I can’t believe it’s not cheese!

It’s Daiya…. And delish.

I am following up from my post ‘Addiction to Cheese’ and I did a taste test of the newest cheese alternative today and I was pleasantly surprised. I was so excited when I found it at my Whole Foods that I had to try it. I made a vegetable pesto pizza that I usually top with goat gouda and used the Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds. I taste tested it before I cooked it and was thinking it would be awful like all the other rice, almond, soy cheeses I’ve tried yet it tasted and felt like real cheese so much so I checked the ingredients and nope…. no dairy or casein. Baked it was very melty and almost stretchy like real cheese. Daniel knew this was not the regular goat gouda that I use on pizza because of the look and taste but gouda is pretty distinctive. He did say “the melted cheese is soooooooo good” and also described it as cheese with a little salt.

I think this is an excellent alternative for vegans or families that are sensitive to dairy or cheese like ours. It is also free of all common allergens. I felt fantastic after I ate it. No stuffy nose, indigestion, itchy throat, and no heavy digestion feeling.

I have not met my goal of eliminating cheese from our house yet but baby steps. Daiya will definitely my pick for when I get a cheese craving.

Pesto Pizza
1/2 bag of Daiya Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 red, yellow or orange bell pepper
1/2 can quartered artichokes
handful of thin asparagus (if desired)
big handful of organic spinach sliced into thin ribbons
Whole Foods Organic Whole Wheat pizza crust
1/2 recipe basil cilantro pesto (recipe below) or store bought pesto

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread pesto over pizza. Top with vegetables of choice and cheese. Bake for 8-10 minutes until cheese is melty and pizza crusty is brown.

Basil Cilantro Pesto
This is my favorite pesto that I use for everything – on pasta, wraps, pizza, fish, chicken, etc. I try to make a double batch and keep half in fridge and freeze the other half.

2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1 cup loosely packed cilantro
1/3 cup of sliced almonds
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of olive oil

Put everything except the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Process until pasty, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth.



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Greener School Lunches

It’s that time again. Getting organized for school next week. Uniforms, supplies, lunch boxes – check, check, check! Last year I bought a Laptop Lunch box for Daniel and we absolutely love them. It is an American-style bento box that includes an array of compartments in appealing shapes and colors. It also comes with a book of healthy lunch ideas and lunch making tips and recipes. Best thing is I no longer have to use plastic bags, plastic utensils or disposable drink containers that add to the landfill because all parts are reusable, recyclable and dishwasher safe.

Did you know that an average school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of garbage per school year? This equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school.

This year I bought Daniel an extra water bottle, and extra containers so I don’t have to wash them every night and I got Sadie a Daisy lunch kit. If you are local and interested I believe you can find some at Greener Living in Lakewood or buy them online at http://www.laptoplunches.com/ and get a 10% discount off your order just enter coupon code “veganlunch”.

Now that Daniel will be going to elementary or ‘big boy school’ I am obviously concerned about the nutrition he will receive while at school. There will be snack and lunch time during the day. I’m not sure how snack time works yet but sounds like parents alternate bringing snack for all students to share. Daniel has a peanut allergy so that will eliminate many of the packaged snack choices. Most likely we’ll be packing both snack and lunches.

Here are some of my ideas for healthy main dish lunches:
*Leftovers from last nights dinner
*Wraps with hummus, veggies, tofu or chicken
*Pasta salads
*Almond butter & strawberry or apple sandwiches cut in fun shapes
*Chicken Salad and crackers
*Egg salad in mini pita pockets
*Pita or crackers & hummus
*Green salad
*Bean burritos with guacamole
*Grilled Veggie sandwich or wrap
*Turkey or chicken on a stick
*Mini cracker sandwiches
*Pizza bagel
*Avocado sandwiches
*Deviled eggs or hard-boiled eggs
*Homemade soup or warmed leftovers in a thermos

Packable snacks:
*Fruit kebab
*Grapes, nectarines, berries, apples, kiwis, oranges, mangos, bananas
*Carrots or peppers & hummus
*Cucumber slices
*Almond butter & celery boats
*Seaweed snacks
*Homemade Granola
*Homemade Granola bars
*Coconut milk yogurt
*Homemade trail mix
*Dried fruit

If you have any great ideas post them on the comments. I always need some more.

