Attaining Health While Enjoying Real Food

This post is a re-formatted version of the 8/21/14 Wellness Newsletter I wrote for Bucks County Community College. I hope you can use the tips here to help kick start your health at work or school this fall! For more detailed tips on meal planning and organizing a meal schedule, see my posts on Food Prep: Fall Food Prep and Spring Food Prep as well as my Real Food Budget Tips.

Enjoying Real Food as Fuel with Small Lifestyle Changes

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Are you always tired and unmotivated? Do you get headaches and body aches? Have you tried countless diets that don’t work? I’ve got the solution for you!

Sound familiar? In the fast-paced, media driven society we live in, its often easy to fall victim to advertisements from supplement and food companies and books on fad diets that want you to think their products  are the miracle you’re looking for. You know you are smarter than this!

Instead of drinking meal replacements and protein shakes and spending your hard earned money on supplements, consider  getting back to basics with your diet, and enjoying food as you attain better health.

I am sure you’ve all heard it before, but the better you eat the better you feel. This does not mean counting calories, being restrictive, and eating bland food though. It does mean …brace yourself… making small lifestyle changes . As creatures of habit, change is scary. However, did you know it takes only 2-3 weeks of effort to change a bad habit into a good one?

In the nutrition textbook we teach from at Bucks, Nutrition is defined as “the plants and animals we eat”.  Consider how much of your diet doesn’t fall into this definition! Then consider why… What are your go to excuses for why its just so hard to eat well?

When making changes, always remember you don’t need to, and shouldn’t, go on an all-or-nothing diet. A healthful diet is flexible where you make healthy choices most of the time and don’t feel guilty for having a treat or going out for dinner once in awhile.

Examples of small habit changes:

Grocery shopping rules:

  • Always have a list
  • Limit the amount of packaged foods purchased
  • Reduce amount of meats purchased
  • Read the ingredient list on a packaged food first,  not the calorie information!
    Fall Food Prep

Make daily checklists for what you need more of

  • Fruits & veggies (work to 5 servings)
  • Water (without additives) 9-13  8 ounce glasses

Prep food ahead of time

  • Pick 2 days per week to plan and prep dinners ahead
  • Pack lunches for work early in the week
  • Have emergency snacks (see below)
  • Make a large batch of oats for a quick breakfast
  • Hard boil eggs to add to meals/snacks


Make meal rules for your family

  • Always eat breakfast (something is better than nothing)
  • No eating while standing up
  • No eating in front of the TV or computer
  • Eat as a family at least 2 times per week (or more if its already 2)
  • Limit meals that aren’t homemade to 2x per week

Emergency Snacks for Work or School


  • Whole grain/flax crackers + jar of nut butter & real fruit preserves
  • Plain Instant Oat Packets (add below)
  • Nuts or Trail Mixes
  • Roasted Soy Nuts or Chickpeas
  • Unsweetened Dried Fruit: raisins, dates, mango
  • Real Fruit & Nut Bars: Clif Kits, Larabar, KIND, ProBar, Raw Revolution
  • Homemade energy bars like these:

wrapped date nut bars or 20140118-203227.jpg



Cooking Tip:  Fall is a great time to get out your crockpot so warm meals are ready when you get home!
Add ingredients for any soup, chili or stew recipe at once and set on low for 6-8 hrs.
{ Try my spicy 3 bean chili, potato leek & kale soup, veggie & bulgur soup, sweet & spicy white bean soup}



Maple Chia Roasted Pecans and Walnuts

Let’s be honest, it does NOT feel like August. I have woken up with temperatures below 60 in the past couple of weeks and my brain is saying it should be 90 outside. While I am not quite ready for fall and would love a few scorching days on the beach, I have been freezing all week and craving fall foods. I should still be enjoying fresh tomatoes, green beans, and bell peppers. Though I won’t cave in and have pumpkin anything for a good month, I had to cope with this abnormal weather. This week I made oven roasted candied nuts. While I have made this recipe before, my recent addition is the chia seeds. So long as you eat an actual serving size and not the whole bowl, this is a healthy way to indulge in this type of treat. With the walnuts and chia seeds, this snack is an omega 3 powerhouse too. More and more research is popping up on the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega 3’s.

