Peek Inside My Drawers…in my Kitchen;-)

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So many have asked what I buy for my family. It is no secret…I take grocery shopping very seriously. I do not delegate, particularly to my husband. He is known for volunteering to walk the dog as a pretense to sneak to Duane Reade to buy DOUBLE CHOCOLATE Milano cookies!!

However, despite my husband’s transgressions, I promise my family is hardly deprived. Our home is full of great REAL food– organic meats, veggies, fruits, great snacks and sweets. Yes, I permit my children to indulge! I am realistic. I may have given up sugar, but my kids are normal with all the cravings and lack of will power.

Fortunately for my family, I learned what I did about food when they were still young…when I was able to phase out certain brands like Milanos, Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Doritos, Goldfish, etc. They protested at the time the loss of their precious treats, but I acted very quietly and for the most part, except for a few key items, they did not really notice. The trick– as I eliminated, I replaced with alternatives. They would ask for Oreos and yes, they started joining their Dad to walk the dog, but after awhile, they kind of forgot and seemed satisfied with what they were finding in the snack closet.

I bought organic dark chocolate bars. They got used to the taste of dark chocolate– a much healthier alternative to milk chocolate. I started baking. (However, my kids say I am no Meryl Streep from the movie “It’s Complicated”). I started reading labels choosing cookies and snacks with less processed ingredients and definitely no GMOs– if it says sugar, then it is genetically modified beet sugar!! Look for cane sugar, maple syrup, molasses ( the real stuff not made with GMOs or MSG) or my new favorite that I use for baking…coconut syrup or coconut sugar! Almond butter replaced peanut butter. Nuts replaced chips. Real honey (not the crap from China) replaced jellies/jam. Tates whole wheat dark chocolate chip cookies replaced Oreos and Milanos. (The bag says made with Non-GMO ingredients and I like that all the ingredients are real– nothing I can not pronounce or spell on the label! Or my other litmus test– all the ingredients can be found in my kitchen!)

Like so much in my life I try to maintain a balance. I long for a world where all food is equal and where corn is corn– like what we ate as kids. I long for the days when we did not think or worry about GMOs, chemicals/ herbicides/pesticides, artificial flavors/coloring and preservatives. And I try not to get too obsessive or too complacent!

In today’s world where conscious eating is a serious obstacle course, my game plan– get it right 70% of the time. I learned the 70% benchmark in a parenting class and I think it is equally applicable to food.

70% of the time we eat at home, so for the 30%– when my kids are at school or grabbing a burger or pizza on the weekends, or hitting their favorite waffle cart in NYC or even when my husband and I eat out– I am more relaxed knowing that the not so good quality food is offset by all the real food and nutrients stocked piled in our bodies, thanks to my meticulous grocery shopping. And the proof…we are all healthy. (Poo Poo as my grandmother used to say). My kids have not had a sick day in years!! They have not taken antibiotics or a flu vaccine in over 8 years and we actually do not have Tylenol or Motrin in our house! Because… there is never any need!! And if we do, I have a medicine cabinet of essential oils and other remedies, but I will save the tour of my medicine cabinet for another post!

So here it is…take a virtual tour of my kitchen. These pictures are hardly inclusive of everything I buy, but they should help steer you in the right direction next time you go to the grocery store. For the most part, everything is organic, although I am well aware the organic label is hardly full proof. In our imperfect world, it is just the lesser of two evils.

ALSO, one more thing to watch out for as you endeavor into the minefield of shopping for REAL or at least better, healthier options. Do not be fooled by any food claiming to be “all natural.” It is not even close to organic… rather a marketing trap for the unaware. Incredibly, the FDA has yet to define the term!! Meaning— “all natural” is BROADLY interpreted and mostly a scam!

I hope you appreciate the importance of making informed decisions when grocery shopping. Please take time when shopping, DO YOUR HOMEWORK and READ LABELS! And when in doubt, use your phone and do a quick search!!

MEAT

MEAT

Organic chicken and Grassfed beef are a MUST and worth the expense! Conventional poultry and meat are laced with antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs ( from the feed). In addition, chickens are fed many more pharmaceuticals like arsenic, Benadryl, Tylenol, Prozac and other chemicals!!!!!! WTF??!! Shocking but true!!! Read NYTimes writer, Nicholas Kristof’s oped.

