Nutrition and Food

Meal Prep Guide for Busy People

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A lack of time and a busy schedule are some of the reasons why people don’t cook and order take-out. These habits can cost us money and health.  In comparison, people who eat home-prepared meals have a healthier diet, consume fewer calories and are less likely to gain weight! [1-3] And for those with conditions like high blood pressure – which is about ⅓ of American adults – meal prep can help create delicious and healthy meals that are lower in sodium and higher in potassium.

What’s the solution? Well, you guessed it (hint: it’s in the title) – Meal Prep.  There are numerous benefits to meal prep and planning that include saving time and money, maintaining a healthy weight, gaining a nutritious diet, and reducing stress that comes with rushing and having to make last minute meal decisions.  

Meal planning is the key to success
for a nutritious diet.

But if lack of time is the main reason we don’t cook, then you must be thinking, how would meal prep fit into your busy schedule? This post will discuss ways to make meal planning simple, easy and work for you!

Step 1: Set yourself up for success

Lists and Planning

Create a list of healthy recipes you and your family will like.  Use a calendar or spreadsheet to organize meals and shopping lists. “What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl” is a wonderful free resource to browse recipes, save them and even add ingredients directly to a shopping list associated with your account.

Use whatever method works best for you.  Here at B.Komplete, we love our Meal Prep Formula for planning healthy, balanced meals. It’s also helpful for understanding portions.

5-day Meal Prep Chart
For 400 and 550 Calorie Options
Formula: (1 grain) + (1 Veg) + (1 Meat/Seafood/Veg protein) + (1 Fat)
Grain/Starch Choices
400 cal = ½c cooked
550 cal = 1c cooked
Vegetable Choices
1 c cooked
Protein Choices
Fat Choices
1 Tbsp per 2-3 protein choices
Protein
400 cal = 4oz
550 cal = 6oz
Seafood
400 cal = 4oz
550 cal = 6oz
Vegetarian
400 cal = 4oz
550 cal = 6oz
Black Rice
400 cal: 1c uncooked = 3c cooked
550 cal: 2c uncooked = 6c cooked
Cauliflower and Broccoli
Prepare 2.5 cups each
Grilled Chicken Breasts with Garlic + Rosemary
400 cal: Prepare 5-4 oz breasts
550 cal: Prepare 5-6 oz breasts
Wild Salmon with Lemon, Capers and Thyme Grilled Tofu with Turmeric and Smoked Paprika
400: Prepare 2.5c
550 cal: ~3.75 cups
Olive Oil (good for sauteing)
Brown Rice
400: 3/4c uncooked = 2.5c Cooked
550: 1.5 Cup Uncooked = ~ 5 Cups Cooked
Carrots and Green Peas
Prepare 2.5c each
Grilled Chicken with Ground Ginger
400: Prepare 5 – 4 oz. breasts
550: Prepare 5 – 6 oz. breasts
Wild Salmon with McCormick Salmon Seasoning Chick peas with Olives and Basil
400: Prepare 2.5c 
550: Prepare 3.75c
Canola Oil (All Purpose)
Quinoa
400: 1c uncooked = 3c cooked
550: 2c uncooked = 6c cooked
Asparagus
Prepare 5 Cups for Each
Baked Lemon and Parmesan Chicken
400: Prepare 5 – 4 oz. breasts
550: Prepare 5 – 6 oz. breasts
Baked Red Snapper with Black Pepper, Garlic, and Parsley Lentils with Basil, Sun-dried Tomato and Oregano
400: Prepare 2.5c 
550: Prepare 3.75c
Avocado Oil (Good for Grilling and Roasting)

 

 

Instructions on using the Meal Prep Formula Chart: cook the amount shown under the chosen item within each food group to then have enough meals for 5 days.

Examples of 400 calorie meals using the above formula  (1 grain) + (1 Veg) + (1 Meat/Seafood/Veg protein) + (1 Fat)
  • ½ cup Black rice, 1 cup carrots and green peas (prepared with canola oil), 4 oz grilled chicken with ground ginger
  • ½ brown rice, 1 cup asparagus (sauteed with olive oil) 4 oz wild salmon with lemon, capers and thyme
  • ½ cup quinoa, 1 cup cauliflower and broccoli (roasted with avocado oil), 4 oz grilled tofu with turmeric and smoked paprika

Now it’s your turn! Create your own table to breeze through your week with the magic of meal prep.  If this seems complicated, we have you covered.  Schedule a meal-prep planning session with one of our Registered Dietitians.  

