Tag Archives: food

Who Really Won the Supreme Court Decision on the GM Alfalfa Ban?

The Supreme Court issued a ruling on a ban on genetically modified alfalfa seeds that has both Monsanto and environmentalists claiming a win. So who won?

There’s a touch of both. But Monsanto doesn’t come out as clear as they want people to think. They still can’t have their GM alfalfa grown commercially until it’s proven safe enough for the environment. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has to review it first for safety.

That’s where Monsanto could win this one, to my disappointment, although that wasn’t what the Supreme Court was ruling on. So far APHIS thinks the alfalfa is safe. They have a lot of comments to review before giving approval, but it concerns me that they might approve it.

A big plus is that the Court has recognized the potential for environmental harm coming from transgenetic contamination, and that organic farmers should have the right to go to court over gene flow from genetically modified crops to their own crops.

Overall, I’m not happy about GM alfalfa getting closer to being planted, especially when the modification is so that it can withstand more herbicide. The alfalfa in question is one of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” varieties. More poison being sprayed on crops because they can handle it better isn’t exactly what I’d call a good situation.

Some countries have already banned GM foods and seeds, and I can see their point. We don’t know enough about the effects of genetically modifying our foods, the foods given to animals that people eat, or the effects of modified genes getting out into the wild. This is dangerous stuff we’re playing with.

My one hope at this point for our country is that farmers who are impacted by genes drifting onto their crops take advantage of this ruling and sue whenever there’s a problem resulting from someone else’s use of GM seeds. There are consequences we already know about and that farmers have experienced – let’s see some of that come out in court.

Should You Believe Food Health Claims?

I read an article recently about Kellogg agreeing to drop their claim that Rice Krispies are good for children’s immune systems. They’ve had to drop claims about Frosted Mini Wheats too.

Companies love to make claims about foods, especially when children are the target. Parents want the best for their kids, and it’s not always easy to tell what’s true and what isn’t.

What to do, what to do?

My first rule is to be skeptical about the health claims of any processed food. Want your children to have good immune systems? Feed them fresh fruits and vegetables, encourage them to be active, and don’t overuse antibacterial products. Remember a little dirt is a good thing.

When it comes to cereals, take a good look at what they’re really offering in terms of nutrition. Some are much better than others. But also remember they’re still pretty heavily processed for the most part.

My kids love oatmeal. This makes me happy, as it’s a much healthier option. We’re trying to get them over to steel cut oats, but so far that’s a bit too much of a leap for them. But regular oatmeal isn’t a poor choice at all.

I know cereals are a quick and easy breakfast, which is why we don’t avoid it entirely. But there are many other quick ways to have a good breakfast. Oatmeal doesn’t take that long. Homemade fruit smoothies are great, and you can add vegetables to improve the nutritional value. I even put in some cooked oatmeal to make smoothies more filling. Not too much, as you don’t want to ruin the taste, but a little does it good.

I even freeze them into popsicles and allow the kids to have the popsicles for breakfast. They’re the same as they were before I put them into molds and froze them, after all.

Try more cooking from scratch when you can for any meal. It’s wonderful having more control over just what goes into your food, and you can focus on providing highly nutritious meals and know what went into them.

How to Make Toddler Stage Baby Food

I’ve been making my daughter’s  baby food from the time she started on solid foods. It’s a lot of fun but some work also. But I love the extra control homemade baby food gives me over what goes into her diet.

Now that she’s a toddler, she is getting seriously more independent about her eating. She doesn’t want food spooned into her mouth with a few exceptions such as yogurt, and even that she’s getting stubborn about.

This is because she is so good at self feeding and dealing with chunky food. She doesn’t need my help and has made it quite plan that it is mostly no longer welcome. I have a very independent toddler.

When you go to the grocery store, you see all kinds of toddler stage foods available. Most of them frankly look gross to me. Overcooked vegetables, those funky looking meat sticks, and toddler meals with waaaay too much salt.

I’d rather make my own toddler food. It’s not like it’s difficult. Mostly it’s chopping up what the rest of us are having, but smaller.

Not all meals easily chop into something a toddler can easily handle, however. And so I keep some foods in the freezer prepared to make an easy meal.

Foods to cook until soft and freeze in cubes:

Lightly blended green beans
Lightlly blended peas
Diced carrots
Lightly pureed ground beef
Lightly pureed chicken

I don’t keep a huge selection in the freezer anymore because most meals can be eaten with the rest of the family. You may need to cook vegetables just a touch softer and make sure meats are very tender and chopped into small pieces, but toddlers can mostly eat what you eat.

Your crock pot is your friend when it comes to meats. You’ll almost always get meats that are soft enough for your toddler to handle once you dice it up.

To use the frozen goods, I mix them up as I did when she was a baby, except I use the rice so that it’s all a bit chunky. It’s messy, but this means she can pick up the food and cram it in her mouth. You know what messy eaters toddlers can be.

Couscous is a good alternative to rice. My daughter loves it. You could also use small pasta shapes and anything else that is small enough for a toddler to handle. You can freeze any vegetables your toddler likes; I just listed some of my daughter’s favorites.