I know there will come a day that I am tired of packing lunches and Daniel will want to eat the school food. Have you seen school food lately? Lots of processed stuff filled with chemicals that somewhat resembles food. Ick. If you watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in the spring 2010 maybe you have an idea of what I’m talking about or maybe you have witnessed it first hand. Bright pink milk and pizza for breakfast! Thankfully, Dallas ISD has begun to make small changes. They say the menu next year will include brown rice and whole grain breads, vegetarian options daily and homemade sandwiches. That is a start but we have a long way to go. Hopefully I’ll feel comfortable letting him eat school food occasionally but until I see more radical changes I’ll be packing lunches most days.

Just a few more things since I know I’m rambling on and on…
*Check out Whole Foods Put Salad Bars in Schools

*Check out the movie and Join Two Angry Moms http://www.angrymoms.org

*If in Dallas, check out http://www.processedkids.com/ and send email to Lisa Greene to be involved in any local events regarding school lunch reform

*Join the Healthy School Program at http://www.healthiergeneration.org/

Hope everyone is enjoying the last few days before the kids go back to school!

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Thursday’s Truth

Truth is I am tired today. This week I have practically moved from one house to another, gone to 4 appointments, one workshop, 2 playdates and been staying up late so I’m going to make this post brief. I have two simple recipes that anyone can whip up real quick.








Meme’s French Toast

This is my kids favorite every time they are in Houston they ask Meme for the “toast”.
8 to 10 pieces of sourdough or whole grain wheat bread sliced in ½
1 egg
3 t vanilla
3 t cinnamon
1 c almond milk or 1% organic milk
Earth Balance Spread or butter for pan
Toppings – sliced strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, chopped walnuts, pure maple syrup, Agave or honey.


Preheat griddle or nonstick pan. Beat eggs thoroughly, add milk, cinnamon, vanilla and stir. Dip bread in egg mixture and then put a thin slice of Earth Balance Spread in the pan for each slice. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Turn when brown adding another slice of Earth Balance Spread in pan.
Serve with toppings of choice berries, walnuts and a drizzle of pure maple syrup, agave or honey.









Parsnip Fries

Kids love fries and we try a new vegetable or at least a new vegetable recipe few times a month. This recipe was a hit and is so simple.

1 lb parsnips
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
¼ t sea salt
Pepper, if desired

Preheat oven to 425.
Peal parsnips and cut into strips. Toss parsnips with oil and spices
Bake on greased baking sheet or on foil for 30-40 mins, turning every 15 mins, until brown and tender.

Sorry for the terrible picture I was in a hurry to serve those fries! Promise some good stuff to come : )

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Addiction to Cheese

Cheese is on the mind today perhaps because it is one thing I crave.   I have always loved cheese.  Anything with cheese – grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, fettuccine alfredo, chile con queso, everything cheesy you name it!   When I attempted to become a strict vegan about a year and a half ago I got rid of all animal products including cheese but when I went out to eat it is difficult to avoid.  In America, everything either has meat or cheese!

Unfortunately, my kids have the cheese love too.

Cheese addiction is real.  Dr. Neal Barnard is the author of “Breaking the Food Seduction” which explains why people are addicted to meat, sugar and chocolate.  It turns out that milk contains a protein called casein that releases various opiates called casomorphins during digestion. Before you get too excited, one type of those casomorphins has about one-tenth the pain-killing power of morphine.  In the production of cheese, the casein protein is concentrated, so it’s much higher than in milk. That’s why Dr. Barnard refers to cheese as “dairy crack.”  It gets worse. Cheese also contains an amphetamine-like chemical called phenylethylamine also found in chocolate. And cheese cravings, like opiate cravings, respond to the drug naloxone used for narcotic drug addiction.