Tools and Supplies

Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need for prepping, cooking, and storage.

  • Large pots and saute pans, large baking/roasting sheet pans
  • Cooking utensils, knives, measuring cups
  • Large casserole dish
  • Meal prep’s best friend is a slow-cooker: Crock-Pot or Instant Pot.
  • Food Processor
  • Food containers to maximize convenience and minimize hassle.  Glass containers are a great option. When choosing containers, consider ones that are:
    • Reusable and dishwasher safe, and microwaveable safe if planning to heat
    • Well sealed to prevent leaks if there are liquids, such as salad dressings added to your meal
    • Able to keep food odors locked in
    • Easy to use and portable
    • BPA-free

Step 2: Schedule day(s) of the week

Choose which day(s) you will 1) plan your menu and meals, 2) write out a grocery list, 3) grocery shop, and 4) cook and prepare the meals. This may be done all in the same day or broken up between a couple days. Do whatever is manageable for you!

Step 3: Plan your menu and meals for the week (or month!)  

First, take inventory of your fridge, freezer and cupboard.  Try to use up leftovers and ingredients you already have — focus on utilizing items about to expire — because you don’t waste food.

Another hassle-free (and fun!) idea is to follow themed meal days such as: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Breakfast for Dinner Wednesday, Stir Fry Friday, Slow Cooker Saturday, or pick your favorite meal for [insert favorite dish here] Sunday. Themed meals takes the guesswork out and you can choose any day of the week to schedule it a theme.  Need help making sure you are choosing healthy recipes? Check out the Healthy Eating Plate as a simple reference on eating nutritiously. Or schedule a counseling session with one of our B.Komplete Registered Dietitians.

Step 4: Grocery list & shopping

Plan to scale up the recipe so that it will last you a couple days of dinner and/or lunch, or freeze to have another week.  Again, making sure to account for items you already have on hand, create a grocery list. And then, go grocery shopping! Another benefit of using a grocery list is that it will help save time and money and reduce impulse purchases!

You can use already formatted lists like this one to the right (which you can type directly into it, or print it out to hand-write). Another fantastic option is to use a note keeping app for your phone or computer like Google Keep.

Step 5: Meal prep time

There is no one method. You can cook and assemble the entire meal or just prep some of the ingredients (eg. chopping veggies, cooking rice and pasta).

Methods
  • Buffet-Style. Prepare ingredients separately, protein, veggies, grains and mix-match in meals throughout the week. The meal prep formula table above is a wonderful tool to assist with this style of meal prep.
    • Ideas: Steam or roast few of your favorite veggies, cook some rice or quinoa, and bake chicken or salmon.  Mix-and-match ingredients for a balanced and nutritious dinner.
  • No-cook assembly. This is a great option when using a slow-cooker.  Chop ingredients and throw together in a container or freezer bag to store in fridge or freezer.   Then when you are ready to prepare the meal, just empty the bag into crock-pot. Easy peasy.
    • Ideas for no-cook assembly (and batch-cooking): veggie chili, stews and soups
  • Batch-cooking.  Basically, this when you prepare larger quantities of food to last several meals/days. With this method, you’ll cook the entire meal — so when 6:00 PM on Wednesday rolls around, you just heat and eat.

Step 6: Storage

Storage is the final step (before eating!) and is critical to maximizing the benefits of meal prep — and important in food safety too.  Make sure you have plenty of large containers if you plan on batch-cooking.  Other necessities include large freezer bags, and containers in a variety of sizes.

When prepping lunches, portion meals into containers you can just grab and go during the week.  It’s a sure way to enjoy a good lunch break during a busy work day!

Written by Meghan E. Smith, Dietetic Intern

Leave us a comment below and tell us how you incorporate meal prep into your week or share your S.M.A.R.T. goal!

Nutrition and Food

Your Go-To Guide to Essential Oils

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Essential oils were used in folk medicine throughout history, dating back to use by ancient civilizations BCE. Oils  have recently been gaining popularity as a natural, safe and cost-effective therapy. The use of essential oils can be another wellness technique to add to your lifestyle.  

