A Rebuttal- Cult of Organics

The other week I read a post on BlogHer called The Cult of Organics.  Although I consider myself a moderate voice when it comes to food politics and beliefs, I still took umbrage with it. I’m sorry that the author got condescending reactions to her food choices, but I believe there are plenty of good/viable reasons to choose organic foods– some of the time.   Money is an issue for me but I still buy organic milk.  I buy organic strawberries.  But, I don’t buy only organic foods.  I choose which foods I buy that don’t need to be organic and those which do.  I might pay more for some of these choices, but it’s a price I’ll pay now so my children don’t need to pay it later with their health.  I guess I also consider myself a “food snob” because I care about and enjoy food; it’s a big part of my life.  I am not part of a cult but an informed consumer, who is concerned for the long-term effects of pesticides, over use of antibiotics and uncertainty of GMOs on my children’s well-being. 

It may be surprising, but I am also the mom who allows my kids junk food, occasionally,  and I let them drink a soda when at a party, and I also throw a frozen pizza in the oven when I need   to.  But when I choose most foods, they are healthful and often times, made at home.  I think lumping everyone who buys organic or chooses to make homemade-from-scratch foods in as “elite” or “food snobs” doesn’t give the author credibility as a moderate voice.  I don’t think I’m hostile to people who choose non-organic versions of foods, but I found the article to be hostile toward those trying to educate others about them. 

Even if you haven’t read studies, articles or books on pesticides in foods (like those with endocrine disruptors); pollutants that have gone into our rivers and oceans affecting the flora and fauna; bee colony collapse; cancer causing ingredients that are banned in other countries; rises in autoimmune diseases, allergies and neurological disorders; children starting puberty younger;  or the rises in obesity, you can often see the difference in organic over conventional fruits and vegetables… a potato that’s not organic won’t sprout eyes but will just go rotten.  Or how about those ginormic strawberries that are perfectly, uniformly red, but lack a true strawberry flavor? And do you really want to buy your food from the world’s largest herbicide company –which is also the largest seed company?

I will choose antibiotic-free meats because food-producing animals are being given more antibiotics than humans as the norm to prevent illnesses that better living conditions could solve.  Those antibiotics get into our foods and water and we are getting close to an era where antibiotics will no longer work for us humans.  I don’t mean to be fearmongering and sensationalist, I am just trying to say sometimes organics are the best choice.  (In my parents’/grandparents’ day there was no such word as organic food there was just food, because then there was a fraction of pesticide/herbicide use and no GMOs.) As far as Jayson Lusk’s arguments against organics in Food Police go,– he doesn’t dissuade me, I’m not in it for most of the reasons (mostly economic) he gives.  Many studies giving out favorable information on conventionally grown foods are funded by food companies who grow the food, they not only fund the studies but consequently benefit from the dissemination and promotion of those very studies.   

I will not buy berries, apples, spinach, celery, potatoes or corn that are not organic (or at least locally produced without GMOs and most pesticides).  But I will buy broccoli, cauliflower, peas, avocados, mushrooms.  I am not a cultist or someone who is extreme.  I am an informed consumer.  My children’s milk is usually organic and always without hormones.  And the one thing I am not is rich.  Far from it.  I struggle, especially because my husband has been unemployed since January and was basically working for free for several months before that.   But I will forgo movie outings, dining out, new clothes,  cleaning people, and expensive salon trips to put the money into our food choices. 


Conventionally Grown Lettuce vs. Organic Lettuce at Trader Joe's - just a little bit more expensive.

Conventionally Grown Lettuce vs. Organic Lettuce at Trader Joe’s – just a little bit more expensive.

And I will buy frozen foods.  Even some canned foods.  And many of the “Food Police” (Pollan, Bittman,  Nestle, etc) actually do say if it comes down to it: buy vegetables and fruits in any way over not buying them at all.    If you’re looking, I find that Trader Joe’s is a great place to not only find well-priced foods but also those that are free of GMOs, artificial colors and other harmful ingredients.   Choosing to join a CSA actually saved me money and I was introduced to many new and different foods that I otherwise wouldn’t have chosen.  And those foods are pesticide-free– bugs are hand-picked then squashed.  So it’s possible to buy organic foods on a tight budget.  

