Noor H. Salem
Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
As a health coach, some of the most frequent questions I’m asked are: “I have a big family, how can I feed them healthy?” or “isn’t organic impossible for a family of 8?”
The real question we should be asking is, “Why is junk food so cheap and accessible in vending machines, majority of public schools, offices, events, and across checkout counters?”
You don’t need to buy everything organic!
If you’re buying organic bananas, mangos, or even broccoli, then you may be wasting a few extra dollars on your grocery bill.
The Environmental Working Group dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists are helpful to keep in sight. Every year, they publish the ratings of conventional fruits and vegetables in terms of pesticide residues. The dirty dozen are the fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticide residue. These include apples, strawberries, celery, spinach, grapes, peaches, bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and hot peppers.
The clean fifteen, on the other hand, are the fruits and vegetables with the lowest levels of pesticides. They are safe to purchase conventional. These would be avocadoes, sweet corn, pineapple, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangos, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. It should be noted however, that when it comes to corn, you need beware of genetically-engineered corn. I recommend all clients purchase their corn and corn products organic certified only. This topic will be discussed in more detail in a future article.
Purchase some items in bulk
Dried beans, legumes, raw nuts, spices, organic grains, pastas, and flours can be purchased in bulk, but be sure to store them in air-tight containers. Nuts can be frozen for optimum freshness and taste. Buying in bulk will not only decrease your budget on groceries for your family, but it can also help you organize your pantry. Who enjoys having an open bag here and there? Storing these items in air-tight containers is important, in order to avoid rancidity or in many cases, pantry moths.
That’s right. Purchasing frozen vegetables and fruits not only saves you money because they cost less, but it’ll save you a vast amount of money for not tossing them out when they rot before you acquire a chance to use them. Fresh produce are tossed out frequently due to going bad before anyone finds time to eat them. You can stock up your freezer with frozen produce, and have them ready to toss in to unplanned meals during the busy week.
To add to the good news, according to the Environmental Working Group and many other research journals, frozen food is “flash frozen” after being picked from the farm. This results in the nutrients and vitamins being preserved and ceases the aging process of produce. Raw produce, however, may travel miles and miles, for days at times, before they reach the store shelf. Furthermore, raw produce spend more time under the sun than their frozen counterpart, resulting in less overall nutrient density. For that reason, frozen fruits and vegetables may contain more benefits per bite.
Lastly, the EWG also state that since frozen fruits and vegetables may be washed and blanched, they end up with less pesticide residue. Therefore, if you cannot purchase your fresh spinach organic, go for frozen conventional spinach! It will have less pesticide residue and more vitamins than fresh conventional spinach. This goes for the entire dirty dozen list too.
Spend more time in the kitchen.
Frankly, this is a growing issue today. I hear a number of complaints from clients and receive concerns from people that they simply have no time to cook. This obviously leads many people dining out, or purchasing food from restaurants for the family a number of days during the week. Spending time in the kitchen results in preparing healthier meals. You know what you’re putting in your food, and I’m certain that more than 75% of the ingredients from fast-food chains will not be found in your pantry.
Baking a big batch of better-for-you ingredient cookies during the weekend means you have a savory treat the next couple of days for when the sweet tooth kicks in. Having something available means you will opt for the better choice- instantaneously. The same applies to food. Cook up a casserole, smooth vegetable soups, or even pilafs for dinner, and have them for lunch the next day. There is nothing wrong with consuming leftovers; you’ll be saving yourself some pocket change, and saving your body from a plethora of unwanted ingredients.