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils (EOs) are not FDA approved. Unlike drugs, they are not intended to cure, diagnose, prevent, or treat diseases. However, they can be great when used in a complementary manner, as long as you are mindful of any drug interactions.  When in doubt, speak with your Primary Care Physician.

Essential oils (EOs) are concentrated and are marketed to have ‘powerful health benefits.’ They contain various chemical components, in which, are absorbed by the body. Additionally, they can be absorbed by four routes via olfaction, through the skin (both externally and internally), and by ingestion. They can be used aromatically, topically, and internally.  There is a whole study that focuses how EOs are absorbed, called pharmacokinetics.

Aromatic

Inhaling EOs is the fastest method of getting EOs into your body. Components can travel to your lungs, brain, or both. Inhalation can be direct (only to you) or indirect (to a room of people).

Direct Inhalation without steam

  • Aroma sticks– add 15-20 drops EO onto the wick, place wick inside inhaler
  • Aroma patches– apply patches to skin, preferably on collar bone
  • Aroma packets– open packet to breath in contents
  • Aroma ribbons– can be attached to anything, such as pillows for a comfort aroma
  • Cotton balls– add 1-5 drops of EO to a cotton ball and inhale for 5-10 minutes

Direct Inhalation with steam

  • Steam water– add 1-5 drops of EO to a bowl containing steaming water. Place head over bowl and place towel over your head, inhale for 10 minutes

Indirect Inhalation

  • Room fresheners– add 1-5 drops of EO to a bowl containing hot water and place in a safe place
  • Burners– fill container suspended above with water and add 1-5 drops of EO 
  • Fans– add 1-5 drops of EO to a pad, place inside the fan
  • Humidifiers– fill container with water, place EOs on a tissue in the direct pathway of the exiting steam
  • Diffusers– add 1-8 drops of EO; they deliver micron-sized essential oil droplets in the air 
  • Nebulizers – drops of undiluted essential oils are placed inside glass attachment, most do not use heat 
  • Spritzer Sprays– add essential oils in water inside a spritzer spray bottle, important to shake bottle for even distribution
  • Aroma stones– they gently warm essential oils

Topical

The amount that is absorbed through your skin depends on skin permeability as well as concentration of EO used. For example, EOs that are diluted in a carrier oil (used for dilution and application) are absorbed slower than undiluted EOs. EOs are absorbed faster when the skin becomes thinner and or damaged by systemic disease, dermatological problems, injury, and dehydration. Avoid applying EOs to damaged skin, as it is absorbed more readily and can have adverse effects. Moreover, less is absorbed during periods of stress because stress results in vascular shut-down. Whereas, dilated blood vessels caused by friction from stroking or massaging, can increase EO absorption, except when the body is trying to lose heat.  Always use caution if you select to apply an EO topically; some may need to be diluted, some should not be applied to certain areas, some EO’s may make your skin more sensitive, and some could even cause an adverse reaction.

What Does the Research Say?

EOs are used to treat or relieve stress, pain, dental issues, infection and/or inflammation (ex. sore throat, vaginal and urinary infections, gastrointestinal issues (ex. IBS, nausea and vomiting), insomnia, anxiety, and promote well-being. However, according to research, there is a lack of studies to support EO effectiveness. Most studies had a small sample size, which may not be reliable. There is a need for more well‐designed, large‐scale randomized controlled trials, before conclusions can be drawn and recommendations can be made for clinical use. Regardless of the insufficient amount of data regarding their effectiveness, EOs continue to be used for the healing properties all around the world.

Tips on How to Use EO's

Blending EOs is an art, as it requires training and experimentation. Typically, oils from the same botanical family blend well. The order in which the oils are blended is key to maintain desired therapeutic and chemical properties and fragrance. Your oil blend should be stored in dark-colored glass bottles. If you are not familiar with mixing, it is encouraged to layer the individual oils, by applying one at a time, rubbing it in, and then applying another oil a few seconds after.