I try to share information on how to prepare foods that are healthful and convenient.  I love cheap food but realize there are prices to pay.  For me it’s the whole economics — health and wealth are the factors in my decision making. I also think it is worth the extra money. Sometimes.  So, sure, let’s have some reasonableness.  Just realize us “food snobs” or those you claim are in an organic cult aren’t always the ones with the hostility.  Want to find quick ways to cook healthy foods?  Search through my blog; it’s got plenty of ideas and many of them take short-cuts so they’re convenient. You might also find my popular pizza that takes so little time but is actually pretty healthy.

So, let’s get along but understand, tolerance goes both ways.  

The Fruit & Vegetable Pusher

Our kids’ school year just began the other day and I have decided to try something different to help our elementary school students eat more fruits and vegetables.  At the last school year’s PTA meeting I had been given the idea to get some parent volunteers to come in to help the first graders get through the lunch lines on those first few days of school.  Although they’d had a run-though of what to do/expect at the end of their Kindergarten year, it could be overwhelming for the wee ones when returning after their long summer break.  I decided to use the opportunity to do a little coaxing when it came to the fruits and vegetables.  Unfortunately our school lunch provider doesn’t automatically give the kids those, they usually just offer them.  And not only are they just offered, they are in small plastic containers (except a couple of whole apples, oranges or bananas) that are set in a bin the kids have to reach to get (which can be tough for the smaller ones). 

So, I organized my volunteers to gently persuade all the kids (grades1 through 4) to take as many of the small containers as they’d like by telling them what’s in them and to say, “which one would you like sweet red peppers or coleslaw… or both?” instead of just saying “would you like some vegetables?” And if they refused try to convince them they needed their vegetables and fruits for a well-rounded meal, to be strong, to be smart, to be healthy.  Whatever they could think of that would work.

Interestingly I found that the lunch ladies hadn’t planned on the kids taking so many of these containers of vegetables and fruits as we’d run out during service for each grade every time in the first week (they were prepared but in the walk-in inside the kitchen — where I wasn’t allowed to go).  Continue reading

Find me on Twitter too… why?


Find me on Twitter too… why?

Find me on Twitter too… why?


Find me on Twitter too… why?

Crying is not the end of the world.

I recently received a complimentary copy of a book from a publisher. It was about getting kids to eat without crying. I don’t know if they expected me to blog about it, but much of what I read in there was against my own methods/beliefs. I’m not naming the book because I don’t want to put the author down (after all, she is trying to get kids to eat well) or say that there aren’t many valid points, but I just don’t see what’s so awful about crying occasionally.

Of course, we don’t want our kids to cry. For one it grates on our nerves, but also we don’t like having our kids distressed. I just won’t give in to the cries over a dish just to make them stop. It sets a precedent—they’ll learn to cry to get out of things they don’t want to do or like, even if it’s good for them. I don’t try to make my kids cry (remember, I don’t like to hear it) but I just don’t avoid it. I want them to eat well. If they cry because they don’t like what they’re served without even trying it— well, sorry, that’s the meal and that’s what we’re eating. It’s not like I’m a hard ass all the time. I will often make them meals that they love and do try to please them. I want my kids to be happy. I just think sometimes people are so afraid of crying that they’ll do anything to avoid it— similarly giving in to the food battles just to get them to eat. If they’re really hungry they will eat. If they would just stop crying and try the food, they might find that they like it.

Now what I do do is make healthy and tasty foods. I know most of the time that they will enjoy it if given a chance to taste it. It happens most often with my middle son. I don’t know why he continues to cry when he sees a dish that is new to him and he thinks he won’t like, but he does. He will cry for a little time, realize that we’re not budging (as in making him an alternative meal) and then eat. So often to the bottom of the bowl or until his plate is clean. And when he’s eaten— he’s happy. No signs of having been upset left over from the beginning. I love it when they enjoy their meal.

So, don’t worry about an occasional tear. Do the right thing by them and teach them to eat healthfully. They’ll be better for it than if they’re given whatever they want to eat. Look at these statistics. And, they will learn to stop crying (eventually) and just try other means of getting out of things.

Eating While Away

The past couple of weeks seem like a blur.  We took a long overdue but short family vacation to Washington DC, where the kids were thrilled to see the Space Shuttle Discovery being flown in on top of a 747 right over our heads, enjoyed the Air & Space and Natural History Museums, had a fabulous private tour of the Capitol Building even witnessing Congress voting on a bill, but maybe even most of all that we stayed in a hotel with an indoor pool.  Ah, the little things. 


