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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Save Money By Learning When To Buy Organic: The New "Dirty Dozen" Plus

Assorted bell pepper fruits from MexicoImage via Wikipedia
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is an important part of having a healthy lifestyle; and while no one wants to eat produce that is full of pesticides, most of us are and don't even realize it.  There are many benefits of eating organic food: most importantly, they're pesticide-free, meaning no pesticides or chemical fertilizers were used to grow it. Unfortunately, organic food almost always costs more than conventionally-grown produce.

As I mentioned in my post, "Do You Know When To Buy Organic?", most of us cannot afford to buy all organic produce; it's just too expensive, especially in today's economy. That's why knowing what's most important to buy organic (those fruits and vegetables that are most contaminated with chemicals) and those fruits and vegetables that are probably okay to skip on the organic aisle- which will definitely save you money.

The Environmental Working Group has released a revised "Dirty Dozen" list for 2013.

12 Most Contaminated ("Dirty Dozen Plus" ™)
(Buy organic when possible)
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry Tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot Peppers
  7. Nectarines (imported)
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet bell peppers
- Collards & Kale
- Summer Squash & Zucchini
15 Least Contaminated ("Clean Fifteen" ™)
(Okay to buy non-organic)
  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocado
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Corn
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangoes
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas
  13. Pineapples
  14. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  15. Sweet Potatoes
To download a FREE, printable copy of the Environmental Working Group's Shopping Guide To Pesticides, click here. I challenge you to take it with you whenever you go grocery shopping.

Elena White is the founder and editor of  Life The Green Way, corporate sustainability coordinator at her day job, and a "rurban" wife and mother.  Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @Lifethegreenway.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

15 Healthiest Frozen Fruits and Vegetables: Get Leaner and Save Money, Too!

What if I told you that you could be more fit, boost your antioxidant intake, and save money — all at the same time? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, I've put together a list of 15 frozen fruits and vegetables - yes, frozen - that will help you do just that!

Especially during the winter months, fresh produce is limited - or expensive - in most of the country, which forces many of us to turn to either canned or frozen fruits and veggies. While canned vegetables tend to lose a lot of nutrients during the preservation process (some notable exceptions are tomatoes and pumpkin), frozen vegetables may be even more healthy than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the International Food Information Council (IFIC) both agree that nutrients in produce are generally NOT lost during freezing and they provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Once a fruit or vegetable is picked, it starts to lose nutrients, so exactly when it's plucked, and how long after harvesting you eat it, impacts its nutritional value. Did you know that fresh produce can lose as much as 45% of its essential nutrients from the time it leaves the farm to the time it makes it to your table — a period that can last as long as 16 days? These berries, melons, greens, etc., are often exposed to pesticides, extreme heat, and light during transport, which further decreases their freshness and nutritional value.

On the other hand, most frozen fruits and vegetables are quickly blanched, boiled, or steamed, and then frozen within a few hours of being picked, a process that helps lock in both fresh taste and nutritional value. Since the freezing process actually preserves food, no unwanted additives (e.g. no added salt or sugar) are needed in bags of frozen pineapples or broccoli, for examples. Therefore, it's pretty easy to find fruits and veggies with single word ingredient lists-- just the fruit or veggie itself. To be sure, always check the ingredients, but I bet you'll find at least a 10 varieties in the freezer aisle with absolutely nothing added - definitely a win-win!

Also, you'll want to be sure to choose packages marked with a USDA “U.S. Fancy” shield, which designates produce of the best size, shape and color. These vegetables tend to be more nutrient-rich than the lower grades (“U.S. No. 1” or “U.S. No. 2.”). Also, try not to wait too long to eat them after purchasing: over many months, nutrients in frozen vegetables do decrease. Steam (don't microwave) rather than boil your produce so that you can retain as much of the water-soluble vitamins as you can.

