Posts Tagged ‘organic food’

Celebrate Earth Day Wednesday, April 22



Earth Day is a time when people from all over the world unite to celebrate the earth and appreciate its beauty. Founded in 1970, Earth Day was first organized in “to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution.”  Much progress has been made over these last 45 years, but there is lots more to do.


What will you do to celebrate? You can…..


– Plant a tree – it’s spring!

– Sow some seeds for your garden

– Visit a local farm

– Change a conventional light bulb to an energy-saving compact fluorescent or LED

– Pick up litter on the beach

– Take part in a trash pick-up

– Use a travel mug rather than a styrofoam cup for your coffee-to-go

– Drink from a reusable, BPA-free water bottle

– Recycle newspapers, bottles and cans

– Start a compost bin in your backyard for kitchen waste

– Make a commitment to drive less and carpool or walk more

– Take public transportation

– Shorten your shower by one minute

– Shut down your computer for one hour

– Pick up roadside trash

– Attend an Earth Day event in your area or volunteer

– Include your kids and grandkids and teach them about the importance of protecting our beautiful earth

– Serve an Earth dinner with local, organic ingredients; use candlelight


Coincidentally, I will be moving into our just built, energy-efficient, healthy green home, which after several years of designing, permitting, living in rentals and dealing with the headaches of building, is at last ready. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day!

More blogs to come about what makes our new home green. Stay tuned…..


Some information compiled from:


For more green tips, visit


Eating Fish Is More Complicated Than You Think!


Fish is not a health food, according to Dr. Furhman, a board-certified family physician, NY Times best-selling author, nutritional researcher, and an internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing.  He maintains, “If you eat fish regularly, your body is undoubtedly high in mercury, which can damage the heart and brain. Pregnant women may compromise their babies’ brain development by mercury exposure associated with eating fish, and eating more fish is also associated with increased breast cancer risk.”  He recommends to either avoid fish or eat it no more than once a week and choose those lowest in mercury such as flounder, scallops, trout, sole, squid, wild salmon or sardines.

Fish is a healthy and delicious alternative to meat and obviously some choices are safer than others.  Still, reading Dr. Furhman’s report is jarring.  I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website, which helps consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans and for consuming safe fish, to read their recommendations.

The Seafood Watch program categorizes fish into “Best Choices”, “Good Alternatives”, and which ones to “Avoid”.

Their Super Green or “Best Choices” lists seafood that meets the following three criteria:

  • Has low levels of mercury
  • Provides at least 250 milligrams per day (mg/d) of omega-3s
  • Is classified as a Seafood Watch “Best Choice” (green)

Best Choice List includes:

  • Atlantic Mackerel (purse seine from Canada and the U.S.)
  • Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
  • Pacific Sardines (wild-caught)
  • Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)
  • Salmon, Canned (wild-caught, from Alaska)

Next Best choices:

  • Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
  • Sablefish/Black Cod (from Alaska and Canadian Pacific)

Click here for the “Good Alternatives” and “Avoid” list, as well as a seafood search for detailed information regarding specific fish.  You can actually download seafood watch lists for your  region of the country.  

The “Best Choices” list isn’t very long.  Sadly, eating safe, nutritious food is getting harder.  Staying informed by reading information from trusted sources is one solution, eating local, organically grown whole food is another.


For more green living tips, visit

Information compiled from: and


Celebrate Earth Day!



Mark your calendars for Earth Day next Tuesday, April 22, a day to commemorate the earth, celebrate green acts, raise awareness and work towards a more sustainable future.  If you read my blog regularly, I imagine you already practice green acts.  Earth Day is a good time to commit to adding new green habits.


What else can you do?


  • Adopt “meatless Mondays”. The meat industry is responsible for nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Spring is a good time to start composting your kitchen waste.  This time next year your compost pile will have turned into dark, rich compost with which to pot your spring plants or to spread on trouble spots on your lawn. By contrast, when food goes into the landfill, it rots and emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
  • In addition to your reusable water bottle, bring along a reusable mug when you buy a coffee or tea (Many coffee shops charge you a reduced price when you do so.)  Paper cups are less toxic than polystyrene cups, but they still use a significant amount of resources.  Twenty million trees (a renewable resource) are cut down annually to manufacture paper cups, most of which are coated with a fossil fuel-derived plastic, and 8,095 gallons of water are used to make 10,000 paper cups with sleeves.
  • Think about the amount of electricity you use every day – the coffee maker, blender, hair dryer, hair straightener, electric toothbrush, iron, computer,  printer, tv,  air conditioning, lights, etc.  Try and reduce your usage by unplugging your appliances when not in use; consider power strips to help control  vampire energy.  Encourage your family and friends to do the same.
  • Test drive a hybrid or electric car when you are next in the market for a new car. I drive an electric car and feel so good driving my carbon emission free car and love not paying those high gas prices!  (It doesn’t significantly increase your electricity bill.)
  • Start an Earth Dinner tradition serving local, organic foods, using real cutlery and cloth napkins, and eating by candlelight to save energy.  Find out who grew your food and the history of the recipes you are cooking from.  Connecting to your food makes the experience more meaningful.  Of course you will be washing your dishes with non-toxic detergent, right?


