Want to have more clean, sustainable food for your family? Here’s how…
Today I welcome Julie Smith from Go Green Mamas. She’ll be talking about how you can make the switch to healthier eco-friendly, sustainable food during your weekly grocery shopping trip.
Make sure to scroll to the bottom of the post to learn more about Julie and where you can follow her natural living journey.
Some of the very first changes people tend to make when deciding to pursue a greener way of life, are in their diet. It seems pretty obvious that the foods that go into our mouths are going to have some of the greatest effects on our health. That’s why I am sharing this guide with you on how to shop for clean, sustainable food for your family.
Figuring out just what to buy for the best health benefits and least health detriments is far from simple. There are a lot of conflicting messages out there. The confusion can quickly leave you walking away from your search for the holy groceries, and reaching for the Cheetos. But please don’t lose all hope. Instead, let me share what I have learned over the years, as a toxins expert and a green mama.
Just follow me now, as I take you through each section.
How To Shop for Sustainable Food – By Section
Want to have more clean, sustainable food for your family? Here's how to do your grocery shopping - by section... #greenliving #ecofriendly Click To Tweet
The Produce Section
Keep it Clean
This is where the real cancer-fighting action happens. It seems like an aisle in which you really can’t go wrong. I mean, anything here has to be better for the body than last night’s frozen pizza, right? Well, sort of. Your produce absolutely must be “clean” in order to be healthy.
So what does that mean, exactly?
1. Steer clear of pesticides.
By purchasing only USDA certified organic if that item is included on the current “dirty dozen”.
Right now, these include the following: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes.*
2. Focus on the “Clean 15”
Feel free to purchase any of the current “clean 15” produce items without an organic label, as they either have a protective skin or are sprayed quite sparingly.
These include onions, avocados, pineapples, asparagus, sweet peas(frozen), kiwis, cabbage, eggplants, watermelon, broccoli, cauliflower, cantaloupes, and mushrooms.*
3. Avoid this Conventional Produce…
I also try to avoid purchases of conventional (non-organic) zucchini, yellow squash, sweet corn and papayas.
This is due to the fact that it is often genetically modified.
*These lists are updated in the early months of each year.
What’s the Big Deal?
Consuming produce that has been sprayed by farmers to increase crop yields, can lead to a variety of health issues. These include the following:
- Respiratory issues
- Skin conditions
- Neurological problems
- Certain cancers
Young children are most at risk due to their large amounts of consumption in relation to body size. Pesticide exposure can also lead to miscarriage in pregnant women.
One study published by the Journal on Environmental Research has shown that making the switch to sustainable food can significantly lower the levels of synthetic pesticides in your urine within days. It’s one of the most effective changes you can make in the way you eat.
The Meat Section
If you include beef in your diet, the most important criteria to look for are “grass-fed” and USDA certified organic. You won’t always be able to find both, but either is cleaner than conventional beef.
Grass-fed beef is healthiest because the cattle have been allowed to graze and eat their natural food source, rather than genetically modified grains. A grass-fed diet results in beef with higher levels of healthy fats and antioxidants. Organic, grass-fed is the best option, since these cattle must be free from the synthetic hormones and antibiotics that conventional cattle are typically treated with.
USDA organic beef alone means that though the cattle may not have been grass-fed, they only received organic, non-gmo grains.
Greenwashing – When shopping for chicken or eggs, the only label that truly makes any difference is USDA certified organic. Companies use all kinds of sneaky labels to fool us into thinking we are eating healthy and more sustainably. Here is what they all really mean.
Cage-free – Although this label is regulated by the USDA and requires that the hens be allowed to roam freely, there are no regulations on the number of chickens; therefore, overcrowding can still exist.
Free-range – Also determined by the USDA, this regulation simply means the chickens must be allowed outside each day; the problem is that even 5 minutes is considered sufficient.
Pasture-raised – This is a term that is not regulated by the USDA, so anyone can simply slap it on their label.
Natural – The USDA states that chicken with this label must simply be minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients.
No Added Hormones – Federal regulations have banned the use of growth in hormones in poultry since the 1950s. So, um, yeah…
Essentially, they all boil down to a whole lot of nothing!
The Real Scoop
Simply stick with USDA organic if you want to avoid eating chickens that have been over-crowded, stressed and drugged. It truly does matter how your food is raised.
Because conventional chickens don’t have opportunities to get exercise or gain proper nutrients, they contain lower levels of Vitamins A, E and Omega-3s. At the same time, these inferior chickens also contain higher levels of cholesterol and saturated fats.
Shopping for fish is another animal entirely. Unfortunately, there are not yet any organic certification standards for this category.
The key is, the smaller the fish the safer it is. These fish are at the bottom of the food chain and have not accumulated the levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, dioxins & PCBs that can be found in the larger fish.
SMASH is the acronym that I was taught in order to remember which fish are low in toxins and, therefore, much safer to eat.
When in search of your milk, yogurt, butter and cheese, you basically follow the same guidelines that I went over in the beef category. Some companies add labels like RBST-free and RBGH-free. They are referring to hormones that are sometimes injected into the cattle to increase milk production.
Honestly, without the USDA certified organic label, I wouldn’t trust it. Anyone can add what they wish to a label if it’s not certified. Go for the organic, or hit up the local farms for peace of mind.
When shopping for your family’s cereals, oatmeals and bars, it is crucial to focus on USDA Organic and/or Non-GMO Verified (look for the butterfly) for one big cancer-causing reason–Glyphosate.
Don’t be fooled by similar labels that lack the butterfly symbol, because they are not regulated and anyone can use the words “non-gmo” to lure buyers.
Aside from cancer, glyphosate has been associated with a number of other serious health issues, such as kidney disease, reproductive problems, liver damage and birth defects.
Other consumables in which this chemical has been found at notable levels include orange juices, wines, beers, meats and dairy products. All the more reason to search for the USDA Organic label in these categories as well.
The problem with this category is that most of it has been sealed into a can lined with a combination of BPA and BPS chemicals. We’ve been assured by many companies that they are now “BPA-free,” however, this simply means that the BPA has been replaced by BPS, an equally harmful hormone disrupter.
Look for foods in glass jars whenever possible, especially when buying highly acidic foods like tomatoes. The acids encourage chemicals to leach from the cans into our food.
If you have access to Eden Organics, which can be found in many grocery chains, they are the only company that has made the switch to a safe can lining made of plant resin.
Regardless, glass is still the preferred packaging for tomatoes, with tetra paks coming in a close second.
Looking to Save Money on Your Sustainable Food?
The best option for saving a little money is to go straight to your local family farms.
In the US you can do a search for those in your area on localharvest.org. By entering your zip code, you will be able to find any CSAs, farmer’s markets and other opportunities for buying from local farms that exist nearby.
Note from Yolanda:
- In Canada go to farms.com to find local farmers’ markets by province.
- In the UK got to farmingUK.com to access a list of farms you can shop at.
- Or do a local search for farms and farmer’s markets.
Julie M. Smith, M.S., is a natural living blogger at Go Green Mamas. Like many of us, she is passionate about keeping her family healthy; however, she took her concern a step further, by formally studying environmental toxins. Julie also cares deeply about the environment, and blogs frequently about ways mere moms can help save it. She is mom to two little girls and wife to her tech support guy. When she’s not writing, she enjoys organizing events for her women’s circle, wandering charming neighborhoods, and any opportunity to travel.
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