Why You Don’t Want to Use StyroFoam Dishes This Summer (or Ever!)

 

shutterstock_12946057

It is finally summer fair and barbeque season. Yippee! However, I am reminded how often I see food being handed out on styrofoam plates and containers and why this is should be of concern to everyone.

I have always hated the feel of styrofoam cups on my lips so I started avoiding it years ago. I have since learned it contains some serious toxic compounds which can leach out into food. So shouldn’t we all be avoiding it? The challenge is that it is still so widely used.  As it’s likely you too will run into it this season, best to know WHY and HOW  to avoid styrofoam.

What is styrofoam??

  • Styrofoam is a trademarked name for an extruded foam made from polystyrene
  • Polystyrene is a synthetic compound derived from petroleum, and contains toxic compounds such as benzene. It is a lightweight, insulating material that is used in many formats in industry…unfortunately including disposable dish ware.

Studies have shown that the styrene leaches out of the styrofoam and into our bodies when we use styrofoam cups and plates.  In fact, a study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found just that when the food (or drink) inside was hot. If it makes you feel any better, it was also found that styrene didn’t leach out of foam egg cartons, which are usually refrigerated. so we can assume the most harm to human health comes when the styrofoam is heated.

However the direct impact on human health shouldn’t be our only concern. Styrofoam has become an acute environmental issue. The Environmental Protection Agency released a report (1986) listing the polystyrene manufacturing process  as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste. Fifty-seven toxic chemical byproducts are released during the manufacturing process of polystyrene, including benzene. Just think of the workers who manufacture it if nothing else.

As well, styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose. It makes up 25-30% of our world’s landfills AND has become a major source of marine pollution. And even though styrofoam is no longer manufactured with CFC (‘chlorofluorocarbon’ the famous ozone depleting chemical), it still uses hydrofluorocarbons linked to depleting the ozone layer and affecting global warming.

How to Avoid Styrofoam:

  • Look for the number 6. Polystyrene foam should be easy to spot by looking for a 6 inside the chasing arrow (aka ‘the mobius loop) symbol.  Unfortunately, polystyrene is also used in non-foam food containers, including clear-plastic clamshells and coffee-cup lids.
  • Don’t frequent restaurants or take out places that offer this type of food container.
  • BE PREPARED and take your own environmentally-friendly food and drink containers where you can to picnics, BBQs and fairs.

And remember that even though many jurisdictions are now trying to recycle styrofoam.. it is not a good option to use in the first place. So many chemicals used in its production affecting workers and our environment. We can all do better for the sake of our health, other people, AND our environment. So get yourself some stainless or glass re-usable containers and bamboo plates.

This post was inspired by the work of SaferChemicalsHealthyFamilies who work tirelessly to inform people of hidden toxins in their consumer goods….for which we should all be thankful 🙂

 

5 Good Reasons to Try Maca

image: Shutterstock

image: Shutterstock

Every once in a while, a food comes to light we may not be familiar with but in another part of the world it is revered for it’s ‘superfood’ qualities.  Maca is one such food.  If you haven’t heard of it, there are reasons you may want to know what it is and why people are looking to it for everything from increased energy to regulation of hormones and increased fertility.

Maca originates from high in the Peruvian Andes Mountains of South America where it has been growing wild for thousands of years. It is a cruciferous plant as are other healthy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips.

A significant number of vitamins and minerals are inherent to wild maca. These include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, sodium, as well as iron and may also contain beneficial trace minerals including zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, and manganese. It is also thought to be high in vitamins B1, B2, C, and E. 

Maca’s purported health benefits are based on generations of people who have used it.   It has thus gained some serious attention by natural health enthusiasts in North America. For those who have used maca whether in the Andes or elsewhere, the benefits are said to include:

  • Increased Energy Many athletes have now started taking maca for peak performance. if your energy levels are low, maca may be worth a try.
  • Increased Libido Maca is thought to increase sexual function in both men and women. Balanced hormone, endurance and stamina are cited among the benefits benefitting libido. Watch this clip on CNN which reports on the benefits specifically to women.
  • Menstrual cramps/Menopause Maca is considered beneficial in aiding with menstrual cramps. As well menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings and even depression can be alleviated. 
  • Fertility It has been noted that where maca grows is so high above sea level that animals brought to those heights from lower altitudes will stop reproducing. However if you feed them maca, they become fertile again. It’s as though nature offers a fertility remedy at those high altitudes. More on this can be seen in this New York times clip.
  • Adaptogen Maca is considered an adaptogen meaning it can help strengthen the body so it can better handle daily stresses and resist disease.

Caveats

Always use a reputable source for your maca supplements and follow the manufacturers recommended dosage.  It’s a good idea to consider running a new supplement by your medical doctor if you have a condition you are trying to remedy. But many do choose to try natural remedies over pharmaceuticals initally.  And as with any supplement its not recommended to start something new while pregnant.

My favourite maca powder is from Giddy YoYo It tastes delicious in a smoothie, is superior quality and can be purchased direct from the manufacturer OR on-line at Sessabel.

MIL’s Best Ever Banana Bread

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banana bread

I have barely had a moment to post anything in the last month. I have been busier than ever with my business. However,  I have found time (read: I must eat!) in my kitchen to experiment developing my own recipes. Having worked in one of Canada’s largest test kitchens for many years, creating recipes is second nature to me. However now my focus is on delicious AND nutritious foods made with minimally processed ingredients.

When my sweet mother-in-law recently said my banana bread was the best she has ever had, I thought this recipe might just be post-worthy. Or at least now my MIL has a place to find the recipe she loves.

I don’t use conventional wheat flour for a number of reasons so in this recipe almond and quinoa are my flours of choice. I find the mix gives a nice texture to the loaf and makes it gluten-free. Feel free to sub-in another flour you prefer for the almond. And if using maple syrup, KEEP IT REAL!  Fake maple syrup is a mix of synthetic or highly processed ingredients.  The bananas themselves offer up most of the sweet you will need so you can keep any sweetener you may choose to a minimum.

Ingredients:

  • 1c almond flour ( can substitute another ie. sunflower seed flour OR coconut flour)
  • 1.5 c quinoa flour
  • 1/3 cup hemp hearts (I use Manitoba Harvest)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon good quality salt (I used Pink Himalyan)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c.
  • 1/3 c. real maple syrup (my sweetener of choice during springtime in Canada)
  • 1/4 c. plain unsweetend organic yogurt
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

How to:

  • Set your oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Grease loaf pan (I use coconut oil)
  • Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl
  • In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients…eggs, syrup, yogurt, mashed banana + vanilla) and whisk until mixed
  • Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until combined.
  • Pour into loaf pan
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes
  • Test it’s done by sticking in a toothpick. If it comes out clean, it is done. Another test is to push down a wee bit on the top with your fingers.  A properly cooked loaf will spring back into place.
  • Remove from pan and enjoy!

And there you have it, a better than conventional banana bread. AND with the addition of hemp hearts added in you should be able to keep your belly feeling full for longer.  Great for a snack or end to a meal!

 

 

 

 

 

5 Good Reasons To Give Up Wheat Even If You Don’t Have To

image: istock Getty images

image: istock Getty images

It’s taken me some time to get to a place where conventional wheat products are no longer a staple in my house.  But I am there. There are simply too many reasons NOT to eat wheat products.

The notion of wheat-free seemed at first to go against my grain. However, having worked in the processed food industry for many years,  I have long known that the processed food industry works to deliver the least expensive, fastest-produced, ultra-long lasting ‘belly-filler’ to our dining tables. And wheat products such as bread, pastries, cookies and breakfast cereals are no exception.

However,  it wasn’t until recently that I read the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and found out there were so many more reasons to avoid wheat than I had ever imagined. Some of these include:

1) ‘Franken Gluten’ When industry scientists created cheaper, high yield wheat, consumers got wheat with gluten proteins that mother nature had never intended. In fact the hybridization that created modern wheat, resulted in wheat gluten proteins undergoing considerable structural changes some of which are found in neither parent plant.  Scary. But compound this with the fact that tests confirming the affects of this franken-gluten on human health were never done. Super-scary.  Did any of us ask to be guinea pigs?

