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How to Go Green by Shopping, Cooking and Eating Organic Foods

organic shopping list

How to Begin a Green Lifestyle by Changing Your Food Shopping, Cooking Habits and Eating Organic Foods

As personal fitness trainers, nutrition coaches, lifestyle experts, or wellness professionals, we often realize that daily habits and environmental factors play a big role in our client’s success or struggles. The source and preparation of foods is certainly important aspect to understand and optimize.

The most natural place to start going green and enhancing cellular health is with your food. What’s exciting about this is that you can start enjoying great-tasting, quality organic foods! Remember this when you’re starting to add organic foods to your diet. For every conventional food product on the market, 99.9% of the time there is an organic equivalent. And if you’re someone who wants to shed a few pounds, shopping for organic food is the perfect place to start! Because once you start adding more organic foods to your diet and reducing the amount of prepackaged processed, and fast foods, weight loss is inevitable. 

What is Organic – Really? 

“Natural” and “organic” are not interchangeable. Here’s the scoop: 

What’s in a Name?

Did you know the term “natural” is 100% unregulated? Manufacturers can freely use “natural” on product labels without third-party verification. Other labels that need no verification whatsoever include: 

  • Free-range 
  • Hormone-free 
  • 100% natural ingredients 
  • 100% vegetarian 
  • Earth-friendly 
  • Biodegradeable 
  • Vegan 
  • Cruelty-free 
  • Green 
  • Eco-friendly 

USDA Organic: Only food labeled with the USDA Organic Seal has been certified as meeting official standards. It looks like this: 

The USDA organic label means that the item has been produced by farmers who stress the conservation of water and soil, as well as promote the use of renewable resources to develop and boost environmental quality for future generations. 

The USDA has established requirements for the use of the word ‘organic’ on processed foods and agricultural products. 

USDA regulations include:

  • Prohibit the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms in organic production and products 
  • Prohibit antibiotics in organic meat and poultry 
  • Require 100% organic feed for livestock 
  • Prohibit the use of most conventional pesticides and fertilizers with synthetic ingredients 

Four Categories of Organic Labels 

There are four categories of organic labels, and they are based on the percentage of organic content when it comes to packaged foods. 

1. “100% Organic”

Display the USDA Organic seal on the packaging and the “100% organic” statement. 

2. “Organic” 

The product is made with at least 95% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt). 

  • Can display the USDA Organic Seal 
  • Cannot display “100% organic ingredients” 
  • Remaining 5% may contain non-organically produced agricultural ingredients which are not commercially available in organic form 

3. “Made with Organic Ingredients”

The product must contain at least 70% organic materials. 

  • While the minimum is 70%, it may contain up to 94% organic ingredients 
  • Cannot display the organic seal 
  • Can display the phrase “Made with Organic Ingredients,” followed by up to three specific ingredients. 
  • May contain up to 30% of non-organically produced agricultural ingredients amongst other ingredients 

4. Not Organic 

Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may not make any organic claims on the front of the package. 

  • Organically produced ingredients can be listed on the side panel only 
  • May contain over 30% of non-organically produced agricultural ingredients 

Pesticides and Your Health 

Most people do not understand the true risks pesticides pose to human health and the environment. Below is the definition of a pesticide as taken from the US Environmental Protection Agency. If clients are resistant to organic foods or are unsure if organic is healthier for them, share some of these facts with them. 

“Pesticides are any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. Pesticides can cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment because they are designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living organisms.” 

Consider these facts: 

  • Of the most widely used pesticides on the market, fifty-nine are known to be carcinogenic. 
  • We are more likely to get cancer from pesticides and environmental pollutants than from hereditary causes according to a July 2000 study from The New England Journal of Medicine 
  • 80 to 90 percent of all cancer in children is caused by exposure to carcinogens in the environment, according to Raising Children Toxic Free by Dr. Herbert L. Needleman and Dr. Philip J. Landrigan. 
  • Behavioral problems in kids may be linked to what their parents ate and what they were fed as young children. According to Chief Scientist, Charles Benbrook of the Organic Center in an OrganicAuthority.com interview: 

“A child with pesticides in their genetic makeup, faces problems later in life, this is one of the things no doubt behind the big increase in ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism. These behavioral problems in a lot of kids today are likely to reach back, for some of the kids, to what their parents ate and what they were fed as young children.” 

Health risks linked to pesticides (according to the EPA, Natural Resource Defense Council, and World Health Organization), include: 

  • Birth defects 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Weakened immune system and neurological problems 
  • Underdeveloped reproductive systems 
  • Higher instances of brain cancer, leukemia, and birth defects in children with early exposure to pesticides. 
  • A 2006 study by the Harvard School of Public Health discovered a 70 percent increase in the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease when exposed to even low levels of pesticides. 
  • Up to 20,000 deaths annually and three million chronic health problems are associated with poisonings related to agricultural pesticide use. 

