The Best Meatballs Ever!

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I love meatballs, it’s something I will do just about anything for…well, almost. My husband makes these for us about once a month for dinner. My son will do anything for them too. Sometimes he’ll go into the kitchen and do a crazy little dance to get them made faster. Of course, this doesn’t really make them get done faster, but it entertains us while we’re cooking.

We adapted this recipe from several other recipes – one of which is a turkey meatball recipe from First Meals by Annabel Karmel. But the real inspiration for this meal comes from the most amazing meatballs we’ve ever eaten from a fantastic local Italian restaurant here in Boise called Gino’s.

Gino’s used to be in downtown Boise, just about a mile and a half from our house. We used to ride our bikes down there occasionally for a special dinner. Now their restaurant is in a neighboring city called Meridian, so we go even less often. But I love that we can have a taste of Gino’s, right in our own home, from scratch.

Their food is so incredibly delicious and authentic. The owner is from Italy, and he uses recipes from his own family. The food is not Americanized Italian, which we appreciate.  I would put the food more in a Northern Italian cuisine category. Oh sure, they have pastas and starches, but I am always most impressed by Italian dining establishments which can make good use of flavor and spices without grains and pasta. This dish certainly fits that in that realm.

And I hate to say it, because Gino’s food is so amazing…but I think these meatballs are even better.

So In honor of our favorite Italian restaurant, we present our version of meatballs with tangy red peppers and other savory ingredients. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Savory sauce

1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil or palm oil
2 shallots, finely chopped (optional)
1 1/2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons tomato paste – we use Eden Organic canned – no BPA
3 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
2 cups of homemade vegetable stock

Meatballs

a pound of ground beef – ours is grass-fed
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 small apple, peeled and grated up
3 teaspoons of bread crumbs (we use Ezekiel bread)
1 egg, lightly mixed (we use pasture-raised eggs)
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme or sage, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
sprouted flour for coating
olive oil or palm oil for frying meatballs

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in a pan (we use stainless steel). Add in red peppers and/or shallots. Sautee. Add remaining ingredients and season to taste. Allow to boil and then turn down to simmer for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Mix together ingredients for the meatballs. With your hands, form into balls into desired size. The original recipe called for meatballs just a bit smaller than a golf ball, but we like ours bigger. Just remember if you make them bigger to allow for a longer cooking time. Use the flour to cover meatballs lightly – spread out on a plate or in a bowl and coat. Now heat the oil in your pan and add your meatballs. Sautee until golden brown.
  4. Use a casserole dish – either ceramic or glass, or a dutch oven if desired. Pour finished pepper sauce over meatballs. Cook in oven for 20 – 30 minutes. Cook less time for smaller meatballs, longer for larger balls. If desired, add shredded cheese of your choice during the last five minutes or so of cooking – parmesan,pecorino, or asiago are all delicious. Meatballs should cook until well browned.

You can serve these with vegetables and/or a salad (which is how we normally eat ours). We don’t eat a lot of grains, but you could also eat them with sprouted grain pasta or brown rice. You can make these ahead of time too, and freeze them or just eat them the next day for a fantastic lunch.

This recipe is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and check out all the other real food posts there.

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School Lunches Receive an ‘F’ – Sign the Food Democracy Now Petition!

It seems as though the school lunch program, which has come under close scrutiny of the public in the last few years, is now starting to receive some real mainstream attention.  Those faithful to real and traditional foods should not be surprised by this, but recent news reports reveal why this topic is just now beginning to get such heated press.

This report from CBS News explains why. Apparently now school lunches are falling lower on the quality charts than even fast food restaurants. Somehow, even this headline jarred me into thinking – wow, does it really have to come to this to get people to wake up and make some effort to improve the overall state of our children’s lunch program? Just seeing what individuals like Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard project in Berkeley, CA, Chef Ann Cooper, Toni Geraci, chef and director of the food service director of the Baltimore City Public School System, and many others have done should both inspire and motivate people everywhere to get on the truck and start making changes. Our children are worth it!

Food Democracy Now – making a difference

With this failing grade comes the emergence of an important player in food activism – Dave Murphy, founder of a food advocacy group Food Democracy Now, which he runs out of his home in Clear Lake, Iowa. In the fall of 2008, this web site was created and he was able to obtain the support from important leaders in food activism circles like Wendell Berry, Bill Niman, and Alice Waters.

