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Avoiding GMO’s Part V: Are There GMO’s in Your Convenience Foods?

In this five part series for Non-GMO Month, we’ll take a look at common food items that likely contain GMO’s and we’ll be offering non-GMO alternatives.  Avoiding GMO’s is quite easy once you know what to look for so we’ll be sharing with you some tips on how to keep your diet GMO free.

Avoiding GMO's

 

Most of us fall back on convenience foods once in a while to feed ourselves and our families when we’re just too busy to make a home cooked meal.  In a quest to make sure we’re feeding our families wholesome, nutritious foods, you’ll want to make sure you’re avoiding GMO’s in these processed convenience foods. Make sure you’re feeding yourself and your family non-gmo meals by using the guidelines below.  Avoiding GMO’s is easy once you know the secrets.

4 Tips for Avoiding GMO’s in Convenience Foods

1 – The easiest way to make sure you are avoiding GMO’s is to buy organic.  This goes for convenience foods and any foods that you’re buying. Any product that has the USDA Organic logo on it is by definition non-GMO.

2 – Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label on packages.  Even if a product isn’t certified organic, it can be non-gmo.  To be certain, look for this third party verification.

3 – When you’re buying packaged breakfast foods, avoid risky ingredients.  Most supermarket convenience foods contain corn, soy and canola – ingredients that are very likely to be genetically modified.  Some ingredients will be obvious, like corn flour, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, soy flour, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, soy isoflavone, canola oil, cottonseed oil.  Some ingredients are sneaky in that they don’t list what their made from.  These sneaky ingredients can be GMO if the product isn’t organic: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin c, citric acid, sodium citrate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrin, molasses, sucrose, textured vegetable protein (tvp), xanthan gum, vitamins, and yeast.  Its a pretty sure bet that conventional supermarket convenience foods contain GMO’s so you may want to read the labels just to see, but I would avoid them at all cost.

4 – Re-define ‘convenience’.  I know, its so easy to tear open a frozen dinner, throw it in the microwave and call it a meal, but in the long run your health and your wallet will be better served by preparing some foods ahead of time so that when you really need something quick and convenient you can pull fresh alternatives out of your freezer.  It’s a great idea to cook in bulk – make a huge batch of organic rice then freeze individual or family sized portions.  Do the same with cooked beans, cooked veggies and fruits.  You’ll be easily avoiding GMO’s by preparing your own food at home with simple one-ingredient foods.  Then, on one of those nights when you just don’t have the time to cook from scratch, you can just re-heat a meal you’ve already prepared and viola! GMO-free dinner!

Avoiding GMO ingredients is easy when you know you have organic alternatives.  The chart above gives you great suggestions for replacements.  For just about any convenience food you can think of, there’s an organic or non-gmo version, you just have to know what to look for!

Are there any convenience foods you just love but don’t know how to find a non-gmo version of? Let us know and we’ll direct you to it!

Nutmeg: 7 Health Benefits & Creative Ways To Use It

health benefits of nutmeg

Photo credit: David.Monniaux

Typically associated with holiday foods like egg nog and pumpkin pie, organic nutmeg is also great in savory dishes like stuffing, soup and stir fry.  The health benefits of nutmeg may surprise you; from dental health to skin care, to aphrodisiac qualities and more.

7 Health Benefits of Nutmeg

1 – Sleep Aid

You’ve heard of having a warm glass of milk before bed in order to get a good night’s sleep?  Try adding a pinch of ground nutmeg for a more powerful punch. It also helps to promote the production of serotonin.

2 – Acne Treatment

If you suffer from acne or have acne scars, try mixing ground nutmeg with water or honey into a paste.  Apply it to the skin like a mask or use like a scrub and your skin will benefit.  Nutmeg has ant-inflammatory components that will help reduce the redness and puffiness associated with pimples. It will help remove blackheads, make scars less noticeable and make your skin smoother.

3 – Digestive Aid

Since ancient times, nutmeg has been used as a medicinal aid for digestive problems like diarrhea, constipation, bloating and excess gas.  Nutmeg oil helps to remove the excess gas from your gut, providing relief.  If you have regular digestive issues, try sprinkling nutmeg on oatmeal, in eggs, or in a fruit smoothie for breakfast every day.

4 – Dental Health

Along with clove and cinnamon, nutmeg is great for dental health.  It has antibacterial properties that help to protect teeth and gums and the oil in nutmeg is helpful in relieving a tooth ache.  It will also freshen your breath and keep your mouth clean.

5 – Immune Booster

Nutmeg contains trace minerals that are beneficial for immune system health.  It’s no wonder that nutmeg is commonly used in foods that are popular during cold and flu season.  High in potassium, calcium, iron and manganese, it’s a great idea to sprinkle nutmeg on your foods during the winter months.

6 – Brain Health

Ancient Greeks and Romans used nutmeg as a brain tonic, as it can stimulate the brain, eliminating fatigue and stress.  Nutmeg contains a compound called myristicin which has been shown to protect the brain against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.  It is also helpful if you’re suffering from anxiety or depression and can be effective to improve concentration and focus.