It’s also interesting to note that the health risks for conventional farmers and their workers are even greater. The U.S. National Cancer Institute concluded that farmers are six times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma than non-farmers. And farmers and those that apply pesticides experience higher rates of prostate cancer. 

Contrary to popular belief (and the claims of some pesticide ‘cleaning’ products), you cannot wash pesticide residues off fruits and vegetables. 

In addition to being directly sprayed on fruits and vegetables, “fumigation” means that pesticides find their way directly into the soil, making their way into fruits or vegetables. These ‘baked-in’ pesticides cannot simply be washed off. 

Pesticides also pose huge environmental and wildlife risks. Some of the risks for wildlife include major health issues like weekend immune systems, behavior changes (some birds sing less or are less likely to mate), animals being born with deformities, and even death (sometimes it is instantaneous). University of Florida researchers found that frogs that live closer to conventional farms are more likely to be born as hermaphrodites. Over time, the pests that are being sprayed with pesticides develop resistance, which means that pesticides will inevitably become stronger and harsher. 

Many people object to the price of organic foods because it is expensive. But what’s expensive is, health care. Food is one of the most powerful healing tools we have on the planet. I am sure you’ve heard a story from someone who has healed themself from major diseases like cancer, diabetes, or obesity by simply switching to a whole-food organic diet. Eating an all-organic diet is truly preventative medicine at its best! Would you rather spend an extra $.50 or $1.00 at the checkout or spend $1,000s on prescription drugs and expensive doctor visits? The choice is yours. 

The bottom line, organic foods are more nutritionally rich and feed the human body the fuel it needs to fight off serious diseases. If you are still skeptical, read the science it is there.

Here are just a few reading recommendations:

The good news is that you can reduce your pesticide exposure by almost 90% by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables according to The Environmental Working Group. 

In fact, these 12 ‘most contaminated’ expose you to about 14 pesticides per day according to an Environmental Working Group study! 

Given the health risks posed by pesticides, I always recommend buying organic when you can. However, these are the fruits and vegetables that are “safer” to buy non-organic if you must when availability is an issue. Get to know this list. If you must, print it out, put it in your wallet so you have it with you when you shop, and give a copy to your clients. 

Produce with the highest pesticide residue count include: 

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Peaches
  • Grapes
  • Imported grapes
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery 
  • Nectarines
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potato 

Produce with the lowest pesticide residue count: 

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Pineapples
  • Mangoes
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Sweet corn (frozen)
  • Kiwifruit 
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya 

Buying organic also has many eco-friendly benefits. Organic soil helps reduce greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide. And it uses 50% less energy than conventional farming! When you choose to go organic you’re not only investing in your long-term health, you’re investing in planet Earth. 

Toxic Chemicals in Your Food Are Making You Fat 

As if the above wasn’t enough, scientists are now discovering that chemicals in our foods, personal-care products, and environment are contributing to America’s obesity epidemic. In the pursuit of optimum health and weight management, it’s critical to reduce your exposure to as many toxic chemicals as possible—and a great place to start is with the foods you eat. 

The truth is science and medicine have known about these problems for some time. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have been creating these types of drugs and chemicals for years, but no one has established a causal connection between drugs/chemicals and obesity prevalence. 

Experts estimate each of us carries 300–500 chemicals in our bodies. Reducing exposure to synthetic and or toxic chemicals and hormones decreases our bodies’ daily burden of what U.K. physician Dr. Paula Baillie-Hamilton has dubbed “chemical calories.” She states: 

“The reason why chemical calories are fattening is that they seem to reduce your food requirements—not because they add to your food in terms of quantity or nutrition. This could help explain how we are all eating less, yet still getting fatter.” 

Dr. Baillie-Hamilton’s work reveals pesticides, growth promoters, heavy metals, plastics, toxic chemicals, and a vast range of the most common environmental pollutants that are potentially making humans and animals fat. These chemicals add an additional layer of stress, as they’re inherently unnatural, forcing the body to work overtime to eliminate them. 

Chemicals in our food supply come from a variety of sources: pesticides, preservatives, additives, colorants, and any other chemicals deliberately sprayed on crops or used prepackaged foods. Chemicals and hormones also come from animals treated and injected with drugs, hormones, antibiotics, steroids, environmental pollutants and even packaging materials like plastic, which can leach into foods. If animals we are consuming are being injected with steroids and hormones to fatten them up for market, what are those chemicals doing to us when we ingest them? 

This is one of the reasons it’s critical to buy organic meats, poultry, and dairy. Conventionally raised beef, poultry, and pork may be injected with drugs, hormones, antibiotics, and steroids while being fed animal byproducts that can make them sick (do you really want to eat a sick animal?). Opt for organic dairy products, beef, and meat that’s grass-fed from birth to market and organically raised poultry and pork. 

Transitioning to a Healthy Organic Diet 

If you want to create lasting changes in your health and life, you need to be honest with yourself. Only then can positive changes begin to manifest. I love the question author Jack Canfield poses: “What am I pretending not to know?” Apply this to every aspect of your life, beginning with your health and food. This allows you to take full responsibility for, and control, your life. 