If dilution is necessary, a carrier oil may be needed. Carrier oils are naturally derived from plant sources. They have a neutral smell and do not evaporate like essential oils, making them an great medium for dilution and application purposes. The purpose of carrier oils is to reduce the concentration and absorption rate of the EO, at the same time not changing any therapeutic properties. Dilution is especially important for infants and children.

Some examples of carrier oils include: V-6 mixing oil, grapeseed oil, almond oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, coconut oil, argan oil, arnica oil, rosehip oil, broccoli seed oil, flaxseed oil, magnesium oil, evening primrose oil, cocoa butter and shea butter.

Lastly, not all essential oils are created equal. In fact, most of them are of poor quality and are often synthetic. When you are ready to purchase essential oils make sure they are certified USDA organic, 100% pure, therapeutic grade and indigenous sourced.

Here are some brands that you could try:

There are many other different brands.  Some are more expensive, and some are subscription based.  Select the option that best works for your budget and lifestyle.  

In conclusion, we enjoy using Essential Oils for stress management and mental clarity.  Please understand the research on EO is highly limited, and EO should not be considered a medical treatment.  Speak with your health-care provider for any individual questions.

If you are more interested in EO’s and would like a live event held at your company, we have the solution!  B.Komplete offers Wellness Awareness Stations on Essential Oil and Stress Management, and we also have a Seminar to discuss Alternative Medicine.  Contact us at info@bkomplete.com to book our inspiring services for your company.  

Exercise

Why Gardening is Good For Your Health

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Have you considered starting a garden? What if you created a garden full of fresh herbs or vegetables? You will get the health benefits from gardening, and an assortment of delicious fresh produce.  If digging up your backyard sounds intimidating, or maybe you just don’t have the space for that dream garden, start small. Even potted gardening has health benefits. Below are some benefits to gardening as well as some tips to get started.

How Does Gardening Benefit Your Health?

Increases your exposure to vitamin D.  Spending sometime outside allows your body to absorb vitamin D which can increase your calcium levels promotes healthy bones and immune system. It can also increase serotonin levels in your brain (a feel-good hormone). Just don’t forget to wear sunscreen and sunglasses!

Mood boosting.  Some studies have indicated that gardening can combat stress better than some other hobbies.

Stress reduction through mental focus.  Gardening is deliberate mental focus in which you can set aside your daily problems and relax. It is so important to be able to “turn off” the stressors at work and your personal life to have the energy to tackle them head on. Reducing stress improves not only your mental health, but physical health as well. By limiting stress, you also decrease your risk of chronic diseases such has cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Improve your nutrition.  Growing your own vegetables and herbs will allow you to add variety to your plate and even provide a boost of confidence knowing you grew them yourself. Produce picked fresh from the garden will taste amazing and provide more nutrients than many of the vegetables you would purchase at the grocery store. This will also save you money since you can now check the vegetables and herbs that you are growing off of your grocery list! You may even be more likely to get your family to consume vegetables more if you let them play an active role in the gardening with you.

How Do I Get Started?

Where do you want to grow your garden? 

The initial step to gardening would be to decide an appropriate place to put it. If you have a huge backyard, consider finding a spot to designate to a garden. Does your front yard need some sprucing up? Plant some flowers along your house or deck. Both of these options may seem difficult if you live in a city. Fear not! There are plenty of ways to incorporate an indoor garden such as on your windowsill, or even finding lower light plants that can be placed throughout the house.  Many cities have shared planting spaces; you will rent your box/plot/area and be able to plant your vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and pay a nominal fee.  Find a garden near you here.

What do you want to plant? 

Do you want to surround yourself in beautiful flowers and scents? Look up flowers that will thrive in your chosen area. Maybe you want to start cultivating your own vegetables. Investigate the vegetables that are in season in your location.  Learn more about what is in season here.

What soil should you use? 

This is very important to successfully grow your plants. There are a variety of soils out there and they are all comprised of different nutrients. When you have decided on the plants you want to grow, research the types of soil they do well in. The soil is their home, and provides food for them.  Learn more about how to pick the right soil here.  

What tools do you need? 

When starting your first garden, you should begin small. That way you do not get overwhelmed or too out of your budget. Pick up your basic tools such as gardening gloves, a trowel, and a rake.  For community container gardening, check out this list and for larger gardens, larger equipment may be needed.  