7 – Sex Drive

Yes, one of the many health benefits of nutmeg is its aphrodisiac effects.  Researchers have found that at low dosages it is capable of increasing sexual activity, increasing both libido and potency in men.  Before you go dowsing yourself in nutmeg, you should be aware that at higher doses, nutmeg does have adverse effects and can cause heart palpitations and nausea.

How To Use Nutmeg

Nutmeg can be used for both sweet and savory dishes. In desserts, it adds warm, nutty, holiday-spice flavor to foods like gingerbread and pumpkin pie. It also pairs nicely with meats for a subtly sweet component, and is great paired with vegetables like cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Here are a few ways to get the health benefits of nutmeg into your diet.

Beverages

Eggnog is the obvious choice, but even if you don’t like eggnog, you can add nutmeg to hot chocolate, or hot tea.  Try adding nutmeg to your fruit smoothies for a warming effect.  Add it to hot or cold apple cider.

Proteins

Using nutmeg in savory dishes and on proteins can add contrast to spicy and salty flavors.  A little goes a long way so use a light touch but try nutmeg on roasted chicken, pot pies, omelettes, braised beef, meatballs and more.

Desserts

Aside from pumpkin pie or apple pie, you can sprinkle a little nutmeg into vanilla pudding, try it on ice cream, pound cake, and cookies.  Try adding nutmeg to any dish that you’d normally use cinnamon for a slightly different flavor.

Soups

A dash of nutmeg in tomato soup adds an unexpected depth of flavor do a simple soup.  Try nutmeg in a blended cauliflower puree or winter squash soup.

Vegetables

Try sprinkling a bit of nutmeg on vegetables like sweet potatoes, red potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, winter squashes, cabbage, cauliflower and spinach.

 

Now that you know the health benefits of nutmeg and some ways to use it, how will you be using nutmeg this season?  Let us know in the comments.

Avoiding GMO’s Part IV: Are There GMO’s in Your Holiday Foods?

In this five part series for Non-GMO Month, we’ll take a look at common food items that likely contain GMO’s and we’ll be offering non-GMO alternatives.  Avoiding GMO’s is quite easy once you know what to look for so we’ll be sharing with you some tips on how to keep your diet GMO free.

 

Avoiding GMO's

When it comes to holiday cooking, most of us lean on packaged foods at least a little bit to ease the burden.  We want to make our holiday meals memorable, delicious and healthy. One way to make sure they are healthy is by avoiding GMO’s.  Make sure you’re feeding yourself and your family non-gmo meals by using the guidelines below.  Avoiding GMO’s is easy once you know the secrets.

5 Tips for Avoiding GMO’s in Holiday Foods

1 – The easiest way to make sure you are avoiding GMO’s is to buy organic.  This goes for holiday foods and any foods that you’re buying. Any product that has the USDA Organic logo on it is by definition non-GMO.

2 – Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label on packages.  Even if a product isn’t certified organic, it can be non-gmo.  To be certain, look for this third party verification.

3 – When you’re buying packaged holiday foods like stuffing, canned pumpkin pie mix, boxed dessert mixes and gravies, avoid risky ingredients.  Most supermarket convenience foods contain corn, soy and canola – ingredients that are very likely to be genetically modified.  Some ingredients will be obvious, like corn flour, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, soy flour, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, soy isoflavone, canola oil, cottonseed oil.  Some ingredients are sneaky in that they don’t list what their made from.  These sneaky ingredients can be GMO if the product isn’t organic: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin c, citric acid, sodium citrate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrin, molasses, sucrose, textured vegetable protein (tvp), xanthan gum, vitamins, and yeast.  Its a pretty sure bet that conventional supermarket packaged foods contain GMO’s so you may want to read the labels just to see, but I would avoid them at all cost and choose an organic alternative instead.

4 – Get an organic turkey (or ham).  Even better, find a local turkey farm or pig rancher so that you can talk to them about how they raise their animals.  You want to look for animals that have been fed a non-gmo diet and have access to the outdoors.  The healthiest animals are ones that have been eating their traditional diets so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

5 – Cook with whole food ingredients.  When your mashed potatoes are simply made with potatoes, butter and milk (make sure the butter and milk is organic), you know exactly what you’re eating without looking at a long list of chemical ingredients.  Choosing whole foods over processed foods is one of the easiest ways to make sure you’re avoiding GMO’s.  There are very few whole foods that are GMO, at least for now.  The ones to look out for and buy organic are:  papaya, sweet corn, zucchini/yellow squash, and soy.

Avoiding GMO ingredients is easy when you know you have organic alternatives.  The chart above gives you great suggestions for replacements.  For just about any convenience food you can think of, there’s an organic or non-gmo version, you just have to know what to look for!

Are there any holiday foods you just love but don’t know how to find a non-gmo version of? Let us know and we’ll direct you to it!

What you need to know: GMO Myths and Truths

Already in 2013, nearly half of all U.S. states have introduced bills requiring GMO labeling or prohibiting genetically engineered foods. With the growing attention on GMO’s, the biotech industry is spending a lot of time and money trying to convince the public that their GMO myths are actually true.   If you listen to supporters of GMO’s you’ll hear the promises that many biotech companies have made.