Keeping inflammation at bay is crucial to athletes who are constantly beating their bodies down. Boosting dietary intake of healthy fats is an important component of injury prevention and recovery. Make a triple batch before heading back to college or send some to a friend or relative that is a college athlete (or just a typical college student)!


Maple and Chia Roasted Pecans and Walnuts (GF, Vegan, DF)


  • 3/4 C raw pecans
  • 1 C raw walnut halves
  • 4 Tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • 2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Optional: a couple dashes of salt

Some brands I like to use are pictured below but to be honest, organic walnuts are now cheaper at our Whole Foods than Trader Joe’s. Our super fresh pecans are sent to us each year via Tim’s Aunt in Oklahoma – store bought will never be good enough again. Not pictured, I used Bob’s Red Mill Chia seeds, but any non-GMO chia is fine.



  • Set oven to 275º Fahrenheit
  • In a medium bowl, after measure or weigh out the nuts
  • Add the syrup & vanilla to nuts and stir to coat well
  • Add the cinnamon and chia seeds at once, again stirring well to coat
  • Spread in one layer (do not overlap nuts, they will take longer to cook) on a non-stick cookie sheet or baking dish lined with aluminum foil (buy recycled foil and re-use when you can!)
  • Pour any excess liquid/seeds from the bowl onto the nuts
  • Bake in oven for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes
  • Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes
  • Transfer to serving dish and enjoy!



If you have a type A personality like me, you’ll be frustrated that yes, some of the chia seeds end up sticking to the baking dish instead of the nuts. Take a deep cleansing yoga breath, move on, and enjoy some of your new crunchy snack! You could also chop and add to salads, quinoa dishes or pancakes :)



Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Walnuts have been pinned as the most heart healthy nut by many researchers due to their high omega-3 content (discussed here at and their vitamin E and antioxidant phytochemical content. Omega-3′s support heart health by helping to regulate inflammation, Vitamin E is heart protective by protecting cells and fatty substances in the body, and the phenols present are thought to support a healthy metabolism and healthy blood vessels.

Pecans contain a lot of fat but the good news is its mostly monounsaturated which is great for heart health. They contain oleic acid, also found in olive oil. Pecans are also rich in B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and the nut’s antioxidants include vitamin E, ellagic acid, and carotenoids all shown to protect the body from diseases of aging.

Maple Syrup is a source of added sugar but can have some benefits if it is 100% pure and is used in moderation. it actually provides teeny amounts of calcium, iron, mangnesium & zinc. One study in 2010 found Canadian Maple Syrup to contain over 26 antioxidant compounds (1)!

Cinnamon has been found as a heart healthy spice that can improve circulation. Just its scent may even enhance brain function and attentiveness. Studies have also been published since 2003 highlighting potential blood sugar lowering effects when consumed in high amounts (2).

Chia seeds are an excellent vegetarian source of omega-3 and calcium. They also provide protein, fiber and many other minerals. They are super filling because they soak liquid up in your stomach and 2 tablespoons dry contain about 120 calories, 4 grams of protein, and exceeds your daily omega-3 requirements.


1. J Agric Food Chem 2011 Jul 27;59(14):7708-16. Further investigation into maple syrup yields 3 new lignans, a new phenylpropanoid, and 26 other phytochemicals. Li L, Seeram NP.

2. Diabetes Care 2003 Dec;  26(12): 3215-18. Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes. A Khan, M Safdar, M Ali Khan, K Khattak, R Anderson.