Also, grassfed beef and organic cage free chickens are much higher in Omega 3 because… “grass” is naturally high in Omega 3. However, corn and soy fed livestock are much higher in Omega 6. See my post on Anti-Cancer author , Dr. Servan Schreiber, to learn more about the difference between a diet rich in Omega 3 versus Omega 6.

Do not take chances. Play it safe and buy ORGANIC! Brands like Murray’s antibiotic and hormone free chickens are just not pure enough!

VEGGIES

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My organic veggies and eggs are direct from the farm. Rusticrootsdelivery.com delivers direct to your door each week in NYC. I also heavily supplement at Fairway. Fortunately, many groceries stores across the country are now stocking organic produce as demand skyrockets. However, not everything needs to be organic. Best to check the EWG dirty dozen list of what to buy organic or not. Spend your money where it needs to be spent! Also, check your town or city to see if you can purchase a share of vegetables from a local harvest otherwise known as a CSA.

SNACKS

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Navigating the snack aisle is a minefield. Tread very carefully and read labels or to be safer, buy only organic snacks. There is just too much crap beyond, sugar, fat and salt in junk food! In fact, it seems like there is no real food in junk food. Organic, while not perfect, is held to a higher standard. It is like insurance. Or look for the Non GMO Project Verified Seal.

When reading labels:

Be wary of MSG. There are so many hidden sources. http://www.truthinlabeling.org/hiddensources.html.

Be wary of CORN. 85% of corn in our country is GMO.  Avoid these ingredients derived from corn: citric acid, confectioner’s sugar, corn flour, corn fructose, corn meal, corn oil, corn syrup, dextrin and dextrose, fructose, lactic acid, malt, mono- and diglycerides, monosodium glutamate, sorbitol, and starch (baking powder usually contains cornstarch, by the way). Many vitamins also contain corn.

Be wary of SOY. 90% of all soy in this country is GMO. Also all non-organic soy products are processed with hexane– a by product of gasoline refining! Hexane is a neurotoxin and hazardous air pollutant used as a solvent to cheaply extract oil from soybeans. (Always money before health in corporate America!)  Some foods likely to contain soy are: bulking agents, carob, emulsifiers, guar gum, natural flavors, shoyu, soy beverages, soy flour, soy lecithin ( one of the top 10 most used ingredients in processed food), soy miso, soy protein concentrate or isolate, soy sauce, soybean oil, stabilizer, tamari, tempeh, texturized vegetable protein, vegetable broth, and vegetable gum.

Also make sure snacks contain no ARTIFICIAL FLAVORING or FOOD COLORING. Food coloring while banned in Europe because it can cause cancer, hypersensitivity reactions and behavioral problems, is of course, permitted in our country and guess what? Skittles, Fruit Loops and all those colorful foods are full of artificial colors including so many kid’s vitamins!!!

Avoid “NATURAL FLAVORING” although this one is tricky. The word “natural” is very misleading.  “Natural flavor”  often means chemicals manipulated to create an enhanced taste– so it tastes like a natural strawberry, but on steroids! Like MSG, natural flavor is an excitotoxin that convinces your brain to want more and honestly…it is really hard to avoid, but at least be conscious of it on the label! Everything in moderation!

Also, try to limit potato chips, french fries, etc. Most potatoes are sprayed with the Round Up herbicide and every study shows so many serious health consequences. Farmers use the herbicide to kill the roots making harvest easier, but unfortunately, the potatoes are left coated in toxic chemicals! See this link for health hazards. Sweet potatoes are always a better choice as they contain much less pesticide residue.

And if you can not pronounce many of the ingredients on the label..take it as a warning and skip it!

DessertsDesserts

Ideally, avoid all food from a box. If you are going to bake, make sure to buy the purest, freshest or organic ingredients. Yes, butter and sugar must be organic! And labels must state sugar is cane sugar, otherwise the sugar is GMO. Or favor European brands. Food laws in Europe are much more stringent. Check out this post from Foodbabe comparing American and European food labels and ingredients. The European brands are GMO free and are for the most part made with real ingredients. Even American brands sold in Europe are reformulated to meet strict standards! It is like they give them the good stuff and save the cheap stuff for us! Also, there is a plethora of fabulous organic dark chocolate bars and organic treats to choose from!

