“King Corn,” the Movie

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

Are agricultural corn crops in the U.S. a mystery to you?  Why do health experts hate corn so much?

Try watching the documentary, King Corn, and the mystery may be cleared up a little.

The premise is this: the creators of the film went back to their hometown in Iowa to rent 1 acre of land to grow corn.  They had their hair follicles analyzed and found evidence of corn in their hair, so they wanted to follow the corn from field to end product to get a better idea of how corn actually became a physical part of them.

It was like going down the rabbit hole, once again, once they started asking questions and interviewing farmers and businesses.

What was most eye opening for me was just how much corn was produced, and how much excess corn we have and how it is used, as well as the discussions of its contribution to obesity and diabetes.

What was also relevant, especially after my post on Wednesday about food and money, is that today we spend about half as much money on food as we did in the 1950s (14% of our income as opposed to 28%).  Some may argue that this is a good thing.

Sure, it’s nice to spend less money on something, but let’s not hesitate to spend more on food, if our health and the health of our family is dependent on it.  After all, we have another 14% of our income to spend on food just to catch up to where we were some 60 years ago! I think this was the biggest “Aha”  moment for me in the movie.

Once again, a lot of food for thought!  Check out the trailer above.  You can rent the movie on iTunes or watch it on YouTube.

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Money and Food – Time for an Honest Look at our Priorities!

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By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

OK, I’m going to call a lot of people out here, and I’m not going to apologize: People need to quit hiding behind the excuse that it’s “more expensive” to eat healthy foods.

Just like with so many other areas in life, people are blaming the high cost of food for their poor eating choices, when what it really boils down to is that they simply don’t want to buy the foods that are healthier choices.

We all know what healthier choices are.  To make it extremely simple:  more fresh foods (vegetables and fruits), less processed and packaged foods.  Forget, for a moment, the complicated equations about calories (which I don’t believe in counting), grams of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and decoding every piece of food for their vitamins and minerals.  That can get way too overwhelming.  Simply: eat more fresh foods and less processed foods.

But you might say, how can I afford to buy broccoli, it’s more expensive than the side of fries I get with my burger?

First of all, can you, in good conscience, call fast food french fries a serving of vegetables?

And second of all, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the average price of broccoli as of Jan. 2014 was about $1.85 per pound.  So, at the most, you’re looking at $3.70 for a good-sized bunch of broccoli.  You could put this in a salad, sautee it with other veggies and rice, or put it in an omelet.  And, it’s nutrient dense in that it is high in Vitamins C, K, and A.  So, nutritionally speaking, you’re getting a pretty good return on your money.

I know not everyone is going to buy organic, again, because of the (sometimes) higher cost, but there are certain things that should be organic if you eat them.

Take eggs, for example.  The average cost of 1 dozen eggs in the U.S., as of Jan. 2014 is $2.00 a dozen (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The cost of 1 dozen organic eggs can range from $4.00 (which is what I pay from a local farmer) to $5.00 a dozen.  One might argue that it’s crazy to pay twice as much (or more) for organic eggs. But often that same person might pay $4.00 for a latte at Starbucks instead of making their own coffee at home. Probably several times a week!

And more importantly, aren’t you worth the higher price for organic eggs?  Click here to read an article on the major differences between eating regular or organic eggs.

Now, let’s say that a family eats 1 dozen eggs a week.  Actually let’s make it 2 dozen eggs a week, just to be safe.  So, if you buy organic as opposed to regular eggs, you are paying about $5.00 more a week.  How could you possibly afford that?  Well, if you put back the box of Kellogg’s Frosted flakes, you’ll be freeing up $3.88 (from Walmart).  And put the box of Kellogg Eggo waffles back in the frozen section, and you free up another $3.50.  One might say they shouldn’t have to give up other food to pay for the higher cost of organic eggs, but let’s be real.  Are Eggos and Frosted Flakes really food?  You’re not getting any nutrition from them, and you’re stuffing yourself with refined carbohydrates (the big culprit in the obesity epidemic)… and doing nothing to fuel your brain or your kids’ brains for the day ahead.

