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Tips For Avoiding GMO Food

Let me just say my journey to try and avoid GMO food, grow some of my own food, and talking to the experts that are growing clean food is very time consuming. And without a farming, engineering, or bio-tech background, it’s a difficult task for a busy mom of four. But I find so many aspects of our food supply fascinating so although it’s taking up a lot of time with research, I’m really enjoying this new journey. When I can post something new I’ve learned quickly, it’s all going on the Mommy Footprint fan page – so if your not already following there, click here and like the page.

So the husk of corn on the cob is really the poster child for genetically modified food. This is a good thing and bad. With the high, high percentage of soy, corn, and sugar beets grown modified, someone can become pretty paranoid of any of these foods. But if you think that just not eating corn on the cob this summer keeps you free and clear of genetically modified food, this would be a mistake. I spent a bit of time last week talking to a produce manager and their food distributor which was interesting to me since I do so much of my shopping at the opposite spectrum of a traditional grocery store. I was in a traditional, chain grocery store to buy 1 ingredient for a recipe and a stack of corn on the cob caught my eye in the produce section. So I asked the produce Manager if the corn was genetically modified since it was from the US. This question led to many phone calls and discussions about the grocery store’s sourcing of produce. Basically, a chain grocery store will receive certification from the farms that tells them if the seed used to grow corn is GMO. In this case the corn also turned out to be non-GMO corn. Well – blow me down with a feather. I was actually really surprised. And also was surprised to learn that most of the GMO corn that is produced in North America actually goes into corn ingredients in food, rather than the actual fresh corn. I tell you this long story for 2 reasons. Don’t think that all fresh corn is GMO – ask questions and demand store Managers get you answers since items like zucchini and corn don’t come with an ingredient stamp like packaged food. And although I see lots of organic zucchini, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen organic corn. The 2nd reason for the rant/story is don’t be rocked into a sense of security that GMO food only exists in the whole form: an ear of corn, a block of soy, a sugar beet, or whole Papaya. These genetically modified foods are high yield and are probably included in the 80% packaged, processed foods we buy in super markets.

So vowing to not eat or feed your children GMO food is really wishful thinking. Sorry, but it’s true…especially if your family eats packaged food, meat, your kids are schooled outside of your home, they attend birthday parties/play dates, or eat at a restaurant. That is why once people start to understand the wide spread impact of GMOs they join marches, post information on Facebook to friends, and try to bring understanding to people new on the journey. Because it’s too scary a journey to take alone.

What other food items could possibly contain GMO corn besides the corn husks we see popping onto produce shelves in the summer? On this list of invisible GM ingredients I would assume the easiest way to detect GMO corn ingredients is to look for: corn flour, corn masa, corn meal, corn oil, corn sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch but then I learn that an ingredient for GM corn on a label is lactic acid most commonly found from dairy products. I’ll suppose this is because cow’s eat corn? Oh yeah…not confusing at all.

Another easy way to isolate GMO ingredients with packaged food is Soy (over 95% of soy is now manufactured from GM seed) and listed again in the invisible GM ingredients as: soy flour, soy isolates, soy lecithin, soy milk, soy oil, soy protein, soy protein isolate, soy sauce. But did you also know that soy can be detected in food as hydrolyzed vegetable protein which is a “flavour enhancer” used in processed foods like soups, chili, sauces, gravies, stews and some meat products like hot dogs. Look at the back of any packaged foods in your home right now – chances are you will see one of 3 ingredients that contains the words corn x, soy x, or canola oil. These are three of the largest ingredient triggers that you are eating GMO food.

The last biggie which is very difficult to wrap you mind around and is now pretty much 100% GMO manufactured are sugar beets. This means all refined sugar or mostly anything sweet in your cupboard, unless organic or labeled as using cane sugar, contains GM sugar beets. It’s easy to see why avoiding GMOs is very difficult, even if you purchase a lot of food organic. Other ways I find that help are to shop local and find trusted food sources. You might need to ask a lot of questions in the beginning but once the detective work is done…it’s done. You will know where to pickup local produce which is a better alternative than organic. A hidden food source that can be highly contaminated for several different reasons is meat. It’s probably the toughest food to find a cleaner source because you actually need to contact the farmer in charge of feeding the animals. Good luck if you are shopping at a conventional store. But this is much easier if you shop at a local butcher that can tell you where the meat comes from. You need to ask if the meat is ‘finished’ and what the grain is used to finish the meat. Keep in mind that alfalfa used to feed cattle in the US is now GMO. Canadians are hoping that our alfalfa stays non-GMO but that is currently at risk. Do the animals you eat consume corn in their feed? Are preservatives used to help with your meat’s shelf life? It’s these preservatives that are casting such a black cloud over processed meats like deli and hotdogs.