Top GMO Myths from Biotech Companies

  • GMO’s will solve world hunger
  • GMO’s will improve crop yields
  • GMO’s deter pests and weeds, reducing pesticide and herbicide use
  • GMO’s are better suited to extreme weather conditions
gmo myths

Photo Credit: Lindsay Stradtner

Digging deeper into the truth of those claims, you’ll find something very different.  Let’s take a closer look at the basic facts about GMO’s and then we’ll bust some GMO myths.

First, what is a GMO?
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a plant or animal whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering (GE) techniques. This technology combines DNA from different species, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

Why are GMO’s used?

Nearly all commercial GMO’s are designed to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide.  Some GMO’s are designed for quicker growth (GE Salmon), increased levels of specific nutrients (Golden Rice), or to resist disease (Papaya).  Whether these GMO foods actually live up to their designed purpose is something we’ll get to in the myth busting section.

What foods are GMO?

The most common GMO foods are corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash (zucchini  and yellow).   Many ingredients in processed foods are made from corn or soy so when you’re reading labels on processed foods, look for these ingredients: Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Natural and Artificial Flavorings, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrin, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), and Xanthan Gum.  If you’re not buying organic and you see these ingredients, they are likely GMO.

To get an insider’s look at which GMO crops are approved for use and what traits they have been modified for, click here.

Are GMOs safe?
The verdict is unclear. In the U.S., GMO’s have been approved based on studies performed by the very same companies that create GMO’s and profit from them. Scientists have identified a number of ways in which GMO’s could potentially adversely impact both human health and the environment. These include new allergens in the food supply, antibiotic resistance, production of new toxins, gene transfer due to pollen drift, creation of new viruses and more. More detailed information can be found at the Union of Concerned Scientists website at www.ucsusa.org. Most developed nations including all of the countries in the European Union, Australia, and Japan have either significant restrictions or outright bans on GMO’s.

GMO Myths Busted

GMO Myth: GMO’s will solve world hunger
Truth: According to John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America wrote a great piece addressing this issue.  Biotech holds up Golden Rice as the savior for malnourished.  Nearly a million children die every year because they are weakened by Vitamin A deficiencies and an additional 350,000 go blind.  Golden rice was developed and is being promoted as the answer to this problem but if you look more closely, you’ll see the flaws in this GMO crop.  “For one thing, we’ve learned that golden rice will not grow in the kinds of soil that it must to be of value to the world’s hungry. To grow properly, it requires heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides — expensive inputs unaffordable to the very people that the variety is supposed to help. And we’ve also learned that golden rice requires large amounts of water — water that might not be available in precisely those areas where Vitamin A deficiency is a problem, and where farmers cannot afford costly irrigation projects.  And one more thing — it turns out that golden rice doesn’t work, even in theory. Malnourished people are not able to absorb Vitamin A in this form. And even if they could, they’d have to eat an awful lot of the stuff. An 11-year-old boy would have to eat 27 bowls of golden rice a day in order to satisfy his minimum requirement for the vitamin.”  Read the full article HERE.

GMO Myth: GMO’s will improve crop yields
Truth: A peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability examined those claims and found that conventional plant breeding, not genetic engineering, is responsible for yield increases in major U.S. crops.  The definitive study to date on GM crops and yield is Failure to Yield, by Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and former biotech adviser to the US Environmental Protection Agency.  It shows quite clearly that GMO does not produce increased yields and in many cases the yields are reduced over time.

GMO Myth: GMO’s deter pests and weeds, reducing pesticide and herbicide use
Truth:  Many GMO crops have pesticides and herbicide resistance built in to the plant itself.  The most well known is Bt corn, which has the Bt bacteria inserted into the genome of the plant. It causes insects eating the plant to die by exploding their stomachs.  While this application was successful at first, pests have developed resistance to Bt corn and farmers are turning to more and more pesticide use to keep up with the adapting insects.  For more information about pesticide use in GMO Crops, click HERE.

In herbicide tolerant crops like ‘Roundup Ready’ soy, farmers have increased herbicide use over time to keep up with ‘superweeds’.  The superweeds have become so much of a problem for farmers that Monsanto has proposed 2,4-D resistant plants.  An ingredient in Agent Orange, 2,4-D is a pretty nasty chemical.  It has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, kidney and liver problems, reproductive effects, and shows endocrine disrupting potential.   See Rodale Institite’s article about 2,4-D.

GMO Myth: GMO’s are better suited to extreme weather conditions
Truth: Long-term experiments at the Rodale Institute, an organic research farm in Pennsylvania, found that, during normal weather, organic and conventional farming produce about the same amount of food. But in drought conditions, organic wins out, producing 30 percent more in years of drought. That’s because organic soil is alive with beneficial bacteria, and the soil acts like a sponge to hold water in reserve during drought.  The healthy soil also helps prevent flooding.  The real key to growing crops in a changing climate is seed diversity.  Navdanya, an organization founded by Dr. Vandana Shiva, has a mission  “To protect nature and people’s rights to knowledge, biodiversity, water and food”. They have a program that focuses on saving seed that is adaptable to changing climates.  Read more HERE.

