Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How To Save On Organic Produce

Join a Co-Op - Join a Farm Co-op or a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. You can purchase a share in a local farm and in exchange, you'll get a portion of the food that the farm produces. You can find an organic co-op or CSA in your area by going to Local Harvest.org.

Buy in Bulk - Warehouse stores like Sam's Club and Costco have great deals on organic produce. Go shopping with family members or friends so you can share the cost and split the merchandise.

Find Coupons Online or at Natural Grocery Stores - Earthbound Farm has coupons on their site. (You have to take a quiz in order to get a $1.00 coupon.) My local Whole Foods sometimes has coupons available inside the store. Also, check out Mambo Sprouts for online coupons.

Look For Low Cost Produce - Search for reduced prices on produce that needs to be used right away. I often find bags of organic spinach and veggies at Kroger that need to be used within 1-2 days. They are sometimes 50-75% off the original price!

Check Circular Ads - I've noticed that some local grocery stores advertise sales on organic produce. Walmart and Meijer have sales on organic produce often!

Grow Your Own Produce - Plant an organic garden in your yard. You can even grow some veggies on your windowsill if you don't have space for a garden. You may spend a little more for organic seeds, but you'll save money in the long run!

Shop Locally - You can find lower priced organic fruits and vegetables at local Farmer's markets. If you don't have any markets in your area, then look for locally grown organic produce at your grocery store. The price of local produce will be lower since they don't have far to travel.

Buy Produce That's in Season - All produce is less expensive when they are in season.

Cheapest Fruits and Vegetables Month-by-Month (Frugal Living section of About.com)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Shopping for Organic Produce

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released their 5th annual "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides" on March 10th, 2009.

The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides is a tool that will help you identify fruits and vegetables that are the most susceptible to pesticide residue. Choosing organic for the produce determined as the “Dirty Dozen” can reduce pesticide exposure by up to 80 percent. You'll notice that fruits and vegetables that have thin skins are more likely to have a higher amount of pesticides.

The "Clean 15" are fruits and vegetables that have the lowest levels of pesticides. Since buying organic may not be feasible if you're on a tight budget, stock up on the "Clean 15" more often.

Remember that you need to incorporate fruits and veggies in your diet for necessary nutrients!

Image courtesy of the Environmental Working Group

Download Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides (It will be available as an iPhone application soon)

The full list of 47 fruits and vegetables

Read EWG's recent statement: Organic Fruit and Veggies Still Recommended

The Organic Center also has a Pocket Guide for reducing pesticide dietary exposure - It is more extensive and considers the pesticide exposure to farmers, citizens and wildlife who live near farms that use harmful pesticides.

What is Organic?

The USDA National Organic Program's (NOP) definition of organic:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too. (Consumer Brochure, USDA National Organic Program, http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html)

What to Look for on Labels When Buying Organic:

  • A food that has a "100% organic" label will have no synthetic ingredients and can legally use the USDA organic seal.

  • A food that is labeled as just "organic" has to have at least 95% organic ingredients and can use the USDA organic seal.

  • A food that has a label that says "made with organic ingredients" must contain at least 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) . This food can't legally use the USDA organic seal.

  • Products that use less than 70% organic ingredients are able to list organically produced ingredients on the side of the package, but aren't able to put organic claims on the front of the package.

Reducing Pesticide Residues:
  • Wash and scrub produce under running water to remove dirt, bacteria and surface pesticide residues. Make sure you also wash produce that has inedible skin such as cantaloupe. You don't need to use soap. (Make sure to wash organic produce this way as well)

  • Remove the peel from fruits and vegetables.

  • Remove the outer leaves from leafy vegetables

  • Try to eat a variety of foods from various sources.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Healthy Snacks Around 100 Calories or Less

Stop spending money on those 100 calorie packs and start making your own healthy snacks!

Buy some snack bags and portion out snacks like fruit, veggies, nuts, dried fruit and whole grain crackers ahead of time.

Plan ahead by keeping a variety of nutritious, ready-to-eat snacks on hand at home, at work or whenever you need something when hunger strikes. When you're prepared, you won't have to buy snacks from vending machines, convenience stores or fast food restaurants.

Snacks can contribute to a healthy diet! Choose a variety of nutrient dense snacks in small portions. Make sure to make snacking a conscious activity though. You can overeat easily while watching TV, surfing the net or doing other activities!

Healthy snack suggestions:

Fruits and vegetables provide a feeling of fullness with little to no fat and very few calories. They provide important vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients.

Nuts and seeds provide protein, so you'll feel fuller longer. They can be high in fat, but the fat is mostly monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Nuts and seeds are high in calories, so watch your portions!

