Posts tagged ‘whole foods’

May 1, 2011

Strawberries on the Cheap: Things to Consider When Buying Food

by Jen Wanous

If you know me, you know that I love a good bargain!  That’s why, the other night, when I saw a guy selling strawberries off of a card table for a buck on the side of the street, I got two!  Of course, these ripe spring jewels were not of the organic variety – those cost $6 at my local food coop.  Every time we make a food purchase, we are confronted with ethical, nutritional and financial decisions.  This time, for me, the financial component took precedence, but it doesn’t always.  Below are some things that I consider when choosing food.  Next time you are at the grocery or at a makeshift fruit stand on the side of the street, you can consider these things too.

Is it local? 

Is it organic?

Does it look ripe and fresh? 

Price? 

I put local at the top of my criteria because buying local supports your local farming community, reduces the carbon footprint by cutting out shipping fuel and ensures that you’ll be eating fresh, seasonal food.  Your local farmer’s market will have a great selection of food that is grown within 150 miles and Whole Foods is stepping up its game now by sourcing products locally too.

Organic means that the food has been certified to be free of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, does not contain genetically modified organisms and is not subjected to irradiation.

Okay, this is quite the package to unpack, but here are some highlights:

Pesticides and chemical fertilizers keep the bugs off but poison the consumer and the environment.  The runoff from farms pollutes our waters and has health risks ranging from mild skin rashes to more significant environmentally-derived health problems like cancer and birth defects.

GMO food has been messed with on a genetic level.  We are talking DNA here.  Scientists, paid by monopoly seed producers and pesticide producers (like Monsanto) go into the DNA of a seed and change it to be resistant to chemicals or bugs, or anything.  The effects of DNA splicing in the food we ingest has unforeseen consequences.  Do you really want to eat food that has genetically modified DNA?

Irradiation is something that I had not heard about before I started culinary school.  I was amazed to discover that most of the non-organic food that we get in grocery stores has been exposed to low levels of radiation.  It is used to increase shelf life by killing bacteria, viruses and insects on food, including meat.  This process of exposing food to radiation has many drawbacks. Some of these possible issues are that it masks food that could be spoiled, it impairs flavor and, hello, we are eating food that’s been exposed to radiation.

All this being said about organic foods, we still have to consider that a healthy adult person has the immune capacity to deal with some non-organic products.  It’s not a must to buy all organic, just try to.

Here is a list of the “dirty dozen”, which are foods that you want to get organic, if possible:

1. Meat

2. Milk

3. Coffee

4. Peaches

5. Apples

6. Sweet bell peppers

7. Celery

8. Strawberries

9. Lettuce

10. Grapes

11. Potatoes

12. Tomatoes

Here is a little tip when buying produce to tell what you’re getting. 

We all see them and peel them off whenever we eat a piece of fresh fruit.  They are the stickers with numbers and they have a secret code so that you can tell what you are buying.

–  4 digit number means conventional (grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers)

–  5 digit number and starts with a 9 means organic

–  Starts with the number 8, then it’s been genetically modified

To find out more about organic food, you can check out:

Food Inc. (movie)

The Future of Food (movie)

The Ethical Gourmet by Jay Weinstein (book)

Unhappy Meals by Michael Pollan (NY Times article)

Organic Food, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetic modification, irradiation, all on Wikipedia.

April 11, 2011

Ode to New York: A Vegan Ice Cream Guide

by Jen Wanous

On my third year anniversary of living in New York, I would like to dedicate an ode to the best vegan ice cream this wonderful city has to offer.  Many of you know that I am lactose-challenged and as you probably also know, I love ice cream.  This makes for a challenging scenario, but with some digging, sweet, cool, creamy deliciousness can be found!  Below are reviews of what I have enjoyed here.

Right photo courtesy of Kelsey Leland, check out her blog at: http://www.girlwiththecupcaketattoo.com/

You see, I used to be able to eat dairy like a champ.  Hot days at the beach in my Southern California hometown would never be complete without some Thrifty’s ice cream, pizza was plentiful and cheddar cheese to complement all the Mexican food was essential.   Then came college and my earthy-herbal vegan days where I cut out dairy completely.  When I decided I was over it, I tried to go back to my decedent milkshake-loving ways and I quickly realized that I was doomed!! It was a particularly low point in my life.  I had indeed become lactose intolerant- joining the ranks of my mom’s side of the family- we would all pay dearly for our cheesecake indulgences on Thanksgivings.

It’s estimated that 75% of adults in the world are lactose intolerant. Your body is missing lactase, which is the enzyme you need to digest lactose.  Prior to pasteurization, milk contains lactase but the high heat process of pasteurization destroys it, making it hard for us to digest if we don’t already produce lactase.  If you can find a trusted local, raw milk producer, you might not have any reaction at all.  (In NYC, it is illegal to sell non-pasteurized milk…but ask around someone might be able to hook you up!)

Lactose intolerance is the heavy, stomachachey feeling you get from eating pizza, cream soup or ice cream.  (Lots of bubbles…you know what I’m talking about.)  Of course, the severity can vary.  If you tune into your body enough, you can start to notice what might bother you the most.  The sugar-lactose combo that is found in ice cream is particularly challenging for your body to digest.  It might be worthwhile to pay attention to any correlations you notice between symptoms like: stuffy nose, you have to clear your throat a lot (ehem), for kids- if they get ear infections often, asthma, snoring or just tummy aches in general.  It might not seem like such a big deal but over the years, I’ve noticed that I get totally grumpy when my stomach hurts, so for me it’s just not worth it to suffer through—especially when there are so many wonderful alternatives!