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Friday, July 25, 2014

But It Says Blueberries On The Box! What's Really In Your Food

It seems wherever we turn we are bombarded with articles sending the message that the food industry cares little about the health of those consuming its products.  Truth is, these corporations are 'for profit' organizations with the priority being to give the consumer what they want at the least possible cost to the company. As long as they are following labeling laws and pass FDA inspections, they certainly aren't going to let ethics interfere. How they shop and feed their own families is their business. That is why it is imperative for families to do their own research and not be gullible to the power of slick advertising.
Click here to watch a video using blueberries as an example of why we as consumers have to do our own homework.

Mega supermarkets and convenience foods didn't take off until consumers were willing to pay for such time saving solutions in their meal planning. With all the pressures in life, it would be nice to know the food we buy for our families is what it claims to be and not just a convincing advertising ploy. Reading labels is the only way to be sure of what you are buying. As educated adults we know that as long as the label says what is in the product the food companies have done their part, and if we as consumers choose to buy packaged and prepared food that is our decision.

The irritation is why should we have to pay top dollar for the natural, organic, "better" foods. Why should our food bills be twice as high if we want wholesome food that is nutritious and not just empty calories to satisfy hunger. It's enough to make one paranoid that everything we put in our mouths is altered or tampered with, and not really food at all, just artificially colored, flavored, scented, salted, sweetened stuff. If it tastes good, the customer seems happy, maybe not healthy, but good enough. Do most people even know what wholesome fresh food is supposed to taste like to even make a comparison?

As a parent, it is very frustrating to feel no matter which way we turn there is something to make us feel insecure and inadequate. Few decisions in life have more anxiety wrapped up in them than the decision for parents whether to be traditional, and have one spouse put a career on hold and focus on the home front, or try to do it all and juggle home, spouse, children and career.

Can it be that unless we are in a position to be able to grow and put up our own food, bake our own goods and keep the pots simmering from scratch, we're not doing what is in the best interest of our families? But how many can realistically do that? Not many people are in a position to become a homesteader. When you don't get in the door until dinnertime there often isn't the time to prepare many of the main meals from scratch. (Thank goodness for the crock pot.) Many folks just don't have access to convenient seasonal co-ops or farmers markets. Therefore, they are dependent on their grocery stores and just hope the fresh foods available aren't too laden with pesticides and the soil it grew in had some value to it. Not everyone can afford the organic section when they try to stick to a food budget.

So what is a parent supposed to do? There is no way we as a society can turn back now. Our age of technology is so interdependent and woven we usually have to pay for every little thing we need. I can remember the thrill of eating foraged plants or out of the garden and thinking "wow, this is really free!" It is almost comical when you compare that way of thinking with how our hunter, gatherer ancestors survived.

We need air filters for our homes for clean air to breathe, water filters on our taps for purified water, access to a Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or co-ops for decent food. So the choice becomes ours.
We can run a little faster on the hamster wheel of the workplace to make more money to afford it all in hopes for better health, only to lose our mental or physical health anyway from all the stress.

Or, we can reevaluate our lifestyles and walk away from it all to become more self-sustaining. But to grow and put up our own food requires time, effort and a commitment not everyone is willing to give.

Most of us will take the middle road and try to become more aware in our consumer choices, better organize our free time to perhaps plant a garden, shop at farmer's markets and co-ops, learn how to can or freeze extra produce, and just do the best we can with our individual situations.

An interesting article written by Scott Morefield, entitled "Four Ways Our Family Says No to GMO's" addresses the concern with genetically modified organisms in our food supply. He believes the best thing we can do for our health is to remove GMO's from our diets. In this article he focuses on the problem with corn, soy, white sugar and canola oil. He sums it up by saying the best way to avoid these "franken-engineered crops" is to just avoid the center aisles in the grocery store.

This code chart is handy to remember while shopping for produce at your supermarket.

Now back to blueberries. July is the month to take advantage of the availability and best prices for fresh blueberries. Very easy to freeze for use all year long, this fruit is considered one of the 'must eat foods'.

Try making these delicious blueberry muffins. As with any home baked goodie, without preservatives they only stay fresh for a few days. If a batch of 24 at a time is just too many, simply freeze the extras.


4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups all-purpose and 2 cups wheat or another whole grain of choice)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups (16 oz) sour cream or plain yogurt)
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs. Gradually add sugar. While beating, slowly add the oil and then the vanilla.
Combine the dry ingredients in another bowl. Sift to blend thoroughly. I just toss with a pastry blender.
Add the dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream or yogurt to the egg mixture.
Don't over mix muffins, stir only till moistened; don't worry about pressing out every lump.
Gently fold in blueberries, try to keep the blueberries whole.
Spoon into greased muffin tins. The typical muffin tin uses about 1/3 cup batter per muffin. 
This batch will make about 24 muffins.
Baked at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.