Action Step #1 

Ask yourself and your clients: “What are you pretending not to know when it comes to the food you consume on a daily basis?” If you need help with this question, start opening your cupboards and refrigerator. Are there tons of prepackaged foods, drinks, and sweets that are loaded with chemicals, preservatives, sugars, fats, and sweeteners? Examine the so-called healthy protein bars you buy, as well as prepackaged diet meals and drinks, and sodas (they are usually loaded with chemicals and preservatives) that may not be as healthy as you think. Next, take a good look at your grocery receipts. How much do you or your client spend on these types of foods? 

Once you’ve completed this assessment, write down how you feel about your current eating habits. Do they support a healthy lifestyle—one that’s going to promote longevity and build a healthy immune system that’s capable of fighting off serious diseases and illnesses? As stated earlier, cancer cannot take hold of a healthy immune system. 

If you’re a parent (or want to become one), consider whether your current eating habits support a healthy, long life for you and your children and grandchildren. If there are a few habits
you’d like to change, write them down below. List your old habits and then replace them with the new habits you’re adopting. Write the new habit in the present tense, as though you’ve already started doing it. Here’s an example: “I feel so great now that I’m eating more whole, organic foods. I have lost weight, doubled my energy, and feel great!” 

As a bonus, these habits will be passed down for generations to come. Everything you do today has a residual effect on tomorrow. 

Discover Your True Shopping Values 

Most people fail to realize that our values drive our behavior, both on the surface and at a deep, unconscious level. Our values come from our parents, religion, the media, and social circumstances, and become part of our unconscious behavior. 

Becoming aware of your values allows you to consciously recognize what’s driving your everyday decisions and life. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do I shop for health, or do I shop based on price only? 
  • How important is quality? 
  • How important is flavor? 
  • How important is the nutritional value? (flavor and nutritional value do not have to be mutually exclusive) 

You’ll probably come up with other values not listed here. And I really want you to take a good look at your core values, being brutally honest with yourself. In my experience, people lack a true sense of the values that drive their shopping habits. 

Action Step #2 

Write down all of the values that come to mind when you shop. Close your eyes and visualize yourself shopping at your favorite market. Imagine walking through the aisles and placing items in your cart. Then ask yourself: “Why did I choose this product?” Is it because: 

  • It’s available at the cheapest price? 
  • Or is it because of the item’s flavor, quality, food safety, health benefits, and nutrition?

Each of these motivations counts. If you shop strictly based on price, then an all-organic diet may not be right for you.

Write your answers to the questions posed above and number them in order of importance. 

After completing these exercises, you may be surprised to learn that your values are not in true alignment with the way you think and the actions you take. With some small changes, you can make room in your budget for quality, nutritious, organic foods that taste absolutely amazing! 

In time you will learn price isn’t everything. Quality and nutritional value count for something and are of the utmost importance. The good news? With increasing consumer demand for top-notch products at reasonable prices, quality does not automatically cost more. 

And as an FYI: You can apply this exercise to all areas of your life: finances, relationships, work goals, and other key aspects. 

Action Step #3: Are You Cutting Your Budget in the Wrong Places? 

Pinching pennies on your grocery bill may not be the smartest health and financial decision. Pennies that you save at the checkout may come back in the form of thousands of dollars spent on expensive doctors’ bills. Here are some budget money-saving tips: 

  • Eat out at least one time less per week 
  • Take your lunch to work at least one more day or one  day per week 
  • Cut down or eliminate prepackaged and fast foods, diet sodas, “lite” foods, and nutritionally bankrupt beverages and snacks.

Remember: Getting into green living and preventive medicine means eating tasty, nutritionally rich, whole organic foods that build a strong immune system, get you slim and fight off serious illness and disease. 

Where are you currently cutting back on your grocery budget? Are these smart healthy choices? 

Green Shopping Tips 

Now that you’ve gained an awareness of some of your habits (becoming aware of a habit is the first step to creating change), here are some shopping tips to get you started in converting your diet to an all-organic (or nearly all-organic) one. 

Choose one of your favorite food items—something you buy on a regular basis, and commit to buying the organic option from now on. 

Which favorite food item(s) will you choose? List them in the space provided below. 