Whole-grains are rich in B vitamins, iron, magnesium, selenium and dietary fiber. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Look for products made with whole wheat flour, brown rice, wild rice, whole oats, whole rye, whole grain cornmeal, buckwheat, bulgur, graham flour, triticale, sorghum, amaranth, millet, quinoa,

Low-fat dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein. They are also rich in many other vitamins and minerals. Dairy products can be high in fat, so choose low-fat products.

Protein rich snacks like beans, soy and hard-boiled eggs will fill you up and keep you energized.

*I will update the snacks often! I'm just starting with a few snacks today.


1 cup chopped raw broccoli - 31 calories

20 baby carrots (about five calories per baby carrot) - 100 calories

1 large stalk of celery (11"-12" long) - 10 calories

½ cup steamed edamame in shell – 95 calories, 8 g protein, 4 g fat, 4 g fiber

1 cup crisp snap peas - 45 calories

One can Low Sodium V-8 100% Vegetable Juice - 30 calories, 1 g protein, 80 mg sodium


1 small banana (6" to 6-7/8" long) - 90 calories

1 medium banana (7" to 7-7/8" long) - 105 calories

1 cup blueberries - 84 calories

1/2 medium cantaloupe - 100 calories

1 cup raw sweet cherries - 97 calories

1 cup raw sour cherries - 78 calories

1 cup grapes - 104 calories

1/2 medium pink or red grapefruit (3-3/4" dia) - 52 calories

1/2 medium white grapefruit (3-3/4" dia) - 40 calories

2 medium kiwi fruit without skin - 92 calories

1 cup mango chunks - 107 calories

1 small orange - 70 calories

50 raisins - 78 calories

1 cup raspberries - 64 calories

2 cups strawberries - 100 calories

1 cup watermelon - 46 calories

Earth Kidz Organic Applesauce Cups - 50 calories

Nuts (raw and unsalted):

25 pistachios (4 calories each) - 100 calories

8 walnut halves (14 calories per walnut half) - 112 calories

10 cashew nuts (9 calories each) - 90 calories

15 almonds (7 calories each) - 105 calories

16 dry, roasted peanuts without salt (6 calories each) - 96 calories

Crunchy Whole Grain Snacks:

6 Reduced-Fat Triscuits – 98 calories, 2 g fat, 3 g fiber

3 cups air-popped popcorn (no oil) - 93 calories

13 Guiltless Gourmet Spicy Black Bean Tortilla Chips with 2 Tbsp. Salsa - 88 calories, 1.3 g fat

1 Wasa Hearty Rye Crispbread - 45 calories, 1 g protein, 2 g fiber, 0 grams fat

Low Fat Dairy:

1 stick mozzarella String Cheese - 80 calories

1 stick Frigo® Light String Cheese - 60 calories

4 oz low fat cottage cheese - 90 calories

1 cup nonfat milk - 80-90 calories depending on brand

1 cup Fage Total 0% Greek Yogurt - 120 calories, 20 g protein, 0 g fat

Protein-rich snacks:

1 large hard-boiled egg- 78 calories, 6 g protein, 5 g fat, 212 mg. cholesterol

1 large hard-boiled egg-white - 16 calories, 3.6 g protein, 0 g fat, 0 mg, cholesterol

1 Tbsp. MaraNatha® Organic Almond Butter - 95 calories, 3.5 g protein, 8 g fat

1 Tbsp. SunButter® Natural Sunflower Butter - 100 calories, 3.5 g protein, 8 g fat

Now you can mix everything up! Put some almond butter on whole grain crackers or make your own trail mix with raisins and nuts!

*Used the USDA National Nutrient Database

Monday, March 23, 2009

How to tell if a fruit or vegetable is organic or conventionally grown - PLU Codes

Have you ever wondered why there are stickers on your produce and what they really mean?
Price Look-Up codes, or PLU codes, are identification numbers put on produce and other products to make check-out at stores faster and more accurate. You’ll be surprised to know that those stickers can also tell you whether or not a product is organic or conventionally grown.

The first step is to count the number of digits on the sticker.

  • A conventionally grown product (grown with chemical assistance) will have a 4 digit PLU code. (Example: conventionally grown Red Delicious apple: 4015)

  • An organic product will have a 5 digit code starting with the number 9. (Example: organic Red Delicious apple: 94015)

Below: A PLU code of 94090 on a bag of organic spinach.

picture courtesy of bedfordind.com

Friday, March 20, 2009

Quinoa - A Super Food!

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) refers to the seed of the Chenopodium or “Goosefoot” plant. It is native to the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru and was a staple food of both the Aztecs and the Incas.

Quinoa is technically not a grain, but is used as a grain and substituted for grains because of its cooking characteristics. Quinoa is now available in many forms such as pasta, cereal, flour and even polenta.

photo courtesy of Ancient Quinoa Harvest - http://www.quinoa.net/

Why is Quinoa considered a super food?
Quinoa is a considered a super food because it contains more protein than any other grain. The protein in quinoa is complete and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is especially high in lysine, methionine and cystine. Quinoa is rich in iron, calcium, riboflavin, potassium, B6, niacin and thiamin. It’s also a good source of manganese, copper, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and folate. Another great reason to eat quinoa is that it’s high in dietary fiber.