2) Diabetes. Modern wheat spikes blood sugar worse than does regular table sugar. The Glycemic Index was developed in the 1980’s by Dr. David Jenkins at the University of Toronto (my alma mater). The higher the Glycemic Index foods cause a spike in blood sugar vs. low GI foods. Evidence is pointing to higher GI foods being linked to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Are you surprised to hear that whole wheat bread has a higher glycemic index than does table sugar? I was. This translates to ‘whole wheat bread raises blood sugar on a gram for gram basis the same or worse than does eating a candy bar or drinking a soda pop’. Higher blood sugar leads to the natural aftermath of low blood sugar. The body compensates with by wanting more food and you can easily overeat.

3) Heart Trouble. Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist, confirms that wheat does trigger high blood sugar, increased visceral fat, and inflammation. As these are all contributing factors to diabetes, obesity, and inflammation.  And anyone of these issues, can go hand in hand with being seriously bad news for your heart.

4) Skin Afflictions. Wheat is to apparently to blame for advancing the telltale signs of time on our skin in the form of wrinkles and lost elasticity. And wheat is also linked to other skin problems, including psoriasis, and acne. And we thought chocolate and soda pop was solely responsible for the acne of our youth.

5) Osteoporosis. Wheat generates more sulphuric acidic when consumed than meat, apparently wreaking havoc on the acid/alkaline balance of the body.  Excess acid causes calcium to be drawn out of your bones. And where it used to be thought that osteoporosis was a problem of post-menopausal women due to lower estrogen levels, science now has evidence that calcium bone loss starts much earlier in life with a marked decline by age 40. And guess what is implicated..large quantities of wheat in our diets.

These are just some of the issues associated with wheat consumption that Wheat Belly outlines AND supports with scientific evidence. Of course everything in moderation but with wheat products being commonplace at breakfast, lunch and dinner, it becomes a potentially very serious problem. Who else thinks it’s time to re-think excessive wheat consumption?

Does Fast Food Make Sense in a Campaign to Have Kids Eat Healthier?

First Lady Michelle Obama orders a Subway sub during an event at a Subway restaurant to announce that Subway will work with the Partnership for a Healthier America to help advance the goals of "Let's Move!," in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

First Lady Michelle Obama orders a Subway sub during an event at a Subway restaurant to announce that Subway will work with the Partnership for a Healthier America to help advance the goals of “Let’s Move!,” in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

This week First Lady Michelle Obama took the next step in her Let’s Move! campaign.  This program was developed by the First Lady to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation.  As a mom I admire Mrs. Obama’s initiative toward a very serious health issue but do find concern with her latest partner in the program toward getting kids to eat healthier; Subway Sandwich.

This week kicks off SUBWAY’s “Playtime, Powered by Veggies” marketing campaign which with Mrs. Obama’s endorsement and support will promote increased fruit and vegetable consumption. The campaign is designed to encourage kids to pile veggies on their Subway sandwiches and select fruit as their side of choice not chips. Additionally, SUBWAY agrees they will offer milk or water as a default beverage not soda pop. Nobody has said what happens if a child who goes into Subway must have a soda pop or chips and is shy with piling the veggies high? This past week, Mrs. Obama celebrated the move by hosting a group of children in a DC area Subway showing them the ‘healthy choices’ available on the subway menu. It is rumoured The First Lady ate a turkey sub showing her support for the ‘healthy fare’ at the fast food giant.

Increased consumption of fruits and veggies by children is a always good thing in my opinion.  In fact, a huge part of my day to day is cutting up apples, carrots, cucumber, peppers for my two daughters.  I see that veggies make it into every lunch box and most every dinner.  And fortunately my kids eat them raw, unadulterated, unprocessed, unpreserved and uncoloured.

