May 26, 2010

Healthy Snacks: Stretch Island All-Natural Fruit Strips and FruitaBu Rolls

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My kids love Stretch Island fruit snacks! It's a popular lunch item and car ride treat that I feel good about giving my children. There are two varieties that come in many flavors: fruit strips (leather) and fruit rolls.

  • All-natural, 100%-fruit

  • No sugar added; gluten-free; dairy-free; certified kosher

  • One bar equal to one fruit-exchange in diabetic diet

  • Made on Stretch Island, WA

My kids prefer the fruit strips over the rolls, probably because they are easier and neater to eat.  It is important to pay attention when buying Stretch Island products, as they do make organic and conventionally-grown versions of their popular snacks.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or negative.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

May 24, 2010

Vegan "Meat": Stonewall's Jerquee Good for Backpacking

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I am not a fan of fake meat products, and I find no real need for them or craving in my vegetarian diet. There is one time, however, when I need some quick protein and salt, and fake meat comes in handy: backpacking. A friend introduced me to Stonewall's Jerquee. These chewy treats are made from vegetable protein, and the original flavor is a little spicy. They do take a little getting used to, and my daughter calls them "dog treats". I wouldn't eat Stonewall's Jerquee everyday, but I think they are a good snack during physical endurance activities.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

May 20, 2010

California Considering Allowing Carcinogen Methyl Iodide on Strawberries

If you eat strawberries, chances are they are grown in either California or Florida. California is considering the use of methyl iodide on strawberry fields. Credo explains:

California is on the verge of approving a potent carcinogenic gas for use on strawberry fields and other food crops. The chemical -- methyl iodide -- is so toxic that scientists in labs use only small amounts with special protective equipment, yet agricultural applications mean it could be released directly into the air and water...
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved methyl iodide for agricultural use in 2007, amid criticism from more than 50 prominent scientists that the process was hidden from public view and the research focus was too limited. California followed with its own review. Even though a report from an independent panel of scientists in the California study declared that "methyl iodide is a highly toxic chemical and we expect that any anticipated scenario for the agricultural or structural fumigation use of this agent would result in exposures to a large number of the public and thus would have a significant adverse impact on public health," the Department of Pesticide Regulation nonetheless proposed that the chemical be approved.

One more reason to support organic farmers or grow your own!

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

May 3, 2010

Really Natural Foods: Terra Verde Extra Virgin Olive Oil

When you think of Texas, you probably don't think of olive oil. Recently, we were sent a bottle of Terra Verde Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Texas Hill Country Olive Company. This product is "estate grown & hand picked", as well as being 100% natural and cold pressed.

Texas Hill Country Olive Company is a family run artisanal olive orchard near the town of Dripping Springs, Texas. Our land is located in the Central Texas Hill Country, the perfect environment for growing olive trees.

The idea to offer individuals an opportunity to adopt an olive tree in the Texas Hill Country was conceived by John Gambini. Together with the Mensik Family, John turned the idea into a reality. Texas Hill Country Olive Company is an organic olive tree farm focused on developing some of the finest olive oil produced in the United States. We are proud to join the pioneering group of entrepreneurs who are building the olive oil industry in the state of Texas.

What I don't understand is if the farm is organic, why isn't the olive oil? This olive oil has a very pleasant flavor, but organically-grown is best for health and our planet. For now, I think I will stick to Napa Valley Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil because it is made closer to home and carries the USDA organic label.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or negative.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

April 21, 2010

Really Natural Foods: Beaver Brand Gourmet Ketchup

Spring time is here and warmer temperatures brings on BBQ season. Whether you are cooking up organic beef or tofu burgers, unique condiments complement any outdoor meal. Beaverton Foods has just introduced a gourmet, all-natural ketchup that is blended with its award-winning honey mustard.

Beaverton Foods began over 80 years ago:

In 1929 Rose Biggi started Beaverton Foods in the cellar of her farmhouse. To help endure the Great Depression, she began grinding her horseradish crop, bottling it, and selling it to local grocery stores. Through her hard work and perseverance, she not only survived the hard economic times, but also built the foundation for the largest specialty condiment manufacturer in the United States.

This gourmet ketchup is very affordable ($3.50) and has a unique flavor, but I wish it was made with organically-grown ingredients. Furthermore, it came shipped in a box of styrofoam peanuts rather than the compostable kind.  At least the bottle is recyclable.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or negative.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

April 16, 2010

re:newal Bottled Spring Water Made From Plants, Not Oil

We all know bottled water is bad, but sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where thirst demands you buy a bottle rather than sip off a dirty gas station bathroom sink. Fortunately, companies like renewal premium spring water - 'The Eco-friendly water bottle', environmentally friendly bottles made from plants offer consumers a choice.

As families are increasingly moving to a more sustainable lifestyle
the bottled water industry is quickly trying to adapt to stay
relevant. This $11 billion business actually declined slightly in
2009 and there was a flurry of activity among traditional beverage
companies to try and adapt. PepsiCo introduced Eco-Fina with 50
percent less plastic. Coke introduced a "plant bottle" which actually
still contains 80% plastic from crude oil and Nestle introduced
Re-source made from 25% recycled plastic. The reality is that plastic
is still derived from crude oil and takes up to 1000 years to break
down naturally.