With every passing year, I notice greener living  becoming the new way of life.  That’s encouraging!


Want to know your ecological footprint?  Click here to find out (and how to reduce it).


Some information compiled from


Eco-College Choices

My thoughts are with all my East Coast readers as they recover from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. 

As you help your high school child navigate the overwhelming college selection process, you might want to consider commitment to sustainability along with academic excellence, location, affordability, and size. According to the Princeton Review’s latest Hopes and Worries survey, 68% of the sampled 7,445 college-bound students said commitment to sustainability impacts their college choice.


LEED-certified Athenaeum – Goucher College  (Photo credit: elemess)

The world is definitely moving that way and colleges are getting on board. In addition to more environmental academic offerings, many schools are incorporating green building and LEED certification in their new buildings, as well as offering organic food choices including organic gardens on campus maintained by students. More schools institute recycling and other programs to lower carbon footprint.  They provide greener transportation, more opportunities for student run sustainability groups and preparation for green jobs.  Colleges and universities are increasingly moving towards greener operations and finance.

The Princeton Review tallied a green rating on 806 colleges based on “1) whether students have a campus quality of life that is both healthy and sustainable; 2) how well a school is preparing students not only for employment in the clean energy economy of the 21st century, but also for citizenship in a world now defined by environmental challenges; and 3) how environmentally responsible a school’s policies are.”  This year’s list of the 21 colleges and universities with the highest rating are:  American University, Arizona State University, California Institute of Technology, California State University – Chico, Catawba College, Chatham University, College of the Atlantic, Columbia University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Goucher College, Green Mountain College, Harvard College, Northeastern University, San Francisco State University, University of California – Santa Cruz, University of South Carolina- Columbia, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, Vanderbilt University, and Warren Wilson University.  I’m thrilled to see that 2 of the 3 schools where my kids went, Goucher College and Vanderbilt University, are listed!

It’s encouraging to not only see change happening, but to see that institutions of higher learning are realizing the necessity of placing emphasis on sustainability as they prepare our next generation of leaders for our rapidly changing world. Of course when it comes right down to it, most kids choose their college based on something totally unexpected, like the fact that Chulula Hot Sauce was on every table in the dining room.  That was the clincher for my son!

Information compiled from Natural Awakenings, September 2012, Cool Schools and




What Are We Doing To Our Food Supply?

Today it seems that we have gone beyond the discussion about which foods are good for you and which aren’t, to which foods are poisonous, contaminated, or tainted!  Recently “Fish is not a Health Food” popped up in my email from one of my favorite (and reputable!) daily blogs, the gist of which was though the benefits of Omega-3 in fish are well-known, fish can no longer be considered a healthy food option due to the large amounts of mercury and other pollutants such as PCBs in them.  Mercury and PCBs cause damage to the heart and brain and in pregnant women can compromise their babies’ brain development.  If you eat fish regularly, your body most likely contains high amounts of mercury.  That’s a scary thought, especially when you think you are doing the right thing for your heart, brain and skin! Now recommendations are to avoid fish altogether or eat it no more than once a week. (When you do eat fish, choose the lowest mercury types like flounder, scallops, trout, sole, squid, wild salmon or sardines.)  Yet, factory-farmed chicken and beef raised in filthy, overcrowded, inhumane environments, injected with growth hormones and antibiotics, aren’t safe alternatives either.

fish baked with vegetables and herbs

fish baked with vegetables and herbs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, maybe it’s safer to eat more grains, but not rice! Two major reports from the US Food and Drug Administration and Consumer Reports magazine just came out that “focused on the worrisome amounts of arsenic in rice and popular rice-based processed foods”.  According to the Environmental Working Group, there is reason to be concerned.  They state that many rice-based foods and some fruit juices have arsenic levels much higher than is allowed in drinking water, and that the contamination does include the form of arsenic, a naturally occurring mineral, that poses a serious risk to our health.  Their recommendations are: to limit your rice consumption and try alternative grains such as quinoa, couscous, barley or bulgur; to rinse rice thoroughly before cooking and cook with a lot of water; and to limit buying products that list rice syrup as a sweetener.

