For the love of food! Part 2

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For the love of food!

Part 2 – the what

You are what you eat.  How many times have you heard someone say this?  I have heard this for most of my adult life and have said it many times as a nurse and in conversations with friends and family.  I hate that saying!  I guess the main reason I really dislike it is because I know how the truth of it magnifies the poor choices in the “what I eat.”  Over the last few months, I have listened to several podcast and read multiple articles and books, written by the smartest, most “up to date” scientific minded nutritionist and educators.  They all say basically the same things.

  • Today’s food doesn’t contain the same nutrients as the food our grandparents had access to.
  • It is important to read labels.
  • The more processed a food is, the less nutrients it usually contains.
  • Eating food as close to its “natural state” is the best way to maximize nutritional value.
  • Know where your food comes from and how it was grown.
  • Organic, and local can be the best option when looking at meat and produce; especially when you want to avoid pesticides and GMO’s, and support ethical and environmentally friendly practices.


It makes one wonder…Who has the time and energy to figure all of this out, it sounds like a full-time job?   I mean seriously, I can remember when both of my kids had after school activities, and I worked over 40 hours a week, I felt like a great mom when I actually had made them a sandwich for lunch, and we ate pizza or a fast-food meal before 8pm that night!  Yes, I hear you all loud and clear and I want to also acknowledge that I have apologized to both of my daughters for multiple things, including how I fed them.


Now before you just give up and decide that it is too hard let me try reminding each of you: food is food.  Now this statement doesn’t mean that all food is equal, nutritious, and good for you.  It does however mean that each of us has our own starting point and can decide how to proceed on this journey as we discover what is important to us.  For example:  If you are a diabetic and your A1C is high, then start by keeping a food diary and schedule a visit with a dietician.  You may be surprised at what you learn.  Maybe you are a single mom, who barely has time to cook, let alone read labels.  Have you tried to have one meal a week where everyone is expected to not only come to dinner but to participate in helping prepare it?  When family members are given the responsibility and see the importance that weekly meal is given, you may find that this evolves into better food awareness and a time when meaningful interaction begin…possibly without cellphones!   Do you live alone?  Preparing meals for just yourself has become difficult and costly.  Why not have one weekend a month that you and a few friends get together to cook and make freezer meals.   I know my ideas may seem strange to some, but these steps can make a big difference.  I truly believe that when you start to think about food differently you will also become more aware of what kind of food choices you are making.  Small steps can lead to big changes.


I don’t want to dismiss the obvious issues around making better food choices.  Some of you may have serious food allergies, like I do, and be restricted from certain things like gluten, dairy, or nuts for health reasons.   Trying to eat a more nutritionally dense diet is also an investment of both time and money.  However, I believe that when it comes to fruits andvegetables, buying organic isn’t always necessary.  What really matters is how the food was grown. Many smaller farms use organic practices but haven’t completed the full certification process yet because it can be expensive for a small business.  Get to know your local farm stands and farmers’ market.  Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities so support them when you can.  I believe that having a small patio or backyard garden is also a wonderful way to learn more about your favorite vegetables.


Years ago, I was introduced to the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 List.  It is compiled annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. They research what’s in our tap water, the safety of our cosmetics, genetically modified organisms (GMO/GE), and the amounts of pesticides in and on our food, among other things.”

Groups like the Alliance for Food and Farming state that data and lists like the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 harm the public health effort to increase consumption of nutrient dense fruits and vegetables.  When you look how readily available and economical fast food and high caloric options are, I believe the following statement by EWG toxicologist, Alexis Temkin states it perfectly, “Everyone should eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, no matter how they’re grown, but shoppers have the right to know what potentially toxic substances are found on these foods, so they can make the best choices for their families, given budgetary and other concerns.”


The top 15 foods with the least pesticides are called the Clean 15, while the 12 foods with the most pesticides are called the Dirty Dozen. These lists are fantastic to take with you on your shopping trips to know when to buy organic and when it’s ok to buy conventional. This is the updated 2022 version below to use along with a quick way to clean your produce!  Feel free to download, copy and share.  I love using it and hope you enjoy using it too.


Think about what you eat this week and give yourself grace!


[Original size] 2022 Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen