The Truth About “Humane”, “Free-Range”, and “Cage-Free” Meat and Eggs

chickens in cage

I know some of you nice people out there think that you’re doing good by buying only “cage-free” or “humane” or “free-range” eggs and meats.

While I will agree that this is the lesser of the two evils that come with harvesting food from animals, I will also argue that these are just marketing claims and are still not ok. The truth about free range is different than what these advertisements claim.

The Marketing Behind Organic or Humane Products

There’s a huge market out there for organic, free-range, cage-free, and humane animal products. People want to feel that they are making better, smarter choices by choosing these products.

The truth, however, is that these products aren’t too much different from conventionally-raised meat.

I’d like to begin with some excerpts from Michael Pollan, an author, journalist, and activist who I dearly love and admire. In his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he talks about “Big Organic” and what he found out it really means.

“I enjoy shopping at Whole Foods nearly as much as I enjoy browsing a good bookstore, which, come to think of it, is probably no accident: Shopping at Whole foods is a literary experience, too. That’s not to take anything away from the food, which is generally of high quality, much of it “certified organic” or “humanely raised” or “free-range”. But right there, that’s the point: It’s the evocative prose as much as anything else that makes this food really special, elevating an egg or chicken breast or bag of arugula from the realm of ordinary protein and carbohydrates into a much headier experience, one with complex aesthetic, emotional, and even political dimensions. Take the “range-fed” sirloin steak I recently eyed in the meat case. According to the brochure on the counter, it was formerly part of a steer that spent its days “living in beautiful places” ranging from “plant-diverse, high-mountain meadows to thick aspen groves and miles of sagebrush-filled flats”. Now a steak like that has got to taste better than one from Safeway, where the only accompanying information comes in the form of a number: the price, I mean, which you can bet will be considerably less. But I’m evidently not the only shopper willing to pay more for a good story.

With the growth of organics and mounting concerns about the wholesomeness of industrial food, storied food is showing up in supermarkets everywhere these days, but it is Whole Foods that consistently offers the most cutting-edge grocery lit. On a recent visit I filled my shopping cart with eggs “from cage-free vegetarian hens,” milk from cows that live “free from unnecessary fear and distress,” wild salmon caught by Native Americans in Yakutat, Alaska (population 833), and heirloom tomatoes from Capay Farm ($4.99 a pound), “one of the early pioneers of the organic movement.” The organic broiler I picked up even had a name: Rosie, who turned out to be a “sustainably farmed” “free-range” chicken from Petaluma Poultry, a company whose “farming methods strive to create harmonious relationships in nature, sustaining the health of all creatures and the natural world.” Okay, not the most mellifluous or even meaningful sentence, but at least their heart’s in the right place.

I also visited Rosie the organic chicken at her farm in Petaluma, which turns out to be more animal factory than farm. She lives in a shed with twenty thousand other Rosies, who, aside from their certified organic feed, live lives little different from that of any other industrial chicken. Ah, but what about the “free-range” lifestyle promised on the label? True, there’s a little door in the shed leading out to a narrow grassy yard. But the free-range story seems a bit of a stretch when you discover that the door remains firmly shut until the birds are at least five or six weeks old–for fear they’ll catch something outside–and the chickens are slaughtered only two weeks later.”

—From Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, pages 134-140 (pub. 2006 by Penguin)

The Food and Drug Administration’s Policy for Free-Range, PAsture-Fed, and Grass-Fed

The Food and Drug Administration’s free-range policy for poultry is this: the facility must show that the chickens have been allowed access to the outside.

This doesn’t mean that the animals are required to spend any time outdoors or even that they have gone outside at all during their lives. So while you might be purchasing chicken thinking that the chicken lived its life in a peaceful meadow, the reality is often far from this idea.

So what about eggs?

Turns out, the FDA doesn’t have any solid guidelines for what a free-range chicken egg should be, so this label really is just a marketing term, similarly to how the claim “dairy-free” has literally no backing according to the FDA.

But what about beef and pork?

So for these types of meat, pasture-raised means that the animal has been provided access to the outside for a minimum of 120 days a year while grass-fed means that the animal was fed a diet consisting solely of forage its entire life after being weaned off its mothers milk, but not necessarily that the animal was ever outside, just that they were fed grass and not grain (which, from a consumer standpoint, is healthier, but not really humane).

The Local Difference

I advocate for LOCAL meat and eggs. This does not mean you trust a supermarket to tell you the truth about free range, where this animal has lived, what it ate, or what its lifestyle was.

I do believe that buying organic (according to the USDA’s definition) is better even though I don’t necessarily believe it’s the most humane or sustainable way to enjoy meat and eggs.

You need to look for small grocery stores (and I mean really small) if you truly want local or humane meat. Some of these meat and egg products might not even be humanely raised or handled, just local, so you’ll need to find out for yourself how the animals are treated.

You need to go find these farms and actually see them for yourself. And if the people don’t let you see the farm even after you offer them money for their meat or eggs, you know there’s a problem and something disturbing is going on there and that they don’t want you to know the truth about free range.

If you want to buy your eggs and meat from the supermarket, going to a place like Whole Foods and buying products that say “humane” or “free-range” might not be any better than going to Wal-Mart.

How You Can Make a Difference

I would advocate for you to buy locally or just kill and skin that animal yourself.

Afraid of doing that?

You probably shouldn’t be eating meat then. If you’re not willing to go through with the actions that brought you your meal, what sense does it make to eat it?

You can make a difference by choosing to purchase truly local foods that ensure animal welfare and healthier products.

Oh, and “cage-free”? This term, according to the FDA, means that the chickens are usually packed so tightly into barns that they live in their own feces, get their eyes and feathers plucked on by other chickens, and are more prone to disease.

Happy eating!

How to Respond When Someone Gives You Something You Can’t Eat

No eat cookie

It sucks, right? When someone gives you something that you can’t eat. What do you do in these situations?

Normally around the holidays, cookies start showing up at my place and people’s moms’ try to make me stuff. How do you inform them that you can’t eat that cookie or you’ll die (ok so maybe you won’t die, but being in pain is bad enough, am I right)?

I have a few suggestions for how to deal with these unfortunate circumstances, whether they happen with a family member, a neighbor, or someone’s mom. They could happen around holidays, birthdays, or times of woe. Here are my suggestions for how to respond when someone gives you something you can’t eat.

 

Tell Them the Truth

This works best when you’re dealing with family, friends, or neighbors who are unlikely to move anytime soon.

You don’t have to be mean about it. You can just politely say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, but I’m gluten and dairy intolerant.” To your surprise they may say, “Bitch, I made these with flaxseed and coconut flour!” or they may say, “Oh sorry! There’s definitely butter in there”.

Regardless of what they say, you’ll know you told the truth.