When fruit and veggies are being promoted by a fast food chain they will undoubtedly be accompanied by synthetic colours and preservatives, there to help them get through ‘shelf life’. Not to mention they are accompaniments to a sandwich filled with highly processed meats and sauces. Who considers highly processed foods a healthy choice by simply adding some (preserved and/ or coloured) fruits and veggies with it? So I am stumped by this latest initiative of the Let’s Move! program.

A quick check of Subway’s ingredient list on their website gives detail of the oodles of additives included in their sandwiches.  So it is easy to see that by eating at Subway you will get a significant dose of not-so-good-for-you ingredients such as added sugars, salt, colours (ie tartrazine, caramel colour), nitrates, nitrites, carageenan, azodicarbonamide (oh my!) just to name a few.

So irregardless of Mrs. Obama’s seemingly well-intended endorsement of Subway as a way to eat healthier, I will still opt daily to have my kids eat fruits and veggies at home, taken out of the fridge then sliced AND without a side of any synthetic, processed fake foodstuffs. Now isn’t that the best way to promote healthier eating?

Kombucha CA-RAZY!

CA-RAZY is how I describe my family’s reaction to Tonica Kombucha, our new favourite thirst-quenching, so-much healthier than conventional, outrageously delish r-KOMBUCHATONICA-large570drink!

What first drew me this odd-sounding, beverage was the superior nutritional attributes and purported healthy benefits as compared to conventional drinks. Nutritionally we are not comparing apples to apples when comparing healthy Kombucha to soda pop, I know. Soda pop is horribly high in refined, GMO sugars and in some cases may contain carcinogenic caramel colour but I make the comparison as my family likes sweet, bubbly drinks. And until now, we only knew the unhealthy version.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a refreshing beverage made from fermented sugar, tea (green, black or white tea), and a live starter: a combination of beneficial bacteria and yeast (also known as SCOBY “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast”). The live starter gives kombucha all sorts of fabulous benefits including probiotics, antioxidants, amino acids, B vitamins, and enzymes.

Although Kombucha was recently discovered by my family, it has been known in Russia, Asia and Eastern Europe for a long time. In fact, it was known in the Tsin Dynasty (221 BC) as the ‘Elixir of Long Life’.  It’s healing and restorative properties have been well-documented over the ages to include: resistance against cancer, prevention of cardiovascular diseases, promotion of digestive functions, stimulation of the immune system, reduction of inflammatory problems etc. etc. As well, age old remedies cite the following benefits of drinking Kombucha on an ongoing basis:

  • Promotion of liver cleansing, resulting in healthy skin, hair and improved eyesight.
  • Increase of metabolism & resulting decrease of body fat
  • Balancing of blood sugar levels
  • Increase of energy (yippee!)
  • Improved PH balance and resulting mental clarity

As Kombucha is an adaptogen, contains trace amounts of alcohol (.5%) AND a significant amount of lactic acid it is best for pregnant women to consult a physician before consuming it. Always best to be safe when expecting and its usually not the best time to try anything new.

As for kids, mine do drink Kombucha and absolutely love it.  It has become their number one choice for a thirst-quenching beverage this summer. AND at only 45 calories per serving, it is clear they are consuming very little in the way of sugars as compared to most other drinks kids like. 

I easily made the decision that the health benefits of Kombucha were too many for my family NOT to drink Kombucha. Soda pop which is linked to Type II Diabetes along with some other undesirable health concerns hasn’t been an option in my house for a very long time. 

The Best Brand of Kombucha I Have Found:

I tried a few but Tonica Kombucha is my ABSOLUTE FAVE! I love that it is all-Canadian, made in Toronto, is organic, raw, uses cane sugar (which is always GMO-free!) and comes in 6 fabulous flavours; Ginger Rapture, Green Tea Revival, Nude Brew, Peach Resolution, Mango Passion and Vibrant Blueberry. Check here to see where it is sold near you.

So when my family goes on our annual summer road trip this summer, no doubt we will be carting a few cases of Tonica Kombucha in the back of the family-wagon! Mango Passion for my 4 year old, Green Tea for my 8 year old, Ginger Rapture for my husband and Vibrant Blueberry for me!

