Saturday, June 29, 2013

GMOs and better eating habits

Life is good: let's share!

I have always tried to eat healthy foods, but since becoming a parent, it has become even more of a priority. I want to take care of my body so that I have a hundred years plus with my family! I also want to give my children a good foundation for making smart food choices. 

We found out our oldest had some major food allergies (eggs and peanuts were the first) when he was nine months old. This meant that I would start an adventure in eggless baking and cooking. It also meant that there would be no "convenience food" options for us since he is so sensitive to eggs that he cannot even eat a product manufactured in the same facility as eggs. This wasn't too big of a deal for me because I had always cooked from scratch anyway. What it does mean is that I have to be prepared. Eating somewhere at the spur of the moment is not an option. We take eggless cupcakes to parties and I bring food I've prepared from home when we eat at a restaurant or friends' houses because we can't risk cross contamination from someone else's kitchen. Our kids are used to it; it's all they have ever known. And I have learned not to be concerned about how others feel about this because I am just protecting my children. The allergies have made me start to pay more attention to where foods were grown and the strange words contained on the ingredients list of bottles of soy sauce and ice cream and mustard.

My friend, Brandy, is a designer with a son close to the same age as our big kid. She recently had an food epiphany, if you will, and we have had online chats about why food allergies are more prevalent and GMOs and "natural flavors"and canola oil, among other things.  I am someone who likes to share and I like to hear others' thoughts and opinions. Even if I don't agree or take their advice or whatever, I think it is important that we listen to each other, contemplate, and consider. So since I am such a "sharer", I asked Brandy if she would like to share her story of becoming more "pleasant" about the food that goes into her family's bodies. And she kindly obliged. Brandy, thanks for your guest post! (She shares a great video that explains what exactly GMOs are.) I guess this is where I am supposed to say something about "the following are not necessarily the views supported by How to be Pleasant Blog, etc.". ; ) 

Here's Brandy's story:

What was IT that caused me to change how my family and I ate? That’s the question I get asked most from people who know me. Just a bit of background about me—I am inherently lazy with a tendency to have a bit of OCD. This means when I do something, I tend to go to extremes. I am a skeptic. I am a mom. I am a wife. I am a busy designer. What I am not—is a foodie. In fact, my husband and son have a common saying, “You’re not allowed in the kitchen.” The kitchen is my husband’s domain, except for when it needs to get cleaned. We used to eat out A LOT or have it delivered. So much so, that a food delivery company once gave us a gift certificate at Christmas because we ate out that much! Crazy, right?  

So back to my food transformation. 

Never one to put too much thought into what I ate, I lived a happy existence. And then IT happened. I came across this company that grew hydroponic lettuce—tried it—and loved that it stayed fresher longer and didn’t grow in dirt. By the way, did I mention I don’t like dirt? I started an account with the company and needed to spread the word to my friends so that I would qualify for free delivery. On one such day, I stopped off at a friend’s house to deliver her lettuce and we began to catch up. Then she asked me if I had heard about “Natural Flavors” such as vanilla, strawberry and raspberry. I answered, “No” and proceeded to inquire about the subject. Little did I know (trust me, I wasn’t prepared for the answer) this would be the start of a new journey to totally change my eating habits. She told me the “Natural Flavor” of vanilla and the like were actually something from a beaver’s anal glands (that’s right, the animal). We finished up our conversation and then I left. When I got back in the car, I asked my husband if he had EVER heard of such a thing—to which he replied, “No.” Surely my friend was mistaken ... right? I immediately googled the topic. Then I checked with Snopes. I was so shocked and disgusted, it was hard to focus on anything else. I then posted it on my facebook page because that’s what everyone does, right? I also came to the realization I was drinking “beaver butt” as we affectionately called it every day in my coffee. Bleh! No more beaver butt for us.

As a result of my “Natural Flavors” posts, my sister, who is much more a foodcentric person started sending me info on other food-related topics. For some reason, I also had other friends send me info/links. It’s as if they all came out of hiding. One of these was a short clip about GMOs. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I had heard of this but had no clue what it really was. Also rBGH came up as part of this discussion. It was like the perfect storm of knowledge. Up to this point, I was always under the belief that the term “organic” was just some frou-frou way to charge extra money and was some hippie-dippie lifestyle. Not me at all. I like technology and conveniences. I never bought into the whole world of “organic” and Whole Foods seemed like the ultimate hippie-dippie place. This is the video that put it all into perspective.

The information was presented in simple terms. Once I understood what Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) were and why Genetically Engineered foods were not good, my mind started racing. Why were there so many more food allergies? What about the increase in autism rates and behavioral issues—could all of these be linked to our food source? Remember me mentioning my OCD—well, I started going through the food in our pantry and refrigerator. I was absolutely floored. The more research I did, the more incensed I became. I felt cheated. Lied to by our government and food companies. It ALL had to go, and out it went. Whole Foods became my home away from home.

My quest for knowledge led me to seek out facebook pages and blogs, you might even call them food activists. Well, let me say—they were a bit too radical for me. I have since pared down who I follow and what info is relevant to me. Thankfully my husband told me he was on board as long as it was still real food. No chia seeds or juicing for him. We tossed out all of our GMO products and restocked with new non-GMO brands. I would not recommend going to this extreme as it is costly. If you can afford to do this, then great. If not, then just replace as you use up your items. Do I feel any different since making the shift to non-GMO foods? Not really. But in my head, I feel better. I am going through great strides to try and educate our 6 yr old son to making better food choices. And now the term “organic” is part of our lifestyle. We began a garden (in containers of course)...

We also joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and try to buy from local farms/fruit stands. It has been an amazing transformation and we continue to learn. We even started a facebook page to share news, recipes and food-related things. It’s been a fun journey!

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