 

Benefits of this scenario:

  • Next year, they will (hopefully) remember that you can’t eat gluten or dairy and will not make you any more cookies, or attempt to make you special cookies (which are, admittedly, the best kind)
  • You won’t have to lie when they follow up with you: “How were the cookies?!”
  • You’ll feel good speaking up for yourself and informing your giver
  • You won’t have any cookies to dispose of to the raccoons (who should really not be eating gluten anyway)

 

Cons of this scenario:

  • Your giver may not remember that you declined these cookies, and give them to you again
  • Your giver may not remember that you didn’t eat their cookies, and still ask you how they were later
  • Your giver may misunderstand the meaning of “intolerance” or “allergies”, and think that you’re just avoiding these things for other reasons such as weight loss and say, “But you’re so skinny!” prompting you to think that they secretly think you’re fat and are therefore trying to be reassuring about your slimness
  • You may feel rude for declining them. And you’ll definitely feel left out when everyone is eating them and you’re not

 

Politely Accept and Say Nothing

This is best when you’re working with an unfamiliar host or giver. It’s likely you’ll never see them again and who cares if you touch those cookies and then toss them in the trash?

There’s no follow-up, no thank-you cards (“Thanks so much for the plate of sickness you provided me. I was on the toilet all night and had extreme muscle pain for days. Happy Holidays”), and no confrontation.

Saying thank you and moving on is easy. Defending your honor is not.

 

Benefits of this scenario:

  • It’s easy!
  • You don’t have to explain your intolerance or allergy
  • It means little to no extra attention for you and people looking at you like you’re crazy

 

Cons of this scenario:

  • You’re a liar. You’re lying by omission. Shouldn’t that woman know she almost just sent you to the ER?
  • You may feel voiceless and unimportant. Why shouldn’t you speak up for yourself?
  • What the hell are you going to do with those cookies now???

 

LIE

This can work well with people you almost never see, but are not quite strangers. This can also work well with distant neighbors (at least two doors down) or relatives.

Now, I’m not about lying, so I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s a hefty chance it will come back and bite you. But damn it, sometimes it’s just so much easier! “Thank you so much for the wonderful milk chocolate covered pretzels. They were wonderful.”

 

Benefits of this scenario:

  • You won’t offend the wonderful people who tried to make an effort and give you this food (which may be partly vegan but is definitely NOT vegan)
  • You won’t have that bad feeling after you crush their hopes and dreams of giving you cookies
  • You will not appear ungrateful in any way

 

Cons of this scenario:

  • You obviously just told a huge lie about your body and your health. While you did not admit to eating them, you implied it, and your giver will probably make you the same thing next year and the year after that and the year after that. It’s a huge waste, not to mention you’re indirectly supporting animal torture: you may not be buying the milk that went into that milk chocolate, but this giver is buying it for you. Get it?
  • You may get found out, which will look really bad for you and all parties involved. Your neighbor may tell your mom, “Oh, Jenn just absolutely loved those milk chocolate covered pretzels” and your lovely mother will say, “Jenn doesn’t eat milk you ignorant fool!”
  • You’ll feel crappy for making your giver feel loved and appreciated when really you are flushing those pretzels down the toilet while sticking a finger in your mouth in a gagging impression

 

At the end of the day, you need to decide which one you can live with. I will always advocate for the truth-telling scenario, but will admit that sometimes I fall into the other scenarios. It just depends on who you’re dealing with, where you’re at, and what works for you. Whether you accept the desserts or not, make sure you don’t eat them!

18 Questions to Ask Your Local Beef Provider

Is your beef local beef?

cow

Listen, I’m not into slaughtering animals. My diet is mostly plant-based and I rarely eat meat. If I do eat meat, I know exactly who killed it and where it came from and what kind of life it had.

So why am I doing this post?

I’m doing this post because I recognize that people like meat. People think meat is a cultural thing and that they’re entitled to eat it. If you want to kill and eat an animal, I’m ok with that.

BUT, it’s HOW you kill the animal that I have a problem with. This is why I only eat meat if I know who killed it and how—aka local beef.

Local beef is great, but before you purchase local beef, you need to figure out a few things. I’ve compiled a list of questions you can and should ask your local beef provider.

 

1. Do you have one location or several?

Best answer: one.

The reason you want to ask this question is because this will be the easiest way for you to determine if you’re dealing with a legit local beef farm or an industrial farm masquerading as a local one. If they tell you they have several locations, that should be a big red flag—aka not local beef.

 

2. How often are the cows outside?

Best answer: always.

You want to ask this question rather than “are they given unlimited access to the pasture” because they could very well be given unlimited access to the pasture, but they may not actually be going into the pasture for whatever reason.

The cows should be outside pretty much all the time when it’s real local beef.

 

3. Do you provide shelter for the cows outside?

Best answer: yes, but they are not contained in this shelter.

If the cows are outside all the time, you want to be sure they have some adequate shelter for inclement weather.

 

4. Do you raise both male and female cows? If so, how do you regulate breeding?

Best answer: yes, we do our own breeding and regulate breeding with castration.

The reason you want this answer is because this way you know they are not bringing in cows from somewhere and that the farm truly is local beef.

 

5. Are the male cows castrated? If so, how? Is anesthesia used?

Best answer: yes to the anesthesia!

If they don’t castrate their cows, that’s great. The problem is that most places do, so hoping they’ll say “no” might indicate that they engage in unethical practices to inhibit breeding.

You want them to say that they use local anesthesia and that they simply cut them off. Look up more about these practices to find out why you want them to use anesthesia.

If you speak to the actual farmer and he or she says they do it themselves, that’s even better. That’s true local beef, where the farmer takes care of his cows.

 

6. If the cows get sick, are they treated and how?

Best answer: yes, they are treated.

The farmer should tell you exactly how the local beef cows are treated and if they have an on-site vet that comes as needed.

 

7. How is the pasture maintained?

Best answer: organically.

Chances are your farmer won’t actually say “organically”, they’ll just tell you that they don’t spray the pasture with anything and the cows simply maintain it by grazing. Yay, local beef cows!

 

8. Are the cows purely grass-fed or are they fed supplemental grains?

Best answer: mostly grass fed.

Some farmers feed their local beef cows a bit of supplemental grains to take the “gamey” taste out of the meat like you get with deer or squirrel, but ideally, you’d like the cows to be almost purely grass-fed. Ask what the supplemental grains consist of and if they are genetically modified (corn and soy).

 

9. Any growth hormones used?

Best answer: no.

If a farmer tells you they use growth hormones, you should just hang up right then, unless you want an enlarged prostate, acne, and overweight children. That’s not local beef, peeps.

 

10. Are the cows tagged/branded? If so, is anesthesia used?

Best answer: yes.