Cacao Coconut Multi-Seed Mix

I was inspired to make this mix by Nature’s Path Qia. Qia is simply hemp seeds, chia seeds and buckwheat groats. Despite its name, buckwheat is actually gluten free for any of you Celiac or gluten intolerant readers out there. I love Qia because its so easy to use and super filling with lots of nutrients, especially omega 3’s! However, I also found I loved adding some cacao powder or nibs to whatever I was eating it with (especially oats) and sprinkling some shredded coconut on top. So I decided to start making my own ready to use mix. Sorry Nature’s Path, I still love you.

Cacao Coconut Seed Snack Mix // EatRealLiveWell.comHere is how delish it looks in my oats (I add it while they’re cooking on the stove… and sometimes add more on top):

Cacao Coconut Seed Mix & Oats //

  Cacao Coconut Multi-Seed Mix (GF, V, DF)


The brands I like to use are pictured below, but as I do with cacao and buckwheat (not pictured), you can get all of these from the bulk section at Whole Foods, Wegmans etc.

5 Tablespoons Cacao Nibs

5 Tablespoons Hemp Hearts/Seeds

4 Tablespoons Chia Seeds

5 Tablespoons Buckwheat Groats

4 Tablespoons Unsweetened Coconut

Seed Mix Ingredients

{From top left clockwise: Edward & Sons “Let’s Do Organic” shredded coconut, bulk cacao nibs, Bob’s Red Mill Chia (non GMO), and Manitoba Harvest Organic Hemp Hearts }

Simply toss each ingredient into an old nut butter jar, pyrex or other container…

Cacao Coconut Seed Mix //

 Shake well and store until use. I keep it right next to my nut butters since I think they pair together fantastically!

Cacao Coconut Seed Mix Stored // Eat Real Live Well

Now, what to do with the mix? I’ve been loving adding it to my oats in the morning, as you can see here:

Cacao Coconut Seed Mix w/ Oats // eatreallivewell.comBut, the mix has also been perfect for travel with all the long weekend trips Tim and I have been taking this summer. Just put some in a small bag or glass container, and bring along a banana and some nut butter. Dip the banana in nut butter and then the mix and you’ve got a delicious, nutritious and filling raw breakfast on the go!

cacao coconut seed mix travel meal // eatreallivewell.comWhile I don’t consume dairy, if I still did I would for sure be adding this to yogurt & berries as another meal option. For dessert it’d be perfect on some fro-yo and I see myself adding to some banana ice cream in the very near future! Enjoy this protein, omega 3, mineral and fiber rich snack mix :)


Nutrition Information* (per 2 tablespoons):

Servings: 10
Calories: 95
Total Fat: 6 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 8 g
Fiber: 5 g
Sugar: 1.5 g
Protein: 4 g
Sodium: 0 mg   0%

Thiamin: 8%           Riboflavin: 8%
Vitamin B6: 4%     Folate: 6%
Calcium: 6 %           Iron: 10%
Zinc: 8%                   Magnesium: 8 %
Phosphorus: 6%
Omega 3: 1.4 g  (this meets estimated rec. daily value)

*Nutrition information for vitamins and minerals is incomplete as companies nutrition facts panels do not include all micronutrients. This mix likely contains much higher amounts of B vitamins and minerals.

Summer Soup – Sweet and Spicy White Bean

Out of your weekend food prep rhythm because its summer? Add this soup to your list and get back on track! It doesn’t have to be freezing outside to enjoy soup! Even in the summer, soups are a great meal to prep ahead for the week so you have an easy lunch to bring to work,  or dinner ready to go once you’re home after a long day. I used white beans and peas as a protein source and brown rice as a grain. The sweetness of the yellow bell pepper and tomatoes tone down the spice of habenero, and both flavors blend perfectly with some fresh rosemary! And since we eat with our eyes first it’s a good thing all of the ingredients look gorgeous together – all of these colors mean lots of different antioxidants too :)


Sweet & Spicy White Bean Summer Soup (GF, V, DF)


Ingredients (see below for beneficial properties of these ingredients): 