  1. On your next shopping trip, begin to explore the organic food sections of your market to get to know which products you’ll be buying on a regular basis. 
  2. Find out if your store has a private or generic organic label and natural brand. Many times, store brands can be a lot cheaper than their big-name counterparts. If you can’t tell the difference, ask the store manager for assistance. 
  3. Begin experimenting by buying your favorite treats from the organic aisles: chocolate, ice cream, or whatever it is that you love, and consume it in moderation (moderation is the keyword here). In the space below, jot down which organic treats you’re going to buy on your next shopping trip. My favorites are organic ice cream and chocolate. If you are going to choose chocolate, go for 70% cocoa. It has been proven to reduce blood pressure. 
  4. If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, start buying organic brands, and make them at home. Take them with you in your favorite on-the-go cup. If you make hot beverages at the office, bring the to work and share them with your friends. They may start asking you about that “amazing” organic coffee or tea to which you’ve been treating them. 
  5. Do you currently shop at farmers’ markets? If you answered no, Google the name of your city with “farmers’ market” (i.e., “Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market”). Shopping at your local farmer’s market can be much more affordable than even your conventional grocery store. Cities now list their local farmers’ markets online.
  6. 7. Do you make a shopping list before you arrive at the market? This may seem like an obvious question, but you’d be surprised at how many people fail to make one. The key to using a shopping list is sticking to it. Don’t become an impulse buyer at the checkout stand. Grocery stores strategically place junk food near the checkout lines in an effort to tempt impulse buyers. 

What Happens if Your Grocery Doesn’t Carry Organic Options? 

If organic foods are hard to find, refer to my earlier list of which foods carry the highest and lowest pesticide residues. Remember you can reduce your pesticide exposure by almost 90% by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, which will expose you to about 14 pesticides per day. (A reminder: This statistic covers food alone. You are exposed to more chemicals throughout the day via other products and the environment.) If you choose to eat a diet that’s lower in pesticide residue counts, you could be exposed to only two pesticides per day. If you choose to eat produce with a high pesticide residue count, rotate it out of your diet often. 

What do You Recommend if the Organic Alternative is too Expensive? 

Substitute something else. Get creative and have fun! If bell peppers are too expensive, opt for organic carrots. 

When you begin to shop at the local markets, get to know the local organic farmers. You’ll find some fruits, vegetables, and meats are certified organic and others are grown organically, (but don’t carry the certification), the way Mother Nature intended. Some farmers simply cannot afford the cost of certification. Supporting these local farmers is also important. 

To get to know the source of the food products you’re buying. Begin asking farmers, produce managers and store managers whether they use any of the following to grow their fruits and vegetables: 

They will respond with a yes or no—and it’s that simple. I find local farmers to be very honest. If you suspect their answers are incorrect, ask around. Check with other farmers and neighbors. 

Sourcing Healthy, Grass-fed Meats 

Meat and dairy products are among the most important products to buy organic and grass-fed. They can get expensive, but as you discover the truth behind how they are raised, paying a little more for healthy meat won’t be so shocking. And you just might enjoy it a little more and have a little more gratitude for it, and you might eat less of it, which is probably not such a bad thing. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to eliminate meat at least one time per week. It is easier on your pocketbook and helps reduce greenhouse gasses. 

Conventionally raised animals are kept under very stressful conditions, in pens, and injected with large quantities of hormones and antibiotics. They’re fed an unhealthful diet of grains, junk foods, and animal byproducts which turn them into meat-eaters —akin, in some cases, to eating their own family members (a form of cannibalism). This can make them incredibly sick. Cattle are, by nature, herbivores or vegetarians, and their stomachs aren’t designed to process meat and other junk foods. 

Cattle are designed by Mother Nature to be grass-fed their whole life and not finished on grains. Even certified organic beef can be finished on organic grains, which is why it is important to get to know your source and uncover if the animal was truly grass fed from birth to market. All it takes is asking a couple of simple questions, which we will cover. Grass-fed animals live such a healthy low-stress life it is rare they are treated with antibiotics or other drugs. 

Animals that are pastured and grass-fed from birth to the market are healthier for you. Grass-fed meat that comes from ruminant-chewing animals like beef, bison, lamb, and goats has less fat, cholesterol, and calories. They have more vitamins E, and C, beta-carotene, and health-promoting fats like omega-3 fatty acids and a good fat known as conjugated linoleic acid known as CLA. Research is now showing that lean grass-fed meat actually lowers your “bad” or LDL cholesterol levels.2 Meat that is conventionally raised in large feed lots, is higher in fats, and saturated fats that are linked to heart disease, and calories. If you eat the average amount of beef that a normal person eats per year, (66.5 pounds a year), simply switching to lean grass-fed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year—without requiring any self-discipline or change in your eating habits.3 

When ruminant or cud-chewing animals are grass-fed or pastured from birth to market, their food products contain three to five times more CLA than those that come from animals that are fed conventional diets. In other studies, when cattle were fed a hay diet that was machine harvested, and came from the same field where they ate the fresh grass, the cows produced significantly less CLA.4 

The healthiest type of meat and dairy products that come from ruminant chewing animals are, simply put, grass-fed from birth to market. 