The boys also loved that my strict no soda policy was relaxed.  I allowed them root beer one day and ginger ale or Sprite another. Whoa!  One thing I noticed since we ate out every lunch and dinner was how shoddy kids’ menus are, especially when it comes to giving kids any vegetable.  Almost all the restaurants serve chicken nuggets or tenders and macaroni and cheese.  But there were so few that gave any vegetables with their meal— I don’t really count French fries as a vegetable.  Of course I pay extra and order  sides or my kids split an item off the regular menu. But I just don’t get that these chains can’t see that offering mac and cheese (often just Kraft’s disgusting artificially colored garbage), soda and a free ice cream is not doing these kids any favors.  (I guess I’m on another rant!) 

We need restaurants to get on board with offering kids meals that are tasty and nutritious.  Why must they give the same ol’ same ol’ hot dogs, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets and burgers?  Can’t they use some of the creativity that goes into the “adult menu” on the “children’s menu”?  Don’t they realize that many parents not only want their kids to eat, they also care about them to eat well?   How about a vegetable pasta or a hummus platter?  Maybe offering side salads (green, coleslaw, bean)? 

I think I wouldn’t have minded so much if it had been only one meal, but when one is on vacation most meals are eaten out.  And I find that lunch and dinner are when my own kids eat the most vegetables. Again, I altered what they got by ordering sides or splitting “adult” mains.  I just wish it was part of the package they already offer.

What do you do when you take your kids out to restaurants?  


One of my fears when I write this blog is coming off as pretentious.  I am not trying to show that my kids are better than others or that I am better than others.  What I’m attempting is to show that if I can do it, so can you.  Ok, except if there are food allergies or aversions, texture problems or other issues, but for the most of everyone else, I do believe it’s possible.  And this is not to say it’s always easy.  Sometimes there are struggles, but they needn’t be huge, horrible or drawn out.  Learn when to stay your ground and when to be flexible and when to give in.

The other night my middle son came home from friends at dinnertime with food in hand— his dinner “to go”.  He was given chicken nuggets, ham, and mac and cheese.  My husband said the host offered the kids snap peas but they all declined. When we sat down to eat our dinner he refused to have any, because he’d eaten, so I let him skip it.  We’d made salmon, TJ’s Harvest grains (orzo, Israeli couscous, quinoa and baby chick peas), spinach and snow peas. 

After dinner the two eldest boys ran out to cub scouts with my husband. Upon their return and while they should have been getting ready for bed, my middle son cried that he was hungry.  I offered him what we had for dinner.  “No, I want something else.” He repeated a couple of times. “I don’t want that. I want something different.” as he kept pointing at the refrigerator.  I was resolute and he acquiesced fairly quickly and said he wanted it all.  All of dinner, not just the salmon or just the grains, but all.   I actually had no spinach and only a tiny piece of salmon left, but I gave him what I had plus a piece of broccoli left over from last night’s dinner.   

Minutes later my youngest son, while finishing his dinner that he’d abandoned when his brothers left the house, shrieked because he thought his brother had taken one of his snow peas.  I grabbed a couple off my middle son’s plate and then he cried out, “No!  Those are mine!  So back to the fridge for more snow peas…not a bad thing.  I thought to myself, “Ok. They’re arguing over snow peas.”  Not that I like the arguing or crying for that matter, but my kids like these foods.  I know not every child will like every food… I’ve never said that.  But I do believe that if you give in to the chicken nugget/mac & cheese rut you’ll be stuck trying for much longer to get them to eat well and especially their veggies.  Plus if you offer kids foods they’re more likely to say no.  If you give them the vegetables without the option to say no, then they’re more likely to eat them. Getting them to eat well doesn’t need to be fraught with struggles, just need to forge ahead with determination knowing that one day they might just eat the healthier stuff.

Sometimes people think I’m radical by my zealousness in getting kids to eat healthily, but for me I know it’s best for their long term health.  I still try to maintain a healthy attitude and not panic over every little thing and I hope I’ve figured out which battle to choose.  And believe me, I’m not here trying to preach from high above but right in the trenches with you all.