How to maintain your garden: 

Make sure you know how often you have to water your plants. Some can be very temperamental. Spend some of your free time weeding so that your plants do not suffocate from outside intruders. If the weeds are overwhelming, there are fertilizers you can use. The best part is that you get to choose the fertilizers and you know exactly what you are putting on your plants.

As long as you start slow, gardening can be fun, relaxing and budget friendly!
Nutrition and Food

What Foods to Eat in the Summer

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Warm days means fresh summer foods. Wondering what foods can help you stay in shape all summer long?  Eating well and keeping yourself hydrated is important to keep yourself ready and energized for summer activities.  B.Komplete Registered Dietitian Nutritionists can help you learn more about these foods for when you’re having fun in the sun!

Summer Foods

Watermelon: The perfect fruit to keep you hydrated without a whole lot of calories. Check out this watermelon feta mint salad

Berries: Blueberries. Raspberries. Blackberries. Jam packed with fiber and antioxidants. Toss them in your plain yogurt or oatmeal for some added natural sweetness. Want to try berries in a delicious savory dish? Try this recipe for grilled salmon and blueberry sauce!

Tomatoes: Rich in an antioxidant called, lycopene and perfect tossed in a salad or to simply enjoy alone (especially grape tomatoes).

Avocados: Yes, you should eat fat! Especially the heart-healthy fats in avocados to keep you satisfied as well as add some creaminess to your dishes.  Try swapping out butter or cream cheese for ¼ of a mashed avocado on your toast/bagel. How about making a delicious creamy avocado sauce for your pasta or “zoodles”? 

Corn: Get the local grown corn and throw it on the grill for some sweet BBQ crunch! You gain 4 grams of fiber in just ½ cup of kernels.  Click here to learn more about your local farms.  Learn more about eating organic and fresh foods here.

Zucchini: This vitamin C-rich veggie is perfect for grilling or making “zoodles”. The Food Network has wonderful recipe ideas.  Love Pad Thai?  Try this lighter version that uses “zoodles.”  Click here to purchase for a budget-friendly spiralizer to make your “zoodles”.

Nuts: A good source of healthy fats, protein, fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Try a small handful of dry-roasted unsalted almonds, cashews, walnuts or pistachio as an on-the go or pre-workout snack.

Want to try multiple summer-friendly foods all in one dish? Try this grilled corn, watermelon and avocado salad!  Substitute the apple or celery for jicama if you are having trouble finding it.

Resources

Interested to learn more about seasonal foods and how to enjoy summer food? Below are links to help guide you:

https//snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide

http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/whats-in-season-summer

Nutrition and Food

What Foods to Eat in the Winter

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Winter means colder temperatures and less hours of daylight. With more time spent inside and little exposure to sunlight, it can become a challenge to stay happy and energized. Because of this, it is crucial to stay focused on the nutrition choices that work for you during this time of the year. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression with seasonal patterns, is very common during the cold months of winter. Changes in mood, energy, focus, appetite, and sleep are normal and expected with this kind of disorder. There are many different ways that you can stay on top of your health and prevent symptoms of SAD. Staying active, eating healthy winter foods, and managing your stress are great places to start.

To stay happy, healthy, and energized incorporate these winter foods into your day:

Sweet Potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium, fiber. They are also packed with antioxidants. With their sweet taste and bright orange color, adding them to your meal can be fun. Also, they work well in a lot of different recipes. Whether you choose to bake, roast, or mash them, sweet potatoes are a great food to eat to keep you full and energized! Check out more recipe ideas here.

Brussel Sprouts are “tiny cabbages” and have a wide variety of health benefits.  When prepared with herbs, spices and some healthy oil, they taste really yummy! Brussels are full of fiber, as well as contain high levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants that can protect your DNA from oxidative damage. Try tossing them in some olive or avocado oil and roasting until lightly browned. Add some herbs like oregano, cumin, or smoked paprika.  Toss with a pinch of salt and pepper, and enjoy! For other Brussel sprout recipe ideas, click here.

Salmon contains tryptophan which is an amino-acid that is a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with positive mood regulation. Salmon also contains large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown in some studies to help regulate depression. The fat in salmon is heart healthy and helps to reduce harmful inflammation.  Salmon can be baked, broiled, or grilled. Add your favorite marinade or season with citrus like lemon, lime and orange, and enjoy!  Check out this link for more salmon recipe ideas.