He’s an activist I can really admire because he accomplishes goals by starting grass-roots efforts, online petitions, and action alerts. He’s made it easy for the average person to get involved and make a difference – which is great because it’s easy to feel powerless and as though “I can’t make a difference by myself”. It’s something many of us believe in and can related to.

Murphy has resolved to take on the federal government and make changes in food where it counts – fundamental changes in policy and methods of how food is grown, to convert industrial systems over to sustainable models for raising, growing, and selling food everywhere – including school lunch programs.

His realistic approach to the movement is realistic in that he knows change won’t happen overnight. But with persistence, the effort will pay off.  He is fully aware the challenges in fighting huge, multi-billion dollar agri-business corporations who have the right connections and resources at every turn.

Success relies upon the unity of grassroots organizations and other related interests — health insurers, senior citizens and teacher lobbies. All share a common desire to regain a better state of health by education and activism by healthful eating, and have a reason to join the battle. “If you want to change the ballgame, you have to address the policies that are responsible for the system we have in place,” Murphy said. “If you change policy, the market will change.”

Remember, the importance of nutrient-dense foods for our children is critical. We’d like to see the following changes made in school lunch rooms across America:

  • real, organic, whole milk, cheese, and butter being served, with no hormones/antibiotics/pesticides/chemicals
  • grass-fed meats from pasture-raised animals and poultry
  • eggs from pasture-raised hens
  • organic fruits and vegetables
  • remove processed grain products and replace with whole, sprouted and soaked grains
  • remove processed, industrial foods containing chemicals, pesticides, and genetically-modified ingredients

Get involved! Sign the petition and make a difference!

Please sign this important petition from CREDO and Food Democracy Now page to let Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture know that you support his willingness to investigate this matter and bring an end to processed, industrial foods being served to our nation’s children.

Watch this excerpt from ‘Two Angry Moms‘ where Baltimore’s Toni Geraci talks about how he’s changed the face of school lunches in his district. So inspiring!

Your voice really can make a difference in the way children eat lunch. Join celebrities and others who are fighting for our children’s future. Do you have any stories to share about changes you’ve made or witnessed in your own school district?

This article is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit this site and read the other real food posts listed there.

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CT Scans Found to Cause Cancer

A recent news report has revealed the danger surrounding the risk of developing cancer from CT scans is real. For some years, the medical community has fallen under scrutiny from various people in surrounding communities – including patients and folks in the complimentary and alternative health communities – about the dangers of excess radiation sourced from procedures and “routine” tests.

Medical professionals are now admitting that even more radiation is present in these procedures than previously believed. They report that as many as 29,000 Americans will develop cancer from CT scans done in 2007, and 15,000 of those will die.

Whether these numbers are actual or not reaffirms what some people have suspected all along – that the threat of exposure to radiation from CT scans and other related medical procedures is a direct cause of cancer.

Although CT scans provide doctors with what some believe is an unobstructed view inside the body and enables keen diagnostic technology, these machines performing the procedure emit radiation in order to supply doctors with results they seek. In some instances, the results yield no additional information and/or are deemed unnecessary.

The National Library of Medicine released an article on November 30 of this year showing the number of people who receive unnecessary scans on an annual basis – according to the study:

“978 CT abdominal and pelvic series were performed on 500 patients aged 9 months to 91 years. Most of the patients were 30 to 50 years of age. The researchers concluded that 35.3 percent of the CT series in 52.2 percent of the patients were unnecessary, according to American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria.”

In addition, the study found the  following:

“Among the 500 patients in the study, the mean excess radiation dose per patient from unnecessary scans was 11.3 millisieverts. That’s equivalent to radiation exposure from 113 chest X-rays or three years of naturally occurring background radiation”.

Ever since I started becomig more aware of natural and organic foods and avoiding chemicals (about 10 years), I’ve also been wary of procedures like this. After my son was born and he became a toddler, everyone started asking why we weren’t taking him to the dentist to have his teeth cleaned, treated with fluoride, and x-rayed.  I’d tell them he got his teeth late and was very squeamish about even brushing his teeth, but also that I just didn’t believe children needed to start going to the dentist that early and proper habits and dental hygiene at home were just fine. My parents who are very conventional about a lot of things, were actually about the only people who agreed with me.