Cheese is not only addictive, but it is just not good for you.  70 % of its calories come from fat and ounce for ounce, it may harbor more cholesterol than a steak.  It can increase mucus production, cause behavioral issues such has ADD/ADHD and many are sensitive or allergic to it.  I think that is plenty of reason to give it up.

If you cannot live without cheese and would like to break the habit, Dr. Barnard suggests a three week diet limited to whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruit, together with vitamins B12 and D. He counsels going cold turkey (hold the swiss) for just 3 weeks and you’ll find the cheese cravings will subside.

As for my family, we do not drink cows milk or eat yogurt.  The kids do have some organic cheese sometimes raw and I still love some good goat cheese.   My ultimate goal is to eliminate cheese from our house.   Outside of the house is somewhat out of my control.  We have tried the alternatives and have not been satisfied – I am just not crazy about imitation processed foods and most of them still contain casein the milk protein.  I do hear that Daiya cheese is good but I have yet to try that.  If you do find any goods ones comment below!

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Quinoa … Superfood?

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It originated from the Andes Mountains of South America and where they refer to it as the “mother of all grains”. Quinoa contains a balanced set of all 8 essential amino acids, making it an unusually complete protein source among plant foods. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Sounds pretty super to me!

We really enjoy it in the summer as some recipes are chilled salads, but it can be substituted for rice or really any grain in recipes. One thing you must do to prep it for cooking is to throughly rinse it. The seeds are coated with saponin which is bitter tasting. Most boxed quinoa is pre-rinsed but I always try to rinse it first before I cook it. I like to buy Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quinoa that is pre-rinsed but last time I got a huge package of Earthly Delights Organic quinoa from Costco and it definitely needs to be rinsed.

Here is a recipe of my Mom’s that is really refreshing on these HOT summer days. We’ve had it once fresh and twice left over this week – yum!

Summer Quinoa Salad
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Chill in fridge before serving

1 c quinoa
1 mini cucumber, sliced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
½ c broccoli florets
1 tomato, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
½ c spinach, sliced in ribbons
1/3 c basil, sliced in ribbons
¼ c olive oil
1/3 c (juice from 2 small lemons and couple T balsamic vinegar to make 1/3 c)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa in water according to directions. Rinse it first in a fine-mesh colander until water runs clear!

While quinoa is cooking, whisk together lemon juice, balsamic, olive oil, garlic cloves, fresh basil and salt and pepper.

When quinoa is finished cooking, allow to cool slightly then, toss with vegetables and lemon juice mix, stirring well to combine. Chill before serving.

This can be served as a main dish with a nice big salad or as a side dish.

I hope you like this grain-like seed as much as we do.


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Eat Local, Buy Local, Be Local – A locavore

The highlight of my day was going to a small farmers market while visiting my family in Houston. It is always fun going to see what local farmers and their vendors have to offer. We bought some tomatillos, garlic, red tomato, red pepper, poblano peppers, and summer squash. They had plenty of vegetables, fruits, local honey and free-range eggs. We are planning on making some green salsa tomorrow so I’ll post the recipe if it is delicious.

Why Buy Local? Buying food that was grown local usually within 100 miles of where it is sold cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from transporting the food long distances. You also get it fresher than a supermarket only a day or two after it is harvested where as the supermarket it may be from 4 days to a week after harvesting. The exciting thing is sometimes you can directly ask the farmers questions about their produce or other products. Most small farmers will not be certified organic because it is an expensive label that they cannot afford but instead are called sustainable farmers. Sustainable means food production methods that are healthy, do not harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities. It is important to make sure that the local food you buy from farmers or gardeners are using sustainable methods because some may use pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormone use, and use of antibiotics.