Throw in GMO foods (over 80% of all processed foods contain GMOs) and pesticide-grown vegetables and fruits, and our choices for safe food are severely limited! We have a serious problem when we can’t eat the basics; food safety should be one of our inalienable rights.  Fortunately, locally grown and organic foods are a healthy and safe option, but it’s time for action greater than just switching to organic foods, which many people cannot afford, or eliminating the latest poisonous food from our diet. It’s time to clean up our water and demand change from our food growers and manufacturers.  Our future depends on it.

Some information compiled from and




Important Books and Documentaries about Healthy Eating

I love food – fresh, healthy food!  But understanding what’s healthy and safe is getting increasingly difficult. Food poisoning and food contamination are too common.  Do you buy organic?  Local? All natural? Sustainably grown? Free range?  Grass fed?  Lowfat?   Whoa……….

Fish is loaded with heart, brain, and skin-healthy omega 3.  But not all fish.  Many types are also contaminated with mercury, overfished, or farmed, which has its problems.  Chicken is a healthy, lean protein, but not if it’s injected with growth hormones and antibiotics and raised in filthy, inhumane environments. Soy is an excellent source of plant protein, but along with corn, a major GMO (genetically modified organisms) crop. GMO crops are linked to allergies and many other health issues, and what’s worse they aren’t labeled.  (There is a bill before Congress now requiring GMO foods to be labeled.)

It’s ironic that berries are a powerhouse of cancer-fighting anti-oxidants, but one of the most heavily sprayed crops with cancer-causing pesticides.  Apples are considered a super food, but they are #1 on the list of the most heavily sprayed crops.  Additionally, it seems like everyday we get conflicting advice about what is good for you and what isn’t.

It’s all too complicated.  There are several eye-opening books and documentaries however, that help make the issue of food more understandable.  Here are some of the most important.


Michael Pollan is the expert about sensible, ethical eating and has written several fascinating books on the subject.  His book The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a must read;  Food Rules is a short manual of simple food rules.  One example, don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation is the intriguing history of the fast food movement and how it has changed our diet, culture, economy and health!

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a history making bestseller published in 1962, launched the modern environmental movement.


Food, Inc., an astonishing, if not frightening film about what’s wrong in America’s industrialized food system.

Super Size Me: A fit man embarks on a 30-day challenge to eat only McDonald’s fast food.

Forks Over Knives investigates the lifestyle diseases that can be controlled or reversed by avoiding meat and processed food.  You’ll never eat meat again!

The Future of Food: A look into genetically modified food (GMOs) and the destructive path of the Monsanto Corporation.

Get informed – the future of our food supply depends on it!

Email me with questions…..

Food Rules: An Eater's Manual

Food Rules: An Eater's Manual (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

GMO Foods

gmo “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”                                                   Michael Pollan

The health risks posed by GMO (genetically modified organisms) are real and dangerous.

I urge you to read more about GMO foods to understand why they are so dangerous.  Go to nongmoshopping guide for a comprehensive explanation of GMOs, as well as tips on how to avoid GMO foods when shopping or dining out.   In general, it’s safest to buy organic and certified organic foods which are less likely to contain GMOs.   Avoid at-risk ingredients like soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn and sugar from sugar beets found in processed foods.  Always read food labels.

Download the free Non-GMO Shopping Guide app available at the app store for smartphones and Ipads to help you with your safer food choices.

To read a more detailed post on GMO foods, click here.


If you follow a whole foods diet and eat nothing from a box, bag or can, then you don’t need to worry about reading labels. Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules, simplifies the confusion about what is good for you and what isn’t with these seven words – “Eat Food. Not too much.  Mostly Plants.” (He calls processed foods “edible food like substances”.)  Realistically however, even the healthiest of eaters sometimes eats something with a label on it.  And understanding what it says is important.

Image by Betsy Wild

The fewer the ingredients listed on the label the better.  The most prominent ingredient is listed first and the least listed last. Most of the ingredients should sound like food, like organic whole wheat flour or organic short grain brown rice, instead of a name you can’t pronounce. The names of chemical additives and preservatives are long and difficult to say.   Sometimes a safe sounding name is used instead of the chemical name.  For example yeast extract is often used to hide MSG or monosodium glutamate, a flavoring for heavily processed foods to which many people have a reaction. What is worse is that there is no requirement to include the names of chemical contaminants, heavy metals, bisphenol-A, PCBs, or other toxic substances found in the food.  It’s also best to avoid foods with a lot of high fructose sugars (sugar has many names) and trans fats. Sugars and salt should be towards the end of the ingredient list.