Even before I understood the importance of traditional diets in the formation and maintenance of bone and teeth, I knew x-rays at the dentist’s office were not only unnecessary but that repeated exposure to radiation was harmful to health. Every time I declined the x-ray, my dentist would ask, “are you sure?” Radiation is cumulative, and something that doctors don’t readily admit to – they usually emphasize the “small” amount of radiation to which you are being exposed versus how invaluable the information they can gather from the x-ray is.

But just consider how much radiation and other harmful waves we really are exposed to on a daily basis: cosmic rays from outer space, from all types of household appliances, from clock radios to microwaves, to eletro-magnetic waves from telephone wires, radio waves, television and satellite waves, computer and monitor equipment, wireless devices, and the ever-present cell-phone risk. You don’t even have to own a cell phone or use one to be exposed to the radiation from these devices.

The amounts of radiation from an x-ray at the dentist may seem insignificant alone – but when you add in all the other sources of radiation and electromagnetic frequencies we are exposed to, it’s a monumental amount. And even if you don’t have a precise tally of how much radiation is deadly to receive – which might be impossible – it’s pretty difficult to refute that we are exposed to more than our fair share of it in our natural environments – without having any medical procedures done.

About a year and half ago after we had gone out to dinner and were driving home, my husband started complaining of a pain in his lower right side. Having had acute appendicitis during pregnancy, I was sensitive to this issue and asked how long he’d had the pain. He said it had been coming and going for a few days but now was really bothering him.

After we arrived home the pain worsened, so we decided to go into the E.R. I knew that eating real food and living healthy as we had been doing for at least a few years should help to prevent something like this from happening – but our bad habits had gone on for much longer than our recent change in lifestyle – and maybe it had finally caught up with him.

We spent the entire rest of the night at the hospital. My husband underwent various tests – including a CT scan. After everything was concluded, the doctors could find no cause for his pain. They wanted to prescribe pain medication and recommended he watch himself and call them if things got worse again or changed. I was worried about the CT scan even before they did it – my concern about radiation, which I expressed to the doctor on call – was met with a statement that it simply wasn’t an issue. But I knew better and let them know it. My husband thought it was okay since he was in such pain and “wanted to get to the bottom of what was causing it”.

Healthy lifestyles can prevent illness

After no further information was gathered from this test, I knew in my heart that this was a digestive issue we would have to sort out with detoxification, sticking to a healthy diet, and exercise.  Also, my next door neighbor is a nutritional therapist and my husband had been putting off making an appointment with her to get his digestion straightened out anyway.

He finally admitted that he did need to go and see her to try and get his health back on track. It’s been over a year now since that incident. My husband followed our neighbor’s (and my) advice, and treated it with food and whole food supplementation, as well as detoxification activities. Although he’s still on the road to “full recovery” as I call it (sometimes he’s stubborn and eats things he shouldn’t), he’s doing fine and hasn’t had any recurrence in the pain.

Something else which was reaffirmed to me after our visit to the hospital is that the increase in medical procedures, prescription drugs, and disease in America is directly attributed to the way people in our culture eat – processed, industrially-produced, chemically-laden, and toxic foods. The way we eat and live only adds to our trips to the hospital and the amount of procedures performed like x-rays, CT scans, prescription drug use, and the amount of overall chronic illness we experience, which is exacerbated by more of the same.

Now, I’m not stating that CT scans are absolutely unnecessary in all cases, and that their use should be discontinued. The main concern is that these and other procedures are overused – much like antibiotics. When it becomes so routine to employ a procedure or drug to determine the cause of a problem, it behooves patients to be more cautious and do their own research – and to not just blindly accept a recommendation by a medical professional simply because it’s the most commonly done thing. I think it’s also important the acknowledge that a healthy lifestyle including minimizing exposure to toxins, radiation, and eating real food can go a long way toward keeping people out of the hospital and undergoing costly, unnecessary, and deadly procedures.

Another recent development in the mainstream medical community is that mammograms, another procedure using radiation, are now being cautioned for use until women are over the age of 50 due to the same risk – overexposure to radiation. To read more about the risks of mammography, read To Mammogram or Not.

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Want Health Care Reform? Start with the Food System!

I’ve just about had it up to here with all the talk about health care reform. I’m tired of hearing that things are going to improve when I know darn well all these dictocrats have absolutely no intention of addressing the real issues at hand – which are prevention and food system fixes. To me, those are the only two things that will really bring about change in our broken health care world that is getting more and more infirm as time passes.