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 – 1 habanero pepper, minced (amount depends on how much spice you like)
1 large red onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced (about 1- 1 1/2 cups)
3 C fresh beefsteak tomatoes, diced (or 1 can organic diced tomatoes)*
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 C dry organic brown rice (Trader Joe’s has a quick cook done in 10 min!)
1 C dry white cannellini beans prepped (or 2-2.5 Cups canned)*
1-1.25 Cups fresh or frozen peas
4 Cups (1 container) organic low-sodium vegetable broth (if you like broth-y soup add 2 C water)
-note: Trader Joe’s “organic low sodium hearty vegetable broth” is THE best pre-made broth you will find!
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1/2 tablespoon dried)
3/4 teaspoon fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
fresh ground black pepper to taste

*Purchasing tip: If I do purchase canned, I buy beans at Trader Joe’s because they do not contain BPA. A risk of using canned foods is that the cans are lined with the carcinogenic chemical BPA. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, click here for brands that are BPA free – recently, Muir Glen tomatoes also went BPA free.


-Wash the carrots and peppers and prep all of your ingredients as listed above.
-Place a large saucepan or stockpot over low-medium heat and add the oil. Spread w/ rubber spatula so that it coats the bottom of the pan.
-Add the garlic and habanero and stir for 1-2 minutes (do not let garlic turn brown)
-Add in your rosemary, oregano and pepper (I like to do this early so the flavor infuses better)
-Add the chopped onion, carrots, bell pepper and tomatoes (If using canned tomatoes, wait on those)
-Stir well and cover for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-Add the broth and bring to a boil
-Add your rice, and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. If you did not buy the quick cook brown rice like me, you’ll have to wait about 30 minutes – clean the mess in your kitchen from the prep and do some squats while you’re waiting :)
-If using canned tomatoes, add them now and stir the mixture
-Add your white beans and peas
-Add 2 C water if desired. I personally like soup more thick so I leave the extra liquid out. Let simmer another 5 minutes or so and then you’re done!



While not pictured, I have found I love this most with some diced avocado. It gives it even more of a fresh summer taste and adds even more color. With a side salad this is a perfect lunch at home or work!


Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Beans are a great source of  potassium, thiamin, vitamin B6, iron, copper, magnesium & manganese. They also provide a little calcium. Phytochemicals include lutein, epicatechin, quercetin and proanthocyanidin these benefit your eyes, reduce inflammation, and support the immune system.

Rice provides a good amount of Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Vitamin C, Riboflavin & Manganese. You can also get phytochemicals like quercetin (great for your immune system and lungs) & several carotenoids. Purchase organic rice as it is not as likely to be contaminated with inorganic arsenic.

Bell Peppers provide you with tons of Vitamin C (even more per serving than citrus when fresh), lots of Vitamin A and fiber as well as Vitamin E, B6 and potassium. Phytochemicals include the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for eye and cardiovascular health.

They’re finally becoming more known for it but peas are a good source of plant protein! Per 2/3 Cup serving you get 5 grams! As a reference, an egg contains 7 grams. Peas are also an excellent source of Vitamins K, C, A, B1, and folate. They contain the phytochemical coumestrol which has been found in research to reduce stomach cancer risk as well as other phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory properties.

Carrots and are most known for their role in eye health. This is because they have a high content of Vitamin A and other phytochemical carotenoids which not only support your eyes but also skin, hair and antioxidant systems. They are also high in Vitamins C & K and the mineral potassium.

Tomatoes pack in lots of Vitamins A, C, and the important fluid balance mineral Potassium. They are well known in terms of phytochemical content for their lycopene which is known for reducing risk of prostate cancer. This was one of the first phytochemicals that really made a name for itself. It is often forgotten that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.

Garlic and onions are all part of the same family, providing the phytochemicals allicin, quercitin, and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health. Both onions & leeks provide Vitamin C. Onions are also a great source of vitamins B6 and folate while leeks contribute vitamins A & K in great amounts as well as the mineral manganese.