Sorry, but most farmers will at least ear tag their local beef cows, like the cow you see in the above picture. If they say they brand, you should probably just end the call, because if they are cruel enough to brand an animal, chances are they are not using anesthesia.

NOW. It is time for the slaughter questions. Brace yourself.

 

11. Do you process your own beef?

Best answer: no.

Unfortunately in the United States, if you want to sell your meat, your animals have to be killed at a USDA approved slaughterhouse.

So chances are if you are buying this local beef meat, it will need to be killed at a slaughterhouse. If they tell you that they process their own beef, it’s technically illegal for you to buy it.

 

12. Where is the slaughterhouse?

Best answer: close.

Have them give you the name of the slaughterhouse and the exact location. Look up how far away it is from the farm. It should be less than an hour away if it’s for local beef.

 

13. How are the cows transported to the slaughterhouse?

Best answer: by me.

If they call a company to come and take the cows, that’s not really local beef and chances are they probably don’t care about the cows and how they are transported. The more details they can give you, the better.

 

14. How many animals does the slaughterhouse kill per day?

Best answer: less than 10.

If this is a really local place, you’ll want them to have minimal slaughtering going on. The more animals they slaughter, the less humane they treat them.

The answer to this question will also tell you how large the slaughterhouse is. If they tell you that they slaughter hundreds of animals per day, this is a commercial slaughterhouse and chances are your cow is not dying humanely.

That’s not local beef for you.

 

15. How do they slaughter the cows?

Best answer: they shoot them with a gun.

This is the better option, as terrible as it sounds, because this means your local beef cows are not getting stunned and tortured before they die.

If the farmer tells you he doesn’t know how the cows die, you can contact the slaughterhouse, but I would most likely end the call. If the farmer doesn’t care how his cows are being killed, what else doesn’t he care about?

You want to make sure the cows are killed quickly and not being dismembered while they are still alive.

 

16. Can I visit the slaughterhouse?

Best answer: yes.

The farmer may not know the answer to this question, and that’s fine. You can always contact the slaughterhouse. But, if he tells you they let people in and that you can go see it, this is great news. You’ll want to confirm with the slaughterhouse though. Commercial slaughterhouses will not let you in there.

 

17. How are you sure that you’re getting your cows back?

Best answer: I’m sure.

The farmer should tell you a detailed process for how he knows he’s getting his cows back, such as he knows the people at the slaughterhouse personally, his meat tastes distinct from all other meats, etc.

If he says he has no idea, then this is not someone who is very informed.

 

18. Can I see the farm?

Best answer: yes.

Any farmer who is proud of his animals and the way he treats them will welcome you to his farm to check out his local beef.

After you ask all these lovely questions, schedule a trip to see both the farm and the slaughterhouse. This is local beef for you! You’ll feel so much better and more conscious purchasing and eating this beef if you know exactly where it came from, how it lived and died, and what it ate. Support humane cow farms!

Is Eating Out Gross?

Is eating out gross? Maybe, maybe not, but you need to be this skeptical when ordering in a restaurant.

It doesn’t matter which restaurant it is when considering is eating out gross.

It could be a fancy expensive restaurant.

It could be Chipotle. At least those people are making your food right in front of you and you can see whether or not they sneeze on it.

But I’m a little less concerned about hygiene and more concerned about the actual food. Some things to consider when considering is eating out gross?

You have no idea what is really in this food

The menu tells you some things that are on the dish, but what about the things that they don’t tell you?

How many times have you ordered something only to have it come out smothered in marinara sauce, which you hate? Infinity times, if you are me.

The restaurant is legally required to share every single ingredient with you if you ask. I went to Panera Bread years ago and couldn’t decide what to order. The friend I was with requested their ingredient and calorie book, which was readily supplied to us. Needless to say, I walked out of there without ordering anything.

But seriously, they could be putting butter in your food if you are dairy intolerant. There could be high fructose corn syrup in your lemonade. There might be artificial flavor (gasp!) in your dessert.

How do you know exactly what’s in there?

There might be hidden scary things in there like MSG (monosodium glutamate), aspartame, or gluten. You have to ask people. Sorry, you have to ask when thinking is eating out gross.

Is The Food Organic?

Needless to say, if you’re ordering in a restaurant, the food is probably not organic. UNLESS the restaurant is an all-organic one or the menu specifies that the ingredients are organic.

Which means you’re eating pesticides and GMOs. Restaurants are probably hesitant to invest in organic because of the crowd they serve—how many people actually care?

(I do!)

Fortunately, it seems like more people are caring more and restaurants are taking notice.

How Was It Prepared?

YOU might hate Teflon, that devil non-stick bastard, but, the chef probably doesn’t.

In fact, he or she probably loves it as it saves time heating up, makes all the food look perfect because it doesn’t stick, and is easy to clean. They also might be washing their dishes with commercial soap that’s been tested on animals, which means there’s probably still some residue on those dishes that they are cooking your food with.

Are they heating up food items in plastic?

Has the cooking oil reached dangerous temperatures?

And has that KNIFE TOUCHED gluten?!

It’s impossible to know these things.

The truth is, you don’t know and you never will unless you storm into the kitchen. So you may never know the answer to is eating out gross. Preparing food at home is cheaper, safer, and more enjoyable (in my humble opinion).

The Cleanliness

Ok, I lied; I am concerned about the hygienic issue. Because when you’re thinking is eating out gross, you’ve got a lot to think about.

Is the kitchen clean? Is the chef clean? Is my waitress drunk and not washing her hands after using the bathroom, and then sneaking a bite of those potatoes I’m about to eat in the above photo?

I don’t know!

And just how often is everything in the kitchen washed and cleaned with sustainable, non-chemical cleaners and natural disinfectants like vinegar? It’s not, ok! It’s just not.

I humbly apologize to those awesome restaurants out there that source locally, purchase organic, and are mostly vegan and gluten-free. You guys are awesome!

Eating at a restaurant and having a limited diet do not mix. More on this next time.

Great Gluten-Free Books

Ahh ok so here it is, some of my top picks for educating yourself about your body and the world you are living in, especially when it comes to eating gluten-free. You won’t look at food the same after reading this stuff.

1. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food

I would suggest this book for a beginner when it comes to great health books.

Michael Pollan also has another book that is suitable for legit beginners, meaning you think Mickey D’s is cool because it tastes good. This book is called Food Rules and is relatively short and easy to read.

This book, however, In Defense of Food, is a pretty intense account of how modern society has lost the true meaning of food and how we can get it back. Michael Pollan suggests that we eat food, not too much, and mostly plants.

Why? Guess you’ll have to read it and find out, foodies.

2.  The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan

The Omnivore's Dilemma

This one of many great health books takes you on a crazy journey of Michael Pollan’s attempt to eat three very different meals: modern human’s meal, a meal that is bought from organic and local grocery stores, and finally, a meal that he solely creates himself (including getting his own salt from the ocean himself… seriously).