At the beginning of the Obama administration this past January, I had high hopes that this might actually be the season of real change in the health care system, as many promises were made that seemed solid. After all, things have just about hit rock bottom, right? Or could it get worse?

I spent a good portion of the year writing letters to state congresspersons and federal decision-makers about prevention and food system fixes being an integral component of health care change. Most of the responses I received were something of this nature:

Dear Friend:

Thank you for writing to me.  I appreciate hearing from you and value your input.

Each day, I am moved by the messages I receive from people across the country.  Far too many Americans are struggling–falling behind on mortgage payments, coping with illness, or losing a job without warning.  My Administration is working to address the serious challenges our Nation faces.  I am committed to taking immediate
steps that generate job creation and economic recovery, and I am determined to make investments that lay a new
foundation for real and lasting progress.

To build this new foundation, we need health care reform–this year–that reduces costs, protects health care choices, and assures quality, affordable care for all Americans.  I encourage you to visit www.HealthReform.gov to learn more about my commitment to enacting comprehensive health care reform in 2009.

I am also dedicated to building a clean energy economy that creates millions of jobs, helps us achieve energy independence, and reduces pollution as we tackle the effects of global warming.  Please visit www.Recovery.gov to read about the more than $60 billion in clean energy investments my Administration has made to jump-start our economy and build the jobs of tomorrow.

To prepare our children to thrive in the global economy, we must guarantee every child a complete and competitive education.  For information about my education reform agenda, please join me online at: www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/education.

At the same time, we have an obligation to rein in our budget deficit by cutting wasteful spending and ineffective programs.  We can do all this, and change the way business is done in Washington, by building the most open, transparent, and accountable government in our history.

While we repair our communities, we must also recognize the important contributions of our service men and women in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other nations.  Our military and their families have borne an enormous burden for their fellow citizens, serving with honor and succeeding beyond any expectation.  For those who have been injured or lost their lives in pursuit of our freedom, we owe them our undying gratitude.  I am committed to assisting our servicemembers, veterans, and their families and honoring our debts to them.

Information on jobs, health benefits, housing assistance, and other public resources for those in need can be found by calling 1-(800)-FEDINFO or by visiting: www.usa.gov.

The only way to solve the problems of our time is to involve all Americans in shaping the policies that affect our
lives.  I hope you continue to explore www.WhiteHouse.gov, which is regularly updated and more interactive than ever before.  Thank you again for writing.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

Not one sentence in this response even came close to addressing mine or anyone else’s concerns and points made about food system repair and prevention. I realize the President has a tremendous job and doesn’t have time for individual responses. But it’s absolutely unthinkable that no one with power or influence seems to be able to comprehend what needs to be done – especially a person who is so educated and informed as Mr. Obama.

It’s common knowledge that America spends more on health care than anyone else in the world, but finishes almost dead last (no pun intended) in life expectancy of nations with wealth. Clearly what we’ve been doing is not working…come on people, WAKE UP!

As a mother of a family with no health insurance,  I can say one thing – we don’t use conventional doctor services much anyway – even before my husband got laid off and we started our solar business in June. We practice prevention. We eat real, traditional foods, we avoid toxins in our diet, home, and personal products as much as possible. But what if we had an accident? As a family still trying to regain our footing after the loss of our primary income in May of this year and having just started a small business, we can’t afford health insurance right now. It’s pretty evident what would happen to us. But people who take care of themselves get sick less – it’s an irrefutable fact. So why should people who don’t burden the health care system be penalized when they really need help with unfathomable medical bills? Basic medical services shouldn’t bankrupt people.

I know people who believe that the health care system should stay the way it is. I respectfully disagree. And to those who say they want change and who are moving toward it, here’s a news flash: what’s proposed is just not going to solve the problem.

Throwing billions of dollars at Big Pharma is not going to make people healthier nor keep drug prices down for when people really need them. The pervasive overuse of drugs, as is the practice in our current health care system, keeps people sick and drives costs up with no end in sight. And that’s just a start – that’s not even mentioning what it does to our food system and farms.

But I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t really matter who’s in office – whether it’s a Democrat, Republican or Independent party candidate, that the overall mentality of the average politician is centered on supporting Big Business, Big Agribusiness, and Big Pharma – which certainly doesn’t involve doing what’s best for the health of the American people. A truly progressively-minded decision-maker who understands the issues and knows what needs to be done would stop all this silly pandering toward the big players and announce policy changes in the food system that will really make a difference.