Let me know if try Tonica Kombucha and what you, your family and friends think of it! We might all forget we ever knew ‘soda pop’….and might all be healthier for it!

Why Corn Stresses Me Out.

I love corn. However I do not love that it is ‘genetically-modified’.

Genetically-modified in the case of corn, refers to the fact that it has been roasted cornaltered in a lab to be able withstand huge loads of pesticides. Without modifying the corn to withstand insect-killing toxic pesticides, the plants would die from the chemical load.

How does it become genetically-modified? Specifically, corn is spliced with a gene from soil bacteria, known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).  The toxin-containing seeds are then sold to farmers, ultimately affecting food we eat. You will never be able to see the pesticide OR wash it off….you are stuck with it. And the fact that this particular pesticide works by rupturing the gut of insects that eat it, makes it EXTRA unappetizing. It’s no wonder GMO food products including corn are now implicated in ill health.

GMO corn is reported to be making its way to some roadside stands, farmer’s markets and even grocery store shelves. The worst of it is that you may never know if your corn has been grown from GM seeds and peppered with more gut-wrenching pesticide than you can imagine. Neither Canada or the US have joined the dozen or so other nations with mandatory labelling GMO of foods. So this summer, our usual family tradition of buying roadside corn on the cob will also be modifed.

As corn is used in oodles of processed food ingredients,  it is best to know that you may be eating GMO corn even when you don’t think you are eating corn. And sadly, uber popular corn snack products… popcorn and corn chips are most often genetically-modified. That alone is an issue in my house (READ: corn chips are my kids favourite after school snack and movie night just isn’t movie night without popcorn).

As with many debates on whether these toxic chemicals will harm humans…be assured you will see both sides of the debate if you research the topic. I am in the camp with well-regarded experts who believe that by eating GMO foods, we are the test subjects for a huge science experiment.  Who has the time it takes for absolute conclusive evidence? By then my kids might be grown. So while both sides duke it out, I choose to avoid GMO foods.

Recently at a backyard BBQ, when the roasted corn on the cob was passed around… I passed. Who needs the stress?

Tips for avoiding genetically modified foods of any sort:

  • Buy organic. Organic foods cannot be genetically modified. Even organically-raised animals cannot be fed GMO grains.
  • If possible, grow your own.
  • Ask food companies whose foods you buy if their products contain GMO ingredients and hope you get the correct answer.
  • Search out retailers who are vowing not to stock GMO foods. Lists exist of such retailers. And conversely it has been reported that some retailers will be stocking GMO corn.
  • Look for the non-GMO Project symbol on foods.

Hooray My Family Likes Hemp!

I recently introduced my kids to Manitoba Harvest’s hemp hearts. All I read touted these wee seeds  as a nutrition powerhouse which naturally intrigued me. What parent doesn’t dream of good-tasting, easy to use (read: NO PREP!!) healthy foods that kids will happily eat. So I gave it a go.

Now a few months after adding hemp hearts to our meals, my eldest daughter now requests them.  We use them on salads, in our home-baked goods and sprinkled on after school snacks such as Coconut Bliss.  Even our fave baking mix becomes a little bit more super-foody by adding hemp hearts. And as my daughter tends not to eat much meat or cheese, her favourite meal…a corn tortilla with salsa suddenly becomes a more nutritionally-balanced meal by adding hemp hearts.

There are a number of other reasons I love that hemp hearts have become a food choice in our house:

Hemp is grown in Canada. With so many of our foods in Canada coming from warmer climes, I love that hemp is home-grown.  Hemp is a sustainable crop used also in the production of building products, paper and clothes. So as an environmentalist, I am hoping that this means eventually less of our gorgeous trees will be cut down for paper. And hopefully there will be less need for clothes made from cotton….one of the most-sprayed crops in North America.

And anyone who knows me or reads my posts, will know that I LOVE the fact that hemp is not grown with the high pesticide use common in many other North American food crops. High pesticide use is why my family has  already given up non-organic wheat, soy, corn and sugar.