Try Any or All of These 15 Healthy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables:

1) Cherries. Research links cherries' red color—provided by the fruit's powerful anthocyanins—to a reduction in inflammation, total cholesterol, and belly fat. Cherries are also rich in two important flavonoids, isoqueritrin and queritrin, which act as antioxidants and work to eliminate byproducts of oxidative stress, therefore slowing down the aging process. You can add frozen cherries to your smoothies or defrost a cup and put them on top of plain Greek yogurt.

2) Blueberries are packed with vitamins C, E, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. One cup of blueberries has only 71 calories, but packs 6 grams of fiber, and it's hard to believe just how much nutrition is jammed into such a small superfruit.

Catechins found in blueberries activate fat-burning genes in abdominal fat cells to assist with weight loss, and belly fat loss in particular.  According to research at Tufts University, regularly ingesting catechins increases abdominal fat loss by 77 percent and double total weight loss.

Additionally, blueberries are one of the richest sources of proanthocyanidins, which are phytonutrients that decrease free radical levels that are linked to aging (say goodbye to wrinkles!) and disease.

Keep these berries on hand to boost the flavor and nutrients in your protein shakes, or add frozen blueberries to hot cereal.

3) Peaches are the perfect snack food for losing weight. A peach makes you feel full and keeps you from overeating. One medium peach contains only 35-50 calories and zero fat!

These fruits are high in calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and antioxidants. They also help keep the skin healthy. Vitamin A and C make peaches a great natural moisturizer which is why they’re often used in cosmetics. These vitamins can help regenerate skin tissue.

For a healthy dessert, bake one peach with cinnamon and a touch of agave, then top with low-fat frozen yogurt. Yummy!

4) Broccoli reportedly helps lower cholesterol and detoxifies the body. Steamed broccoli is full of potassium and folate - which helps prevent anemia - and it also gives you solid doses of vitamins A, C, and B6.

It’s also a huge cancer-fighter. Broccoli contains something called sulforaphane, which may help combat prostate, liver, lung, bladder, skin, and stomach cancer. Plus it’s rich in compounds that boost healthy tumor suppressors—and destroy ineffective ones.

Broccoli is great fuel, because with 5 grams of fiber per cup, it helps you fill up fast. And...it’s only about 55 calories per cup. Add some to your omelet to make it even more delicious.

5) Green Beans are rich in eye-protecting phytonutrients and manganese. Aside from relieving symptoms of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, manganese can also help fight premenstrual syndrome (PMS). A healthy dose of manganese can help alleviate PMS symptoms such as irritability and mood swings. Manganese also helps your body to effectively absorb other nutrients such as vitamins B, E and the mineral magnesium.

Another good reason to eat green beans is that they are packed with vitamin A. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect you against cancer, heart disease and high blood cholesterol. Vitamin A is also known for eliminating signs of skin aging, such as wrinkles, fine lines, dull skin and age spots.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

4 Easy Tips To Make Your Holiday Kitchen Greener


The holiday season is upon us! For most of you, that means spending a lot more time in the kitchen - whether you're hosting a party or simply cooking a traditional meal for your family. No matter what the reason, you're going to shop for many ingredients, cook, clean, and enjoy lots of yummy food (let's hear it for the leftovers)!

If you're like me (and I'll bet you are, since you're here), you want to buy quality food that is also healthy for your family, while keeping costs down. I've done the legwork for you and created a list of tips to help you accomplish your "green" feasts.

Here are 4 easy tips to keep in mind as you shop, cook, eat and clean: 

- Choose food low added chemicals and toxins

- Avoid toxic chemicals in cookware

- Store and reheat your leftovers safely

- Clean the greener way!


As you may already know, today's food can contain ingredients that you definitely don't want to eat, such as: pesticides, hormones, artificial additives and chemicals found in food packaging.

Here are 3 ways that you can cut down on these types of chemicals: 

When you go grocery shopping, buy organic when you can. Why buy organic? Two reasons: organic produce is grown without synthetic pesticides and organic meat and dairy products can limit your family's exposure to growth hormones and antibiotics. I know what you're probably thinking: "Organic costs more. I thought that you were going to show me how to save money??"  Don't worry, it's okay to buy some non-organic fruits and vegetables. You can find the list of the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables here.