Research is showing that CLA might be a potent defender against cancer. Lab animals with tumor growths were given a very small dose of CLA, 0.1 percent of total calories, and their tumor growth was drastically reduced. New evidence now supports that CLA may also reduce cancer risk in humans. Dr. Tilak Dhiman, of Utah State University, research shows that CLA can reduce or slow some types of cancer, and heart disease, and appears to help reduce body fat and increase muscle mass.5 Dr. Dhiman’s work speculates that you may be able to reduce your risk of cancer simply by consuming one glass of whole milk, one ounce of cheese, and one serving of meat per day, all from grass-fed ruminants of course. 6 If you ate grain-fed products you would have to eat five times that amount. In a study done in Finland, women with diets high in CLA had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who had the lowest levels. Simply switching to grass-fed meat and dairy products puts women in the lowest category of risk.7 

Grassfed meat and dairy can be up to four times higher in the potent antioxidant Vitamin E. This powerful vitamin has been associated with lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer. 

There is another good reason to eat grass-fed beef. Pastured cattle are cleaner at the time of slaughter. E. coli contamination usually takes place in the processing plant when fecal matter from the animal comes in contact with meat. The less fecal matter on an animal when it enters the processing plant, the less likely the meat will become contaminated. 

In fact, it is hard to remove the contaminated fecal matter from cattle because they stand in it and dirt all day long. In a Meat Marketing and Technology magazine article, the associate editor stated that pasture-raised animals are easier to clean “because they come from small herds raised in relatively clean pastures.” He said the majority of U.S. cattle, “are raised in far larger numbers in congested and typically less sanitary feed lots.” 8 

There is research that shows that choosing products from grass-fed animals may lower your risk of food-borne illnesses, like campylobacter, E. coli. Why? Research done by Russell and Diez-Gonzalez at Cornell University in the late 1990s verified that cattle fed a grass and hay diet had far fewer E. coli than when they were fed a standard feedlot grain-based diet.9 

The two researchers conducted another study showing that E. coli from grass-fed cattle are more likely to be killed by the natural acidity of the human digestive tract and therefore might be less likely to survive and make us ill. The reason for the greater persistence of E. coli from grain-fed cattle, the researchers speculated, is that feeding grain to cattle makes their digestive tracts abnormally acidic. Over time, the E. coli in their systems become acclimated to this acid environment. When we ingest them, a high percentage will survive the acid shock of our digestive juices. By contrast, few E. coli from grass-fed cattle will survive because they have not become acid resistant.10 

Other researchers have investigated this causal connection between cattle feed and E. coli. Some have confirmed the findings like a study revealed in the Nebraska Beef Report and others have rejected them. 

A study done in 2000 by the USDA Meat and Animal Research Center in Lincoln, Nebraska supports Cornell’s findings. The Nebraska researchers began their research by searching for alternative feeding methods to fight the acid-resistant E. coli, stating that hay feeding “is not a practical approach for cattle feeders” (Did anyone stop to think about what’s practical and healthy for the animal and the human population?). 

Needless to say, their experimental approaches were met with defeat. It looks like you can’t fool mother nature after all. When they put the animals back on a hay diet, they achieved their desired result. The researchers concluded: “This study confirms Diez-Gonzalez (1998) report that feeding hay for a short duration can reduce acid-resistant E. coli populations.” 11 

How to Shop for Healthy Meats 

Because certified organic meat can be expensive, and many are finished on grains, get to know your source by asking a few simple questions. Choose naturally or organically raised meats that are grass-fed from birth to market, with or without the third-party organic certification. 

Ask your butcher, farmer, rancher, or store manager the following questions. If he or she cannot provide answers, ask for the manager or find someone who can or simply shop elsewhere. Ask: 

  • Is your meat pastured and grass-fed from birth to market? (This applies to cud-chewing animals like cattle, dairy cows, goats, bison, and sheep. Ruminants are designed to eat fibrous grasses, plants, and shrubs—not starchy, low-fiber grains.) 
  • Were the animals fed any animal byproducts? 
  • Were antibiotics, hormones, or synthetic chemicals used in raising the animal? 
  • Was the animal finished on grains? 

Many times, you can find local and truly natural, grass-fed meats at farmers’ markets. All-natural food stores are more likely to carry certified organic and grass-fed meats. Qualify your meat by asking the above questions to see if the organic and natural selections are pastured and grass-fed from birth to market. 

Be a Picky Poultry & Pork Shopper 

More and more meat, poultry, and pork are coming onto the market that is naturally raised the way mother nature intended – without all of the added hormones, pesticides, etc. Many of them are just as good as certified organic chicken and pork. Remember to qualify your meat by asking a few simple questions. 

Meat and eggs that come from chickens that are raised indoors and don’t have access to fresh greens are unnaturally low in omega-3s. Hens that are pastured can contain up to 10 times more omega-3s than factory-raised hens. 12 

Another great reason to choose organic chicken is that over half of the antibiotics administered to non-organically raised chickens are identical to those that are administered to humans. This can lead to super-strains of bacteria that can become resistant to antibiotics, creating larger opportunities for human disease. 