The heat level of habenero peppers directly relates to their high capsaicin content. Capsaicin has long been used for decreasing joint pain and inflammation topically but in the body may aid in appetite control, metabolism and intestinal inflammation.  In addition they have been found in research to be anti-bacterial, and even anti-allergy due to nutrient content including vitamins A and C, some B vitamins and potassium – and yes its normal for them to clear your sinuses :)

Oregano actually contains manganese, iron and Vitamins A & K. It can also benefit your immune system as its phytochemicals thymol and carvacrol are anti-bacterial.

Rosemary contains carnosol which has been found in studies to be an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory compound and carnosic acid that has neuro-protective (brain &nervous system protective) properties. Some studies show it can aid the GI tract too and as an oil, it has also been used for centuries to improve circulation! Per weight it has a high content of nutrients but since we consume small smounts of it, it provides a little folate, riboflavin, and vitamins A & C as well as the minerals iron, calcium and potassium.


Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille

I have been meaning to begin posting restaurants for a long time now (like, at least a year). Blue Sage this past Friday gave me the extra push to spend the time! As important as it is to eat real, it’s also important to enjoy food!! I do both daily, every time I eat, and believe you can dine away from home healthfully whether you’re in your home town or traveling for business or leisure.

Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille // Eat Real Live Well // Bucks County

I’ve lived in Bucks County for almost four years now, and have always known that Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille existed. I am embarrassed to say that the outside appearance of the place in Southampton (envision small space in dated looking strip mall on a busy road) kept me from trying it out. After hearing good things via social and other media, Tim and I decided it was time to give it a try! Since I refer to my diet as 90% vegetarian, I don’t know how I thought I could go wrong with a BYOB that’s stayed opened for thirteen years on an all vegetarian menu. So, when we arrived we saw it was actually really cute inside, and by the fact that every table was full and there was a line of people waiting for food to go, we knew we were going to have a good meal. We sat and looked at the menu and had no idea what to order. This was not because nothing sounded good but because literally every menu item sounded good and everything we saw going by to other tables looked amazing. We started with an appetizer (even though our appetites wanted to start with three) and decided on the “Tartare”. Here is the menu description:

Of avocado, red lentils, roasted corn, fresh basil, ginger; coco malanga dipping chips”
Blue Sage "Tartare w/ Coco Malanga Chips"
We were pumped about the dish but the chips didn’t look like anything special. We were wrong. Coco malanga where have you been all my life?! Coco malanga, we came to find out is basically taro root. If you’re still confused, it looks similar to a sweet potato (see picture here) but has a more earthy taste in my opinion. At Blue Sage they slice the root very thin and fry them right there – clearly it was a flash fry because these chips were super thin and crispy with absolutely no excess oiliness. The tartare itself tasted super fresh with clear flavor of the roasted corn. The basil and ginger added more complexity and since I am not an official food critic, cannot do it justice with a description on a blog.
Entree’s took a while to choose. I could tell the waitress was getting annoyed with my indecisiveness. I finally decided on the dairy free “Poblano” and Tim chose the “Havana Quesa”.
“Poblano Roasted bell pepper filled with grilled eggplant caponata, roasted tomato-pumpkin seed pesto over brown ‘butter’ spaghetti squash and roasted corn gravy”
Blue Sage "Poblano" // Eat Real Live Well Roasted eggplant caponata stuffed bell pepper // Blue Sage // Eat Real Live Well
This meal was just ridiculous. And while I absolutely loved the eggplant and bell pepper with the crispy pumpkin seeds on top, the spaghetti squash in the roasted corn gravy was my favorite part. Ate every bit of it. (Second picture is just the pepper sliced open to see that awesome eggplant)
Grilled whole wheat tortilla with moterey jack, adobo black beans, mango and cilantro. Served with avocado roasted corn salsa, and baby greend in chili lime vinaigrette”
He was pleasantly surprised that it also came with guacamole.
Havana at Blue Sage // Eat Real Live Well Blue Sage Havana Quesa // Eat Real Live Well
While I didn’t have a bite of the quesadilla due to the cheese, I can comment on the fact that Tim stopped speaking for awhile as soon as it was delivered. And it also says something about that chili lime vinaigrette, that he finished every bit of the salad before taking a single bite of the quesadilla. I tried the salad and guac. Both amazing.
Now dessert. Did we need to order dessert? Nope. Did we sort of have to? Obviously… There were two vegan options and we settled on the “Hazelnut Toffee Basket”
“Chocolate buttercream mousse, hazelnut toffee tuille, bruleed bananas and candied pecans”
Hazelnut Toffee Dessert at Blue Sage  Hazelnut Toffee Basket // Blue Sage // Eat Real Live Well
Another OMG. They lied about the mousse because I think its actually fudge. Thank God this wasn’t a huge portion, because even with us splitting it, the richness was significant enough for us to split with another person too. Despite this, it was good enough that I could have eaten the entire thing myself. So if you go there, do yourself a favor and never ever order a dessert for yourself – always share!
Needless to say, we’ll be heading back here a lot and are adding it to our Bucks County favorites list (alongside Yardley Inn and Sprig & Vine). Their website is under construction, but their current menu is listed on their Facebook page (the ones on urbanspoon and other dining sites are outdated).