Now that I know some of the GMO myths and truths, how do I avoid GMO’s?

Since the US does not require labeling of GMO’s there are a few ways to reduce your consumption of GMO’s.

1 – Buy Organic
Certified organic products are not allowed to contain any GMO’s. Therefore, when you purchase products labeled “100% organic”, “organic”, or “made with organic ingredients”, all ingredients in these products are not allowed to be produced from GMO’s. For example, products labeled as “made with organic ingredients” only require 70% of the ingredients to be organic, but 100% of the ingredients must be non-GMO.  If you have a hard time finding organic food locally, you can shop for organic food online and have it delivered to you.

2 – Look for Non-GMO on the label
In the absence of mandatory labeling, many companies voluntarily label their products as non-GMO. In addition, the Non-GMO Project offers verification and a Non-GMO Project Verified logo on a product means that the product meets their standards for GMO avoidance.

3 – Avoid at-risk ingredients
Most GMO’s in processed foods come from four crops: corn, soybeans, canola and cottonseed. If you’re consuming conventional processed foods and you find on the label these ingredients, they are likely GMO: corn flour, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, glucose, modified food starch, soy flour, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, soy isoflavone, vegetable oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil.

What are some GMO myths you’ve heard?

Avoiding GMO’s Part III: Are There GMO’s in Your Favorite Candy?

In this five part series for Non-GMO Month, we’ll take a look at common food items that likely contain GMO’s and we’ll be offering non-GMO alternatives.  Avoiding GMO’s is quite easy once you know what to look for so we’ll be sharing with you some tips on how to keep your diet GMO free.

 

Avoiding GMO's

With Halloween right around the corner, we’ve all got candy on the brain.  There are so many memories associated with candy that we can hold on to our favorites and enjoy them without thinking about the health effects.  Even if you don’t indulge in candy often, its important to consider choices that are better for you and better for our world.  Making sure you’re avoiding GMO’s in your candy is a good way to make sure the candy you are choosing is just a little healthier.  Yes, its probably still full of sugar and fat but why not make the best choice you can.  If you’re concerned about the Halloween candy that’s about to show up everywhere you go, you have good reason to be.  But its easy to make sure you’re avoiding GMO’s in your candy if you follow these tips below:

4 Tips for Avoiding GMO’s in Candy

1 – The easiest way to make sure you are avoiding GMO’s is to buy organic.  This goes for candy as well as any foods that you’re buying. Any product that has the USDA Organic logo on it is by definition non-GMO.

2 – Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label on packages.  Even if a product isn’t certified organic, it can be non-gmo.  To be certain, look for this third party verification.

3 – When you’re buying candy, check the ingredients.  Most supermarket candies contain corn, soy and canola – ingredients that are very likely to be genetically modified.  Some ingredients will be obvious, like high fructose corn syrup, canola oil, cottonseed oil or soy lecithin.  Some ingredients are sneaky in that they don’t list what their made from.  These sneaky ingredients can be GMO if the product isn’t organic: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin c, citric acid, sodium citrate,  sucrose, and xanthan gum.  Its a pretty sure bet that conventional supermarket candies contain GMO’s so you may want to read the labels just to see, but I would avoid them at all cost and choose an organic alternative instead.

4 – Ditch the candy!  For a sweet treat, try dried fruits instead.  They may wind up in the ‘trade’ pile on Halloween, but giving out mini boxes of raisins is a great way to be involved in the holiday without contributing to the ill health of children.

Avoiding GMO ingredients is easy when you know you have organic alternatives.  The chart above gives you great suggestions for replacements.  There’s an organic or non-gmo version of lots of different kinds of candies, you just have to know what to look for!

Are there any kinds of candy you just love but don’t know how to find a non-gmo version of? Let us know and we’ll direct you to it if we can!

Organic Dried Cranberries: 5 Favorite Ways to Use Them

You may already be familiar with the dried cranberries that go by the name ‘Craisins’.  They’re a delicious snack and they’re great for on-the-go, but I want to let you know why it is important to choose organic dried cranberries instead.  Most commercial dried fruit uses additives and preservatives that maintain the color and the softness of the fruit.  Not only are these additives not necessary, they may be harmful to your health.  Sulfur dioxide, the most common additive in conventional dried fruits, may cause health problems if you have asthma, sulfite sensitivity or sulfite allergy.

Also, when you choose organic dried cranberries, you’re avoiding both pesticides and potentially GMO sweeteners that are often used on conventional cranberries.  Considering this is a great snack for kids and their smaller bodies are more sensitive to pesticides, why buy anything but organic?

organic dried cranberries

Health Benefits of Organic Dried Cranberries

Nutrients like vitamin C and fiber play a very important role in cranberry’s health benefits but its really the phytonutrients in cranberries that are so beneficial.  Containing phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, and flavonoids, cranberries have been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits, help control urinary tract infections, support the immune and cardiovascular systems, benefit the digestive system and are cancer preventative.  All of that in a tiny red berry makes you wonder how you can start to incorporate more of them in your diet on a regular basis.

