Saturday, June 19, 2010

Organic Alternatives to Your Favorite Unhealthy Snacks

Since I've made the switch to buying exclusively organic food, I've had to give up some of my old snack and junk food favorites. And with them, I've given up high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors/colors and preservatives.

Most of the time I try, very hard, to eat healthy whole foods. But there are times when I just want a cookie or a bag of chips - and while I try to limit these times, I don't deprive myself. Luckily for us, organic and natural packaged food manufacturers have heard our cry, loud and clear, and have created many products that are almost identical to the conventional brands we know and love. Here are a few of my favorites:

Instead of Nabisco Oreos, try:
Instead of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers, try:
Instead of Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, try:
Instead of Lay's Potato Chips, try:
Instead of Hershey's Chocolate Bars, try:
If you have other organic/natural junk food that you enjoy, please feel free to share!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Flipping the (Organic) Switch

Lately, I have had a few people mention to me that they want to start buying more organic food products, but they don't know where to start. This is completely understandable. Over time we become accustomed to purchasing the same familiar brand names at the store each week and making changes can be stressful. However, making the switch from conventional food to organic food is not as daunting as it may seem.

I've found the best way to start making a transition is to keep an open mind and do it slowly. Truth be told, organic products are always more expensive, so transitioning slowly will also help with the "sticker shock." Think of it as making an investment in your health. Spending a little bit more money now on products that are better for your health and better for the environment will hopefully give you a better quality of life in the long run. And deciding that you want to make the switch is the first step in the process. So you're already on step two!

Finding food that is truly organic can be confusing. Many manufacturers are doing their best to make it even more difficult to know what's organic and what isn't by jumping on the "organic" bandwagon and touting their products as "all natural" or  "made with organic ingredients." Be careful! Although these products are most likely better for you than most conventional products, they aren't organic unless you see the green USDA Organic seal. This is true with all products except for produce. Fruits and veggies have stickers with PLU numbers on them (the code the cashier types in when you buy your bananas). Organic produce has a 5 digit PLU number and it always starts with a 9, while conventional produce has a 4 digit number. Keep in mind the 4 digit conventional number could start with a 9, so it's important to pay close attention.

Obviously it's best to try and incorporate as much organic food into your diet as possible. But sometimes budgets and limited availability get in the way of that. The EWG publishes a fantastic list of the cleanest and dirtiest produce. You can print their Shopper's Guide to Pesticides here. Bring this guide to the grocery store with you to help you determine what you should definitely make sure to buy organic. Unfortunately, for dairy, meat and grains there is no printable guide. However, just as with produce, it is always best to buy organic whenever possible. It's scary but, factory farmed animals are fed pesticide/genetically modified ridden feed, antibiotics, growth hormones and other artificial drugs. All of these things follow them from the factory to your plate (or glass of milk). Pesticides, chemical fertilizers and genetically modified seeds are also used by farmers growing grains, so as with fruits, veggies, meat and dairy, buying organic grains is important too.

Remember, start slowly, and make the switch over time. Even changing one or two items from conventional to organic will help your overall health down the road.