When I say to people that the administration is doing nothing at all to address preventative coverage in insurance and educational measures, and repairing the food system, I get the usual blank look and sometimes they reply back in a monotone voice, “yeah.”  But having an intelligent conversation about this issue that really gets at the heart of the problem is pretty rare. This reaffirms to me that the average citizen is wholly uninformed and ignorant about health care and food. This is not a good thing!

Here is a great article published nearly a year ago on The Daily Green that sums up my feelings perfectly. It’s as true today as it was just before the Presidential Election in January of this year. To reform a health care system that is as badly damaged as our own, we have to start where the problems begin – with our food system and education about preventative lifestyles. No health care reform that centers on a more stepped up “food safety” program and increasing taxes to pay for health care and insurance premiums that don’t provide coverage for preventative care will ever improve the state of overall health of the average citizen in this country. Period.

Real Health Care Reform Starts with Our Food System

By Peter Berley, January 10, 2008

It appears that Americans have finally become fed up enough with the way things are to demand change, or have we?

Thus far, I haven’t heard a single candidate talk about the fundamental changes that must take place if we as a nation are serious about becoming strong and vibrant.

I haven’t heard “It’s the food system, stupid…”

The establishment of a new national health insurance policy, no matter how universal or complete, has little to do with a real change in national health. Nor will it go far in addressing our weak connection as a nation to the sources of our nourishment.

Insurance does not bring about real change in the ways in which we lead our lives. It does not address the root causes of our sickness. And it does little to change our dependence on others for our health.

To be fair, health insurance has the potential to go a long way towards the alleviation of symptomatic pain, short-term stabilization of life threatening diseases and emergency medicine. It is shameful that we as a nation have accepted for so long the status quo and allowed our leaders to remain puppets of drug companies.

Health insurance ultimately will never serve our greatest healthcare needs, nor address our deepest ignorance and fears. Every one of us must learn how to create healthy lives. How to take care of our own bodies hearts and minds.

None of the present crop of candidates is getting what real health care reform is all about. Perhaps because no one has explained it to them.

For instance, I found it strikingly odd that the sponsors of the debates in New Hampshire aired this past week were paid for in large part by the very drug companies that have a stranglehold on our health and whose greatest interest lies in profiting from our continued dependence on their products and belief in their message that we are incapable of controlling our own health destinies.

If I were Obama, Edwards, Clinton, Huckabee, or any other candidate representing change, here’s what I would propose:

Public schools would have food and health curriculums:

1. Cooking, bread baking and gardening.

2. Self care and home remedies.

3. Food studies: The study of traditional food-ways, agriculture, fishing, hunting and animal husbandry.

4. Food history

5. Food science

And, I would like to ask each candidate these questions:

1. What do they see is the connection between the health of our soil and the health of our population?

2. What do they eat at home?

3. What is in their medicine cabinet?

4. Have they spent time with a farmer, fisherman or rancher?

It seems to me that as citizens it is our responsibility to demand mandates for health education and transparent and safe food policy.

I couldn’t have said it any better.

Now, I want to hear from you about what you are doing to help those around you understand the problems we are facing with health care reform, and what reactions are you getting from them. Do you find that people are receptive to the idea of real prevention and food system fixes as main components of health care reform?

Would you like to read more about related topics?

Is Reactive Medicine Cheaper than Preventation?
Big Corporations and Big Pharma – Dictating What’s Acceptable to Eat
Being a Food Activist in a World Driven by Tradition, Control, & Profit
This article is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and read the other real food posts listed there.

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Support the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund – And Buy a T-Shirt!

If you care about important issues such as addressing food safety and the right of consumers to purchase clean farm food, here’s something you can do to take action. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization comprised of farmers and consumers pooling their resources together to accomplish the following:

  • protect the constitutional right of  the nation’s family farms to processed and unprocessed foods to the consumer directly through any legal means
  • protect the constitutional right of the consumer to have access to unprocessed and processed foods directly from family farms
  • protect the nation’s family farms from harassment by federal, state, and local interference with food production and on-farm food processing

These actions will help protect the availability of healthy foods like meats, eggs, raw milk and produce, consumer choice, on-farm processing, sustainable farms, and direct-to-consumer distribution. It will also oppose the National Animal ID System, the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and restrictions on direct sale of food.