Another concerning issue with food and food labeling is the use of genetically modified or engineered foods (GMO) – mostly soy and corn – that are in almost all processed foods.  GMO foods have insecticides built into their DNA, which supposedly are not digestible and will break down, but studies are showing otherwise. The dangers of GMO foods are numerous and there are many unknowns. Gary Hirschberg, former CEO of Stonyfield Farm yogurt has launched “Just Label It” in coalition with the Center for Food Safety, which has filed a petition with the FDA asking to require labeling of GMO foods.  Irridiated foods or those made from concentrate are labeled, so should GMO foods. More than 550,000 people have shown support of the petition.

When you next pick up a box of crackers or cookies, read the label and look for hidden unhealthy ingredients.  Notice whether it says “non-GMO”.  Is it really “All Natural”?  Be smart about the food you buy and demand proper labeling.  The health of our food system depends on it.

Information compiled from Food Rules, by Michael Pollan,, and Boston Uncommon article from the Boston Globe by Jenn Abelson, February 12, 2012.



This image shows a white wine glass (WMF Easy)...

The benefits of organic foods are well recognized.  Now organic beer, wine and some liquors are available!  Organic wine is made from certified organically grown grapes, or grown without pesticides, herbicides and chemicals fertilizers. Conventionally grown grapes are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and the chemical residues can end up in the wine.  Organically grown grapes are better for the soil, the plant and the wine drinker.

French organic wines consistently rate among the top ten best wines of regions where they are represented, possibly because they have more natural resistance to poor weather or pestilence and therefore tend to perform better in poor vintages than non-organic ones. Additionally, many organic vineyards hand pick their grapes, which allows only the ripest and healthiest bunches to be picked with the minimum amount of stress/damage to the vine, fruit or soil.

Organic beer is made with at least 95 percent organic ingredients. The barley and hops are grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides.   Anheuser-Busch produces two organic beers called Wild Hop lager and Stone Mill pale ale under the label Green Valley Brewing Co.  Peaks Organic Beer from Maine is another good one and it’s local!

For your New Year’s celebration, give organic spirits a try!  Most liquor stores carry some selections.  Imbibe healthfully and responsibly!




This Labor Day, think green and have an eco-correct cookout.  How?  It’s easy —

Visit your local farmer’s market for fresh local fruits and vegetables so abundant this time of year.  A charcoal chimney is an easy way to start your grill and much safer than lighter fluid if you don’t have a gas grill.  Make sure you use natural, hardwood charcoal instead of the conventional briquettes.  Fill at least half your grill with produce.  Produce is not only healthy and low calorie, but also doesn’t produce the carcinogens that can form on grilled meats.  Always cook over a low-to-medium flame and avoid over-charring.  Flare-ups and smoking oil create carcinogens.  Marinating or basting with oil, honey or a barbeque sauce will provide a barrier and help prevent charring.  Add delicious and nutritious vine ripened tomatoes and watermelon to your meal – they contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which may also help ward off sunburn!  If possible, serve organic food.

I prefer reusable dinner plates and utensils, but if you are having a crowd it is easier to use disposable.  Make sure they are biocompostable or made from recycled plastic.  Preserve Products makes plates, utensils and storage containers that are made in the US from 100% BPA-free recycled plastic and are dishwasher safe.  (They also make great toothbrushes and razors made from recycled yogurt cups.) Whole Foods carries the line, but you can also order them from  Cloth napkins are a nice touch, but if you prefer disposable, you can easily find them made from recycled paper at most supermarkets.

Chemical free sunscreen and insect repellants are a much healthier alternative than conventional products.  Badger makes effective, non-toxic, biodegradeable repellants and sunscreens.

Plan activities to get your guests moving and not eating and drinking so much.  If your cookout is near the water, swimming and kayaking are fun. If not, set up a volleyball/badminton net and get the teens involved in a tournament.  Croquet appeals to all ages and a nature walk or an outside scavenger hunt is a great way to get the kids interested in the outdoors.

And, of course don’t forget to recycle cans, bottles and other recyclable items!

Image by Peter Wild

Whatever you do to honor the end of summer, make sure you are good to the earth.  Remember, what is good for the earth is good for you and what is good for you is good for the earth.  Have fun!