Another surprise for me is even though we don’t buy papaya, that doesn’t stop GM papaya appearing in our chewing gum, fruit snacks, fruit juices, etc.  It’s another example of us hearing that paypayas have been grown genetically modified, but not stopped to think about the trickle effect into processed food. Can you completely stop GMO food from coming through your door, into your child’s body, into your own? It would be difficult and most everything you eat would need to be home-made. . . tough to do if your kids are in school. But you can become an ingredient reading, savvy consumer, that asks questions and is informed. And when you learn a product or brand only pumps out genetically modified food you can ban it from your home and find alternatives. It might take a year, but at the end of that 12 months, you’ll be healthier and more connected to the food you eat. You’ll probably be inspired to try growing some food yourself from heirloom, hybrid, or organic seed. And the further away you drift from the land of processed and back into the land of prepared or locally sourced, you will feed proud. And hopefully that you’ll be able to teach your family to eat healthier food until our government does something to protect it’s US and Canadian consumers. That is what other countries do. Do you know that Japan and Europe won’t accept Canadian Flax exports? They refuse to eat our modified crops.  Here are some more facts I learned at a meeting in my neighboring community that is trying to ban GE food from being grown:

1) There are three GMOs projects actively in the works in Canada: GE Salmon, Arctic Apple (non browning) & GE Alfalfa
2) GE alfalfa is the most critical problem b/c meat crops (beef, etc.) consume it. GE alfalfa is already happening in the US! They are trying to get it into Canada and many feel it’s an attack on the organics industry.
3) Alfalfa doesn’t need heavy pesticides or genetically altered seeds b/c weeds aren’t an issue since these crops are used for cattle feed.
4) Canadian Flax crops are GE (genetically engineered). Japan and Europe will not longer accept Canadian Flax because of this.
5) 80% of GE crops are herbicide tolerant. BT crops produce a protein that is toxic to insects, butterflies, caterpillars.
6) Antibiotic resistance is essential to gene gun technology which is one of the two methods to cross DNA (therefore making a plant GMO). The concern is this will make humans resistant to antibiotics!
7) 40 weeds in Canada are now resistant to Roundup. Monsanto expected this to happen and has 2,4-D waiting in the wings for farmers to use. This is Agent Orange!!!!! 90% of corn in North America is GE. All sugar in stores is basically GE (unless it’s cane sugar) and over 90% of soy.
9) The Oregon GE wheat crop that popped up a few weeks ago is probably a Monsanto trial field; however that has now backfired as countries are now banning wheat exports from the US.
10) There have been no reduction in pesticide use as Monsanto promised – the opposite has happened. We are now becoming resistant to antibiotics b/c of eating the food, allergies are 400x greater because transgenes spread bacteria through our guts/intestines, and we are loosing our pollinators because of heavy herbicide use. And this fact is probably the scariest. If plants become sterile from all this messing around with mother nature, we are in big trouble.

Honestly, if genetically modified food isn’t freaking you out a little, it’s time to plug back into our food system and realize things are not okay. If you can’t look around and see a huge number of bee populations decreased in your community, there are big time stats that bees are suffering from colony collapses because of the amount of pesticides and insecticides that are released in communities with farming. The words from that now famous farmer from the Food Inc documentary ring true in my head. What ever the consumers demand – farmers will grow. If the government won’t protect us, let’s give our trust to the farmer’s themselves. Get to know them and trust them. Tell them that clean food is a priority and the ones growing it should be treated like well paid celebrities in our cities and towns. And yes, it’s just an endless journey but it’s something that small communities and consumers will need to win in North America. And no I don’t have all the answers – I honestly find something new in my pantry every week that contains GMO ingredients. Last week it was my baking powder – the word corn starch caught my eye. See what I mean about the corn husk being the poster child for GMO? It makes us not think powdered forms of food will contain it but wherever there are ingredients – you need to scan through at least for canola oil, vegetable oil, anything soy, corn, and sugar.



Chocolate Beet Cupcakes

I have been surprised by the ingredients that have made our family favorite baking recipes successful..and strangely enough they are all healthy and ingredients you assume moms add to recipes to boost health, not taste. I love sharing recipes that kids actually like, plus are healthy with only clean ingredients. With our homemade granola bar recipe the secret is apple sauce. With chocolate muffins it’s zucchini and with the cupcakes I’ve prepared for my twins birthday celebration the secret ingredient is beets. Nothing surprises me anymore. =) And I’d like to point out nobody in my family knows there are beets inside the cupcakes – when they saw the beets roasting I told them they were only for the icing colour. Even my husband wasn’t told the truth with this recipe because he is worse than the kids with trying new things. They got the thumbs up from everyone and it’s going to be our little secret until, like all the recipes I’ve listed, they no longer care what is hidden inside because they love eating it so much!