Winter Squash is full of Vitamin A and carotenoids, which have been shown to promote healthy skin as well as benefit heart health and immunity. Also rich in fiber and potassium, winter squash is a great option for many! Try all different varieties: Acorn, butternut, kabocha, and delicate squash! To learn more about squash varities, check out Epicurious, and for some yummy winter squash recipes, click here.

Clementines are vitamin C and fiber-packed tiny fruits.  This sweet and tart delights are great snacks for just about anywhere, anytime. Full of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium, clementines are easy to pack and delicious to eat, Whether you’re peeling one for your morning snack or throwing them into your salad for lunch, clementines are the perfect addition to your day!  For delicious recipe inspiration, check out Saveur

Staying happy and healthy can sometimes be a challenge. Life is crazy, and there are always things to be worrying about and stressing over. Take small steps daily to keep your mind at ease and your body strong and energized. Enjoy these winter foods for your mood and overall vitality.  Your health and well-being are important to all of us here at B.Komplete!  Contact us at info@bkomplete.com to book one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists to help you come up with the health and wellness strategies that work, for you.  

Nutrition and Food

Organic versus Conventional – Which Should You Choose? Part Two

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Lets continue the conversation on some of the main factors that consumers like you consider when making purchases at the food store. If you didn’t read Part 1 of the series addressing the safety and cost of organic and conventional foods, you can view it here.

Nutrition

Working to improve your health through the food that you eat? Then you want to eat the MOST nutritious versions available, right? It’s more bang for your buck!  The food & nutrition industry has been testing both organic and conventional foods for many years. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a definitive answer of which type is nutritiously superior.  In the early 2000’s, you could find articles that were claiming a significant nutritional disparity between select organic and conventional foods. Only a few years later, there had been new research saying the exact opposite. In 2009, the American Society of Nutrition posted an article  concluding there is no significant difference between organic and conventional foods. Again in 2012, a hotly debated report from Stanford University stated that there is a lack of strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional foods.

 Today’s research deviates from those studies, showing that there IS a nutritional difference in some organic foods. Reports are showing up to 40% higher in antioxidant activity  in organic fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are comprised of nutrients like Vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids and minerals like selenium and the health benefits of antioxidants are evident.

 What does this mean? It’s apparent that there is more research needed.

 If good health is important to you, then we suggest continuing to choose your favorites until further solid evidence is discovered. Want better nutrition now? Remember VARIETY! Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat meats and dairy will give you a wide spectrum of your daily needed nutrients.

Environmental Impact

Soil erosion, decline in crop production, fertilizer runoff, and pesticide resistance are concerns that some take into account when deciding between organic or conventional foods. The USDA has many resources on how farmers can protect and enhance the environment but there are still problems that worry shoppers.

Scary reports of lake and river “dead zones” occasionally surface after finding considerable deterioration of wildlife and vegetation. This fuels new environmental studies to identify the true offender and will often include testing of new farming techniques and products that can help protect instead of harm.

Consider this: all types of farming impacts the surrounding environment. Organic farms can use natural fertilizers and pesticides that can cause runoff problems. However, the USDA says that organic farming differs from conventional farming because they strive to preserve natural resources and biodiversity with their farming techniques. There also are organizations like the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania that dedicate themselves to researching and testing better ways for American farmers to grow organic foods without harming the environment.

If preserving the environment is important to you, then you may want to consider choosing organic foods. Environment-friendly tip: buy local! As we mentioned in Part 1, think about supporting smaller farms that are local to your home or workplace. This reduces the need to truck food products all over the country, which can produce a considerable amount of fossil fuel emissions.

 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).

So, What Should You Choose?

The bottom line is that, as a consumer, you have to decide what’s important to you. Whether you’re concerned with safety, cost, nutrition, environmental impact or something else that wasn’t mentioned, you should always choose what’s best for you and your family. Watch for new research on the areas that are important to you. And in the meantime, purchase and eat healthy food that you love!

Photo Credit:

http://abcn.ca/category/diet-exercise/

http://farmersmarketannex.com/fmablog/?p=271

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.