Organic chickens are raised: 

  • Without the use of antibiotics, hormones, or steroids 
  • On grass where they feed on pesticide- and herbicide-free land

Follow these tips for the most healthful poultry finds: 

Look for “free range” certified organic chicken. “Free range” can be a bit deceiving since it’s an unregulated term. So now is the time to tap into your inner detective and do your homework. Ask your butcher, farmer, or merchant if it’s truly “free range.” Did it live outdoors and scratch for its own food? Have room to exercise? Was it devoid of cramped quarters, like its conventional counterpart? Even in your local natural food stores and farmers markets, you’ll find chicken and poultry that is labeled 100% natural — some of the claims are true, others…not so much. 

It’s your job to verify with the butcher, farmer or rancher the truth behind the label. Get to know your source. Ask questions, talk to friends, and or do a quick search online to find the truth that will either substantiate or dismiss marketers’ claims. 

Look for Amish-raised. The Amish raise the purest form of organic chicken poultry, bison, beef and lamb. 

Grass-fed, organically raised meats, and chickens offer the cleanest, tastiest forms of healthy protein, which is vital for disease prevention, and premature aging, increasing your daily energy and will help you live longer. And it just tastes better! 

A note about Whole Foods. Whole Foods is known for its pricey groceries. However, what most people don’t know is that they act like a filter or screening system for truly healthy foods. You will find certified organic meats at their market and yes they can get expensive. But what most people don’t know is that their “natural” meat (in other words, it is not certified organic) was not raised on a diet rich in pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, animal by-products, and steroids. So even if you buy their everyday meat, it is still a better option than what you get in the conventional grocery store. 

Other sources for organic foods (outside conventional grocery stores):

  • Your local natural and organic foods market. If you don’t know of one, go online and Google it. 
  • Local farmers’ markets To find your local market, visit www.localharvest.org. 
  • Online stores 
  • Join a CSA (community-supported agriculture)—a great way to go local. To find your local CSA, visit www.localharvest.org. 
  • If your supermarket doesn’t carry what you’re looking for, talk to the store manager. Stress that you want more organic produce (or whatever you seek). Believe me, the manager will be very happy to hear from you. You’re telling him what you want to purchase, which makes his job a heck of a lot easier. 

Additional Points to Remember:

  • You cannot wash off all pesticide residues. 
  • The most important products to buy are organic meats, dairy and sweet fruits. Refer to the list of fruits and veggies with the highest and lowest pesticide residues. 
  • Look for coupons for organic foods in your local newspapers, mailers, and online. 

SeventhGeneration.com, for example, offers printable coupons for its cleaning products. 

Which Fish Is Fit to Eat? 

Fish that carry a high chemical and heavy metal load are large and carnivorous. You do not want to eat these fish often. If you eat any of the below fish rotate them out of your diet often. These fish eat large quantities of small fish and tend to be fatty.

 Examples include: 

  • swordfish 
  • marlin
  • shark
  • bluefish 
  • trout 
  • salmon 
  • tuna
  • eel 

White fish like cod and other non-carnivorous species generally have less fat content, chemicals, and heavy metals. One fish that’s incredibly high in omega-3 fatty acids and safe to eat is sardines, which are making a big comeback. Take a simple preparation cue from the Italians: Grill them with a little olive oil, lemon, and salt and enjoy! 

It’s also wise to avoid farmed salmon (“Atlantic salmon”) and trout. Farmed salmon has less flavor and protein, and it offers fewer omega-3 fatty acids than wild salmon. In addition, it’s likely to contain pesticide residues and may be treated with other chemicals (antibiotics and other drugs used to treat infections that occur when fish are crowded into fish-farm pens). 

To find the most sustainable seafood choices available in your region, log onto www.seafoodwatch.org, and download the extraordinarily helpful shopping reference card, which you can place in your wallet. This simple, user-friendly guide tells you which seafood is the safest to eat, depending on where you live in the country. 

Be Careful What You Drink, Even if It’s “Diet” Soda 

Diet and regular sodas, juice drinks, drink mixes, and processed tea drinks often contain chemicals that frankly aren’t fit for human consumption. Despite popular belief, diet sodas are unhealthy, as they’re full of ingredients like aspartame (shown in tests to degrade into formaldehyde and diketopiperazine, two chemicals known to cause problems in the nervous system). There isn’t any evidence that consuming artificial sweeteners will help you lose weight. Sugar is safe when used in small, moderate amounts. If you want a low-glycemic sweetener for your morning coffee or tea, reach for agave or xylitol. 

Be on the lookout for high-fructose corn syrup in regular sodas, energy drinks, juice drinks, drink mixes, and processed tea drinks. It can potentially disrupt your metabolism and promote weight gain. 

Aspartame, found in the brands NutraSweet, Equal, and elsewhere, is one of those stand-out chemicals that demand a closer look…as well as your deep commitment to avoid it at all costs. 

Aspartame: FDA-Approved, Yet Totally Un-Safe 

Consider what aspartame is made of: phenylalanine and aspartic acid (amino acids), and methanol (known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol). Methanol is known to be poisonous even when consumed in relatively modest amounts, according to the Prescription for Nutritional Healing…disorders caused by toxic levels of methanol include blindness, brain swelling, and inflammation of the pancreas and heart muscle. 