STAPLES

P1130332COOKING OILS– I only buy organic olive oil. Olave is my favorite. Check out this short video, “Extra Virgin Suicide” discussing how most imported olive oil is cut with cheaper oils. Also avoid canola oil. It is genetically modified Rapeseed oil— a very acidic, industrial oil used to make candles, lipsticks, soaps and biofuel. It’s derivative, Canola oil was actually the first genetically modified seed. Canola stands for “Canada Oil Low Acid.” It is an invention! Why use an invention when there are so many other natural, pure choices?!! Another fabulous, healthy substitute is coconut oil. It is great for high temperature cooking. Use it on sweet potatoes or butternut squash…DELICIOUS! For baking, I use grapeseed oil.

SALT– only sea salt. Table salt is heated to such high degrees depleting any beneficial minerals. My favorites are Maldon, Baleine and Pink Himalayan Salt– by far the most nutritious and pure!

PASTA- Wheat is highly processed and fumigated in our country– meaning it is sprayed innumerable times with pesticides. I buy only organic wheat and prefer brands made with grains that are cousins of wheat like spelt, kamut, sprouted wheat, millet or flax. Even when choosing more ancient varieties of wheat, I still only buy organic. My kids happily eat Nature’s Legacy Organic spelt pastas. For gluten free, try Tinkyada Pasta Joy brown rice pasta. I also love the brand Jovial. All their wheat products are made with organic einkhorn wheat–an ancient, pure, less processed, and more nutritious grain.

SOY SAUCE– only organic! Remember soy sauce is made from soy beans which are all genetically modified!!

RICE– organic as well because of the high levels of arsenic. Make sure to wash the rice several times before cooking!

DAIRY PRODUCTS– must be organic! Most cows in our country are injected with rGBH– a growth hormone brought to us by my favorite company…Monsanto! ( sarcasm). Most other countries banned rGBH recognizing the potential dangers. Many dairy manufacturers, like FAGE yogurt are now clearly stating on their packaging that their cows are not injected with rGBH. Really inspect the packaging! Also, another reason to only buy organic is because of the insane amount of antibiotics given to livestock in our country.

SOFT DRINKS/JUICES– NONE!!!!! I beg of you. Stick to filtered or glass bottled water. Do I really need to spell out all the reasons to eliminate sugary drinks?!!! OK….10tsp of sugar/12 oz in sodas. Carmel coloring- a known carcinogen, sodas are acidic which leads to cancer. High Fructose Corn Syrup– GMO, Aspartame…groan– too much to say except that pilots are never allowed to drink anything with aspartame because it leads to seizures!! Check out this list from the FDA website of possible aspartame reactions. Gatorade– contains brominated vegetable oil a.k.a flame retardant– a synthetic estrogen. Juice boxes are very rarely pure juice or the box is lined with BPA!! Most importantly, WHY DRINK YOUR CALORIES?!!!

BREAKFAST

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Like shopping for snacks, reading labels in the cereal aisle is equally important. As you can tell I am a broken record about organic! Whenever shopping for cereal, I make sure there are no derivatives of corn or soy. I also make sure REAL cane sugar is used.  However, regardless of the type of sugar, sugar is sugar. It is addictive, very acidic and is just bad for overall health. Watch the amount of sugar in any of the cereals you buy especially when buying granola or muesli. Also, I have found some cereals sweetened with aspartame. Make sure to double check. Oatmeal is a great alternative or opt for organic eggs for breakfast.

As for milk, you can see I buy Rice and Almond Milk. We stopped drinking milk a few years ago. New studies  show little nutritional value in milk and it is a cause of inflammation and disease in our bodies. Read my post on milk.

In choosing alternatives, you have to navigate. I used to buy Pacific Organic Almond Milk until I started reading articles warning of the hazards of carrageenan– an ingredient often used in organic food, but a source of much controversy. Studies show it can cause inflammation leading to digestive issues. Link here for a shopping guide to avoid carrageenan in organic foods.

I now buy Silk Almond Milk and Rice Milk Organic ORIGINAL CLASSIC because they both do not contain carrageenan. However, be careful as other varieties of the same brand list carrageenan as an ingredient!  Also, be aware organic Rice Milk may contain organic canola oil and I have not quite figured out how canola oil can be certified organic as it is a GMO seed!  But, at least it does not contain all the chemicals and pesticides. See this article, Organic Canola Oil is an Oxymoron.

Hemp milk is also a good alternative and of course, skip soy milk. 