The recipe is modified from Joy The Baker with my little changes.

Cupcake Ingredients:

2 medium beets
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup whole brown sugar
3/4 cup golden cane sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash clean beets in a piece of foil. Drizzle with just a bit of olive oil. Seal up foil. Place on a baking sheet in the oven. Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. ** Save the beet juice at the bottom of the foil to use for icing dye ** Remove the beets from the oven. Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely. Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled. Grate the peeled beets using the finest side of a box grater. Measure 3/4 cup of grated beets for the cake. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or hand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture. Beating on low speed , slowly add the milk. Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated. Try not to overmix the batter. Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients.

Spoon the batter into the cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes (for mini-cupcakes) or 22-24 minutes (for regular-sized cupcakes). Test when a skewer is inserted in the center and comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting the cupcakes.

Icing Ingredients:

450 grams of cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
3 cups confectioners sugar

Icing Directions:

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or handheld, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds and butter until well combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary. Add the powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time and mix on low until completely combined. Add your beet juice for coloring. Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cupcakes.

I lost the beet juice when I unwrapped the foil so save that juice – it’s precious, organic dye for your icing! I tried the method of add larger chunks of cooked beet to the icing but the color is light using this method.


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Limit Food Packaging – Make Your Own Granola Bars



Animal Extinction- A Side-Effect of Palm Oil

Sometimes a few different events lead up to an article and the first started with a visit my family took to the Seattle Zoo in November. It was sad to see animals confined within the zoo but my kids had never seen many of the animals up close and they did enjoy the experience. In particular the gorillas and orangutangs because you could really see their human-like behavior and emotions up close. Even the elephants and penguins did not elicit the reaction that my children had with the primates. We spent hours with the orangutangs watching them, making eye contact, apologizing through the glass, my son showed videos on my phone (of the outside world), and we all felt a connection. I didn’t really know what I was apologizing for that day at the zoo until tonight when I started to research Palm Oil. Now I know why I’m apologizing…and after having such a connection I can’t not share what I’ve learned.

Another dot that connected tonight was my confusion with cooking oils and my journey to eat and prepare real food in 2013. All of the different types of sugars and oils have me really confused. I’ve been trying hard to avoid any canola oils because of GMO concerns, and although palm oil is non-GMO I am adding this ingredient to my personal ban list. It is usually listed as vegetable oil (click here to find the top 30 ways it’s listed in ingredient lists) and commonly found in margarine, cereals, packaged, sweets and baked goods, to soaps, washing powders and cosmetics. Similar to when I watched the W5 undercover investigation on large scale factory pig farming in Canada, there are certain things that I can no longer knowingly consume….factory farmed pork is one and now palm oil is the second.  I’m getting to why in a minute…I’m not finished connecting the dots. =)

The next is really a no brainer with trying to eat real food. Tougher than it sounds but really trying to only eat fresh or home prepared meals. It is super rewarding as a mother but is taking a lot of time. You want to immediately improve your family and children’s health? Stop buying any food that is in a package. Really. Think of the granola bars, fake fruit snacks, crackers, cereals, etc. the list goes on and on. It is so hard to get away from but vital if you want to protect your family from long-term health effects from food. I am still at the starting point of my food journey but even I’m at the point if I walk through the isles of a traditional grocery store, I feel like I’m shopping in a plastic waste dump. There is seriously only 10% of a traditional grocery store that I want to put inside the stomach’s of my children. And that is a pretty scary thought. Not eating packaged food will also limit your palm oil consumption.

My last point is bigger is not better. It seems the bigger you are – the less accountable, knowledgeable, and trustworthy you are. I see it all the time in media saying “trust us, protect your family, we are the experts, but because we have P&G as our advertisers – still buy toxic shit.” The mixed messaging has to stop. Either you are pro health or pro making money with big time advertisers.  The perfect example of bigger not being better is Dr. Oz. Is that man having a tough time lately or what?  Read below to find out why.