Kelly Green Protein Smoothie

Eat Real Live Well // Kelly Green Protein Smoothie

I’ve been making green smoothies for a few months now since it’s gotten warmer and have finally found the perfect blend of ingredients! Sure, I want to recover from my workout be it a run, spin class, or some weight training, but more importantly, post workout food needs to be delicious!!

I am not big on supplements, but Garden of Life Raw Vegan Organic protein is an exception! It is made out of sprouted grains and processed in a way that preserves essential nutrients. The original flavor contains no stevia but the others do. I find stevia upsets my stomach and gives me a headache, so “natural” or not, I personally opt to stay away from it.

Kelly Green Post-Workout Protein Smoothie (Veg, DF, GF, raw)
Makes 1Smoothie


1/2 Cup frozen mango (70 g)
1/2 Cup frozen strawberries (70 g)
1 scoop Garden of Life Raw Protein (original)
1 tsp Navitas Naturals Maca root powder (optional but adds amazing flavor)
1 Cup Silk Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk
2 Cups fresh spinach
Dash vanilla extract


I think the order in which you add the ingredients makes a difference in ease of blending (unless you have a vitamix of course, which I don’t – if you want to buy me one send me an email and I’ll gladly give you my address). I add the spinach & fruit first, then protein & maca, and finally the milk and splash of vanilla. Blend as long as you see fit so that its smooth in your blender, bullet or any other smoothie making machine you may have! I find less than a minute is perfect to get the right consistency, somewhere between smoothie and green juice, but a little more on the smoothie side.


Eat Real Live Well // Kelly Green Protein Smoothie

Since this is only about 2oo Calories, its a great post workout snack to drink up within an hour of exercise. Have a normal sized meal within 2-3 hours of your workout too.

Nutrition Information:

Servings: 1
Calories: 200
Total Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 23 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sugar: 11 g
Protein: 21 g
Sodium: 205 mg   9 %
Potassium: 480 mg 10%

Vitamin A: 57%    Thiamin: 6 %               Riboflavin: 53 %
Niacin: 5%              Vitamin B6: 7 %          Vitamin B12: 125%
Folate: 33 %          Vitamin C: 98%          Vitamin D: 125 %
Vitamin E: 77 %    Calcium:52 %                Iron: 15%
Zinc: 19%                 Copper: 35 %               Magnesium: 23 %
Phosphorus: 7 %   Omega 3: 0.11 g  (6%)

**Vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns

Tips to shop organically, sustainably and more humane

Eating Real Starts Way Before the Grocery Store

My philosophy to always Eat Real also pertains to the way food is produced, not just whether or not it has been overly processed or not. The majority of people never think of how a piece of food got to their plate, and there are even kids today who don’t understand that fruits and vegetables come from plants that grow out of the ground. Without this knowledge how can we make informed decisions about what is best to put in our body? Unfortunately, it can seem more costly to purchase healthy food, never mind organic foods. In fact, those with low food security are 4 times more likely to think it costs more to eat healthy. Dietitians are here to prove that thought wrong! While this post focuses on purchasing tips for real food, there are sites and resources to help with the meal preparation. A meal for a family off the McDonald’s dollar menu may seem logical, but you can make a meal for a whole family that is healthy for under $5. Here are some tips on the Slow Foods USA $5 Challenge website as well as some more ideas that support this initiative from Eating Well Magazine.


tomato plantTips to shop organically, sustainably, and more humane // Eat Real Live Well fresh tomato sauce // Tips to shop organically, sustainably, and more humane // Eat Real Live Well


Pesticides in Food

Some people ask which foods are most important to buy organic. While I personally choose to buy organic whenever possible (and notice a significantly different taste in apples and bananas to the point where I won’t eat non-organic) there are times for people when economically it is more difficult. Certain crops retain more pesticides than others and a “dirty dozen” list has been created from the most recent research on organic produce. The Environmental Working Group puts out the list on pesticide residue each year. Here is the current “Dirty Dozen” list:
Dirty Dozen (Buy these organic, they retain the most pesticides!)

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Bell Peppers
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Summer squash

If you think about all the chemicals added, here is what you get:

 Tips to shop organically, sustainably, and more humane // Eat Real Live Well

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) created a website to let you know what chemical pesticides are in and on your food and how they impact health negatively. According to their website, What’s On My Food? “is a searchable database designed to make the public problem of pesticide exposure visible and more understandable… We link pesticide food residue data with the toxicology for each chemical, making this information easily searchable for the first time.” Download the app to your phone too!

Genetically Modified Foods

Most Americans don’t know that their foods are genetically engineered, so pointing out which foods are more likely to be genetically engineered is step 1. Only certain crops are approved by the FDA to be grown genetically engineered. If you see these crops or foods containing them, and do not see the Non GMO Project Verification symbol or Certified Organic symbol, they are likely genetically engineered:

  1. Canola
  2. Corn
  3. Soy (edamame, tofu etc)
  4. Sugar Beets (“sugar” on ingredient lists)
  5. Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash
  6. Papaya
  7. Alfalfa

Animal products such as beef, dairy, chicken and eggs are tricky because they are likely given feed that is made from genetically engineered corn, soy, alfalfa etc. The “natural” label on your meats doesn’t mean much unless as above, you see Non-GMO Project Verification or the USDA Organic Seal.

The Non-GMO Project unfortunately isn’t regulating all of our produce yet, but can help you choosing shelf stable foods that might not be organic but at least are not genetically modified. There is a free iphone app for the non-gmo project that shows foods and brands that are non-gmo. More and more brands are being verified and added to their list regularly!

Info on the increased resistance to genetically engineered corn and how it is/will impact our environment

Humane Treatment of and Natural Raising of Animals and Seafood

This actually correlates with the nutrient quality of your foods too. For example, eggs coming from from Free-Range or Pasture Raised chickens (that see the light of day) have 3-6 times more vitamin D than eggs coming from conventionally raised chickens (indoors in cages or just indoors in crowded pens or barns). Wild caught salmon contains more omega-3’s than farm raised. Grass fed beef contains more omega 3’s that cows fed corn too, but also has a dramatically lower E. Coli count!