His journey is incredibly detailed and somewhat heartbreaking (mainly to see how far our modern diet has fallen from our ideal diet, and consequently, how far our health has fallen).

This book was a little tough for me to get through; it was just hard to hold my interest after about 2/3 of the way through. But definitely worth the read, I can’t believe Michael Pollan did so much research and work for this account.

3. The Gluten Connection, Shari Lieberman

Gluten Connection

This book changed my life, although I realize it won’t seem nearly as awesome to people who either don’t have a problem with gluten or people who don’t realize they have a problem with gluten.

This is the book that made me realize that gluten was truly making me sick. It’s a pretty fascinating book among the many great health books that talks about why gluten makes people sick, how it makes people sick, and it provides details and other accounts of many people and illnesses that the gluten-free diet helps.

It also talks about why dogs shouldn’t eat gluten and also provides some beginner gluten-free recipes. I would really recommend this book, even if you have no problems whatsoever with gluten, just because it’s fascinating and heartbreaking to see just how much food affects our health.

4. The Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford

Optimum Nutrition

This book is among the great health books as good for knowing, or at least trying to know, what your optimum nutrition should be, including vitamin and mineral intake, which is essential for proper health.

It also talks about why gluten is potentially bad for everyone, advocates for you to stop smoking, and digs its heels in on the importance of vitamin C.

His research and advice have been great assets to my personal health journey; hopefully, you’ll find this book simultaneously overwhelming and helpful (sorry, but it is a little overwhelming).

5. Gluten is My Bitch, April Peveteaux

Gluten is my Bitch

I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book, but I’m putting it on here for the recipes and fun of it.

I have mixed feelings about it because for someone who going gluten-free saved (meaning me), this book is from the perspective of someone who perceives that going gluten-free is an ailment and has ruined her life.

She only appears to be gluten-free because she absolutely had to be or she’ll experience terrible symptoms as she has celiac disease. But, I did love the recipes (especially the nacho one, which I made with dairy-free cheese, of course, and has been a staple in my house for years now) and her humor is great and the writing was entertaining. Worth a read!

6. Delight Gluten-Free Magazine

Delight

I really enjoy this magazine, although technically not categorized among the great health books.

I find the articles helpful and the recipes are amazing (albeit complicated on occasion…) It’s great for people who have limited diets and experience symptoms of food intolerances, as its fancy recipes make you feel like you are special and its articles assist with things like what could be causing your migraines (gluten, duh) and how to get kids to eat gluten-free without making it too healthy (is there such a thing?).

Anyway, these are just a few books that have shaped my journey into natural health and are worth the read if you’re gluten-free and wondering how best to take care of your body!

Is Gluten Bad for Everyone?

So is it? Is gluten bad for everyone?

Gluten Bad?

Me back in spring of 2009, when I shaved my pits, had no arm tattoos, and thought gluten was all fun and games.

Oh, and I love how those signs say “Better For You” in the background. REALLY?

Short answer: no. My answer: possibly.

Some people have negative reactions to gluten. Others do not. When considering is gluten bad for everyone, consider that the reason for this probably has to do with a combination of genes, your immune system, and the kind of gluten you are eating, and maybe even where you live.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. And it doesn’t have to be whole wheat. That white all-purpose flour you use is chock-full of gluten.

Gluten is what makes bread dough sticky and well textured. Certain kinds of breads and other bread products have more gluten than others. For instance, bagels are reckoned to have one of the highest gluten contents of all bakery products.

Gluten Today is Different

Let’s be honest: gluten today is not the same gluten it was 200 years ago. This is why you’re probably considering is gluten bad for everyone. It’s just not.

It’s processed differently, making many of the nutrients in it unavailable to our bodies or nonexistent, and giving rise to hordes of people who have an adverse reaction to the protein.

What Gluten Is In

Gluten is present in but not limited to: pasta, bread, cookies, cakes, soups, sauces (soy sauce!), dog/cat food and treats, cereals, oatmeal (doesn’t contain gluten itself but is likely contaminated with it through processing), pretzels, etc.

It’s in so much stuff that it’s kind of amazing people are wondering is gluten bad for everyone.

How Being Intolerant to Gluten Works

A lot of people are eating gluten and feel “fine”. I put fine in scare quotes because some people think they feel their best only because it’s all they’ve ever known. They don’t know that they can feel better. And then you have some people eating this who are really sick like I was years ago.

Gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, and celiac disease are considered to be responses that are auto-immune in nature. What this means is that the body attacks itself in the presence of this protein (gluten).

The body can attack any part of itself, meaning it could be the cause of irritable bowel syndrome, ADHD/ADD, lupus, acne, migraines, autism, bipolar depression, schizophrenia, dermatomyositis, and more.

For me, my body attacked my muscles in the presence of gluten. I was eating gluten for about 16 years and was totally “fine” until one morning in June 2007 I woke up to some minor muscle pain. In 5 days, I was crippled and could not walk. I was in a wheelchair at age 16.

This sounds bizarre, but this can happen with food allergies, and you need to understand that it can happen. Your body can be totally cool with gluten for years and years, and then one day, it can develop an autoimmune response to it, sometimes seemingly overnight (like in my case).

The same goes for other potential food allergens, which is why many people are wondering today if gluten is bad for everyone.

So some people may have a problem with gluten and not even know it. Have an out of control child? Try eliminating gluten. Have IBS? Again, try eliminating gluten. You could go get tested, but I’ve found the best way to know for sure, due to tests being rather inconclusive due to a variety of reasons, is to just cut it out and see if you see a difference.

If you are going to go gluten-free, you need to do it 100%. You cannot just eat gluten “sometimes”. This is not how it works. You need to be 100% gluten-free for at least 14 days and up to 30-90 days in order for this to work, or to see any difference.

Who Reacts?

I think it’s entirely possible that while not everyone may have an adverse reaction to gluten, many people are living with the consequences of having a gluten sensitivity/intolerance/celiac disease and don’t even know it.

So instead of thinking is gluten bad for everyone, think about whether or not it’s bad for you. Get tested or go gluten-free to know for sure.

I would definitely encourage you to do this if you are experiencing some painful/odd health symptoms and your docs can’t figure out what is going on, or they think they know what is going on but they put you on meds that don’t help. I would extremely encourage you to do this if you are living with an autoimmune disorder such as lupus, dermatomyositis, eczema, Crohn’s disease, etc.

My Gluten Reaction

After what happened to me, I think trying the gluten-free diet for at least two weeks would be beneficial for everyone who thinks that they could feel better.

But of course, I’m biased. The only way to know is to decide for yourself what would be best, not just is gluten bad for everyone.