The nutritional benefits of hemp would make anyone striving for an all-round healthy foods want to try it. Known for its protein-packed punch…10 g of vegan protein per 3 tbsp AND without excessive saturated fat and cholesterol, it knocks the socks off a number of other conventional animal sources of protein. And the near perfect ratio of Omega 3 and 6’s is not found naturally in either flax or in chia.

And hemp contains the hard to come by Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA). Studies have shown that GLA helps with arthritis, join mobility, eczema, hormonal balance, migraines, blood pressure levels and even weight management.  Hemp is also a good source of fibre, iron, thiamine, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and manganese.

Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts come already hulled making them easy to digest allowing the nutritional benefits to be easily assimilated into the body.  I appreciate that Manitoba Harvest processes in a dedicated facility meaning it does not process any dairy, soy, nut or gluten products.  We have no allergies in our home but being void of known allergens makes Manitoba Hemp Hearts a suitable addition to my kids lunchbox meals.

Reading up on the hemp industry in Canada will confirm that it is a very regulated business. You can rest easy knowing that any notion that hemp is related to marijuana was put to rest years ago by our Federal Government.  They reportedly tested hemp for 4 years prior to legalizing commercial hemp production in Canada in 1998. A ‘virtual high-five’ for Health Canada!

So super-healthy, tasty and clean (even the de-hulling process is chemical-free), I am happy I gave hemp hearts the ‘kid-test’ in my house.

Manitoba Harvest has offered to send a total of 5 lucky people in either the US or Canada a bag of hemp hearts!!!  We will draw from the entries on July 5, 2013. There are a number of ways to become eligible to win.

Here’s What to Do:Hemp_Hearts__12867.1371813843.1280.1280

  • Post a comment on this post telling us why you would like to try hemp hearts.
  • Tweet: I want to try #hemphearts  @sessabel @manitobaharvest #giveaway #EatRealFood
  • Share this post and giveaway on Facebook and tag @sessabel (and we like when you ‘like’ our page too!)
  • Or Pin the Hemp Hearts photo to Pinterest tagging Sessabel We just started Pinterest this week so would love a wee bit of love for our board!

Chocolate In the Raw.

So you’ve heard that dark chocolate is good for you right? Well, if you dig a little deeper, there is more to consider about chocolate than if it is simply dark. Truth is that processing can make or break the ‘healthy’ claim.

Giddy yoyo_original

Raw cacao is one of the healthiest things on the planet. It contains a significant amount of valuable antioxidants which help cells in the body to repair themselves and stay well.  It is reported to have many times more antioxidant power than raw blueberries, goji berries and red wine. Studies on cacao confirm it is linked to reducing blood pressure and preventing cardiovascular disease and cancers.

The issue is most cacao used in conventional bars of chocolate has been grown with chemicals, is then high heat processed and to boot any goodness is further diluted with hydrogenated oils, dairy, and crazy amounts of refined sugars.

Enter Canadian company Giddy YoYo….who have figured it all out by making bars of chocolate both nutritious AND delicious. Giddy’s bars are made without high temperature processing. I asked them the scoop and was told that the highest temperature their bars get is in the sun in its native Equador. Wow…who knew? And certified organic means you won’t be consuming the loads of chemicals from high pesticide use and irradiation commonplace in conventional cacao bean production.

And just to make life a little sweeter…they use just enough (non GMO of course!) cane sugar and some very delish organic, fair trade flavours, My personal faves are the Mint, Orange, and the Spicy. But with more fab-sounding flavours just coming out, I have more taste-testing to do.

And as there is never any dairy, gluten, nuts in Giddy YoYo, I am over the moon as it is a healthy, nutritious and safe treat for school lunchboxes. Yippee!

As with most of my very fave products, Giddy YoYo bars can be purchased on-line in Canada at Sessabel (with free shipping in the Greater Toronto Area) and it’s in lots of brick and mortar stores as well.

 

8 Things You May Want To Avoid in the Grocery Store

One of my biggest food challenges as a parent is finding healthy foods for my family. Too many conventional packaged foods and snacks are over-processed, over-sugared, have been genetically modified and offer little nutritional value. We are all tempted to reach for the convenience foods at times but if you are tempted, best to do so with your eyes wide open.