Other brands like 're:newal premium spring water' are taking a
completely different approach to change the business but introducing a
plant bottle made entirely from corn. The resin (known as PLA) is made
completely from plants and can be returned to the earth in its natural
state. re:newal is one of a small group of companies using this
material and re:newal is unique in combing natural spring water with a
100% biodegradable bottle and label.

The only unfortunate thing about this bottled water (besides being bottled water) is that the facility is located in Florida. In an ideal world, the few times we find we need bottled water, we would have options to purchase petroleum-free plastic bottles holding locally sourced water. The transportation of water across the country certainly bears a heavy carbon footprint and must be considered.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or negative.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

April 8, 2010

7 States Investigating Monsanto's Monopoly

Seven US states district attorneys are investigating the evil Monsanto for abusing "its market power to lock out competitors and raise prices on seed". According to the Organic Consumers Association:

The states are probing whether Monsanto violated laws by offering rebates to seed distributors for excluding rival seeds, imposing limits on combining the product with other genetic modifications, or offering cash incentives to switch farmers to more expensive generation of seed varieties.

The state investigations add to pressure on Monsanto. The US Justice Department is investigating the company's marketing practices, and DuPont Company has accused Monsanto of anti-competitive practices in licensing litigation.

Maybe anti-trust laws will finally bring this agricultural giant down!

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

April 7, 2010

Really Natural Books: Animal Factory

Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment by David Kirby is an eye-opening, informative account of how factory farming is negatively affecting our health and environment. I have not read this book cover to cover at the time of this review, but I am very impressed at its thoroughness and message.

Animal Factory is a thoroughly-researched piece of investigative journalism, in which Kirby sets out to approach factory farms differently from 'Fast Food Nation' or 'Eating Animals'. As his powerful and provocative books shows, the supermarket price of milk, pork, steak and chicken do not reflect the actual costs of mass-producing meat and dairy, which are passed on the to surrounding communities, including:

  • Airborne feces sprayed by farms, covering neighboring homes, fields, and towns

  • Recalls of dangerous meats, fruits, and vegetables caused by farm pathogens

  • Increasing public health crises, including asthma and MRSA infection, and possibly swine flu and leukemia and other cancers in communities adjacent to these farms

  • High levels of feces and nitrates in public water supplies near these farms. The New York Times recently reported that "19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from drinking water contaminated with parasites, bacteria or viruses." (9/15/09)

  • Massive fish kills in local waters from pig and cow manure lagoon spills

  • Immense costs to clean up hazardous farms, absorbed by taxpayers or individual farmers, rather than by the corporations that profit from such practices

  • Dead zones spreading miles out to sea, where marine life is suffocated by algae growth stimulated in part by factory farm pollution

In Animal Factory, Kirby follows three American families in different regions of the US, whose lives have been utterly changed by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs. Weaving complex science, politics, business, and the lives of everyday people, Kirby documents a crisis that has reached a critical juncture in the history of human health and our larger global environment.

I like how Kirby tracks factory farms affect on families, as it gives a human touch to a story that is truly overwhelming to contemplate.

As a vegetarian, my life is still affected by factory animal farms. No one is immune. We must support local, traditional farms as consumers to really bring about change, as well as make sure our politicians are aware of the consequences of factory farming. Anyone that has visited or driven by a large factory farm, like Harris Ranch on I-5 in California, knows, the situation is not good for animals or humans.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or negative.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

April 2, 2010

How to Super Simple, Super Cheap Make Organic Vegan Chocolate Pudding

One of the common complaints about switching to an organic diet is that it is more expensive, especially when it comes to convenience foods. Not everyone has time to make dishes from scratch using whole food ingredients. I recently discovered Dr. Oetker Organic Chocolate Pudding Mix on sale, and I figured out how to make it vegan by simply substituting soymilk for the milk.

Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Cornstarch, Organic Cocoa, Salt.

At $1.42 a box, anyone can afford this organic treat. It is super easy to make, just add soymilk and heat slowly, and it comes out tasting like real pudding (even with the layer of skim on the top). My kids love it, and I love how cheap and easy it is to make!
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

March 30, 2010

WTF? Cut Hair Used as Cheap Fertilizer and Food Additive

You've probably heard of the great program Locks of Love, in which people donate long hair to make wigs for sick children, but did you know that short hair clippings are used as cheap fertilizer and as food additives? Mother Jones explains:

Human hair isn't the only source of L-cys. You can extract it from poultry feathers or even synthesize it in a lab--although the end product is no different than what you'll get by dumping tons of barbershop waste into vats of hydrochloric acid and separating the coveted compound from the resulting chemical stew. George Cherian, chairman of Indian hair exporter Raj Impex Hair, however, has long been the cheapest source of L-cys. You'd be hard pressed to find a richer source: Human hair contains up to 20 percent cysteine by weight, while duck feathers may yield only about half as much.

But you'd be equally hard pressed to find food manufacturers willing to admit that they use the hair-derived version.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

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