Where can you find local food?
1) Local farmers markets or family farms can be found at http://www.localharvest.org/ just enter your zip code and it gives you a list.
2) Join a Co-op. We were a member of a food co-op in Dallas but our host moved and I quit for a while but plan on joining once the school year starts again. Here is their info http://www.yourhealthsource.org/. Or you may find one in your state at http://www.coopdirectory.org/.
3) Buy at Whole Food, New Flower Market or other Health Food stores. I am grateful to have a Whole Foods less than 2 miles from my house. They usually have a sign on the produce that it is locally grown, they also produce their breads locally, have some local dairy from Lucky Layla Farms and sell raw local honey.
4) Find Restaurants that serve local or organic food. Some can be found at http://www.eatwellguide.org.

Are we Locavores? My goal is to buy and eat more local when available. I plan to visit a farmers market once a month, buy local at Whole Foods and join the food coop. Try it out! Going to the Farmers Market on the weekends is a fun thing to do with the kids let them meet the farmers and ask questions too.

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A Look Into My Kitchen

A well-stocked kitchen is the key to providing your family with healthy meals and snacks.   The following lists are what I like to keep on hand making healthy cooking and eating easy and convenient.

Nuts and Seeds  – I add these to salads, breakfasts, baking items and eat for snacks.

Raw Almonds
Raw Walnuts
Pine Nuts
Flax Seeds
Sunflower Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds

Dry Grains and Beans
Red Quinoa
Arborio Rice
Brown Rice
Dried Lentils
Dried Beans (black, white)
Dried Fruits (Apricots, Blueberries, Cranberries, Cherries, Dates, Raisins)
Dried Unsweetened Coconut
Whole Grain Pastas (spaghetti, bow ties, penne pasta)
Annie’s Organic Whole Wheat Shells and White Cheddar
Annie’s 5-Grain Elbows and White Cheddar
Whole Grain Bread
Whole Grain Wraps (love the Whole Food wraps in the fridge area)

Snack Items – I use these in addition to or as a fresh fruit and veggies.
Annie’s Organic Snack Mix Bunnies
Newman Own’s Organic Spelt Pretzels
365 Golden Round Crackers
New Morning Honey Graham
Pirate Booty Veggie
Freeze Dried Veggie Crunchers
Lara Bars – I love these date and nut bars – they are fabulous and I cut them and have a bit after meals if I have a sweet craving.

Cascadian Farm Organic Purely O’s
Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Crunch
Organic Steel Cut Oats
Old Fashion Oats

Pacific Organic Vegetable Broth
Quartered Artichokes
Black Beans
Small White Beans
Tomatoes (various)
Raw Tahini
Sunflower Seed Butter
Raw Almond Butter
Wild Blueberry Spread
365 Bread Crumbs Italian Style
365 Bread Crumbs Panko

Olive and Vinegars
Red Wine Vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar
White Balsamic Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Baking Items
Organic Agave
Local Raw Honey
Maple Syrup
Vegan Carob Chips
Nutritional Yeast
Flours (Whole Wheat, Unbleached white, quinoa, soy)
Unsweetened cocoa
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Pure Vanilla Extract

Root Veggies
Potatoes (organic, sweet potatoes)
Onions (yellow, purple)
Ginger Root

Fridge Items
Edamame Hummus
Flax Seed Oil
Stevia – Vanilla or English Toffee
Omega 3 Eggs
Tofu (extra firm)
Salsa – tomatillo and red
Basil Cilantro Pesto (homemade)
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Roasted Red Peppers
Salad Dressings

Broccoli Salad Mix
Broccoli Sprouts
Fresh herbs (basil, cilantro and parsley)
Fruits (seasonal items – berries, pears, mango, banana, melons, etc)
Organic Apples *stored in a bag
Organic Grapes
Organic Spinach (from Sam’s $3.99)
Organic Spring Mix (from Sam’s $3.99)
Organic Carrots
Red, Yellow, Orange Bell Peppers