Becoming aware and educating ourselves about the importance of where our food comes from and supporting measures and efforts to maintain a system that allows consumers the right to having access to clean food is more important than ever! Here’s a tragic story of a young girl who consumed tainted meat and is now paying the price for eating toxic, industrial food.

Buy your Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund t-shirts here!

If you would like to submit a photo of yourself or someone else wearing one of these shirts (various designs and messages available), Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense may feature your photo on their site.

For more information on boycotting the NAIS, visit NONAIS and help protect our rights to traditional farming

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Reading Labels in the Store – Don’t be Fooled by Marketing Lingo!

When you go to the store, are you overwhelmed and confused by what you read on the packages of the foods you buy? If so, you are not alone. Deciphering information on nutritional labels and information on packages can be a real challenge.

Many big corporations and agribusiness conglomerates have learned that people are spurred on by the terms “organic”, “all-natural”, and many others. Most people will just read the label and buy it because it says so. It’s become a marketing tactic that works to persuade the consumer to buy the product.

Recently, the FDA was reported to be cracking down on misleading or deceptive food labels. But traditional and whole food supporters know they haven’t been strict enough. The most recent whistle-blowing that occurred was with the “Smart Choices” (which is laughable, at best) sticker featured on various products – the most infamous one, perhaps, though, was the healthy properties of cereals like Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs. Come on, did people really believe this garbage? Well, the New York Times wasn’t convinced.

So if you are wondering about what’s on the label and whether it’s really true, read through this list of common terms used in the grocery store and find out why labels don’t always mean what they say:

All natural – this term is an attempt on the part of the manufacturer to get the consumer to take their word for it that this product you are holding in your hand is natural. A closer look at the ingredients will reveal a number of things you cannot pronounce or don’t recognize. This should always be a red flag.

No additives or preservatives – another ploy by the manufacturer to keep you from actually reading the the ingredients. Again, if you read the ingredients, you will be surprised.

Organic – just because the label reads “organic” does not mean it is healthy. Many processed foods are labeled “organic” but are unhealthy to consume. Some examples include boxed cereals, crackers, cookies, breads, many dairy products, soy products, and dairy products, and meats. A good example is extruded cereal products such as EnviroKidz Organic (don’t you just love the misspelling) Penguin Puffs.

Many companies appeal to a parent’s sense of what is healthy by making cereals that would otherwise be complete junk with organic ingredients. The ingredients may be organic, and are therefore slightly less toxic, but its still junk. I’m just as guilty as many others because I actually used to buy cereals like this for our family. Naturally, my son gobbled them down. I’m really glad I came to my senses.

Look for the USDA green and white symbol on the package and “certified organic” to ensure the product you are buying is truly what it reads on the label.

Realize, too, that some “organic” meat, poultry, and eggs are often from environments that are similar to the classical factory-farm setting. In other words, the food may come from animals in confinement that aren’t afforded the opportunity to roam around in a pasture, and are still likely to be eating the wrong types of  feed.

So even if the food is  “organic” and there are no GMOs being used, the animals may still be in confinement and eating grains, corn, silage, or soy, which alters the nutritional value considerably. Also, the feeding of grains, corn, and soy often causes the animals to become ill – as their bodies are not designed to digest these substances – and this is the whole reason why farmers started administering antibiotics to their livestock and poultry in the first place.

Vegetables and fruits can sometimes even cause problems – such as when you read in the news that so-called “organic” produce has been contaminated with E. coli or salmonella. The most likely reason for this to occur is that true organic standards are not being met. In many instances, these items have been exposed to fertilizer and runoff water sourced from factory farms. This is yet one more example of agribusiness using terminology to sell product but not maintaining the practice of high standards of true organic farming.

Something else some people don’t realize is that just because something is organic doesn’t mean it is a locally-produced product. Many organic foods are shipped all over the country and the world. The carbon footprint of an organic product that has been shipped more than a hundred miles or so is something to consider.

At minimum, organic foods are supposed to be free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics. But keep in mind that it doesn’t mean all other important checkpoints are included.

If you must pick and choose about which produce to buy organic, refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen of most important fruits and vegetables to buy organic.

Visit the Organic Food Database for a wealth of information about organic foods and products, farms and merchants, CSAs, and restaurants.