Certified humane labels are popping up more and more: I don’t consume red meat or much poultry but if/when I do eat chicken, I make sure it came from a local farm that has their animals outside and able to run freely or has a certified human or other animal welfare certification. Eggs are the animal product I consume most frequently, and Pete & Gerry’s organic and certified humane brand is sold at BJ’s Wholesale for just $3.99 / dozen. My husband still consumes red meats on occasion and we like to get it from the local farmers market.

Finally, if you are on twitter or pinterest, I have become pretty active on the social media sites and post articles/info and retweet a lot of the more important news on the food industry and food policy. You can follow me @eatreallivewell or on pinterest here is my food safety/technology board:

The concern for most is the cost of organic. This is very much due to the cost of certification and the fact that the government subsidizes non-organic crops. Here are some links and tips. Keep in mind, organic snacks still contribute calories, fat, sugar etc to your diet! An organic cookie is still a cookie!

1) Shop the “dirty dozen” for produce I listed above.

2) Choose rBST/rBGH free milk even if its not organic – Wawa recently went back to not giving their cows hormones and trader joe’s is a safe bet too. Here a list a blogger compiled of 30 hormone free brands:

3) Choose grass fed beef and free range poultry… but eat less of it. The added cost will balance out and benefit your health. A 16 ounce package of dried organic black beans costs just $2.49 at Wegmans. This can give you close to 3 lbs of beans. How much would 3 lbs of meat cost you as a protein source?

4) Shop at local farmers markets: talk to the farmers and see how they raise their animals and crops. Many of them practice organic methods but don’t pay the money for certification. Because they are local you don’t pay for transportation costs too. The Wrightstown farmers market runs april through the weekend before Thanksgiving and several of the farmers there use organic methods but do not pay for certification so they can keep costs down for us! Some local farms that have ingredients popping up on restaurant menu’s & are in stores like the new Organnon’s in Wrightstown are Blue Moon Acres (who had a free food fest a few weeks ago), None Such Farm, Blooming Glen Farm, Anchor Run, Pennypack farm and more.

Find other local farms at

5) Choose grocery store natural brands. Nature’s Promise at Giant tends to be the least expensive. Trader Joe’s and Wegmans aren’t as convenient in terms of location for most of us that live in or near Newtown, but definitely are the most economical in terms of natural foods.

6) Shop at wholesale clubs: BJ’s & Costco offer organic and humanely raised beef and even organic produce. I buy organic romaine, mixed greens, potatoes, onions, garlic, bananas, apples and even certified humane eggs (when it isn’t farmers market season) at BJ’s frequently. Compared to Giant where 16 oz organic mixed greens cost 6.99, they are only 4.39 at BJ’s.

7) In January 2013 Whole Foods started a movement to show communities that you could shop their economically. The whole foods website and twitter account even highlighted a blogger project where they had bloggers with a family of 4 purchase all organic food at whole foods for their whole family for $100 per week and blog all of the recipes/dishes they’ve eaten all week on just that food. The stores have reduced prices drastically since first opening. Here is a blog post entitled Eating Near the Poverty Line at Whole Foods.

8) Buy in bulk! You can get rice, beans, nuts, dried fruit, oats etc that are organic for much cheaper than the conventional version if you go to the bulk section at Whole Foods and bag what you want :) Wegmans has organic bulk foods too but they tend to be more expensive.

9) Clip & print coupons! (coupon at lower left of screen)   You should also sign up for mambo sprouts emails as they send other coupons sometimes too – you have to sign up at stonyfield but they have a great rewards program too. Spices
Earth’s Best baby food rewards program:

10) In store coupons
Check the ones in Giant when you first walk in and pick up the “Nature’s Marketplace” in the natural foods section at Wegmans.


Also the EWG’s list of the dirty dozen endocrine disruptors:

If you would like to follow along with what goes on in food policy on a regular basis from supporting GMO labeling to banning bee pesticides and getting artificial dyes out of our foods, here are some sites to go to or sign up for newsletters on:

Let me know if you have any questions!