People ask me if being gluten-free is hard. I say, “Well, it’s easier than chemo.” I was on and off chemo for nearly five years after being misdiagnosed with an illness that gluten was causing.

Where to Find GF Stuff

There are so many gluten-free options out there.

Many restaurants have gluten-free pasta and pizza, if you’re still into cheese (which I’m not). People are understanding that many people have issues with gluten, which is why people are thinking is gluten bad for everyone.

Grocery stores, even ones that are non-specialty now, carry many gluten-free breads and cookies. For me, I don’t like to replace all the things I used to eat back in my Oreo days with gluten-free alternatives.

Why? Because it’s expensive, mostly disappointing (you’ll soon find out why; it’s hard to make healthy flour alternatives taste and look good), and not exactly healthy.

I prefer to eat mainly vegetables and feel good. Plus, you shouldn’t be eating all that sugar!

Gluten FAQ

What is the difference between gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, and celiacs?

Gluten sensitivity: a mild form of gluten sickness. People who have a gluten sensitivity may have little or no symptoms from eating gluten. This could stay the same for years, or it could turn into…

Gluten intolerance: a bad form of gluten sickness. People who have gluten intolerance will almost always experience negative symptoms. These could range anywhere from severe unexplained muscle pain to autism. Again, this could potentially stay the same if you keep eating gluten, or it could turn into…

Celiac disease: the most severe form of gluten sickness. People who have celiac disease cannot eat any gluten at all or they will be really sick and experience severe symptoms. This sickness could have symptoms ranging from stomach problems to migraines to skin or muscle problems. The most common symptom is stomach discomfort.

Are gluten and wheat the same thing?

Technically, no. All wheat contains gluten but not all gluten contains wheat. Gluten can be present in wheat, barley, and rye. Wheat has gluten in it, but gluten does not have wheat in it, if that makes sense. If something says “wheat free”, this does NOT mean it is gluten-free! You need to read the labels carefully!

To further complicate finding gluten-free items, you need to understand the definition of gluten-free according to the FDA, because these products can still have small amounts of gluten in them that the body can react to.

Why doesn’t my doctor know about this?

We shouldn’t blame the docs, necessarily. They’re certainly not thinking is gluten bad for everyone. They are trained to treat your ailments with pharmaceutical products. Most of them are only required to take 1-2 nutrition classes (if that) throughout their entire medical education. Plus, they are making some cash monies by pushing pharmaceutical products on you.

Ultimately, you need to educate yourself about your health and you need to decide what is best for you.

Of course, you can consult with your doctor, but don’t let them tell you what to do with your body. They are there to advise and treat you, but they won’t look at food as the first cause of your ailments when they really should. I have firsthand experience of how wrong this can go.

Should my pets be eating gluten?

Depends on your pet.

Some dogs and cats, like people, do fine with gluten. Others have a lot of problems with it including allergies (dark eyes, constant itching, seizures, etc.), poor stools (bloody, loose, constipation, etc.), hyperactivity, lethargy, etc. The list can go on and on.

If your pooch is experiencing any type of health problem (think arthritis or gastrointestinal issues), eliminating gluten might be a good idea. The problem is, most grocery stores carry shitty dog food and cat food brands like Purina and Friskies. You need to go online or try a different store to get quality food that’s gluten-free.

Does alcohol have gluten in it?

Depends on what kind. Beer, yes. Wine, whiskey, vodka, rum: no.

Surprisingly, most alcohols are gluten-free. Beer is a big no-no except for gluten-free beer. But even liquors that are made with barley/malt, like whiskey, are gluten-free because the gluten is processed out in the distilling process. Interesting!

I tried going gluten-free and didn’t notice a difference. Is it possible that another food is causing my symptoms?

Absolutely. Dairy, corn, and soy are more of the big allergens. Dairy is a big one for causing acne due to the hormones in the milk. Everyone’s body is different. It’s going to take some work to discover what’s best for you.

Remember, you didn’t actually “try” to go gluten-free if you didn’t give up 100% of gluten for a period of at least 30 days.

Should I be worried about foods being “contaminated” with gluten if I am gluten-free?

Depends how sensitive to gluten you are.

If you have celiac, you need to be worried. You probably shouldn’t even be eating in restaurants that have gluten in the kitchen.

If you have gluten sensitivity/gluten intolerance you might not even notice if you eat french fries that have been cooked in the same oil as wheat flour. It just depends on your body.

For me, I won’t use the same knife or cutting board that had wheat bread on it, or the same spoon to stir pasta that’s not gluten-free. But I’m down to have those french fries.

So which form of gluten sickness do you have?

I believe I have a gluten intolerance. I have never been tested for gluten intolerance for various reasons, among them being:

1. I was super sick when I realized gluten was making me sick, so I immediately stopped eating it.

2. Tests can be inconclusive, especially blood tests (I know this from being a former phlebotomist). Stool tests are the most accurate tests for gluten sensitivity/intolerance/celiac disease.

What if I have other questions?

Feel free to contact me, but there’s a ton of information out there via books and the Internet. You can also see an herbalist or nutritionist. Your doctor may not be so educated about gluten-free, but this will depend on your doc. Stay tuned for my next post about foodie literature, including some gluten-free staples!

Why Local Eggs Are Better: A Visual Comparison

Why are local eggs better? Let’s take a look, shall we?

2 Eggs

What is the difference between these two eggs? Anyone?

Ok yeah, the colors. Also the size and shape. These are things that you can see in the picture.

The things that you can’t necessarily see in the picture are the more disturbing things.

The Shells Are Different

The egg on the left’s shell is thin and brittle.

The Yolk Is Different

The egg on the left’s yolk also contains more cholesterol, because it was from an unhealthy chicken who was fed things that she was not supposed to eat. She also didn’t get any exercise. This chicken was probably contained in a cage that she could not even turn around in.

The Life of The Chicken Was Different

EVEN if the package says “free-range”, the United States’ standard for free-range ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

For instance, the U.S’s free-range policy states that the chickens must have been allowed access to the outside.

What does this mean? As one of my favorite journalists Michael Pollan says, it means that for the last two weeks of their life, the chickens are allowed access to a little door on the side of a giant barn that houses thousands of chickens restricted to tiny cages. This door is opened for the last two weeks of their life, and the chickens are allowed outside (outside meaning a tiny fenced-in area that has a dirt ground).

Problem is, by that point, the chickens have lived their whole life in a tiny cage in a dark barn. They probably know their life is bad, but they have no idea what is on the other side of that door and they aren’t particularly eager to find out.

Cage-Free Is Not Better

“Cage-free” eggs also tend to be another marketing scam.

Most of the time this means that the chickens live in severely confined spaces where they are more prone to disease due to being on the ground and in contact their own feces and other chickens, who are probably sick too.

This is sad, right? This egg could have been purchased at any supermarket in America.