The Organic Consumer’s Association is another great resource for information and updates in organic food and laws, as well as news about organics in our food system.

To keep up to date on natural and organic foods and product labeling, consumer reports, and to make sure your dollars are paying for what you want, visit GreenerChoices – a subsidiary of Consumer Reports.

Find out why true organic food is healthier for us to eat. Visit the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the oldest and largest state organic organization in the country.

Hormone and antibiotic-free – this can mean that the meat, dairy, or eggs contain no hormones, but it does not mean the animals were grass-fed or chemicals, gmo’s, or other toxins were not present in their environment. If you do not see this wording on a package, it is almost guaranteed that geneticially-modified ingredients are used.

No GMO’s, no genetically-modified ingredients – when you see this wording on packages, no genetically-modified components are used. If you do not see this wording on a package, it is almost guaranteed that genetically-modified ingredients are used.

Interested in real milk with no hormones? Read this article about why the consumption of most milk can be harmful to your health.

Grass-fed – this term is very tricky because currently no standards exist regulating the use of the term “grass-fed”. Grass fed could mean the animals were on pasture for only part of the time, and were fed grains, corn, soy, or silage during some point in their lives. This of course, lowers the nutritional value of the meat.

The only way you are assured 100 percent clean, grass-fed meat is to ask the butcher in the store who deals with someone from the farm. If the butcher doesn’t know, contact the farm to find out all the details. The best way to find out if what you are eating is really grass-fed is to do your own research and contact the farmers themselves. If you would like to learn more about real meat, read this article.

Corn-fed or grain-fed – as mentioned above, this is not a healthy attribute for meat. If you see this on a menu or in the grocery store, reconsider your choice. Find grass-fed meats that are truly grass-fed or pasture-raised for health. For an explanation about why corn-fed meat is unhealthy to eat, read Corn-fed Equals Corn Bred.

Cage free – this might only mean the hens from where the eggs come are in a large, covered barn or facility. Many ‘cage-free’ eggs come from chickens in environments like this where they cannot roam in a pasture, receive sunlight, nor eat and forage for a natural diet. If you have ever watched the film Food, Inc., you can see a perfect example of chicken farms where the birds are ‘cage free’ but are crammed into an enormous building together and never go outside. No, they are not in cages, but they are in a completely unnatural environment.

Free range – this is similar in meaning to “cage free”. Again, these terms can mean the animal or bird spends a majority of its time in a restricted area, and only receives, at most, a few minutes a day away from confinement.

Humanely-raised – again, check with the butcher or farm. This term can also be a marketing gimmick.

Pasture-raised – this should be an assurance that you will have meat, poultry, dairy, or eggs coming from a clean environment – but even sometimes this is just a marketing gimmick. You should still ask the butcher or contact the farm if you want to be absolutely certain.

Whole grains – this one is extremely misleading because a majority of products claiming to contain whole grains do not actually contain the whole grain – it’s usually some type of flour. One of the main reasons many people have trouble with products containing grains – and wheat usually gets most of the blame for this – is because their bodies are rejecting the flour. It’s not the grain itself that’s bad, but the way it is processed. When grains are ground into flour, much of the nutrients are destroyed.

What’s more, grain ground into flour goes rancid quickly. Then add to these issues the fact that many of these products are cooked and extruded, which causes more problems in the nutritional value of the food. For best nutritional value from whole grains, try sprouted and soaked grains.

Gluten-free – this is one of the newest buzz words to hit the market, and it is incredibly misleading. It’s important to understand that just because something is gluten-free does not make it healthy or safe to eat. Some, although not all, gluten free products are still made with flour.

Anything that has been ground into flour – whether it be amaranth, buckwheat, spelt, kamut, almonds, hazelnuts, rice, soy, or sorghum – will go rancid fairly quick. That being said, most if not all of the flour products you buy are already rancid on the shelf when purchased.  Read this article about the gluten-free mania that is sweeping the market, and how it’s not as healthy as people think it is.

The best bet for anyone having trouble with grains is to try soaking and sprouting. Many people who have wheat allergies or even celiac disease have found they can actually eat grains again after a period of detoxification, digestive tract healing (through eating healing foods), and preparing grains properly in this way.