Quinoa is a gluten-free whole grain food, so people who are on a celiac diet can safely use it. The American Celiac Sprue Association lists quinoa as a good choice for a gluten free diet. Additionally, quinoa is the perfect food for vegetarians and vegans because of its high protein content!

1/4 cup of cooked Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa Grain has 170 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 2 mg of sodium and 7 grams of protein.

Cooking Method:
Quinoa kernels have a waxy protective coating called saponin which leaves a bitter taste. Quinoa should be rinsed under running water before cooking to remove the saponin. Many manufacturers now rinse quinoa before packaging, but it still should be rinsed just in case there is some saponin remaining. Quinoa expands up to 4 times its volume when cooked and has a mild, nutty and earthy flavor. It tends to takes on the flavors of the food it's cooked or served with.

To cook, use two parts liquid to one part quinoa. Bring the quinoa to a boil using a medium saucepan, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the grains are translucent and the germ has spiraled out from each grain. It has a crunchy texture when cooked for about 10 minutes and a soft and chewy texture when cooked for about 15 minutes. Quinoa tastes great in soups, stews, casseroles, stir fries and even cold in salads.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Fun Nutrition Quiz from the Dole Nutrition Institute!

Test your knowledge about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables! This fun and educational quiz has 4 levels. Click the link below to begin:

Are you a Nutrition Novice or a Produce Pro?

Feel free to share your results! I got a couple wrong. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shop Smart - Get the Facts on Food Labels

Print out this fact sheet from the American Dietetic Association to learn about food labels:

Shop Smart - Get the Facts on Food Labels

I also like the video below from monkeysee.com. A Registered Dietitian explains food labels in detail.

There are 8 segments, so make sure to click the "Next Segment" button after each video is finished. It will take you to the monkeysee.com site after you watch the first video.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today is Registered Dietitian Day!

It's the 40th anniversary of the RD credential! Learn about how a Registered Dietitian can be beneficial to your health:

Top Ten Reasons Why Consulting with a Registered Dietitian Can Benefit You

Check out some fun nutrition related games from the American Dietetic Association:

Nutrition Sudoku for Kids & Adults

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Face the Fats Pocket Guide

Print out this informative pocket guide from the Face the Fats website (By the American Heart Association.) You can take it with you when you're shopping, eating at a restaurant or use it at home when you're cooking up a healthy meal!

Face the Fats Pocket Guide Adobe PDF, File Size 1226.0 KB

Test Your Fats IQ

Take a short quiz by the American Heart Association to test your knowledge about specific fats!

Test Your Fats IQ Now!

Feel free to share your results. :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Craving Some Chocolate?!?

Who wouldn't be happy to learn that a small amount of cocoa and dark chocolate may actually be good for your body? The Aztecs were way ahead of us!

Photo courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Cocoa beans are full of plant chemicals called flavanols. Flavanols are antioxidants that may reduce blood platelet stickiness and help prevent blood clots. According to the American Dietetic Association, Cocoa and dark chocolate may actually have up to 10x more antioxidant power than other antioxidant rich foods! Cocoa and Dark chocolate can be a good source of calcium, potassium and magnesium. Chocolate even contains vitamins A, B1, B2, D and E. The vitamins and minerals found in chocolate products can vary depending on the way the chocolate was processed.

Be sure to choose dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa. Also, watch your portion sizes since chocolate is high in sugar and fat. You only need a small square (about 1 oz) to get the benefits! Read more about the benefits of natural cocoa and dark chocolate here:

Cocoa and Chocolate: Sweet News! (The American Dietetic Association Fact Sheet)

Daily Consumption of a Dark Chocolate Containing Flavanols and Added Sterol Esters Affects Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Normotensive Population with Elevated Cholesterol The Journal of Nutrition

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Test your Nutrition Knowledge

Rate your eating habits with this quiz by the American Dietetic Association (ADA): Are you "eating right?"

Another quiz to test your nutrition knowledge (Also by the ADA): Nutrition Quiz
(Requires Adobe® Flash Player)

Let us know your results! :)

March is National Nutrition Month®

National Nutrition Month® is an annual nutrition education and information campaign sponsored by the American Dietetic Association. The campaign helps increase awareness of the importance of good nutrition and physical activity.

To help you have a healthy March, here is a PDF file that the American Dietetic Association put together:

Step Up to Nutrition and Health - This fact sheet focuses on the importance of eating right and being physically active. Print it out and share it with your family and friends!

Also, March 11, 2009 is Registered Dietitian Day!

Why Registered Dietitians can benefit you and improve your health:

Top Ten Reasons Why Consulting with a Registered Dietitian Can Benefit You