So what about the egg on the right?

The egg on the right’s shell is firm and hard to crack. The chicken (who I saw) lived a life outside on the ground, pecking away at grass and bugs. This chicken was occasionally chased by a walking 18-month-old or a small dog. She lived her life with other chickens and was lovingly put in a safe, comfortable barn every evening to protect her from foxes and raccoons. She did not eat genetically modified food. She was not sick. She was never in a cage.

Why Local Is What You Want

The egg on the right is a local egg and belongs to a true free-range chicken, aka LOCAL chicken. Why are local eggs better?

1. You know where they came from.

2. You are eating healthier, lower-cholesterol, natural yolks with more beta-carotene.

3. You are not supporting those sad tortured chickens in tiny cages managed by industrial farms out for a profit.

4. You reduce your risk of getting sick from those nasty commercial eggs.

Finding local eggs can be difficult depending on where you live.

Finding healthy local eggs is even more of a challenge.

How do you know that the person who owned those chickens wasn’t feeding them genetically modified grains, antibiotic feed, or Wonder bread? You just have to ask questions, or better yet, go and see the farm for yourself.

If they have nothing to hide then they shouldn’t deny you access. Most people would be happy to give you a tour if they know you are eating their chickens’ eggs and therefore supporting their existence.

Finding local eggs was very easy for me when I lived in Pennsylvania. Finding local eggs is very difficult for me where I live now.

You can find natural food stores but beware of industries trying to masquerade as healthy, friendly companies. There’s a market for this, people. There’s a reason that gluten-free products and Whole Foods are so expensive–because there is money to be made from people who are trying to eat better.

Your local eggs should come directly from a farm (meaning YOU get them directly from the farm, not Whole Foods) or from a small local store that carries eggs from local farmers. The farmer’s name and contact information should be directly on the carton. And don’t be afraid if these cartons are mismatched or seemingly from Giant—farmers recycle donated egg boxes to save themselves from having to purchase any.

Commercial eggs completely gross me out now and I don’t trust the United States Department of Agriculture to tell me what’s good and what’s not when it comes to eggs.

Cooking the Eggs

Let’s have a look at the inside of these eggs, shall we?

I was so grossed out by this commercial egg that I couldn’t even bear the thought of putting it in my beloved cast iron. I had to borrow a Teflon pan to cook this sucker

Commercial Egg

Looks like a normal, American egg, right? And it is! From a sick hen who was not allowed to live a natural life and confined to a cafe. Look at that bright yellow yolk. And then compare it to this:

Farm Egg

Can you see how much darker in color these yolks are? Natural, really healthy chicken yolks from local eggs are very dark orange. That’s because they are chock-full of beta-carotene and other healthy vitamins.

Naturally lower in cholesterol, these eggs have really firm yolks that are difficult to break and they tend to stick together after they are broken. Look at them after I broke the yolks (because I can’t stand my yolks runny!)

Farm Eggs Yolk

And then let’s look at our disgusting commercial egg after the yolk has been broken and the Teflon has fried it to a crisp:

Commercial Egg Yolk

Eww, it just runs right out of there. The egg’s shell is brittle, the yolk and egg white are thin and runny, and the yolk is bright yellow. Sounds like a pretty sick hen to me. No way was I putting that in my cast iron.

So obviously I made two of the local eggs because they are delicious and healthy so I ate them. I am very sorry for wasting this commercial egg, I figure if the chicken went through all that suffering and sickness to provide this one egg, I should eat it right? But alas, I cannot.

Do a little bit more thinking the next time you buy your eggs. Lots of unhealthy chickens depend on your purchases. You can make a difference if you stop buying! You’re one person, but so am I! Together we can influence, educate, and change. Buy local eggs!

Why to Use Cast Iron: It’s Your New BFF

If you’re into cooking food, you might be considering why to use cast iron.

With other non-stick options like Teflon, why would you ever use cast iron?

cast iron

What Is the Problem With Teflon, Exactly?

Teflon is just another name for a synthetic chemical, which is processed with other chemicals to make your non-stick surfaces.

These other chemicals are supposedly not present in significant amounts when the finished product is done.

(And we should all thoroughly trust the government to regulate what’s a “significant” amount of toxic chemicals and bleach in our stuff, right? Right.)

So.

These chemicals break down in high temps and get into your food, and therefore, in your body. They are carcinogenic.

You ESPECIALLY need to stay away when the pan is scratched, because then the literal particles of Teflon and its fun gang of chemical friends are going into your food/mouth.

You need to throw these things out immediately if they are scratched (and even if they are not scratched, but baby steps, right?)

So Why to USe Cast Iron?

I was introduced to cast iron the same summer I was introduced to coconut oil so you can bet my summer was filled with fun adventures of getting used to all the perks of the cast iron and using the hell out of that coconut oil.

And, it was also filled with a ton of nachos and refried beans, thanks to a recipe out of a gluten-free book called Gluten is my Bitch by April Peveteaux, which was, coincidentally, also given to me that summer for my birthday.

ANYWAY. So, why to use cast iron?

  • You can use it on the stove or in the oven.
  • You do not have to wash it. At all. (Ok so you can wash it sometimes and maybe you even should when you cook meat in it but who am I to say?)
  • It holds temperature really well, although it takes a bit more time to get heated up.
  • You can do weight workouts with it when you’ve misplaced your dumbbells.
  • You can club people with it and there’s a possibility they may not return from unconsciousness. Which comes in handy when you live alone in a cabin in the woods.
  • It does not have nasty harmful chemicals in it that will give you cancer.

I first learned that I didn’t have to wash cast iron when I actually washed it and it rusted. I had to refinish it several times after that. LEARNING CURVE.

It’s easy to refinish a cast iron once you’ve royally screwed over your pan, so don’t worry. Another awesome reason about why to use cast iron. It’s virtually indestructible.

You just need some steel wool and some oil or fat. Cast iron does not need to be washed. I wipe mine out with a cloth when I’m done. Then again, I am also not cooking raw meats in there or commercial eggs which may have campylobacter or salmonella.

So, if you’re cooking these things in a cast iron, you might want to use just a little Dr. Bronner’s to rinse it out. You’re allowed to use a little dish soap, but only if it’s not tested on animals.

Cast iron holds heat really well, so after it’s heated up you need to turn that temp down to low most of the time. And don’t try and pick it up without a cloth or a potholder when it’s hot! Ooo baby.

Doesn’t Food Cooked In Cast Iron Stick?

Actually, if it’s been properly seasoned (oiled) and maintained, it doesn’t stick at all. A great reason why to use cast iron.

You DO need to use more oil than a Teflon pan, though. If you are not using enough oil, your food will stick.

To get the stuck food out, use kosher salt or your metal spatula.

