those cute pickling ones are the best) from the farmer’s market. Kids and adults love nibbling directly from it, and it’s one less container I need to wash!

 

 

 

6) Sunflower Seeds. We have several “salty/crunchy” types in my family, but rather than digging into a bag of chips large enough to drown my firstborn, I tote a mix of roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds instead, which are packed with important minerals like zinc and magnesium, their combo of heart healthy fat, fiber and protein is the winning trifecta to keep hunger at bay all the way “until we get there”. On the run? These powerhouse seeds are easy to find at most convenience stores and gas stations as well, making your healthy on the road snacking a breeze.

 

What are your favorite sustainable summer snacks? I would love to hear about them!

 

(In full disclosure, I received free samples from Justin’s Nut Butter and Liberty Bottle Works when I asked them for info about their products).

Written with assistance from Lindsey Toth, MS, RD