Koslo's Nutrition Solutions

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide Free Produce

Summertime is here and there are so many varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables available that you almost can’t help but get in your 5 servings each day. If you are lucky enough to have locally, organically grown produce in your area you should definitely take advantage of what summer has to offer. But if you are buying your produce at the local grocery store you may not know how the produce was grown and if it contains pesticide residue or not. And while it would be great if we could all afford to buy 100% of our produce from organic growers, for most people this isn’t feasible economically. So how do you know which foods have the most pesticide residue and which have the least? This is where the Environmental Working Group comes in. They have just recently released the 7th edition of their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide Free Produce which has updated information on 53 fruits and vegetables. Wow – 53! That should about cover all of the bases.

Produce is ranked according to how many pesticides are on a peeled and washed sample and the results are based on data collected from the USDA and FDA from 2000 to 2009. You may have even caught the headlines on the news about apples becoming the new number 1 most contaminated type of produce replacing celery from last year. But should you really be concerned about pesticides on your produce when you are already worrying about GMOs, hormones, and antibiotics in your food? You betcha, especially if you are feeding little ones. Children are the most susceptible to the health http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifproblems associated with pesticide ingestion since they are developing and growing. The Environmental Protection Agency posts information on its website about the potential health effects of pesticides. Some pesticides contain carcinogens while other have affects on the nervous, hormone, and endocrine systems. Have a look at this graph to see how the levels of pesticides have increased over the years http://cfpub.epa.gov/eroe/index.cfm?fuseaction=detail.viewInd&lv=list.listByAlpha&r=224028&subtop=312

If you still aren’t convinced, consider this: eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables from the dirty dozen list would mean ingesting an average of 14 pesticides a day, while eating the same number of servings from the clean 15 list would result in consuming fewer than 2 pesticides a day. I do want to throw in the caveat that it would still be better to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables thahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gift have pesticides on them then to eat none at all, so don’t use this as an excuse to stop eating fresh produce.

To help you make informed decisions about what you buy, you can download a free copy of the guide by going to the Environmental Working Group’s website http://static.ewg.org/reports/2011/foodnews/pdf/2011EWGPesticideGuide.pdf What I really like about the guide is that you can cut it out and stick it in your wallet or purse for easy reference while you are shopping.

Enjoy the bounties of summer produce and happy eating!

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The New USDA MyPlate

In case you missed the headlines, on June 2nd the USDA unveiled its new food icon designed to provide guidance to Americans on how to plan a healthy diet. The new icon is a plate, called MyPlate, and it replaces the MyPyramid icon. I love it since I already use a “portion plate” when I counsel people on diet. A plate is something people can relate to much more than an abstract pyramid. Just a bit of background, the Dietary Guidelines and the accompanying food icon are revised every 5 years as mandated by Congress. It is interesting to see how the icon has changed over the years and if you are interested in looking at the different versions, the USDA site has a brief history on its website.

I am actually pleasantly surprised at the new icon and the fairly equal prominence given to each food group. It is no secret that food lobbyists and politics have had a significant impact on how our dietary guidelines and food icons have been designed. Yet MyPlate truly seems to have the health of Americans at heart. The tool is easy to understand and encourages people to fill half of their plates with fruits and vegetables and to be moderate with grain and protein consumption. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that in 2009 only 32% of the population were eating 2 fruits per day and a mere 26% were eating 3 vegetables. Add to that the fact that fruit juice was counted as a fruit and that two of those vegetables were French fries and ketchup and it is no wonder the obesity epidemic continues to worsen.

That brings us back to using MyPlate. Theoretically if a person follows MyPlate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they could easily eat 6 servings of fruits and vegetables. The USDA website has some great information and tips on how to build a healthy plate including sample menus and recipes. I think some other really important things for Americans to keep in mind is that the grains should be mostly whole grain (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, etc), the protein lean (chicken breast, tofu, beans), and the dairy low-fat. Oh did you pick up on the fact that is says “protein” and not “meat”? Bet the meat industry and lobbyists weren’t too happy about that.

All in all I think this is a step in the right direction for providing easy to use guidance to Americans on how to put together a balanced, healthy meal. The trick will be trading out those 15 inch plates for a more reasonable 9 inch plate.