Don’t soak it! Water and cast iron do not mix well (it’s ok to add water to the pan when cooking but it may alter the seasoning a little, making it more likely to stick).

There are a ton of tips and helpful sites out there to assist you with your first cast iron. Don’t be afraid! You should be afraid of getting cancer, not some silly heavy pan.

Where to Buy and Prices

You can get a medium-size cast iron for as cheap as $9.99 at T.J Maxx. I also found a big cast iron that I use when I’m cooking for more than one person at a flea market in Virginia for $10.

They do sell new ones for quite a bit of money, though. For your first one, I wouldn’t spend that much. Try to find something cheaper so you can experiment and you won’t feel entirely heartbroken if you’ve ruined it. Look and you will find when considering why to use cast iron.

NOTE: I’ve heard recently that commercial cast iron pans are sprayed with some type of chemicals to make them “seasoned”. I haven’t looked into this claim yet because both my cast irons have been so damn seasoned over my years of use that I’m pretty sure any chemicals have burned off. But check it out before buying…

I’m Not Into Cast Iron—What Else Can I Use?

There are other alternatives out there. You can use ceramic. Supposedly ceramic is cool. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet because the non-stick nature of it reminds me of Teflon, even though I know it’s NOT Teflon.

You can also use copper and stainless steel, but be aware these metals may be made with other metals and get into the food too. Look for high-quality stainless steel.

Glass and Corningware seem ok. I’ve also heard that the type of iron used in the cast iron pans is not great for the body either as the body doesn’t absorb it the same way as it would an organic iron.

Confusing, right? As long as I’m not using Teflon, I feel ok.

So there you have it. Give cast iron a try. These pans are cheap, virtually indestructible, and make amazing dishes that crisp like no other. Why would you ever go back to Teflon when you could have one of these gems?

Everyone Always Asks: What Do I Eat? (Hint: I’m Not Vegan)

Everyone always asks about my diet. Actually, I’m assumed to be vegan most of the time. I’m not vegan and I don’t necessarily support veganism, although I do think it’s an amazing lifestyle and diet choice for the right people.

By telling you what I eat, it’s probably best to start with what I do NOT eat:

  • gluten (wheat, barley, and rye)
  • dairy
  • commercial eggs
  • commercial meat
  • coffee
  • alcohol
  • artificial sweeteners

I also try really hard to stay away from non-organic food and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This is really important to me. Here’s just an overview of my diet.

I Try to Avoid Genetically Modified Food

There’s so little research done on the impact of GMOs, and yet it is in almost all of our food. Researchers note “There is a great deal of unknowns when it comes to the risks of GM food.”

Look for the “Non-GMO” label on foods before you buy or choose organic, as current regulations prevent the use of genetically modified crops in organic food.

The reason it’s called “Non-GMO” rather than “GMO-Free” is because it’s apparently really easy for cross-contamination between fields to occur between GMO crop and non-GMO crop.

I find it really difficult to support GMOs for a few reasons, these include:

  • They cause tumors in rats (although that study has since been retracted… suspicious).
  • GMO crops are fed to most of the livestock you eat, so it’s in animals products such as meat, milk, cheese, and eggs. It’s not natural for most of these animals to be eating grains, let alone genetically modified ones.
  • Oh, and also, they are completely screwing with our ecosystem, making bugs resistant to pesticides and plants resistant to herbicides. We now have trouble controlling unwanted plants and bugs due to the fact that they adapt so fast to whatever mankind can throw at them.

So, done with the GMO lesson. If you want to find out more information, please educate yourself and do some research.

I Eat Mostly Organic

Currently, anything organic cannot be genetically modified. This is another great reason to buy organic! I eat a lot of organic fruits and vegetables. I eat organic brown rice, quinoa, and local eggs, among many other things.

I know organic isn’t perfect: they still use pesticides, just ones that are “organically derived”. I feel organic is the better choice. Plus, when a conventional strawberry contains the residue of 17 different pesticides after washing, I’m inclined to think the organic option is better.

Almost everything I buy is organic. If you’re interested in seeing the list of foods you absolutely should buy organic, check out this list.

I Only Eat Meat If I Know Who Killed the Animal and Where It Came From

I only eat meat if I know who specifically killed the animal.

My brother hunts deer, so I get deer meat from him. I like to know that the animal had a natural life and ate what it would normally eat in the wild (unfortunately deer do like to eat GMO crops, however).

I also got a turkey from people I used to nanny for. I saw the turkey every day I worked there and know it had a happy and natural life.

So yeah. I never buy meat at the store or order meat at restaurants. I really prefer local meat.

We also get beef from a local cattle ranch where the cows are allowed to graze and their pasture is organic. We eat meat once or twice a week at the most.

I definitely don’t miss eating meat with every single meal. My boyfriend Ian made these delicious creations called quinoa burgers. Delightfully simple to make and so delicious you won’t even miss the meat!

Don’t judge, I love my organic mustard and ketchup. We also love this burger on a gluten-free bun with avocado.

What About Fish?

I only eat wild-caught fish, never farmed fish, and wild and pole-caught tuna. I’m not a big fish eater and so don’t eat fish that often (I know it’s really good for you I just don’t like the taste that much).

My neighbor fishes and I occasionally get fish from him as well. Local!

I Do Still  Eat Sugar

I definitely don’t eat sugar every day, but I do still eat chocolate, cupcakes, and marshmallows on occasion.

The sugar I eat just needs to be free of gluten and dairy, thank you very much.

I’m Intolerant to Dairy

In addition to being intolerant to gluten, I’m also intolerant to dairy, meaning my body reacts to it and I can’t eat.

I don’t really miss dairy as the dairy industry is horrible and inhumane. Plus there are so many great alternatives these days. So yeah I do still enjoy some vegan cheese.

Other Stuff I Eat

I love pomegranates (in season now!) and avocados.

I also love veggie, gluten-free, dairy-free pizza.

And gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO nachos (another Ian creation).

And let’s not forget doughnuts (gluten-free/dairy-free of course!)

And pancakes.

But mostly, my small meals look something like this:

Organic green tea, mango, and kiwi. Or, organic spinach, blueberries, and watermelon with pom juice.

I love to get creative with food. So a couple years ago for Ian’s birthday, I made us shrimp pad thai burgers (Ian and I adore Thai food).

Jealous much? No? Well, you should be, because they were delicious! And this past Valentine’s Day I made us homemade sushi, with vegetables, of course.

So you see I eat much like any normal person would (except normal people don’t have awesome food as often as I do, whaaatt). I just don’t eat bread that often (gluten-free bread is expensive!) and I pack on the veggies and fruits. I also make a wicked soup for when I get sick, which isn’t often at all nowadays.

So, I’ll admit that I do splurge. You have to when your diet is a little limited, right? When I do splurge I go to my favorite organic market and buy myself a kombucha and a package of these amazing cookies.