Okay – let’s join these dots. Everything I have mentioned came to a tipping point for me tonight. Seeing brutal images of tortured orangutangs that left me devastated are the reason for this article. Palm oil is causing an ecological disaster and primate genocide and you can’t help but think consumer demand is the reason it’s happening. Do we seriously want to live in a world without tigers, orangutangs, and rhinos? There are less than 7,000 Sumatran orangutans left and they have now been classified as critically endangered. Their near extinction needs to get consumers (you and I) looking at ingredients before a product goes into our shopping carts.  We need to think for ourselves so when Dr. Oz puts consumers into a buying frenzy when he recommends Red Palm Fruit Oil as his miracle find in 2o13 – the back-end destruction caused to the forest and animals doesn’t happen.

How can we help? Although palm oil is used in the production of biofules, the increase in oil production is because of food demands. Who are the big companies driving this demand? Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Kraft and Burger King to name a few. Here is our way as North Americans to help the deforestation and slaughter of animals – influence the world with your consumer dollars. We have the ability to drive change where we spend our money. There are organizations dedicated to helping buy back parts of the rain forests in Indonesia and Malaysia (they are responsible for 80% of world palm oil production). The website Say No To Palm Oil has a really helpful list of the top 30 names palm oil can be labelled under. It’s important to the remember that these ingredients can be found in natural or organic products because we are talking about how palm oil is produced, rather than it’s contents.

I won’t link to the image that is now searing into my brain of dead orangutangs and the terrible way their lives are being extinguished. However as a mother, I will leave you with a few facts I won’t ever forget after researching orangutangs. Did you know that orangutangs are so close with their children that unlike any other mammal, orangutang babies stay with their parents until they are 7 or 8 years old? I saw proof of this connection when watching how difficult it was for the poachers to pry an infant away from it’s dead mother. With the illegal trade on infant orangutangs it is estimated that for every orangutan orphan sold, six to eight orangutans die in the process of capture and transport. With there only being 1 chromosome difference between orangutans and humans – the similarities between the human/orangutang infant/mother bond left me feeling like I needed to do something to help. I hope this opens a window of awareness for you.

For people that want to buy personal care products I usually recommend Green Beaver because they are certified organic and Canadian made. I just confirmed on their Facebook Page that they do not use palm oil in their products. So if you are looking for a great line that is organic and made without palm oil – Green Beaver can help!



Real Food Tips

I’m on a mission. It’s a slow one but I’m determined to get my family on track with clean, whole foods. That doesn’t always mean shopping organic; even though this is is the easiest way to avoid GMO (genetically modified) food. If you talk to enough people at farmer’s markets and in your community, you can find clean food that is grown locally. . . you just need to ask. Once you find farmers that are proud to share their farming practices and open the door of communication of what seeds are used to grow food and if they are no-spray, etc. you can shop with produce that is ‘in season’ rather than buying really expensive organic food that is being shipped thousands of miles from where you live. This is how I purchase food for our family. If my husband goes to the traditional grocery store, he’s buying packaged food or organic produce. Where I shop, and this is the food that is slowly becoming the ‘majority’ in our house, it’s with small, local farmers or stores.  I learned a great tip when I was researching honey and syrup that I wanted to share. Actually two tips:

Raw and Unpasteurized: for many products like honey much of the nutrition is lost when it’s pasteurized to sell in stores.  Omega 3 fish oil is another nutritional supplement that has increased value in the fermented rather than processed fish oil that is heated.  The honey you find in the supermarket has been ‘cooked’ and the beneficial enzymes have disappeared during this process. Raw or unpasteurized honey can actually sit in your pantry without being refrigerated because it acts as it’s own preservative. Did you know raw honey can be used for healing wounds because of it’s antibacterial properties? Just add a dash of honey to your next scrape and see all of the benefits!

Less than 5 Ingredients: Best tip for real food newbies like me! When looking at ingredients on packaged food, stick to two rules – you have to understand all of the ingredients and be able to pronounce them and keep ingredients to less than 5. The best example of the under 5 ingredient list was when I was researching syrup for our weekend pancakes. I snapped this photo of Aunt Jemima syrup and there are 11 ingredients listed. Very few that the average person could explain…nothing that actually looks like real food. I checked the bottle of syrup that I purchased at my local Farmer’s Market and found only one ingredient ‘maple syrup’. It’s the perfect example and also highlights the scary fact how cheap corn products (corn syrup), preservatives and dye ingredients are compared to real food. Here is the visual to confirm these ingredients..would you have guessed syrup if I showed you this label and not said what food it is?

I had a great talk with a very green mama today and she made a great point “the food that fills our kitchens and cupboards isn’t actually real food!” It’s truly sad the amount of time it takes to investigate the food in your home…but step by step it’s worth knowing. If it feels like an overwhelming task or just one more thing you don’t have time for – think about the long term health benefits. You do the research once, find people you trust to shop for food, and feel like a new chapter has started in your life.
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