Aspartame dissolves into a solution and can therefore travel throughout the body and deposit within any tissue, according to Dr. Janet Starr Hull, creator of the Aspartame Detoxification Program. 

Hull counts 92 different health side effects associated with aspartame, citing a report submitted to the FDA by the Department of Health and Human Services in April of ’95, including: 

  • Headache 
  • Dizziness 
  • Change of mood 
  • Vomiting or nausea 
  • Abdominal pain or cramps 
  • Change in vision 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Seizures and convulsions

The same Department of Health and Human Service report tracked the products from which the reported reports hailed from:

  • 38.3% of complaints came from diet soft drink consumers 
  • 21.7% of complaints came from tabletop sweetener consumers 
  • Other consumer packaged goods including puddings, lemonade, iced tea, chewing gum 

Sure, aspartame is 200 times sweeter than all-natural sugar…but you’re paying a high health cost for its ‘quick fix’ of sweetness and convenience. 

Where aspartame is typically found: 

  • Instant breakfasts 
  • Breath mints 
  • Cereals 
  • Sugar-free chewing gum 
  • Cocoa mixes 
  • Coffee beverages 
  • Frozen desserts 
  • Gelatin desserts 
  • Juice beverages 
  • Laxatives 
  • Milk drinks 
  • Multivitamins 
  • Nonprescription pharmaceuticals 
  • Shake mixes 
  • Soft drinks 
  • Tabletop sweeteners 
  • Tea beverages 
  • Instant teas and coffee 
  • Topping mixes 
  • Wine coolers 
  • Yogurt 

Aspartame and Weight Gain 

It’s more than ironic that people who use aspartame as a weight loss tool may be doing just the opposite. Consider these independent studies.

  • A study conducted at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center reported a “41% increase in the risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day.” The results of this study were reported at the 65th Annual Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego on June 10-14, 2005 
  • A study conducted by Dr. H.J. Roberts found that 5% of subjects reporting symptoms from aspartame also reported a “paradoxical weight gain.” (Reactions Attributed to Aspartame- Containing Products: 551 Cases,” Journal of Applied Nutrition, Volume 40, page 85-94).
  • Another study found that females with eating restraint had a higher calorie intake subsequent to aspartame intake as opposed to sugar or water intake. 13 

What You Can Do 

It’s time to show aspartame who’s boss… 

  • When shopping, read labels and don’t buy it if aspartame is listed. Hint: it’s found in countless products labeled ‘sugar-free’ 
  • Replace artificial sweeteners with stevia, agave syrup, or xylitol 
  • Buy real, ‘whole’ food products in place of diet foods 
  • Get a Vita Mixer or juicer and start making your own fresh juices 
  • Eat whole fruits for all-natural, nutrient-rich, additive-free sweetness 
  • Eat everything in moderation: you’ll feel more satisfied than eating empty-calorie foods. 

Remember: diet foods don’t work — there’s a smarter way to snack! 

Get Serious About Snacks 

Snacking is critical for maintaining optimum blood sugar levels throughout the day. Ideally, you want to be eating five to six times per day. Eat predominantly healthful protein snacks in between your three meals (to keep your blood sugar levels stable). Avoid long periods without sustenance which bring on stress, fatigue, and mood swings; that’s when blood sugar levels take a dive and the sugar cravings set in. 

Preparation will help you prevent any famished feelings just before lunch and afternoon slumps or crashes. If you work in an office, pack your purse, briefcase, or tote with some raw organic almonds, cashews, pistachios (skip the salted or smoked versions), avocado, cheeses, skim mozzarella sticks, low-fat ricotta cheese, or a favorite veggie like broccoli, which is high in protein (all organic, of course!). 

If you haven’t had eggs for breakfast, another great snack is hardboiled eggs. If you take the typical lunch break at about 12:30 or 1 p.m. and you’ve eaten breakfast, you should have your first snack at around 10:30 a.m. 

Other snack suggestions include: 

  • An organic apple or piece of celery with peanut butter 
  • Low-fat yogurt 
  • Oprah’s favorite snack: apples, nuts, and cheese (all organic, of course!) 
  • Nuts 

Natural Detox Tips for the Body 

Eating an abundance of raw, organic vegetables assists your body in the detoxifying process. Fiber literally helps clean you out. Raw veggies also help boost and maintain a strong immune system that keeps you healthy and fights off serious disease. So if you don’t eat a lot of raw veggies, just start adding them to your salads, snacks, and entrees. This is much easier than you think. When you’re at a restaurant or at home, choose a salad composed of raw vegetables, and top it with a tasty extra-virgin olive oil dressing. Remember: Cancer and other serious illnesses cannot take hold of a healthy immune system. 