So, the ingredients aren’t totally awesome but they are gluten-free and non-GMO. I love you, Liz Lovely! And for the record, I’ve made a lot of gluten-free cookies and bought a lot of them too, but these take the cake hands down in any situation.

Take care of your body: eat great food!

10 Foods You Should Never Eat (Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You)

Let’s have a conversation about foods you should never eat.

Everyone is talking about food these days, it seems. Do this diet, avoid this food. Bash Gwyneth Paltrow for saying she’d rather die than feed her children Cup-A-Noodles.

You agree with her, right?

Besides examining Cup-A-Noodles, let’s look at a few foods that I will, with good reason, advise you to avoid. Here are 10 foods you should never eat.

1. Artificial Sweeteners

Splenda. Equal. Sweet’N Low. Truvia.

Think these are natural? Read the ingredients.

Then look those ingredients up, because you won’t know what they are.

Basically, just avoid anything that says “Sugar-Free”, “Low-Fat”, “Light”, or “Diet”. These products remove sugar or fat but then bulk up on sodium or artificial sweeteners to replace the flavor.

Artificial sweeteners have been linked to cancer and are definitely among the top foods you should never eat. Want something without added sugar? Eat an apple.

2. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Ah, the fun that is GMOs.

This food could be anything from Tostitos (corn and soy are the biggest producers of GMO crops) to cheese.

Why cheese?

Because the cows that you get your milk from are getting GMOs too (they are unnaturally fed corn, which is why they are sick and on antibiotics, which is why YOU will get sick and end up on antibiotics).

GMOs are in almost everything, which makes it hard to put on the list for foods you should never eat.

Genetically modified food is huge in the United States, but don’t let that be your reason to buy it. The DNA of the food is artificially altered and it’s going into your body. Your body has been processing normal, real food for thousands and thousands of years.

Genetically modified food may look like real food, but the fakeness of it will corrupt your body’s health and end up in your baby’s bloodstream.

3. Non-Organic Produce

I do love organic food but don’t quite consider it to be as luscious as the food you grow yourself.

I view it as the lesser of two evils because they’re still using pesticides on it, they just aren’t the same pesticides that they’re using on non-organic food.

Plus, I hate the way non-organic apples look shiny, like some poor girl’s lips in a Cover Girl commercial (can you say animal testing? Someone please tell Taylor Swift that she’s advocating for animal suffering). That’s not natural.

Organic food also tastes better—bananas, apples, spinach, blueberries—and current regulations prohibit GMOs if it’s organic. It’ll spoil sooner, but it tastes like food is supposed to taste and FYI, rotting food is completely natural. You shouldn’t be putting anything into your body that won’t eventually rot.

4. High Fructose Corn Syrup

But you love it! Right?

It’s in sodas, candies, ice cream, sweet tea, and bread. And there’s more where that came from.

Not only is this GMO (corn, people!) but it’s also a revamped way of making sugar. Manufacturers can use less high fructose corn syrup than sugar and achieve even more sweetness.

The problem? It’s totally screwing with the way your body processes insulin. Hello, diabetes.

5. Sick Animals

Eating sick animals is as simple as picking up a package of hamburger meat at your local supermarket. So put this on your list of foods to never eat.

Where did it come from?

What kind of life did it live?

Was it sick; was it on drugs or hormones?

And even more importantly, what did it eat?

Because you are what you eat. If you’re picking up meat at the grocery store, even if you’re purchasing organic meat or grass-fed meat, consider what it ate, how it lived and died, and what part you play in it.

Local meat is way better.  But be sure to find out just how local it is before buying.

6. Farmed Fish

Again, this just isn’t natural. This is like a children’s book of “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” Imagine a series of farm animals and your child points to the fish and says, “That one! The fish doesn’t live on a farm!”

Well, now it does, Junior.

Farmed fish is unhealthy. They typically live in small areas with lots of other fish, therefore being prone to disease and bacteria. They are also fed… guess what, GMOs.

In what world did fish ever eat corn?

The world in which fish became one of the things on your list for foods you should never eat. Go fishing and do the dirty work yourself, or, if you don’t have time and are still trying to pack in that omega-3, buy wild fish at the store or market.

7. Sugar

Wow, you’re surprised to find this on here, right?

You’re saying, “But you said to avoid artificial sweeteners, not real sweeteners!”

Relax, my friends. I will introduce you to some alternatives that will be your buddies until you put added sugar on your list of foods to never eat for good.

Refined sugar is in cakes, candies, bread, salad dressings, meats, soups, and countless other things.

Try these other options that are less taxing on your body and health:

  • Agave nectar (sweeter than sugar with a lower glycemic index!)
  • Honey
  • Unrefined sugars like coconut nectar or raw organic sugar
  • Maple syrup (REAL maple syrup, NOT Aunt Jemima! She steered you wrong, girl)

Many people argue that sugar and sugar and our bodies process it the same. I would disagree with this, as apples contain fiber that helps your body absorb it over a period of time. This differs from candy where your body gets an instant sugar high.

Swap out refined sugars for more natural ones until you’re ready to kick added sugar and all its toxic effects for good.

8. Artificial Colors, Flavors, and Preservatives

Your body never ate these in the millions of years since humans have been here, so it has no idea what to do with them.

So these are in the foods-you-should-never-eat pile. Just don’t eat them and save yourself a trip to the toilet.

Examples include vanillin (in Hershey’s chocolate), aspartame (in Light Yoplait Yogurt—I told you about the “light”, people!), and BHT (also used in lighter fluid, and, in your frozen chicken nuggets).

9. Hydrogenated and Partially-Hydrogenated Oils (And Refined Oils)

These oils have been heated up to extreme temperatures so that they resemble a material akin to plastic.

Classic example: the hydrogenated oil in Jif peanut butter.

These oils are not naturally occurring at these temperatures and are not healthy when heated to this point. Stick to natural peanut butter and check your other snacks and processed foods for hydrogenated oils.

Other refined oils such as canola oil are often made from GMO crops as well, something we want to avoid.

They can thicken the blood and do other nasty things to your body. Foods you should never eat, meet Jif!

10. Processed Foods

You totally knew this was coming. If it comes in a box, it’s probably not ok, so these are among the foods you should never eat.

If it won’t rot at some point in the near future, it’s probably not benefitting your health. Stick to the produce section of your grocery store, and if you want to splurge, go for organic fresh fruit or organic dark chocolate.

Or, if you really must, eat healthy 90% of the time and then have your damn Cup-A-Noodles on the side.

Eating healthy is not that hard. Yes, of course, it’s an adjustment. However, it’s an adjustment that’s a huge investment to your health and will make you feel better. You’ll also be supporting a healthier planet and world by not buying toxic substances and then putting them into your body. Happy eating! 🙂