Dairy or Alternatives
Horizon 1% Organic Milk – My husband uses this.
Organic Almond Milk Original – Kids and I use this.
Horizon Organic Cheddar Cheese Slices
Goat Gouda (occasionally have this for a pesto pizza I make)
So Delicious Coconut Milk Kefir
Fresh Organic Parmesan
Earth Balance Olive Oil Spread

Frozen Strawberries
Frozen Peaches
Frozen Blueberries
Petite Green Peas
Lean Ground Turkey
Boneless, skinless chicken breast
Veggie Burgers

Now all you have to do is open up your pantry and wallah healthy meal in minutes! If there is anything I may have missed let me know in the comments : )

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Sun or Sunscreen – Which is more hazardous to your health?

I thought this was a great topic for summer when we spend the most time outdoors in the sun.    We all know too much sun is bad for us and sunburns can increase your risk of cancer.  Our bodies do need the sun for Vitamin D.   After you get 10-20 minutes of Vitamin D from direct sunlight it is time to apply the sunscreen, head for shade or wear protective clothing..

Do you know if your sunscreen is safe for you?  I was shocked to find out that of all the 10,000 plus ingredients in our personal care products only 11% has been reviewed for safety.  Crazy! 90% of what we put on our bodies may or may not be toxic.  Why is this so important?  Because skin is the largest organ of your body and capable of absorbing up to 80 percent of everything you put on it.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has answers for you – http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/.   They research the sunscreens every year.   You can search for your sunscreen and they score them from 1-10, 1 being best and 10 being most hazardous.

They recommend to use sunscreen, but look for shade, wear protective clothing and avoid the noontime sun before smearing on the cream. Here are the some of the surprising facts:

1) There’s no consensus on whether sunscreens prevent skin cancer.
2) There’s some evidence that sunscreens might increase the risk of the deadliest form of skin cancer for some people.
3)  There are more high SPF products than ever before, but no proof that they’re better.
4)  Too little sun might be harmful, reducing the body’s vitamin D levels.
5)  The common sunscreen ingredient vitamin A may speed the development of cancer.  Who would have thought a vitamin applied to the body could cause skin tumors and lesions?

Here are my suggestions:

1)  Get your 10 minutes of Vitamin D first thing in the AM with no lotion, makeup or even sunglasses – best areas to sun are face, chest and arms.  Vitamin D boosts your mood so great way to start off the day.
Stay out or limit your exposure to the sun from 11-2PM.
2)  Wear protective clothing, hats, rash guards or swim shirts.
3)  Use mineral sunscreens (containing zinc oxide or titanium) when you plan on being in the direct sun for a long period.  Do not use sunscreens with Oxybenzone on children.   We use the Alba Botanical and Aubrey Organics.
4)  Do your best to never get sunburnt.

Enjoy the fun in the sun…. Safely : )

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Favorite Meal

I have concluded that since I have become a mom of three it is difficult to please everyone when you serve a meal.     When they were babies you had to have separate meals and sometimes that is the case when they are toddlers but that is tiring.  I got smart and put an end to that and now it is eat what is served and like it – ha!  If only it were that easy.

Luckily, my children will eat what I serve without too much complaint but I want to share our favorite meal of the moment.

Baked Cilantro Salmon with oven roasted sweet potato fries, steamed broccoli and mixed fresh berries for dessert.  Yum!  The whole family devours it and asks for more!

Baked Cilantro Salmon

Serves 3

1/2 c cilantro, stems removed, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 T lime juice
2 T olive oil, separated
3  7 ounce salmon fillets –  I usually get fresh (or farmed) atlantic salmon fillets  and have them remove the skin off the fish.  Try to get them all the same thickness.

Preheat oven to 425.
Grease pan with 1 T olive oil.

Place fillets, skin side down in an 8×8 baking dish.  (Might splatter)
Combine cilantro, garlic, lime juice, remaining olive oil in a small bowl.
Pour mixture over fish.

Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes, to desired doneness.  (Thicker fillets will require additional time.)

I just love this recipe.  It is so healthy, easy and delicious!  In the picture, I ran out of cilantro so I usually have more and I LOVE cilantro so usually do extra but I had to work with what I had in the fridge at the time : )

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 2-3
1 large sweet potato
1/2 T olive oil
1/2 t kosher salt
sprinkle of cinnamon (if desired)

Preheat oven to 425.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil coated with cooking spray.

Spread the sweet potato strips out onto the baking sheet in a single layer, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and spices, turning them over to evenly coat all sides with oil and spices.

Bake for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes with spatula.  Serve warm.

The tricky part of this menu is at home I have a double oven so I can cook both sweet potatoes and salmon  at the same time.  But I am not at home right now so I cook the sweet potato fries and then the salmon.  It is tough to keep the sweet potatoes crispy but we’ll eat them no matter what.


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Not In My Pantry! …NIMP

Ok, time to go look in your pantry. I know you have food in your pantry, cereals, pastas, breads, snacks. Do you know what is in them? Do you check the labels before loading them into your cart at the supermarket? Are all the ingredients pronounceable?

If you don’t know it is time to go and check it out and pitch the bad stuff or at least decide that is the last time you will buy it.

Here are the top 10 ingredients that I avoid and why:

1. High Fructose Corn Syrup – Highly processed and shown to cause the liver to release more fat into the bloodstream – so will make you FAT instead of giving you energy like sugar.

2. Artificial Sweeteners like Aspartame, Saccharin (Equal, Sweet ’N Low) – Increase your risks for cancer, especially in young children.

3. Trans Fat usually says Partially Hydrogenated Oils – Raises levels of bad cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease.

4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – Unfortunately this is a tough one to pinpoint since there are 40 names on the list that might be MSG. The only way to know you don’t have MSG in a product is to buy organic. MSG is known to interfere with brain chemistry and have been implicated in many neurological diseases, such as brain cancers, MS, fibromyalgia, depression and hyperactivity (ADHD) as well as being linked to obesity.

5. Nitrates (Sodium Nitrates) – Commonly found in lunch meats, hotdogs or any prepared meats. Nitrate is harmless, but it can convert to nitrite, which can form nitrosamines, a powerful cancer-causing chemical, in your body.

6. Potassium Bromate – Chemical used in commercial bread causes cancer in animals and has been banned every other country around the globe except US and Japan. FDA has yet to do anything about it.

7. Artificial Coloring – Blue No 1, Blue No 2, Green No 3, Red No 3, Yellow No 6 – All of these have shown tumor or cancer risks. Since it is hard to remember those I try to avoid all artificial coloring.

8. Added Sugars – Sugar, Sucrose, Dextrose, Honey, Fruit concentrate, Fructose, Corn syrup, High fructose corn syrup. I use organic agave nectar, or organic maple syrup, or local honey.

9. Enriched flours/pastas – Enriched means the bran and the germ that contains all the vitamins and minerals in wheat have been removed. Why is this bad? Because the body absorbs enriched flours quickly flooding the blood stream with sugar and then turns it into fat.

10. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) – Seeds containing GMOs have been engineered to withstand pests and harsh growing conditions and produce vegetables/fruits that are identical in size, shape and taste. Look for “No GMO” or “GMO Free” produce stickers or buy organic.

I live by what Michael Pollan’s, author of In Defense of Food and Food Rules, says “Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a)unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup.”

Check out this label, what is wrong with it?

First, more than 5 ingredients, ingredients include partially hydrogenated oils and MSG.  Ick – put this one back on the shelf!

Now, check your pantry.  Next time you go to the supermarket check those labels!  Or better yet keep to the outskirts of the supermarket aisles where the fresh foods are and away from the middle where the processed food like items are.

Stayed tuned for my next post of what I do have in my kitchen….

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