Having worked for one of Canada’s biggest food brands for over a decade developing food products, I learned oodles about food and the processing of it. And from one parent to another, I wholeheartedly recommend questioning what is in your family’s food to make sure you are comfortable with it. Here are some factors I consider when purchasing foods:

1)  Genetically Modified? So many foods are genetically modified. As the jury’s out on whether adverse health issues can arise from eating GMO foods, I figure why wait while the scientists and major genetic modifiers are arguing about the details? When we know that some crops are modified to withstand some pretty serious pesticide use which would otherwise kill the plant, why eat it? That’s why I chose organic (especially corn, soy and sugar) as often as I can.

2) High Heat Processed? Heat kills alot of nutrients but is needed to kill live components that go off easily to give a longer shelf life. So chose raw or minimally-processed foods whenever possible. This means a piece of fruit vs. a processed fruit juice. No matter how much benefit a juice producer tells you there is in a commercial juice, it has been processed. As well, raw cocoa super-healthy in its raw state, loses considerable nutrients in its processing.. For a healthier treat, chose raw cocoa made into home-made goodies or in a chocolate bar sweetened with a little cane sugar.

3) Wheat?  I am not really a big fan of industrialized wheat. It really offers minimal nutrition at best as compared to other grains. Stripped of natural goodness through modifications and processing, it barely resembles the wheat our grandparents knew.  More and more people who are not celiac are having trouble digesting it. So better choices are the grains not yet tampered with such as spelt, kamut or red fife. I find these taste better and they are not genetically modified. And surprise, my kids love the baked goods I make.

4) Added Sugar? Sugar is added to more foods than you might imagine. Food companies love to add sugar as the human palate loves it.  Its so unnecessary in products like pasta sauce and salsa. And conventional yogurt most often resembles a desert not a breakfast food with the huge amount of added sugars.  Instead, I opt for unsweetened, organic yogurt and use a little real Quebec maple syrup to sweeten as needed. And I ditched my fave brand of salsa in favour of one that has no added sugar. Funny thing about the human palate as much as it loves sugar, it adapts to less and less quite easily.

5) How Is It Preserved? One thing to know about Big Food is that it generally must preserve the food in some way. The foods go through huge distribution systems, sit in warehouses and then sit on store shelves and then in your home. I watch for controversial preservatives or any even linked to health issues. This means I avoid BHT (used to preserve food AND cosmetics). As Canadians are being warned against even using it in bodycare,  I prefer not to eat it. Who wants to wait while science is proving or disproving suspected links to cancer? Check your breakfast cereals, margarines, enriched rices and even chewing gum.

6) Scary ingredients In the Packaging?  While BPA was banned for use in baby bottles, it remains in the lining of cans and the lids of baby food jars. Cook your own beans from dry and make your own baby food or simply limit the amount of either that you consume.

7) Unappealing, Unnecessary Ingredients? Read your labels! Food companies try to innovate to get more of your consuming dollars. Sometimes they miss the mark, developing foods that are in my opinion, are really quite unappealing. I recently saw a yogurt ingredient list which included anchovy and sardine oils AND pork gelatin.  If the addition of valuable omega 3’s is what they were after, someone should tell them there are great plant-based options for getting your Omegas.

8) Real Or Not? Know your foods and figure out your own tolerance for fake foods.  Processed snacks are often not ‘real’. At only 42% potato, Pringles are not so ‘real’. And neither are Fruit Roll Ups. With the regulation in Canada requiring only 2% be fruit puree, fruit rollups provide no nutrition for your wee ones. One company Sun Rype does offer a real fruit snack so should not be confused with Betty Crocker whose fruit snacks contain artificial dyes and loads of sugars, mineral oil and carnuba wax.

So read labels, research things you hear about food and figure out what is important to you and yours. Credible sources of info are readily available on-line.  And next time your kids work you over for something in the grocery store, you just may have a really good come back as to why its not such a good idea!