Switching to a different food riles people up.  I can just hear someone saying, “But orange juice costs more than pop!”

Of course it does!

Real orange juice actually has nutritional value!  Pop has no nutritional value and is loaded with sugar and chemicals!  This, and other food products, are designed to be cheap so you will choose them over the slightly more expensive healthier options.  Food companies know this – if they can make something and sell it to you for cheaper than the healthier options, they’ve got your attention, and your dollars (and your deteriorating health).  But once they get you hooked on their product and continue to market the heck out of it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Let’s remember – a lot of the food you buy at the grocery store today didn’t even exist 30 or 40 years ago.  We didn’t even know we needed to eat them until we were told by the food companies and our “peers.”

My point here (and I actually have more than one point) is that sometimes whole foods are more expensive, and sometimes there are not.  But when they do come up more expensive, the nutritional value justifies the cost.

Let’s face it: the original reason humans needed to eat was for the nutrition and energy to survive and do the things they needed to do.  When looking for food sources, humans would most likely find food that was nutrient dense – they didn’t waste their time on food that wasn’t going to help them function to their fullest potential.

We have “evolved” (and I say that very lightly) to a point where we have gotten so far away from seeking out nutrient-dense food that we’ve actually gotten far away from food with any nutrients in it at all!  Yet we still think that we are eating real food, when we’re really not.

Our priorities have gotten so far out of whack!  We wouldn’t think twice about spending money on a car we probably shouldn’t be buying ,or a house that is bigger than what we really need.  We spend SO much money on technology – computers, cell phones, TVs, video games, entertainment – which is all fine, but when we start thinking that spending $500 – $1,000 on an entertainment system is okay, but that spending an extra $5 a week on organic eggs is not okay, I don’t know… you tell me what’s wrong with this picture.

We are the richest nation in the world financially, but the poorest health wise.  It’s time for a HUGE shift in priorities.  Give your money to companies and people who care enough to make food that is nourishing to yourself and your family.

Continue to enjoy food – good quality, delicious, beautiful food.  But if you are going to focus on the cost of food, I’d like to propose we start thinking about the food we eat in terms of return on investment (since money seems to get peoples’ attention).

What sort of return on investment, nutritionally and health-wise, for your body and mind, are you getting from the food you buy and eat?

Just some more food for thought.

If you would like more information on how to shop smart for your health, check out the article “One Way to be Healthier: Don’t Eat Like the Average American.”

Gluten-Free Quick Shrimp Tacos

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By Shannon Keirnan, Contributing Foodie Bitch

When I’m looking for a quick-fix meal with items I (usually) have on-hand, shrimp tacos are my go-to people pleaser. Better yet, they’re super easy and fast, healthy, delicious… and can be thrown together in about fifteen minutes.

I paired today’s lunch with an organic spring salad with a homemade Italian dressing courtesy of my roommate, and voila – a healthy, satisfying meal that can be whipped up without much effort.

Taco Ingredients:

1 bag wild-caught raw shrimp (no sulfates added)

Coconut oil (for frying)

1 avocado

2 – 3 Teaspoons Cajun seasoning (I love buying pre-mixed seasonings at The Seasoned Home in Holland, MI, where almost all are made without caking agents or additives. Regardless of where you purchase your spices and seasonings, make sure you check the ingredients list and can pronounce everything on there!)

1 Green cabbage (Cut in half and sliced thin)

El Milagro corn tortillas

1/2 of a lime

1 bag frozen organic sweet corn

Coarse black pepper to taste

Instructions:

In a few tablespoons of coconut oil, cook the shrimp on low to medium heat. I allot 3 – 4 shrimp per tortilla.

In a small bowl, mash together the avocado, the juice of 1/2 of a lime, the pepper, and the Cajun seasoning.

In a small pan, add a little bit of coconut oil, and heat up a small serving (about 1 handful per tortilla) of the corn until it begins to brown and pop.

Once the shrimp are cooked pink and curled into a “C,” set them aside on a paper towel to cool.