No trans fats – if a label says no trans fat in it, but it’s any type of a processed food, it is very likely that it still contains trans fats anyway. A trans fat is any fat that has been altered from its original state – such as hydrogenation. Hydrogenated oils are unhealthy to consume. And even if the label claims no hydrogenated oils or trans fats, but the ingredients show that it contains an oil that has been heated to a high temperature, or is any type of the following oils – canola, soybean, cottonseed and sometimes sunflower or safflower oils (basically, any vegetable oil), it’s a trans fat.

Non-fat, low-fat, fat-free, or skim – this does not mean a product is healthy – in fact, it usually means quite the opposite. If a food has had its natural fat content removed or altered, you can bet it’s not going to contain the nutritional content of the equivalent food with its full fat.

Eating fat does not make you fat; in fact, fat and cholesterol are essential to a variety of bodily functions, including maintaining a normal weight. Avoid low-fat and non-fat foods like the plague. Always eat foods containing real, full-content fat.

Lean or extra lean – this is often an indicator of meat than has been raised or grown in such a manner that it’s natural fats and proteins are altered. Most factory-farm meats fat and protein compositions are artificially altered by the very methods used to raise the animals. Ironically, factory-farm meats are obese meats, and they create an unhealthy balance in the body when they are eaten because their composition has been altered from what is naturally occurring in nature.

Low calories – This should go without saying, but the only types of foods labeled with remarks about calories are the processed, unhealthy ones. If you are eating real, whole foods, you will never have to count calories. Nature provides the correct amount of calories in all real foods for your body to be healthy.

As an example, if you are a Diabetic and you are counting calories and carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar down, you will probably continue to have problems your entire life. Throw out the processed foods and stop counting calories. You need real, wholesome foods with full fat and calories to balance out your blood sugar and keep your insulin levels in check.

Cholesterol free – this should be suspect. If the food naturally has cholesterol in it, but it has been removed or altered, it would be very unhealthy to consume. Cholesterol is good for you!

Dairy or egg-free – if you see this on a label, there is likely some fake fat or industrially-produced soy product lurking in the “food” to give it some type of semblance of “substance”. And whatever that fake substance is, it’s definitely not good for you. There is nothing wrong with dairy and eggs if it is organic and pasture-raised.

Sugar-free – another misleading label as having no sugar can mean any number of alarming things – the most notable ones being that it might still contain some amount of processed carbohydrates, which translate into sugar in the bloodstream, or that it contains some other substance such as a toxic, artificial sweetener like saccharin, aspartame, sucralose (otherwise known as Splenda), or any other sweetener ending in an -ose.

“Good source of” – is almost always an indicator of some synthetic nutrient added back in or “fortified”. These types of foods are processed, processed, processed and never deliver the nutrition they promise. In addition to being nutritionally-bankrupt, consuming these foods can actually deplete your body of existing nutrients – not unlike a lot of the aforementioned kinds of products.

Vegan – I can’t believe I’m including this one because it should go without saying…but I feel it’s necessary to explain why this term, which is used more and more, is confused with healthy eating. Vegan diets are grossly lacking in nutrition, and almost always contain artificial & fake ingredients. Unless it’s a raw food item, and many vegan foods are not, it’s probably not real food and is likely packed with industrially-produced soy or rancid oils. The same can often apply to foods labeled “vegetarian”.

Because so many agribusiness giants are now cashing in on the organic and natural contingent in food market sales, and it is therefore very difficult to really know how food is grown from products that come from far away, your best bet is to consistently attempt to purchase food locally and from growers you know or trust. Farmers markets are great places to establish these arrangements and relationships. You can talk with farmers and food growers to learn where and how your food is produced.

This is probably not an exhaustive list of all marketing terms used to sell products consumers, and I’m certain I’ve forgotten some. Does anyone have any others they’d like to share?

Want more information about real food? Read this article about knowing your foods and how to understand what you are eating.

Learn about how your toxic load affects your health – from the foods you eat to chemicals used in your home, and elsewhere.

This article is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit Kristen’s site and read all the other real food posts there.

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Grocery Store Wars – May the Force – and Sustainability – Be With You!

This video adeptly uses the Star Wars mythology to illustrate the state of our food system.

What can YOU do to combat the resistance?

  • Buy sustainable
  • Buy local
  • Buy organic
  • Avoid processed, packaged, genetically-modified foods
  • Eat traditional foods
  • Eat whole foods

How well do you know your food? Find out!

Whole and healthy meat…does it really exist?

Are you addicted to healthy shopping?

Is reactive medicine cheaper than prevention?

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