The Natural Products Expo West is right around the corner and I am thrilled to be part of this event! From March 7-11, 2018, the world's top food pioneers, healthy food innovators and up-and-coming natural product brands shaping the future of food will come together under one roof.Read More
Ready to step into the best foods spring has to offer? As the season when fresh, healthy, nourishing options abound, check out these 10 no-fuss ways I shared with Clean Eating Magazine this month on how a greener diet can also help you stay lean this spring – while loving every delicious bite along the way.
Clean Eating Magazine: 10 Ways Eating Green Can Keep You Lean
Fall is my favorite season….I love the crisp leaves underfoot, the arrival of those warming hearty comfort foods, and anticipating the tastes of holidays to come in a sumptuous array of spiced, pumpkin-y goodies that show up this time of year. I mean, pumpkin is one of those feel good indulgences we dietitians love to crow about-rich in beta carotene, vitamin A and fiber…with canned pumpkin boasting a shelf life that works for even the most laid back plans to get around to using it.
But here's the catch: if you look closely, you'll discover, to your immense disappointment (and if you're like me, perhaps some slight irritation), that many of the feted "pumpkin" holiday treats actually contain little, if any, actual real pumpkin. To make matters worse, a close look at some of the most popular and prevalent (for instance, those pumpkin spiced lattes or baked breakfast goods) reveals that they can be actually shockingly high in all sorts of added sugars, trans fats, artificial colors, flavors, or other scary ingredients.
So before you before you eat it, sip it, or swirl it into your breakfast this fall in the name of healthy holiday indulgences, be a stickler for the details, read the label, and insist on high quality ingredients that sound like they came from your kitchen.
Or you can simply make it yourself. Here is one of our favorite fall desserts to make at our house…it’s like pumpkin pie in a glass! We serve it for dessert, because…well, who are we kidding? It's sweetness feels like it deserves to be called a dessert. This version is vegan, and I prefer to use Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin from the tetra pack-no BPA concerns that you can have with canned pumpkin.
Spiced Fall Real Pumpkin Smoothie
1 cup vanilla non-dairy frozen dessert (I used ALMOND DREAM® Vanilla Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert for this recipes)
1/2 cup almond, rice or soy milk (unsweetened), chilled
1/2 cup Canned Pumpkin Pie Mix (I used Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin Pie Mix)
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup ice
pinch of clove
- Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until combined. Pour equally into 2 glasses.
- Top with a pinch of clove. Enjoy immediately.Serves 2
In 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 organics. Studies 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.
How 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. “
California, now’s our chance. Let’s take it!
What You Can Do to Stay GMO Free:
- Buy foods bearing the USDA Organic Certified label
- Look for foods with the Non GMO Project Verified Label (see right)
Posted with assistance from Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Pity the poor acai berry. At the recent Expo West in Anaheim, CA (which drew over 60,000 visitors), one thing was clear: this was the berry to beat when it came to claiming uber health benefits. I saw several older trends still going strong, such as the coconut craze, and chocolate-as-a-miracle-health-food (kinda forgetting it’s still an indulgence to be eaten in small portions). There were lots of newcomers as well- and like any Expo, I had to ask: “what’s hot and what’s hype?” Here’s my take on natural and organic trends from Expo West 2012 that may come to influence a supermarket near you. .
1. Get Ready for Nut Butters 2.0 As a flexitarian, I am slightly addicted to nut butters. Packed with protein, heart healthy fats, and a slew of vitamins and minerals, they are perfect for a power snack or to slather on toast or oatmeal (I often carry single serve nut butters in my purse and car for snacking emergencies). But might we have taken things too far? Goji butters, phytoplankton butters, acaii butters and more joined this increasingly cluttered field-some which were an algae-ish brown color and tasted, well, like something algae-ish brown would taste. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps we’ve taken things too far-we’re back to health food tasting more “healthy” than amazing. I also couldn’t help but question the actual health benefits one might receive from some of these combinations-is a smidgeon of goji berry in a nut butter better than, say, slathering a spoonful of your favorite local 100% blueberry preserves?
Bottom Line: If you love em’, there’s probably no harm in adding them to your cart. But unless you are excited to pay a premium for exotic add ins that may or may not confer an actual health benefit, ignore the hype and stick to flavors and blends where the ingredients have sound science behind them (like nuts and seeds).
2. Pity the Poor Acai Berry “New” berries and superfoods from the remote reaches of rainforest or steppes are still granted an instant health halo. If goji and acai are old news, Sea Buckhorn from Tibet, Murta and Calfate from Chile, and a gorgeous Aronia berry from the USA are all newer superfruits that may be coming to a market (or supplement shelf) near you-all touted ORAC scores higher and more potent than acaii. But are they worth it?
Bottom Line: Until we see the science of real benefits in health outcomes, I put these in a “nice to have” category of eating. While these superfruits may boast ORAC scores that would make a health nut swoon, it’s an expensive proposition, as most come in powder or extract form, that you then add to smoothies or consume daily in addition to food. Paying $25 of $30 or more for a powder that you sprinkle into smoothies is likely a stretch for most Americans, who are just struggling to put enough fruits and veggies in their grocery carts.
. 3. Fancy A Seaweed Snack? Would you nosh on seaweed as a snack? You will be, if the trends at Expo are any indication. A host of different seaweed snack companies were there-and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. Of course, seaweed and sea vegetables are nutrient rich foods that can be a healthy addition to your diet-they often contain trace minerals and vitamins. However, in a perky little snack pack (which can be plain or seasoned), there’s an awful lot of packaging to preserve the delicate nature of seaweed, which felt wasteful to me (there may have been other companies there that I didn’t see who had a different packaging alternative, if so my apologies, I’d love to hear about you). Also, since the seaweed is so light, airy, and the eating experience so quick, I can’t help but wonder...being low in calorie, and have scant amounts of protein and fiber, I’m also worried that the typical American might not feel as satisfied with it-and will end up snacking again later.
Bottom Line: If you like it, could be a healthy addition-but caution with all that packaging. 4. Can you plant your bar in the ground? You’d Better, If You’re Calling it LIVE FOOD. Call it a “full circle moment”. Standing at the “Go Raw” booth the man proceeded to show me how you could literally unwrap the bar (a living pumpkin seed bar), plant it in dirt-and voila-it will sprout! I must admit, I was impressed-it gave me a a deep, primitive satisfaction that this food really was still somehow fresh food (now in a convenient, portable bar). Raw foods are heated just enough to destroy any potentially dangerous pathogens, but to keep the vital living secrets inside the seeds thriving. With all the push I’ve noticed of large conventional food companies trying to remind you how “close to the farm” and “straight from nature” their products are, this was a refreshing, immensely appealing approach.
Bottom Line: This is a trend that’s got real health benefits in my opinion. Will be interesting to see if it catches on mainstream. Loved it!
. 5. You Can Track Your Food Back to the Source.
Want to know exactly on which farm (or even which acre of the farm) your product was grown? Want to track the entire journey from field to bread, from bean to bar? No problem-many companies are now touting QSR codes that can be scanned to your smart phone and the unique story of that bar or loaf comes to life.
Bottom Line: Most people I know already feel overwhelmed with information overload. So while I applaud and admire the concept of transparency in the chain, I have to ask: will consumers care?
. What were your favorite trends from Expo West? What do you think of QSR codes? I’d love to hear from you.
Posted with assistance from Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
As 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.