 

Five Ways to Use Organic Dried Cranberries

 

Desserts

Organic dried cranberries add a tart burst of flavor to your favorite dessert recipes.  Try substituting some or all of the raisins in your dessert recipes for a change of pace.  Recipes like oatmeal raisin cookies, apple pie, biscotti and rice pudding are perfect for substituting dried cranberries for raisins.  Use a 1 for 1 replacement.  Here’s an easy recipe for a cranberry biscotti that is great for the holiday season:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cane sugar
1 1/2 cups toasted pecan halves
1 cup dried organic cranberries
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roughly chop the pecans and set aside. Combine baking powder, flour, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, beat eggs, yolks, and vanilla and add to dry ingredients.  Mix until a sticky dough is formed.  Add in the pecans, cranberries, and lemon zest. Turn dough out onto well-floured surface.  Sprinkle with flour and knead slightly. Shape into 9-by-3 1/2-inch logs. Transfer to baking sheet and bake until brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool enough to handle. Lower oven to 275 degrees. On cutting board, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Return pieces cut side down to baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes. Turn over and bake another 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack and store in airtight container.

 

 Granola

Making homemade granola is really simple, much less expensive than store bought, and you can customize the ingredients.  Here’s a simple recipe for organic granola using dried cranberries that is perfect for the holiday season:

4 cups regular rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped raw walnuts
1 cup organic dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix the oats, coconut, walnuts, salt, and cinnamon and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Pour half of the liquid mixture over the oats mixture, in the large bowl. Use your hands to combine them until well mixed then pour in the rest of the liquid and mix again, making sure all of the oats are coated.  Pour the mixture onto the baking sheets and spread it out evenly or in small clumps if you like granola the sticks together. Bake for 10 minutes then stir and bake for another 10 minutes.  Stir again and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until toasted brown. Stir in the dried cranberries and let the granola cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

Salad Topping

I eat a lot of salads in my house so I’m always looking for ways to jazz them up with something different.  Adding nuts or seeds along with a dried fruit makes the salad come to life.  One of my favorite combinations is pecans and cranberries.  Here’s a recipe for a spinach salad using dried organic cranberries:

6 cups organic mesclun salad mix
1/2 cup organic pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons organic white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons organic olive oil
2 teaspoons organic dijon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup organic dried cranberries
1/3 cup organic walnut pieces

In a bowl, combine the pomegranate juice, vinegar, olive oil, and mustard and whisk to combine.  Place mesclun mix in a large bowl and pour the dressing on top.  Toss to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Top with cranberries and walnuts and serve.

 

Breads and Muffins

Baked goods get a tart lift when you add organic dried cranberries.  From holiday breads to breakfast muffins, adding cranberries also gives you a boost of antioxidants.  Here’s a recipe for an organic cranberry bread – serve it warm right out of the oven or room temperature.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
zest of one orange
1/3 c fresh squeezed orange juice (from the zested orange)
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup sunflower or safflower oil
½ cup chopped pecans
1 cup organic dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside.  In a large bowl stir together the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cranberries and chopped nuts.  In small bowl beat eggs with a fork and stir in milk, orange zest and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened; the batter should be lumpy.  Add the orange juice and stir to combine.  Pour into loaf pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

 

Snacks

Adding organic dried cranberries to snacks like trail mix, snack bars or popcorn balls is a great way to get healthy antioxidants into your diet.  Here’s a recipe for popcorn balls that are really fun to make with kids for holiday gifts.

8 cups popped plain popcorn
1 cup organic dried cranberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons butter

Place popcorn and dried cranberries in a large mixing bowl; set aside. Combine the brown sugar and maple syrup in a small pan and add butter. Cook over medium heat, until butter melts and mixure comes to a boil, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens slightly. Pour over popcorn mixture, stirring until coated. Dip hands in cold water. Shape popcorn mixture into 2-inch balls, pressing firmly to hold shape. Place on waxed paper and cool completely. Let stand overnight to harden. Wrap in decorative plastic wrap. Makes 12 balls.

What are your favorite ways to use organic dried cranberries?  Let us know in the comments!

Avoiding GMO’s Part II: Are There GMO’s in Breakfast Foods?

In this five part series for Non-GMO Month, we’ll take a look at common food items that likely contain GMO’s and we’ll be offering non-GMO alternatives.  Avoiding GMO’s in breakfast foods is quite easy once you know what to look for so we’ll be sharing with you some tips on how to keep your diet GMO free.

Avoiding GMO's in breakfast foods

We’ve all been told that we need to start the day with a good, healthy breakfast but have you ever stopped to wonder if there are GMO’s in breakfast foods you love?  Make sure you’re feeding yourself and your family non-gmo breakfasts by using the guidelines below.  Avoiding GMO’s in breakfast foods is easy once you know the secrets.

5 Tips for Avoiding GMO’s in Breakfast Foods

1 – The easiest way to make sure you are avoiding GMO’s in breakfast foods is to buy organic.  This goes for breakfast foods and any foods that you’re buying. Any product that has the USDA Organic logo on it is by definition non-GMO.

