Easy Tips for Buying Organic Produce

Apples rank #1 on the "Dirty Dozen" list

One of the biggest reasons most people don’t buy 100% organic is because it can really drive up your grocery bill. So, like many, I end up having to make choices when it comes to organic vs. conventional. The area of the grocery store with the most choices tends to be the produce section. The one rule I almost always follow is that I buy conventional produce if the fruit or veggie has a skin that I remove before eating, like bananas or oranges. Yes, the pesticides could seep through, but if I’m going to draw a line, that seems like a good place to start. Otherwise, I try to buy organic. But even then, I wonder if it’s really worth higher price.

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group makes grocery trips a little easier with their annual list, “The Dirty Dozen.” They list the 12 fruits and veggies that they found to have the highest levels of pesticides. If you’re going to buy organic, these are the choices to make in the produce aisle. The top five are:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
You can find the entire list here. And an explanation of how those foods made the list here.

The EWG also has a list of the “clean 15.” These are the fruits and veggies least likely to test positive for pesticides. That means they are ok to buy conventional. The top five are:

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Onions
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
Click here for the full list.
The list is too long to commit to memory, so I like to bookmark either this page or the page linked with the entire list and pull it up on my iPhone when I get to the grocery story. That way I don’t have to guess and I know I’m getting all the benefits of fresh produce sans the nasty chemicals.

Best of BlogHer ’11

I had the opportunity to attend the annual BlogHer conference in San Diego recently. On top of meeting lots of wonderful bloggers and sitting in on inspirational seminars, I got a chance to check out the BlogHer Expo. The Expo was filled with companies introducing their products. Most were mommy-blogger oriented, but I found a few that really stuck out and wanted to share them with you.

Scotch Magic Greener Tape 

While tape might come to mind when you’re thinking of going green, Scotch is changing that perception with their Greener Tape which is made with plant-based adhesive and film. The refillable dispenser and tape core are both made of recycled plastic also. The best part – this version of the popular Scotch product makes the same iconic sound when you rip the tape, and it works and costs the same as the original.

Michael Angelo’s Natural Line 

I really like eating hot food for lunch and nothing is more convenient than a frozen meal. The taste of those meals usually leaves a lot to be desired. Now there’s Michael Angelo’s natural line. The frozen meals don’t contain any preservatives, and have all-natural ingredients, some of which are organic. I got to try a sample at the expo and thought it was pretty good. I don’t think I’d take one to work for lunch every day as the sodium is still a little high, but for days when I’m in a hurry, I’d love to have some of these meals in my freezer ready to go.

Coffee–Mate Natural Bliss Coffee Creamer 

I have to admit, I stopped by this booth more than once for a sample of this coffee creamer. I really liked the vanilla flavor and was impressed when I turned the package over and found that it was made with only four ingredients: Nonfat Milk, Heavy Cream, Sugar and natural flavor. Because it’s a real dairy product, you have to keep it refrigerated, but the creamy sweet taste is worth it.

Boiron’s Arnicare Gel and Oscillococcinum

The names might be hard to pronounce (Oscillococcinum?), but Boiron’s products are some of my favorites when it comes to relieving common ailments. I love that my local drugstore, Duane Reade, carries the brand and even before the expo, I had many of Boiron’s products in my medicine cabinet. They are all homeopathic, so I feel safe taking them. The Arnicare Gel contains arnica and is a topical cream used for muscle pain, bruising and swelling. I used it on sore legs one night and felt better pretty quickly. The Oscillococcinum is to ward off flu symptoms. I’ve had good luck with this remedy also – so much so that I have stared to look for the Bioron alternative to traditional brands when I’m buying OTC medicine.

Benefits of Organic Wine

Written by: Lora Moncheck

Organic Wine Section at West Point Market

Lately I have been on an organic food kick.  And I figured if I am going to eat organic I may as well drink organic as well, and that includes alcohol.  It wasn’t very easy for me to find the organic wine.  I searched my local grocery stores and couldn’t find it anywhere.  I finally found it at a specialty food store near me called West Point Market in Akron, Ohio. They didn’t have a big selection but I did have a few options to choose from.  Trader Joe’s is also another store that has a decent collection of organic wines.

To be a certified organic wine, it has to be made from organic grapes which are grown with no pesticides.  However, natural wine is wine that is grown with organic grapes and does not contain sulfates or one that has less than 10 parts per a million naturally occurring sulfates in it.

The bottle I chose was called Our Daily Red from California.  I prefer sweet red so this was a little bitter for my liking, but still good. The smell and taste was the same as other conventional wines I’ve had in the past.  It also only cost $10 for the bottle, which I didn’t think was a bad deal at all. In fact, all of the bottles were priced around $10 – $20.