Fry your corn tortillas in a little drop of coconut oil, until each side is slightly browned. While you are doing this, you can peel the shrimp – I find that removing the tail and then pinching off the legs is the easiest way to remove the shell.

Combine the avocado spread, corn, shrimp, and sliced cabbage onto the tortilla, and serve!

Dressing Ingredients (DRY):

1 Tbsp. garlic salt

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil

1 Tbsp. dried parsley

1/4 tsp. celery salt

2 Tbsp. sea salt

Dressing Ingredients (WET):

1/4 Cup white vinegar

2/3 Cup olive oil

2 Tbsp. water

Dressing Instructions: 

Whisk together 2 Tbsp. of the dry mix per serving of the wet ingredients to prepare. Refrigerate in a sealed container.

Dietary Guidelines: Do They Really Need to be so Complicated?

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By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

The other day, I posted an article on my Facebook about the new Dietary Guidelines that the Brazilian government just released.  I wanted to take a moment and share more thoughts on these guidelines.

First off, let’s go over what the Dietary Guidelines are for Americans.  These guidelines were published in 2010 and are as follows…

Actually, scratch that idea!

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are contained in a 112-page document published jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The coordination of the development of these guidelines is, apparently, done through the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, and Agricultural Research Services.

Let’s pause for a moment and think about how hard the government has made it to develop these guidelines.  With this many departments involved, it’s no wonder guidelines are only published every 5 years (not that we need them published more often, actually).  The last ones were published in 2010 and the next ones are due out in 2015.

If you want to peruse the guidelines, you can click here and check out the whole 112 pages.

First of all, who is going to read such a document?  And second of all, even if you did read it (no, thank you!), you would be so overwhelmed, you wouldn’t know where to begin.  It leaves me wondering if their overall intent is actually to confuse us.

When people are confused, they tend to feel disempowered and look outside themselves for leadership.  Do we really need a 112-page document to explain to us how to eat healthily?

If you dare to dive into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you will find a number of recommendations, but here is a link for the 3 page Executive Summary, which is a little more clear about what these “guidelines” entail… but still a lot of information for someone that isn’t too familiar with nutrition.

Nutrition happens to be one of the most confusing and conflicting of all sciences.  It’s a very heated area of scientific research – lots of interested parties involved are hoping to sway the population to eat more of this food or less of that food.

But as Michael Pollan (food journalist and author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food”) comments, eating healthy is really quite simple: “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”

Pretty simple, right?  He elaborates a little to explain when he says “eat food,” he means real whole food, not processed food.  He also goes on to say that occasionally eating a little meat wouldn’t harm you – but it should be more of a side dish rather than a main entrée.

Have we really gotten that far away from recognizing and appreciating what real food is that we need the government to tell us how to eat?   And even with this government recommendations, there is so much information, I can see where it would be tempting to just throw your hands up and grab a bag of chips!

Brazil, on the other hand, has done an excellent job of summarizing their recommendations.

Although their document is lengthy as well (although not quite as extensive as the one for the U.S.), their basic top ten recommendations for healthy eating are as follows (thank you to Marion Nestle and her site Food Politics for the summary):

1.  Prepare meals from staple and fresh foods.

2.  Use oils, fats, sugar and salt in moderation.

3.  Limit consumption of ready-to-consume food and drink products

4.  Eat regular meals, paying attention, in appropriate environments.

5.  Eat in company whenever possible.

6.  Buy food at places that offer varieties of fresh foods. Avoid those that mainly sell products ready for consumption.

7.  Develop, practice, share and enjoy your skills in food preparation and cooking.

8.  Plan your time to give meals and eating proper time and space.

9.  When you eat out, choose restaurants that serve freshly made dishes and meals. Avoid fast food chains.

10. Be critical of the commercial advertisement of food products.

I love it!  Pretty simple and common sense stuff.  If I were talking with someone about how to eat a healthier diet, this is more the direction I would steer them.  It really doesn’t take a brain surgeon (or 5 government committees) to figure this one out.  It’s time to simply get back to the basics.

What are your thoughts?