Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Food Revolution

I say it started in May, but it really started much earlier than that. I just lost my way.

I Read.
I read a lot.
I read books.
I read blogs.
I read studies.
I read knitting patterns.
and now
I read food labels too.

Earlier this year I told you about Mrs. Q. the teacher eating school lunches for a whole school year. I told you I was worried about her health. Well, she is doing okay, amazingly after eating half a year of school food. She has learned a lot and those of us who have been reading her blog have been learning right along with her. Sometimes she gets me fired up. If you haven't checked her out I encourage you to do so. This weekend she is having a blog party.

This year I have learned so much about food and deception and the USDA and unfortunately about the school lunch program. My child doesn't even participate in the program. She doesn't even go into the lunchroom. Not that I really blame her. I'd take a quiet room with a teacher and a few other students over the loud echoing walls and processed food any day.

I've read books by Michael Pollan, Chef Ann, Nina Planck, Marion Nestle and others. My eyes have been opened. If you only have a small amount of time and you want to help yourself first, read "Food Rules" by Michael Pollan. It might just change your life. It is short, you can read it in an hour. Then read it again. Then pass it on to a friend and change their life. Then go to the library or bookstore and check out some of those other people.

Did you know that the Average American Adult eats over 141 pounds of sweeteners a year. (That is SUGAR.) Most drink 53 Gallons of soda a year!

That is a lot of HFCS. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is in Everything. If you are eating a processed meal chances are it is in there. If you are eating fast food it is in at least 2 or 3 items on your tray.

In May, I decided that I would stop eating HFCS. First to go were soft drinks. I never drank diet soft drinks anyway, because of reactions to the artificial sugar substitutes. So no more Soft drinks. I lost 8 pounds in 1 month.
Then we stopped eating out so much. The money we have saved is amazing.
We don't buy processed food. I'm cooking more. I've lost over 12 pounds this Summer. I fit in my clothes better. I feel better.

Summer is easy.
There are tons of fresh veggies in the Summer. Farmers markets with seasonal foods and fresh eggs. The true test will be back to school this Fall. When I'm tired at the end of a day. Will I be able to hold out on the no processed foods? We will see.
Breakfast for dinner is always an option right?

What does this have to do with your kids and the way they eat at school? It has to start at home. You have to start with yourself and your family. You have to educate yourself. You can not believe everything the USDA tells you. That food pyramid was bought and paid for by big business. (Beef, corn and milk)

It all starts at home. Once you have the knowledge then you can start working on the schools.

My child, my family eats well. What burns me up is that it is the kids that need those school meals the most, the ones that don't get a good breakfast at home or even a good evening meal at home, are the ones that are losing so much. The ones that count on good food to help them grow not just physically, but mentally are not getting it through the Federal School Lunch program. What started off as a program to help our children during the depression has been hijacked somewhere along the way. All parents should care about this but in order to have change we Must know what we are talking about. We must educate ourselves.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Label Confusion

I've been reading a lot this Summer.
I've read Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" and "Food Rules". Both are excellent.

Earlier this year I read “Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children” by Ann Cooper & Lisa M. Holmes . Then I read The Gospel of Food: Everything you Think You Know About Food Is Wrong” by Garry Glassner.

Then I picked up Fast Food Nation and Chew on This by Eric Schlosser after seeing the movie Food Inc. (these books are being donated to a friend’s classroom he teaches health to 9th graders and is glad to add them to his class library)

Now I'm almost finished with Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck(highly recommend). I've skimmed though What to Eat by Marion Nestle. I've drooled through Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carrol and The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

It has been quite a foodie adventure. I've learned a lot. I've even lost a few pounds. Some of the things I've read are life changing. I'll save them for another post.

I was talking to my mom over coffee the other day. We do that a lot. She walks her dog to my house for coffee almost every morning. That morning the discussion was about labeling and meat.
You know you go into a grocery store, a regular grocery and you know that most of the meat you can buy there will be the same meat that is raised for the fast food industry. It is true.
So Mom asked how can you tell by looking at the labels even at Whole Foods if the meat is factory meat or old fashioned farm raised.

Well here is what Nina Planck has to say about that. Hope it helps you figure out what to eat.
The following is taken from Real Food What to Eat and Why pages 117 - 119.

means the food was produced without synthetic fertilizer, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, genetically engineered ingredients, and irradiation. Organic does Not mean animals were grass-fed or pastured. Organic beef, pork and poultry eat organic grain, but most commercial versions are not raised on grass, or their access to pasture is minimal.

Conversely, Grass-fed and Pastured don't mean animals were raised to organic standards, But the grass farmer who uses antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or genetically engineered foods is rare. Grass-fed means animials were raised on grass and hay. How much varies widely the term is not legally defined.

Grass Finished beef was raised on grass and fattened with grain.

Pastured applies to pork, poultry and eggs. when animals are raised on pasture. Pastured chickens eat corn, insects and sour milk as well as grass. (my note: and other leftovers and vegetation.)
On eggs or poultry the label Vegetarian feed is misleading. It means chickens were not fed other ground-up chickens(in the feed) and that's good. But chickens are not natural vegetarians. What it does mean is the birds never went outside; if they had, they might have eaten a grub or two. Free-range poultry and eggs says nothing about grass. It means the birds aren't in cages, but they may be in barns or on bare dirt. Grass is the key source of beta-carotene, CLA and omega-3 fats in pastured poultry and eggs.

The label Natural says nothing about the animal's diet. It means the product contains no artificial flavor or color, chemical preservative or any other artificial ingredient.

According to the USDA "all fresh meat" qualifies as "natural"

So that chicken I've been buying from Whole Foods is barn raised, fed a vegetarian diet, but no hormones or antibiotics were added to the feed.
The eggs I buy from the Zimmerman's are pastured. The chickens get to eat bugs and grass and scratch in the dirt like happy chickens.

It is discouraging to me that we have so little control over our food. That we have to research in order to know just what we are putting into our bodies. It is so easy Not to question that it is scary.