If you have ever read “Skinny Bitch” by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin you’ll know they rave about organic red wine.  It is filled with antioxidants, cancer-fighters and helps prevents heart disease.  Since organic wine is seemingly better for you, not overly priced and tastes no different, I can’t see why I wouldn’t continue to by it in the future if I can find it.

Superfood Tonics and Vegan Ice Cream from a blender

Chef Jason Wrobel (Photo from JasonWrobel.com)

I had the opportunity to take a class with vegan and raw food chef Jason Wrobel at Organic Avenue on the Lower East Side last week. You might know the name Organic Avenue from the line of juice cleanses. At the event, Jason brought his use of Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs from LA and showed us some of his favorite recipes. I was equally intrigued and disappointed that Jason used the herbs. Intrigued because I’m a big fan of TCM, but disappointed that I’d never be able to make these recipes at home without spending a ton of money on ingredients I’d probably never use again.

The common thread through most of the ingredients was that they’re superfoods. I’m intrigued by superfoods because they are the most efficient way to get some really great nutrients. They are, by definition, calorie sparse and nutrient dense. Many of the ingredients Jason used were high in minerals and vitamins. He artfully explained the benefits. Unfortunately, there were so many, it’s impossible for me to repeat them here.

The most impressive part was when Jason used a Vita Mix to blend up some ice cream. And keep in mind when I say “ice cream” I really mean vegan frozen substance that kind of had the consistency of sorbet. He started with a healthy amount of ice, then added the ingredients and used the plunger while the blender did it’s thing. The results were a little surprising.

Of the six recipes, my favorite concoction was the Chocolate Jing Ice Cream. No surprise since I’m a bit of a choc-o-holic. This was the last thing that we tried and I was getting a little tired. Jason said it was heavy on the yang side, meaning it would create heat and energize us. It was actually creamy with a deep chocolate flavor. It did perk me up a little bit and made me a little loopy!

For a look at some of Jason’s recipes, check out this link to his website.

As for the event itself, I felt it was a little overpriced especially considering it was a 3-hour seminar over dinner time and didn’t include any food other than samples of the recipes. I wasn’t interested in paying $10 for a bottle of Organic Avenue’s green juice, and there wasn’t much else to choose from. I seemed to be in the minority though. Most of the other attendees happily sipped their juices as we learned about the tonics and ice creams.


Ladies – Do yourself a favor and get a professional bra sizing

Photo Credit: Andrew McCaul

Ok, so this is a little off-topic for this blog, but just consider this my public service announcement to you. The next time you want to treat yourself, head over to a professional lingerie shop and get yourself sized. I’m not talking about Victoria’s Secret here… I mean a place that employs women who have been trained for years to size you. Women who work with you one on one while you try on the bras so you get the perfect fit.

I was fed up with my ill-fitting bra this week, so I headed over to Linda’s Bra Shop in Murray Hill. I’ve featured Linda in segments I’ve produced in the past and purchased bras from her before. But weight gain and loss combined with bras wearing out meant it was time for another visit. Linda measured me and recommended a size that I never would have chosen for myself. I was skeptical, but as soon as I put on one of her choices, it was like a whole new world. I felt supported but free at the same time. Free from the band digging into my back or a shoulder strap that doesn’t stay put. I left the shop wearing one of my new bras. Linda kindly tossed my old one. These bras are not cheap – it was definitely a splurge for me, but one that makes me feel better all day every day.

Here is some bits of bra wisdom I’ve learned from Linda
* When you buy a bra, make sure the band is snug on the largest hook. As the bra stretches, it will get bigger and you’ll be able to make it tighter
* Bras should be replaced about every 6 months
* Your breasts should rest about half way between your shoulders and elbows with your bra on

For answers to some common questions, check out Linda’s bra school here


Homemade Body Scrub

Written by Lora Moncheck

Lora's Homemade Body Scrub

Lately I have been searching for a good body scrub.  I tried all sorts of body scrubs from the store, and nothing really impressed me so I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I looked up different recipes and decided to take what I liked from all of them and make my own.  I took 1/4  cup of Sugar in the Raw, 1/4 cup of regular white cane sugar and 1/3 cup of salt.  I then mixed them all in a bowl and added olive oil and baby oil until it was completely saturated.  (If you want to make it all-natural you can use only olive oil and omit the baby oil.)

That night I scrubbed my whole body down with my homemade scrub.  Rinsing it off was kind of a pain since it was so gritty, but it was worth it.  My skin felt so smooth and soft.  I was really impressed, it worked so much better then anything I had bought from the store. And the best part about it was how cheap it was since I used all products found in my pantry!