It helps to peel some kinds of vegetables. My daughter loves zucchini, but the skins still give her trouble. Rather than peel them, I cut off the skins of the pieces I give to her, as the rest of the family enjoys it as well.

Remember that toddlers will put pretty much anything in their mouths, but can’t chew every food they try. Raisins are more of a choking hazard than a treat for them. Same for nuts. You’re best off chopping foods small enough that your toddler is not too likely to choke on them and keep foods soft enough that the toddler can break them down with just a little chewing.

Build Healthy Habits for Yourself, Your Family and the Environment

How active are you? Are you trying to get more active? And what about your eating habits? Ready to improve them?

Your own health should be a great motivator for having healthy habits. But if you need a little more motivation, think about how healthy habits will impact your family and benefit the environment as well.

Healthy Eating Habits

Here in the United States, most of us eat way too much meat for our health. Average meat consumption has gone up significantly in recent decades.

This doesn’t just effect your health. It effects your family and the environment.

The effect on you can be in terms of increased weight, high cholesterol and other health problems. As you probably mostly eat together as a family, these problems can potentially effect your children down the line as well.

Meat has a high environmental cost too. It takes land, water and food to raise meat animals. Their food must be grown, which means still land and water use, and most often pesticides and chemical fertilizers as well.

Eating less meat or cutting it out entirely means that the impact of your eating habits on the environment is less. It often means you’re eating healthier foods as well. That means you’re probably also teaching your family better eating habits.

Certainly there are ways to have unhealthy eating habits without meat, but if you are conscious about what you’re eating in general you’ll develop good habits.

Try growing a garden or buying your produce from a co-op, CSA or at the farmer’s market. Get lots of fresh produce into your diet. Fresh produce is very different from produce that was picked too early to make it to the supermarket.

Eco Friendly Fitness Habits

Getting fit doesn’t have to take place just in the gym. It’s a lot more fun to do some exercises outdoors.

Most gyms aren’t precisely environmentally friendly. There’s a benefit to using gear that is used by others rather than having a home gym certainly, but gyms use other resources as well, such as water and electricity. Most don’t have a focus on keeping things at all green. It’s about exercise.

Find a good place in your area to walk, ride a bike, go hiking and so forth. Some communities even have fitness routes set up with stations to help you with basic exercises.

Exercising outside has a lot of advantages. It’s essentially free. You can take the kids along if you like for no extra charge. You don’t have to feel as though you’re the least fit in the area. You probably won’t have to wait in line to do any part of your workout. And of course you can find a truly beautiful place to exercise. There’s nothing like building an appreciation for nature as you get fit.

Make Your Meals Meatless Once a Week

As I mentioned in my One Small Change Challenge post, I’m trying to go one meal a week meatless for my family. It’s a bit of a push, but I believe that we can do it. This first week was an easy one, just an old family favorite, Sand and Shells. I’ll be trying new recipes out in future weeks.

But why is this a good thing to do?

Meat has a fairly high environmental price. It takes a lot of resources to feed whichever kinds of animals. Huge amounts of water, crops and land go to it, and the animals aren’t even always treated very well.

Add in antibiotics use in animals and the pesticides they consume from their feed, and meat gets less and less appetizing. Now add in the amount of fossil fuels used for producing meat.

You can buy organically produced, free range meat if you like, but there are still problems with that. Free range means they take more land. The meat itself will likely be better for you, but still consumes quite a bit of land.

Even if you aren’t ready to go vegetarian or vegan yet, you can cut down on how much meat your family eats. Simply start going without meat one day a week.

Eating less meat isn’t just eco friendly. Done right, it’s also good for your health and your wallet.

Vegetarian meals cooked with a focus on being healthy help you to lower cholesterol and reduce your chances of a heart attack, strokes, cancer and more. It doesn’t mean these will never happen to you, but lowering your odds is a good thing.

There’s nothing boring about vegetarian fare. People who say that haven’t done much searching for interesting recipes, of which there are plenty online.

In terms of money, meat is far more expensive than many vegetarian ingredients. Cook beans of one sort or another and serve them with your favorite vegetables and grains. You can have a meal that looks and tastes amazing, and have spent less than on a simpler meal that included meat.

Make your meatless days fun. Have chopped fresh vegetables ready for when you want a snack, as well as for a great addition to any meal. Cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, snap peas and others are wonderful, and you may not even need a dip to make them interesting.

It’s also great for parents who want to expose their children to a greater variety of foods. Meatless meals can be challenging with picky eaters, but you can work with them to make it more fun. Have them help you pick the ingredients. Have them help you prepare the foods. Talk about where food comes from, and why you sometimes go meatless.

All this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. You can. It takes some time to adjust, but if that’s a step you’re ready for, go for it. If not, try working up to it!

Another alternative is to simply cut down on how much meat you include in meals when you use it. Don’t have it be the main dish. Have it be a small part of a side dish. You can satisfy that urge to have meat while eating a meal that is overall better for you.

And of course remember to keep your kitchen eco friendly where possible. Try organic produce, eco friendly cookware and so forth for your health and to be kind to the environment.