Tuesday, January 20, 2015


So, what does "whole, local, organic" mean? It means that as often as we can,we making decisions about our food that mean we understand what form it comes in, and as often as we can that means it's natural existing state (fresh veggies vs. frozen, making pasta sauce from tomatoes and spices vs. canned). It means that where we can, we buy food that has come from Minnesota or the Midwest (why? because midwest is best ;-), joking..kind of, but also, supporting local! yay!). Organic to us means there's as little artificial stuff (preservatives, chemicals, fillers) in our food as possible. This mostly applies to meat, dairy, and when we buy processed.

Here's a look at how this plays out for us:


{image from HERE}
If you want to make a baby step in the right direction, challenge yourself to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store as much as possible. As a rule of thumb, it's the healthiest areas and it's a great place to start. I play a game with myself to see how little I need from the interior and usually? It's not much. When I DO venture into the middle? I am more conscious of what I'm getting: organic free range chicken broth, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas. 


If you'd told me a year ago I'd be shopping at a co-op, I'd have laughed at you. First, there's a perception that co-ops are for hippies. Second, there seems to be a perception that you have to be a member or work there (neither true). Last, there seems to be a perception they're more expensive. This is true with SOME items (meat, especially) but definitely not all. In fact, at Lakewinds, where M and I go, you can buy bulk basil. Only need 6-8 leaves? You can pick out 6-8 leaves and don't have to pay $5 for a package that will go to waste. They sell SINGLE eggs and bulk pasta! SINGLE carrots! Have a recipe that calls for ONE carrot and you can't find anything in a bag less than 8? I seriously avoided carrot recipes for this reason. Drove me nuts. 

The huge benefit I've found of the co-op is that at Lakewinds especially, they're pegged as a natural food market. It's so much easier to make decisions on purchasing when you know everything is either natural, local, or organic for the most part. Does it mean eating a brick of cheese will feel good just because it's local and organic? Probably not. But there's a lot less label checking for me because I believe that when I shop there, as long as I eat in moderation and still balance my food groups, I'm already doing a lot better than I was before. 


Stay with me here because this may sound crazy, but as I've said before this means we eat organic veggies where we can, local or at least organic meat where we can, and full fat. 

<<record scratches>> full fat? Absolutely. 

You may remember a few years back there was a surge of low-fat and fat free options? EVERYTHING had a low fat/fat free version. I bought it. Everybody did. But turns out, low fat and fat free basically tasted like cardboard. So what did they do to compensate and make people still want to buy it? Jack it full of SUGAR. If you want a really fantastic, short, and interesting documentary on the subject, watch Fed Up. My very simplistic understanding of it goes as follows: sugar is a carbohydrate, so although the food item is labeled low fat, consuming more carbohydrates than your body needs may cause you to convert the excess calories to fat for long term storage. (VIA). Which means basically that "low fat" food item had the exact opposite affect and is making you more fat. Ironic, huh?

For us, the "WHAT" we shop boils down to the ingredients list. I want to be able to recognize all, if not at least 90% of, what's on that label. This is why, for the most part, I stay out of the middle of the grocery store. I'm not even going to get into all the gross additives that go into packaged and processed foods because a) it's not something I'm knowledgeable in and b) the rest of the way we shop is designed so we don't need to do that. There are no labels to check when you're throwing a handful of Brussels sprouts into your cart. The ONE area I've heard consistently that is most important to pay attention to is meat and dairy. There are countless studies on the effects on our bodies from the hormones that the animals are injected with, and it's frightening.

Speaking of labels, if you turn over an item of food that carries a nutrition label you may have noticed the breakdowns and percentages of daily values for various items. Yes?

Do you see a percentage missing? Where's sugar? (I'll be honest I have no idea where Protein is either but THAT'S NOT MY POINT). That's not an accident, it's the Sugar Lobby. No shitting, and Fed Up explains it far better than I do (and it's been a few weeks since I watched it) but the Sugar Lobby in Washington is so powerful they have kept these percentages off food labels based on the idea that this daily value percentage stuff is "inconclusive science", as they claim. The movie goes into a really interesting narrative about all of this, and the redirection of Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign (which initially had a large food component) to primarily an exercise campaign. Again, your Sugar Lobbyists at work, folks.

I'll be honest in saying there's a whole lot I'm uneducated on: what my daily values SHOULD be, what some of those preservatives and fillers in processed foods really are and which are the ESPECIALLY bad ones (if they can even be ranked). This is in part because it's a lot of information and I know that tracking calories and/or daily values is not something that's sustainable for me: a HUGE reason I resisted making any changes for a long time- it just  never seemed feasible. As I said before, this "how, where, what" method combined with eating mostly whole fruits, whole veggies, and protein is designed so that I am able to give myself a pass on the more stringent tracking. I am aware that veggies have naturally occurring sugars, fiber, carbs, etc., but in moderation and balance I believe eating them in their natural form means I feel fine about not tracking.

I have some closing thoughts tomorrow on balance and eating out, and how our philosophy plays in to these areas.


  1. Love this post, and agree with it all 100%. I am actually doing a whole30 right now, but afterwards plan to stick to it, for the most part. I know you mentioned whole30 as one of the "diets" in your last post, but it's not a diet at all. Or a lifestyle change, really! It's just meant to be a 30-day reset, and most people who do it stick to good eating afterwards b/c it changes their relationship with food and gets rid of the sugar addiction. I needed something like that after the holidays. Of course my main thing IS weight loss, and that's really the only thing that has worked for me, but it's not a weightloss program, per se.

    Both whole30 and paleo are also about eating whole foods...real food... no sugar, no grains, etc. Nothing processed. So i've learned to read labels on everything. It's opened my eyes to how they put sugar in EVERYTHING (ridiculous!). I've made my own salad dressing & it's actually better than anything I've gotten in a bottle!! And i've really loved trying new recipes. I am writing a post soon with a bunch of new recipes that i've tried!

    Anyway, good for you!! Everything you've said here is right on! I love that you mentioned the full fat thing, too!! Fat is not the enemy!!

  2. Great post! We are members of Lakewinds and Linden Hills co-op, and love them both. I had no idea about the sugar conspiracy, but I did always wonder why it was suspiciously missing!

  3. I really, really need to watch Fed Up. Is it on Netflix?

  4. Great post. My mom loves co-ops but I don't typically go there on my own. Meat and dairy are huge for me and I try so hard to buy them organic but it can just get so expensive :( Also I am very intrigued about the sugar thing. I know it is terrible for you and I have been trying to eliminate it as much as possible but I never really questioned why there is no recommended amount. I have put a lot of thought into sugar though and it disgusts me how much some people consume. They are killing themselves. I read something about this family that didn't consume sugar for a whole year and their lives were changed. It's crazy.