2 – Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label on packages.  Even if a product isn’t certified organic, it can be non-gmo.  To be certain, look for this third party verification.

3 – Enjoy single ingredient foods for breakfast.  Fruit (aside from papaya) is non-gmo so enjoy fresh bananas, grapefruits, melons, apples, kiwi, grapes or any of your favorite fruits.  Single ingredient hot breakfast cereals are also going to be non-gmo.  Cook up some oats, buckwheat, millet or rice and enjoy a porridge for breakfast.  Add some dried fruit, just make sure there aren’t any added ingredients like sweeteners or oils in the dried fruit.

4 – Make a green smoothie for breakfast.  Using fresh, whole ingredients is an easy way to make sure you’re avoiding gmo’s all the time.  Try blending a handful of spinach with a frozen banana, a couple of dates and a spoonful of coconut oil in a little water for a healthy way to start the day.

5 – When you’re buying packaged breakfast foods, avoid risky ingredients.  Most supermarket snack foods contain corn, soy and canola – ingredients that are very likely to be genetically modified.  Some ingredients will be obvious, like corn flour, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, soy flour, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, soy isoflavone, canola oil, cottonseed oil.  Some ingredients are sneaky in that they don’t list what their made from.  These sneaky ingredients can be GMO if the product isn’t organic: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin c, citric acid, sodium citrate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrin, molasses, sucrose, textured vegetable protein (tvp), xanthan gum, vitamins, and yeast.

Avoiding GMO ingredients is easy when you know you have organic alternatives.  The chart above gives you great suggestions for replacements.  For just about any breakfast food you can think of, there’s an organic or non-gmo version, you just have to know what to look for!

Are there any breakfast foods you just love but don’t know how to find a non-gmo version of? Let us know and we’ll direct you to it!

Avoiding GMO’s Part I: Are GMO’s Lurking in Your Snack Foods?

In this five part series for Non-GMO Month, we’ll take a look at common food items that likely contain GMO’s and we’ll be offering non-GMO alternatives.  Avoiding GMO’s is quite easy once you know what to look for so we’ll be sharing with you some tips on how to keep your diet GMO free.

 

Avoiding GMO's

Do you ever wonder if there are GMO’s lurking in your favorite snack foods?  If you do, you’re not alone, and if you’re not eating organic snack foods, there probably are GMO’s in your snacks.  Since GMO’s aren’t labeled in the US, how can you tell?  Here are some tips:

3 Tips for Avoiding GMO’s in Snack Foods

1 – The easiest way to make sure you are avoiding GMO’s is to buy organic.  This goes for snack foods and any foods that you’re buying. Any product that has the USDA Organic logo on it is by definition non-GMO.

2 – Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label on packages.  Even if a product isn’t certified organic, it can be non-gmo.  To be certain, look for this third party verification.

3 – Avoid risky ingredients.  Most supermarket snack foods contain corn, soy and canola – ingredients that are very likely to be genetically modified.  Some ingredients will be obvious, like corn flour, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, soy flour, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, soy isoflavone, canola oil, cottonseed oil.  Some ingredients are sneaky in that they don’t list what their made from.  These sneaky ingredients can be GMO if the product isn’t organic: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin c, citric acid, sodium citrate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrin, molasses, sucrose, textured vegetable protein (tvp), xanthan gum, vitamins, and yeast.

Avoiding GMO ingredients is easy when you know you have organic alternatives.  The chart above gives you great suggestions for replacements.  For just about any snack food you can think of, there’s an organic or non-gmo version, you just have to know what to look for!

Are there any snack foods you just love but don’t know how to find a non-gmo version of? Let us know and we’ll direct you to it!

October Specials at shopOrganic

Each month shopOrganic offers a different selection of sale items so that you can save a little money on the path of making better choices.  These specials also give you an opportunity to try some new products that you might have overlooked before. We’ve highlighted some of these great products below. Be sure to head up to shopOrganic.com’s Sale section to see all of the October specials at shopOrganic.

October Specials at shopOrganicoctober specials

Andalou Naturals
All products 10% Off

Andalou Naturals is the first body care company to obtain Non-GMO Verified certification.  Andalou infuses the best of nature and knowledge into mindful and effective products that are good for people and the planet.  Their products are made with fruit stem cells which renews skin at the cellular level, blending nature and knowledge for visible  results. Click HERE to try this October special now.

Cherryvale Farms Organic Mixes
Select varieties 10% Off

Cherryvale makes baking healthy breads and muffins quick and easy.  They make great lunchbox additions, easy breakfasts and outstanding sides or desserts.  Made with organic ingredients, just add a few simple ingredients and you’ve got fresh baked goods to make your house smell wonderful and your tummies happy.  Click HERE to try this October special now.

Edward & Sons
Organic Breadcrumbs 10% Off

Just in time for the holiday season, we have Edward & Sons line of organic breadcrumbs on sale for you.  Great for breading chicken, fish or tofu, for adding to meatloaf, stuffing and casseroles.  Click HERE to try this October special now.

Envirokidz Cereal
Eco-Sizes 10% Off

Buying cereal in bulk can save lots of money – save even more on Envirokidz Eco-Pak Organic Cereals this month at shopOrganic.  Available in kid-friendly varieties like Peanut Butter Panda Puffs, Cocoa Koala Crisp and Gorrilla Munch.  Click HERE to try this October special.

EO Products
Everyone Soap For Kids & Organic Deodorant 10% Off

For frugal families, EO’s Everyone Soap for Kids is a great deal.  A 3 in 1 product, you can use it for shampoo, body wash and bubble bath.  Available in kid-friendly scents like tropical, citrus and lavender.  EO’s Organic Deodorant Sprays are an effective way to stay smelling fresh all day long; available in three cool scents.  Click HERE to try this October special today.

Farmer’s Market
Canned Organic Vegetable Puree 10% Off

With the holidays just around the corner, its a great time to stock up on canned pumpkin, sweet potato and butternut squash.  Great in casseroles, soups, stews and desserts.  Click HERE to try them all.

Lundberg
Organic Rice Cakes, Pasta & Sauce Meals & Whole Grain Rice Entrees 10% Off

A perfect low-cal afternoon snack, Lundberg’s organic rice cakes are great to have on hand, especially with their new flavors like Hempalicious, Sweet Chili, and Kettlecorn.  Their new products, Pasta & Sauce meals and the Whole Grain Rice Entrees are flying off the shelves.  They make it really easy to prepare some home cooked food without the hassle.  Click HERE to try them all.

Newman’s Own Organics
Hermit Cookies, Dog Treats, Mints & Cookie-O’s 10% Off

We’ve got a whole variety of Newman’s products on sale this month, from their famous Newman O’s cookies to the delicately spiced and sweetened Hermit cookies, to dog treats to their 4-packs of mints, you can’t go wrong with Newman’s.  Click HERE to check out this October special.

Othentic
Select varieties of Organic Jarred Vegetables 10% Off  

Imported from Poland and made with simple old world ingredients, Othentic’s jarred vegetable salads and pickles will leave your taste buds tickled with great flavors.  The pickled baby beets are so tender and sweet, the spicy vegetable salad is tangy with a kick, the dill pickles have just the right amount of sour and crunch; try them all!    Click HERE to try them now.

Pure Bar
Organic Snack Bars 10% Off  

Made with great organic ingredients, these bars taste like real food because they are! Vegan, Kosher, Gluten Free and Non-GMO with intense flavors, they’re really satisfying.   Click HERE to try this October special now.

Simple Squares
Organic Snack Bars 10% Off  
Simple Squares are organic, whole food snack bars made from simple, delicious ingredients.  They are great for a variety of diets – they’re raw, gluten free, kosher and paleo.   Click HERE to try them now.

Veggie Go’s
Organic Fruit & Veggie Snacks 10% Off  
Like fruit leather but better with veggies!  Veggie Go’s make a great lunch box addition, a perfect snack to keep in a purse or in your drawer at work.   Click HERE to try them now.

Take advantage of these great sale items and more throughout October at shopOrganic.

A Guide to Organic Sweeteners

I’ll admit it, I’ve got a sweet tooth.  I ditched refined sugars many years ago and have since turned to various natural and organic sweeteners to satisfy that craving.Organic Sweeteners

Most of us know that white sugar has no real nutritional value. But more importantly, because white sugar is so refined, it can rob your body of essential nutrients as it is digested. That’s why, as a general rule, it’s better to eat less-processed foods – they are typically more nutritionally complete and do not rob your body of essential nutrients as they’re digested. Some even contribute to your overall health by providing added nutrients.

So, next time you want to create something that’s naturally sweet and good for you too, reach for one of these alternative organic sweeteners. While some are better than others, you can be sure that organic sweeteners are going to be better than regular sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  Experiment and enjoy the new taste sensations you can create, knowing you’re contributing to your health.

11 Favorite Organic Sweeteners

Here is an alphabetical listing of the various natural and organic sweeteners available along with their benefits and how to use them.  You might find a few organic sweeteners you’ve never heard of or ones you’re interested in trying!

Agave Nectar
Agave nectar comes from the agave plant, which grows naturally in the desert southwest and is found abundantly in Mexico. The plant itself is a succulent that looks a bit like a pineapple. The nectar of this plant is obtained by pressing the leaves of the agave plant. Agave nectar, or syrup, is about 50% sweeter than table sugar but has a low glycemic index.  It has come under a lot of scrutiny lately because it is highly processed, and while it technically has a low glycemic index, the reason for that is the primary sugar in agave is fructose, not glucose.  Fructose can be damaging to your liver and heart. The liver processes fructose into triglycerides, or blood fats, which increase the risk of heart disease as well as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It also increases LDL cholesterol, promotes the buildup of fat around organs, increases blood pressure, makes tissues insulin-resistant (a precursor to diabetes), and increases the production of free radicals.  As a liquid sweetener, agave can be useful in certain recipes, however this is one of the organic sweeteners to use caution with.  While we should all try to consume less sweeteners in general, try to consume this one as little as possible.

