Trader Joe’s doesn’t make the grade for Organics. . .but its easy on the wallet

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With food and nutrition it’s never easy to decide what is the best way to eat, or the best place to buy your food, because it all depends on what is important to you and your different priorities as a consumer.  Last month, in reference to a question about vitamins and supplements my doctor told me “If they don’t have it at Trader Joe’s, you probably don’t need it.”  I guess that means that my doctor doesn’t think that I need to consume organics, because Trader Joe’s leaves much to be desired with respect to healthy Organic selection. All of the food in the picture above (plus four pre-made salads for my partner) was $89.  Which sounds like a lot when you look at it, but I usually spend a lot more at TJs.  The reason that I spent so little is the small selection of organics that TJs offers (I should add that I am not eating refined grains and sugars so organic chips and cookies and all that don’t make it into the cart).  With respect to meat–they only carry organic chicken and ground beef–no organic lunch meat, pork, or any other kinds of meat, so that makes the most expensive area pretty easy, but also pretty boring if I am going to last long on this Organic kick.  For fresh veggies they also leave a lot to be desired in my opinion–they don’t have a lot of the “super foods” that I have gotten used to–Kale, Brussels sprouts (which they do carry seasonally), chard, beets, brocclini, etc.  So I went with more conventional and less nutrient dense veggies that they do offer–lettuce, corn, cucumber, and pea sprouts.  (I will have to supplement this as the way that I usually eat this won’t last me a week–which is why its great that we signed up for a new CSA!–more to come on that later) Then there’s the Organic coffee–decaf and regular because I am cutting back on the caffeine. Organic dark chocolate because some indulgences are a must. Strawberries and grapefruit as “dessert” and pickles and beef jerky as an impulse buy.  Oh yeah and I picked up this small bottle of organic olive oil for 5.99.  It’s pretty pricey, but I do sauté a lot of veggies so I will need it–and it’s still cheaper than organic butter.

So I’ve gone on and on about what Trader Joe’s has for organic offerings, but it’s still not clear why I am doing this?  I have decided to “go organic” for as long as I can for many small reasons that seem to accumulate into a big feeling that this is the right way for me to go.  First, my diet soda habit was getting out of hand, and nothing I do seems to help me curb it.  Second, I had a conversation with my friend last week about food addictions, and how are bodies are beholden to the food industrial complex–like actually addicted to it.  She told me about how she goes on cleanses as a way of resisting this food system, and taking on a new embodied approach to food and whole living.  I guess you might call going organic a “cleanse” but I hope that it lasts longer than most of the cleanses that I have done (a week)!

There are a ton of benefits to eating organic–namely you cut out lot of the chemicals that we ingest everyday in America and there is some evidence that organic food has more nutrients.  Pesticides in conventional foods have been shown to reduce fertility, so going organic is good not only for reproductive potential but with all that we are learning from epigenetic research its good for your future kids even if you’re not making them right now.  There’s some evidence that pesticides and GMOs cause weight gain.  In any case what is most important is that there is a lot of evidence that the food produced by the global food industrial complex is not good for us, so it’s probably better not to eat it!

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Thanksgiving 2011

I am so late posting these that I seriously thought about posting them next year.  Instead I decided to post the pictures now and wait until next year to post a full menu with recipes for each dish.  These turned out wonderfully, so much so that my mother-in-law said that this was her best Thanksgiving EVER!  (Also, for those of you who were wondering after this week I have officially gained back all of the weight from the 6 weeks @ 1200 cals experiment–it only took me 5 weeks!)

First the table and appetizers:

 

The Bird.

Picking fresh rosemary

The pumpkin pie. Made from scratch, from a real pumpkin.

 

Let’s Make a Date Muffins

I decided to whip up some of these Let’s Make a Date Muffins for pre-Thanksgiving breakfast and snacking. I decided not the follow the Epicurious recipe by omitting the streusel top because I wanted to make them a bit lighter given the amount of food we have planned for later in the day. They turned out great! Here’s some pics of the process:

these are the ingredients needed
pitted dates soaking in boiling water

What Counts as Unprocessed Food??

I recently posed this same question on my facebook page, and the response was that a lot of the things that we think of as healthy foods are technically processed.  This includes: tea, coffee, whole wheat products, pasta, wine, beer, chocolate, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and almost all of the meat that Americans eat, and farm raised fish among other things.  So to go completely unprocessed you would be very very limited and it would really be extremely difficult to be well nourished (correct me if I am wrong on that please).

We wanted to go on an “unprocessed” diet for 6 weeks, following the 6 weeks @ 1200 cals which was full of packaged and very processed foods, but I am not willing to give up things like coffee, dairy, alcohol, etc, so we had to come up with our own definition of what it means to have an unprocessed diet.  By unprocessed I mean something close to what others have called Real food, or Whole food, or Slow food.  Real food is defined by the RealFoodChallenge as ” food which truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth.  It is a food system–from seed to plate–that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability.”  Whole food, a bit more vague is defined as foods that are unprocessed or unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added ingredients, such as sugar, salt, or fat. Examples of whole foods include unpolished grains; fruits and vegetables; unprocessed meat, poultry, and fish; and non-homogenized milk.”  And Slow Food tends to be defined in even more vague terms is said to be “an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.”

On the blog Civil Eats Andrew Wilder defines unprocessed food as  says, “any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” Since I dont want to give up everything and I am willing and actually eager to start making more things from scratch at home, I think that this definition is the best way for me to look at this unprocessed diet.

So let the unprocessed eating begin, here are some pics of our first trip to the Beverly Hills Farmers Market:

Basic French Lentils

A few weeks ago I made an odd impulse purchase–French lentils from the bulk section at the Santa Monica Coop–sometimes I get a bit overzealous in the bulk section so I had these around for a few weeks and didnt know what to do with them.  Since I am looking for more nutrient dense foods to eat while on this 1200 calorie diet I thought I would whip this into something that tastes good but doesnt have too many calories.

Ingredients:

1 cup french lentils

1 small onion

Handful of baby carrots, slivered

4 cloves garlic

2 tbsp Olive oil

Salt

Rosemary

Dill

Oregano

Heat oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven.  I used my Le Creuset dutch oven for this. Chop up the onion, sliver the carrots, and mince the garlic add to the hot oil.  Add a pinch of salt, pinch of rosemary, dill and oregano.  Let this sauté for about 10 minutes uncovered.

Add the rinsed off lentils and saute for another minute.  Then add either 2 3/4 cups of water and a cup of chicken stock or if you’re going veggie use veggie stock or just add 3 and 3/4 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat.  I had to leave it simmering for about an hour before the lentils were the right consistency for me, soft but still keeping their form.  

This recipe makes about four cups when cooked.  A one cup serving should have about 147 calories and its packed with protein.  This is great as a side dish, a main feature or as part of a salad.  Serve warm or cold. It’s also good with a dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of soft cheese on top.