Can you now see how important it is to…READ LABELS. And as evidenced with carrageenan, in the world of food manufacturing even when buying organic, NOTHING IS PERFECT!

CONDIMENTS

CONDIMENTSAvoid HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (HFCS)! Almost every ketchup, steak sauce and BBQ sauce lists HFCS as the first ingredient! Read labels and again…try to stick to organic. Even Molasses in non organic brands is not real molasses, but rather MSG and made from GMO sugar beets.

Avoid CANNED GOODS! All canned goods are lined with a BPA liner except for the Eden brand which uses an oleoresin liner instead. Especially only buy tomato sauce from a glass jar. Tomatoes are very acidic which increases the rate BPA enters food.

I also make sure to avoid condiments made with SOYBEAN and CANOLA OIL– unless it is organic soybean oil. As for organic canola oil… what an oxymoron!

And most of you know how I love BRAGG’S APPLE CIDER VINEGAR and ORGANIC LEMON JUICE!! Again, juice must be organic as lemons, apples, oranges, etc. are not washed before juicing and whatever is on the skin– i.e. PESTICIDES– goes right into the juice!

FREEZER

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Having a stocked freezer is a luxury especially for the lazy. It makes my life easier when all I have to do is pull things out of the freezer for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

My freezer always has plenty of PROTEINS– organic chicken, grass fed meat, Applegate organic, nitrate free bacon or turkey bacon. (FYI- also be careful with deli meats– they are loaded with nitrates (known carcinogens). If you are going to buy a deli sandwich opt for fresh turkey or chicken breast). I also buy wild smoked salmon. Be very careful with farmed fish– especially salmon and shrimp. Too many antibiotics, PCBs and dyes to make the salmon look more like wild salmon! Recent reports say to limit farmed salmon to no more than 4 servings per year!! Link here, to read why you also must avoid farmed shrimp!

BREAD– always organic because our wheat is so processed and filled with chemicals. Bread Alone and Ezekiel are great brands. For gluten free, my favorite– Sami’s Bakery Millet and Flax bread. I love their lavosh either toasted or grilled panini style. They also make great millet and flax chips. A great snack with a little almond butter and honey.

A newcomer– check out Gourmet Sorbet by the Sorbabes. All fresh ingredients. No dairy and it tastes like ice cream!

FROZEN ORGANIC FRUIT for smoothies– Just add almond milk, bananas, and berries. If adding a protein powder, be very careful and investigate the label. They are often made with GMO ingredients!

ORGANIC BUTTER — free of antibiotics, hormones and GMOs!

WHERE TO BUY

If you live in NYC, my regular stops are Fairway, Fresh Direct, Whole Foods, Rusticrootsdelivery.com for fresh organic, fruits and veggies delivered to your home from local farms as well as eggs, Food Liberation on 90th and Lexington for my favorite Sami’s Bakery Millet and Flax breads or even sometimes Food Emporium. If you read labels, you can find healthy foods wherever you live particularly if you take the time to cook. Cooking from scratch is the only true guarantee of quality.

OR so much great food can be found on the internet. Here are some good online resources if you do not live in NYC or if you do not feel like going to the store:

I am sure there are many other fabulous sites out there! Search and you will find!!

HAPPY SHOPPING and BON APPETITE!!

Please share this post with all your friends. Industry is driven by consumer demand. If the FDA is not going to protect us, then use the power of the pocketbook and fight back against prevailing corporate interests. IF you are able to afford organic, stop settling for food deemed not fit for consumption in other countries. Stop being a guinea pig in a vast toxicological experiment (GMOs, pesticides, chemical/pharma additives). However, for this to truly happen, more people need to be aware!! Spread the word and join a peaceful revolution.

10 Responses to “Peek Inside My Drawers…in my Kitchen;-)”

  1. Robelyn Schrade James

    Beloved Mara, you are a great ray of hope and light to all of us…..this is AMAZING!!! I have read every paragraph at least twice and plan to never, ever delete it. Thank you for your courage, your vision , and your generous spirit which reaches out with such genuine joy to share with all of us. You are my inspiration, Mara, and I can’t think of a better time than Valentine’s eve to be sending my love to you and your family. With love always, Robelyn xo

    Reply
    • Mara Landis

      Roblyn, you are pure love, inside and out. Sending great rays of sunshine right back at you!!! xo

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