Barley Malt
Barley malt is unique in this list of organic sweeteners in that is made from sprouted barley. It’s a thick brown syrup that has a taste similar to molasses. It can be used as a substitute for molasses or other organic sweeteners. It’s about half as sweet as table sugar, so you’ll need to adjust amounts to taste. It can be combined with maple syrup in recipes to yield a sweeter result. It contains complex carbohydrates as well as minerals and protein.

Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is made from brown rice and has a slightly butterscotch flavor. It’s about half as sweet as table sugar and can be used in recipes like other sweeteners. It can be combined with honey or maple syrup to yield a sweeter result.

Date Sugar
Date sugar is made from dates and comes in a granulated form. Date sugar is a course, brown granule that can be used instead of table sugar. However, date sugar burns easily, so use caution in recipes where high temperatures or long cooking time (stove top or oven) come into the picture. Date sugar contains complex carbohydrates and is fairly high in folic acid.

Honey
Honey is made by bees, which extract nectar from flowers. The color of honey depends on the plants from which the bees extract nectar – the color can be a light golden color to a rich dark golden brown. It is about 20-60% sweeter than table sugar, so you should adjust your measurements accordingly. Honey contains complex carbohydrates and some proponents believe that consuming honey from your local area may help reduce seasonal allergies, if those allergies are related to local plant pollen.

Maple sugar
Maple sugar is the granulated product made from maple syrup, which comes from the sap of maple trees. Maple sugar is a coarse light brown sugar that has roughly the same sweetness as table sugar. It contains complex carbohydrates as well as calcium and potassium. It can be used in recipes as an equal replacement for sugar.

Maple syrup
Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees and is a rich, deep golden brown color. It is about as sweet as table sugar and less sweet than honey. It can be used in recipes where sugar is called for and can be combined with other less sweet sweeteners (brown rice syrup, barley malt) for a combined flavor that’s both pleasing and unique. Like maple sugar, it contains complex carbohydrates, calcium and potassium. Maple syrup comes in different grades. Grade A Amber is a light syrup with a mild flavor often used for making maple candy. Grade A Medium Amber has a slightly stronger maple flavor and is most often used as table syrup. Grade A Dark Amber has a stronger maple flavor and a darker color. Grade B, sometimes called cooking syrup, has the strongest maple flavor and some caramel flavor. It is sometimes used as table syrup for it’s distinct (and strong) maple flavor and also works well in cooking. With maple flavor, a B will get you A+ results!

Sucanat
Sucunat (a registered trademarked name) is made from dehydrated fresh cane juice. The process leaves more nutritional components in the product and it contains calcium, potassium and a small amount of iron. It has a taste similar to sugar and molasses. It comes in both syrup and granulated form and can be used in recipes calling for sugar of all kinds.

Stevia
Stevia comes from a South American plant by the same name and is related to the Marigold family. The leaves can be used, but the most common form found on the market today is a fine white powder that looks similar to aspartame or artificial sweeteners. The powder is 250-300 times sweeter than sugar, so small amounts will provide significant sweetness. Stevia has no glycemic value and does not contain carbohydrates, glucose or any form of sugar. Thus, it is safe for diabetics and has no side effects that artificial sweeteners (and aspartame) can have. Stevia has been used for thousands of years by the ancient people of South America and it is widely used in Japan to sweeten soft drinks, ready-made beverages and tea. It can be difficult to use in baking because it does not caramelize or melt like sugar does and it does not make baked goods crispy or gooey. If you want to use it for baking, look for stevia recipes or experiment, but don’t use it as straight substitute for sugar in baking. It’s great in non-baked products that require sweetening. Interestingly, it also has properties that help prevent cavities, so you can get your sweets and help your teeth all at once. One of my favorite ways to use flavored stevia is in beverages – try some rootbeer, cola, or vanilla creme stevia in some club soda and you’ve got a refreshing ‘soda’.

Turbinado sugar
Turbinado sugar is made from the cane plant, as is white table sugar. Turbinado sugar is slightly less processed than table sugar and through a tumbling process has about 2/3 of the molasses removed from it. This yields a light brown sugar that has the same sweetness as table sugar but is slightly less refined. It contains some complex carbohydrates has a slightly better nutritional profile than refined white table sugar.  Of the organic sweeteners in the list it is the most easily substituted sweetener for recipes.

Xylitol
Xylitol, a sweetener made from birch trees, does not require insulin in order to be metabolized so it is a great sugar alternative for diabetics.  It doesn’t cause any increase in blood sugar levels or serum insulin response.  Xylitol has other benefits as well.  It is great for your teeth and gums.  Xylitol creates a barrier between germs and your gums and has been shown to be beneficial for dental health.  It’s why you’ll find a lot of chewing gums using this natural sweetener.  It is also beneficial for sinus health; the antibacterial properties in the xylitol are beneficial for sinus infections.  (*Xylitol is highly dangerous for dogs so make sure to keep any xylitol products out of their reach. Even small amounts from candies can be toxic. If your dog eats a product that contains xylitol, it is important to take the dog to a veterinarian immediately. )

What are your favorite organic sweeteners and how do you like to use them?  Let us know in the comments!

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