Nutrition and Food

Organic versus Conventional – Which Should You Choose? Part One

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Deception. Misdirection. Imminent Danger. All characteristics of a villain in the next superhero blockbuster, not the emotions we should have when selecting our next meals.

With sensational headlines in modern media and new research claims, it’s not surprising that even the most educated shopper can be infused with doubt over what to place in the cart. Shopping at the market should be a pleasant experience filled with delicious options from which to choose.

Today, there is a wide variety of conventional and organic produce (fruit, vegetables), livestock (meat, dairy, eggs) and multi-ingredient products (breads, pasta, and other processed foods). This is a great success for the US, but it can be very overwhelming for the American consumer.

 Common complications:

  1. We can be inundated with so many choices that it may seem easier to select what was purchased before, without thinking twice.
  2. Organic foods are stigmatized, with some saying that they’re only for the wealthy, for environmentalists, or for parents with young children.
  3. Some food companies have embraced misleading marketing practices to boost sales, touting that their foods are “healthy and natural” or even using “organic” on their packaging. (Other companies are responding to these practices by putting out product lists of their own, encouraging transparency in marketing and making healthy, informed choices.)

Choosing between organic and conventional foods can be an easier decision. In this two-part series, we’ll address some factors that consumers like you consider when making purchases at the store.

Safety

A concern for some shoppers is safety – safety for themselves, for farmers, or for the animals. Understanding the production of both conventional and organic foods can clear up some apprehension.

 Conventional food products are produced by traditional farming practices used by small family farmers to large corporate farms. This can include using chemical pesticides for pest control and synthetic fertilizers to increase growth margins. For livestock, this includes dosing with antibiotics and hormones to help maintain the health of the animals.

 Governing organizations like the USDA and FDA regulate conventional farming practices and inspect food products for wholesomeness, deeming them as safe for consumption. However, government regulation ends there.

 According to the USDA,  organic operations must use only approved substances and avoid man-made fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms. These practices also promote farm worker health, lowering the risk of inhalation or ingestion of harmful substances.  Furthermore, the USDA organic seal on meat, eggs, and dairy products verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.

 If safety is your priority, then organic foods may be the best choice. On the fence? Start with the Environmental Workers Group’s “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen,”  an annual list distributed to educate consumers on pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables.

Cost

One of the key benefits of conventional food products is their wide spread availability in the US. These products can be found in grocery stores, convenience stores, and schools, to name a few. Simple economics of supply and demand as well as generous government subsidies help explain the lower prices of conventional foods.

Typically, organic foods are priced higher than conventionally grown foods, which may be caused by the limited availability of organics. America has seen a significant increase of organic operations since 2002 however, so consumers may begin to see reduced prices on certain foods. 

Consider also the additional fees to the farmers. Farm owners have to pay fees and complete a transition period  before beginning organic operations. To recoup these expenses, additional costs may be incorporated into food prices. Paired with “high-end” public perception and premium upcharges, organic foods will often be more costly than their conventional counterparts.

If you are concerned about cost, then conventional foods may be best. Still like to buy some organic? Here are some money saving tips:  

  1. Purchase discounted organic “seconds” at your local markets when available. 
  2. Visit local farmers who may follow organic practices but save on operational costs by avoiding the USDA certification process. A few specific questions to the farmer may help save you some money. 

Don’t know where to find a local farmer market? Visit here and input your zip code or download an app for your mobile device (we tried Farmstand).

Check back for Part Two of Organic vs. Conventional – What should you choose? We’ll discuss the Nutrition and Environmental Impact of Organic and Conventional foods.

Nutrition and Food

Interview- The Power of Positivity

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The American Cancer Society signifies June 5th as National Cancer Survivors Day.  In honor of the many individuals who have battled cancer, we feel honored to share a special story about a two-time cancer survivor.  This individual has touched the heart of many of us at B.Komplete.  We think that many of you will be able to relate to her story, and to gain inspiration.   

What inspired you to want to make healthy changes in your life?

After three years of various medical issues and limited physical activity, I was ready to start making changes for the better. I was already doing some things like eating healthy and knew I needed to increase my physical activity. I wanted to learn what else I could do to help me become as healthy as possible.

Did you have any goals you wanted to accomplish prior to starting the process of change? If so, could you elaborate on that?

I wanted to become more active. Due to limitations with physical activity, I knew I could walk so that was a focus for me. My goal was to get between 8,000-10,000 steps a day. Some days it’s easier to get my steps in, but I always aim to get somewhere between that number of steps each day.  Also, I wanted to optimize my eating habits by making little changes to help improve what I was already doing to eat healthy.

When you first began this process, what was the first thing you did to change?

After meeting with my B.Komplete Registered Dietitian, we came up with ideas on how I could achieve my goals. I started by keeping track of my steps for each day of the work week. Initially, my goal was 8,000 steps each day and eventually work my way up to 10,000 steps. My B.Komplete Registered Dietitian helped to reassure me that my eating habits were good beforehand and together we came up with ways I can improve in small ways to gain even more health benefit.

How do you manage to stay healthy at work?

At work, I started to stand up more when I need a break. I started “walking deliveries” of things that I needed to give to co-workers and I started taking walks around the office. I try to move as much as possible when I can fit it into my day. Also, I started to do the office yoga that I learned from B.Komplete. Food wise, I bring my meals and snacks. I also keep snacks at my desk.

How do you keep such a positive outlook on change after everything you have been through?

I guess I’m just really lucky. I have a great support system. My close friends and family are always there for me. Besides that, I have always been a positive person. My personal mantra is “don’t give up.” I’ve been through a lot in my life and I feel that what you do with what you are given can make you or break you. With everything I went through, I’ve become a positive, strong person.

Could you share something that helps to keep you positive and focused on changes to better your overall health?

I don’t deprive myself of things. For instance, I know I can cheat a little with what I eat every once and awhile. It helps me to think through what I should and shouldn’t have to eat. Also, I don’t think of my food choices as a “diet.”

How has B.Komplete helped you keep on track to achieve your goals and motivate you?

My B.Komplete Registered Dietitian is supportive, motivating, and gives great advice. She helped me see what I was doing right and helped me to see what I can do to improve my eating and physical activity level. Together, we came up with a plan that helped me make the changes to live a healthier life. The plan has been working for me thus far, and each time we meet, she helps me make like tweaks to keep improving. It’s obvious she practices what she preaches and I like that about B.Komplete. You know you are getting good information and advice.

Are there any resources that have helped you along the way? If so, what were they?

I have done food tracking in the past, and that helped me.  I’m not tracking what I eat at the moment because now its easy for me to know how I’m doing “diet” wise by how I feel. If you eat right and are active, you feel better. On week days I track my steps with a pedometer. A pedometer works best for me because it’s small, convenient and simple.

What are you most proud of thus far?

I’m proud that I have been able to keep the 20 lbs off since I lost it (going on 1 year). It’s not easy to keep weight off once you lose it, but I stuck with my eating habits and walking.

What advice would you give someone who is just starting out?

“Keep your mind open.”  You need to be open to new things and open to advice. Give yourself an objective and you’ll get there. Pay attention to little tweaks you can make along the way to reaching your objective. Any little tweak can make a big difference. Remember to stay positive. It helped me to think about what I was already doing right and what I can do to make that better. Drop all negative thoughts and you will get there.

 

B.Educated, B.Inspired, B.Komplete