Water assists the body in the weight-loss process, flushing out toxins via sweat and urine. Energy levels will be enhanced when you keep your body hydrated. Hydration assists in reducing water retention and improves the overall look and feel of your skin. It will also help decrease fine lines in your skin and keep it clear. It has been found that the simple act of drinking water can speed up your metabolism. I recommend drinking at least eight glasses of water per day. There are doctors who say this isn’t necessary, but when my consumption of water drops, my energy drops, I put on weight, and wrinkles develop. I’m sticking with the eight glasses of water. 

You will most likely have to carry a water bottle with you wherever you go throughout the day to reach your goal of eight glasses per day. So it’s important to choose the right container. Avoid plastic bottles to steer clear of chemicals like BPA (bisphenol A, which we discuss later) that can leach into your water. Choose a stainless-steel bottle that does not have a plastic lining. Kleen Canteen makes these types of water bottles, and you can order them online or look for them at your local grocery store. Manufacturers are producing more of these bottles, so continue to look for them at local stores. 

I recommend drinking two glasses of lemon water when you wake up in the morning. This will help flush out your kidneys and detox your body, your energy levels will increase, and you’ll feel more alert. This will help you kick the caffeine habit. 

Simple Eco-Friendly Grocery Shopping Tips 

  1. Bring your own reusable shopping bag. Keep it in the trunk of your car for easy accessibility. 
  2. Buy whole grains, pasta, nuts, beans, dried legumes, and fruit from bulk food bins. These selections are often cheaper, and you save on packaging. 
  3. Purchase in bulk or larger sizes when it makes sense to do so. This can reduce the amount of packaging, as long as individual items are not individually wrapped in one “bulk” package. A good example is a gallon of olive oil. Store it properly, and transfer some to a smaller bottle for everyday use. 
  4. Close the loop. When purchasing packaged products, choose those made with recycled materials. 
  5. Buy products with packagings that can be recycled, such as aluminum, steel, glass, some plastics and paper. You must confirm that these materials are part of your city’s recycling program. 
  6. Reduce and eliminate single-use items like plastic water bottles. Replace them with a reusable solution. 
  7. Remember to buy certified organic products! They taste better and are healthier for you! 
  8. Go local when you can and support local farms and food artisan craftsmanship. 
  9. Find fair-trade products – they come from businesses that are provided fair wages, safe working conditions, and prohibit child labor. 

What are fair-trade items? According to the European Fair Trade Association, “Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers. Fair Trade organizations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising, and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.” 

Where Can I Learn More?

Awareness is the first step for the empowered green consumer. You can immediately begin to clean up your home and life by learning to recognize what’s really in the products you’re buying. 

Click the links below to learn more about Living Green:

Interested in enrolling in a course that will show you more benefits of a lifestyle based on holistic green living? You can learn more about becoming a Certified Holistic Living Coach.

And, we have even more…

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Becoming a Certified Wellness Coach is the perfect addition for the fitness professional who wants to offer more all-inclusive wellness services to clients.  The time is now for you to enjoy this exciting and rewarding career, which offers you personal fulfillment while improving the lives of others.

There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.

NESTA and Spencer Institute has been helping people like you since 1992. To date, over 65,000 people from around the world have benefited from our various certifications, programs, continuing education courses and business development systems. We are here for you now and in the future. Feel confident in your decision to work with us as you advance your knowledge and career. We are here for you each step of the way.

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  • Robinson, Jo http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm#10
  • Dhiman, T. R., G. R. Anand, et al. (1999). “Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets.” J Dairy Sci 82(10): 2146-56.
  • Harris, Lynette CLA: The Modern Food Chain’s Weak Link http://extension.usu.edu/dairy/files/uploads/htms/cla.htm
  • Robinson, Jo – EatWild.com/healthbenefits
  • Aro, A., S. Mannisto, I. Salminen, M. L. Ovaskainen, V. Kataja, and M. Uusitupa. “Inverse Association between Dietary and Serum Conjugated Linoleic Acid and Risk of Breast Cancer in Postmenopausal Women.” Nutr Cancer 38, no. 2 (2000): 151-7.
  • Lipsky, Joshua. “The Future of Food Safety,” by Meat Marketing and Technology, April 2001.
  • Russell and Diez-Gonzalez (Microbes Infect 2, No. 1 (2000): 45-53.)
  • Klopfenstein, Tony Scott, T., et al “Influence of Diet on Total and Acid Resistant E. coli and Colonic pH.”.” 2000 Nebraska Beef Report, pages 39-41.
  • Lopez-Bote, C. J., R.Sanz Arias, A.I. Rey, A. Castano, B. Isabel, J. Thos (1998). “Effect of free-range feeding on omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-tocopherol content and oxidative stability of eggs.” Animal Feed Science and Technology 72: 33-40.
  • Lavin, J.H., S.J. French, N.W. Read, 1997. “The Effect of Sucrose- and Aspartame-Sweetened Drinks on Energy Intake, Hunger and Food Choice of Female, Moderately Restrained Eaters,” International Journal of Obesity, Volume 21, pages 37-42, 1997.

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