Cook with fresh foods, rather than packaged and canned, whenever possible. Packaging chemicals in some food containers can leach  into food. Bisphenol A, for example, is used to make the linings of canned goods. Go for fresh food or prepared foods stored in glass containers. Pick recipes that call for fresh, not canned, foods.

Cook with frozen fruit and vegetables. When cooking with fresh produce is not an option, your next-best choice would be to cook with frozen fruit and vegetables - some would even argue that frozen is the better choiceWhile fresh fruits and veggies may be more visually appealing and taste better, they don’t last as long in your refrigerator and may not even be the most nutritious. Frozen produce is available year-round, and in most cases, is cheaper than fresh. Plus, the vitamins and nutrients are preserved in frozen fruits and vegetables because of the way that they are processed; they are picked, then quickly blanched and immediately frozen and packaged, generally when nutrient levels are at their highest. This means that frozen fruits and vegetables are processed at their peak, in terms of freshness, and nutrition.


Is non-stick cookware in your kitchen? It is in most kitchens across America, but for safer cooking, may I suggest cast iron and oven-safe glass? My family uses both, but there are many benefits of cooking with cast iron cookware: they are inexpensive, conduct heat wonderfully, go from stove-top to oven with no problem, and can last a lifetime, if properly cared for. There are also health benefits when cooking with a cast-iron skillet. You can boost your iron intake from eating food cooked in cast iron cookware. Iron is a vital mineral that is crucial for maintaining energy levels, and it also helps strengthen immune systems.

If you're not completely sold on using cast iron cookware, you can reduce the possibility of toxic fumes when cooking with any non-stick cookware you already own: never heat an empty pan, don't put it in an oven hotter than 500 degrees F, and use your exhaust fan over the stove.


Who doesn't like leftovers? Leftovers help to keep you in the holiday spirit by giving you a break from the kitchen! When storing your leftovers, it's best to avoid plastic containers - especially when reheating them, even if they claim to be "microwave safe." The chemical additives in plastic can get into food and liquids. Ceramic or glass food containers, like Pyrex, are safer.

If you do use a plastic container, handle it carefully. Use it for cool liquids only; wash plastics by hand or on the top rack of the dishwasher, which is farther from the heating element. Use a paper towel instead of plastic wrap to cover food in the microwave. Also, avoid disposable (or single-use) plastic as much as possible -- reusing it isn't safe because it can harbor bacteria and trashing it fills up landfills, polluting the environment.


Having guests means that there will be tons of cleaning to do - before they arrive, while they're there and after they leave. You will also have to clean while you cook, but do you clean the green way? Traditional household cleaners (bleach, etc.) can cause the air inside your home to become polluted with chemicals. It is easy and cheaper to clean the green way. You can try natural alternatives like vinegar, baking soda and water.  Avoid commercial anti-bacterial products (learn about natural alternatives here) and the biggest hazards: acidic toilet bowl cleaners, air fresheners, oven cleaners, and corrosive drain openers.

While cleaning, no matter what products you use, be sure to do it safely! Open the window, use gloves and keep young kids away from toxic products. Dust and vacuum often since dust often contains toxins. Wash your hands with plain soap and water -- it's simple and very effective. Use a baking soda and water paste instead of commercial oven cleaner.

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Elena White is the founder and editor of  Life The Green Way, corporate sustainability coordinator at her day job, and a "rurban" wife and mother.  Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @Lifethegreenway.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Just How Wasteful Are We in America?

It is a well-known fact that Americans produce a LOT of waste. This is the main reason why recycling and repurposing are so important. Fast Haul loads and unloads tons and tons (literally) of consumer waste every month and they strive to recycle as much of the materials that they collect as possible. A big thanks to Fast Haul for allowing me to share this wonderful infographic with you.

Wasted in America Infographic about consumer waste and recycling

Courtesy of: Fast Haul

+Elena White is the founder and editor of  Life The Green Way, corporate sustainability coordinator at her day job, and a "rurban" wife and mother.  Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @Lifethegreenway.