At the Market: Spring produce, organic eating, and local food-sourcing!

To market, to market!
This past weekend, I started tackling that spring to-do list and I am so glad I did.  The Farmer’s Market at Dupont Circle has so many wonderful, fresh, local products!  Cheeses, meats, eggs, soup…

And of course, veggies, more veggies, fruit and more veggies!  The best thing to do at farmer’s markets is to look for inspiration.  Try something you have never heard of.  For me, that was Stinking Nettle.  I juiced it as was recommended to me. It was similar to spinach, and is rich in vitamins A, C, potassium, manganese, and calcium.

It was a great find!  I also stocked up on local apples, kale, and honey.

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Walking around, I was struck not only by what was there, but also by what was not.  Farmer’s Markets strive (and should succeed) to bring local produce into your home.  In order to do that, they can only provide items that actually grow in the area, and are in season.  There were no peaches or grapes.  I didn’t see tomatoes or cauliflower.  They are not in season right now.  So what is?

What’s in season right now?
Between April and May, you should expect to be cooking, eating, or juicing apples, asparagus, broccoli rabe, carrots, chard, mushrooms, kale and collard greens, onions, arugula, beets (which did look particularly red and wonderful), parsnips, nettles, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, spinach and other salad greens, turnips, and sugar and snap peas and strawberries will be making an appearance in May.

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Based on what is in season, this Spring Salad recipe should be a wonderful treat!

To organic, or not to organic? That is the question… 
The other thing I started to think about as I was arm deep in cheese samples, was why local?  Why organic? There was a study released by Stanford University back in 2012 that found no “strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.”  Well, of course not!  There is not more calcium in an organic banana (versus a conventional one).  Just like it doesn’t have fewer calories!  Rather than regurgitate what Mark Bitman said, please read his excellent editorial on the subject.

So why should we eat organic?   Continue reading

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FITexecutive: Food Politics!

Be a Smart Consumer. Don’t be a victim to healthy marketing!

Hi all!  I am Gaby…it is so nice to have something to share with you all that I am really passionate about.  I am a recent business school graduate who took one too many marketing courses! One of my FITgal responsibilities is to take a look at the the fitness world through a business lens. I recently came across an interesting article about NuVal (http://www.nuval.com), a nutritional scoring system that makes it easier to understand nutrition labels. While it’s still being tested in select supermarkets, I decided to put together some tips to help you decode the trick label!

Organic, vegan, gluten-free, low-fat, helps lower cholesterol, low-sodium, low-carb, high fiber…and the list goes on! We are inundated with “healthy” buzz words that lead us to think we are making healthy decisions. But fellow FITgals beware – companies have mastered the art of marketing to make us believe things are healthier than they are. It doesn’t mean that we need to be scared to shop but we do need to be smart about our daily choices. The packaging, design, color and feel of the product have all been well-thought out to entice a customer to buy, buy, buy.

Here are our FIT Tips when it comes to decoding the label:

  1. Always check the serving size and the servings per container. Our “bowl” of cereal can sometimes be 5 times the serving size! If you don’t believe me, pour your normal bowl of cereal and then use a measuring cup to see how much you are actually eating. The results can be surprising!
  2. Take a look at the fat content keeping in mind that saturated fats are the artery clogging ones. Poly and mono-unsaturated fats are essential to a healthy diet.
  3. Sodium can be one of the most unhealthy culprits found in packaged foods. Remember, the recommended daily allowance for sodium is 1,500 mg.
  4. Make sure the food is high in dietary fiber, low in added sugar, and high in protein.
  5. Lastly, be aware of the ingredients. Hydrogenated oils, preservatives, colorings, or words you can’t pronounce should be red flags to run the other way!

Don’t be fooled by the packages. Take a look at Honey Nut Cheerios. The front cover says whole grain, naturally flavored, and helps lower cholesterol. Many people would automatically think it’s a great option. However, when we look closely at the sugar content, we learn that one serving has as much sugar as two Chips Ahoy cookies. We wouldn’t eat cookies for breakfast, why would we choose this much sugar in our cereal?!Another big surprise is Pop Chips. Their tag line is “0 grams of regret”.  They are popped and not fried, 100% natural and have no preservatives. While they are low in fat compared their fried counterpart, Pop Chips sodium content is double the often ousted Utz Chips (260 mg. vs. 120 mg.)!

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The best thing to do is to eat as naturally as possible avoiding processed and packaged foods that are high in saturated fat and refined flour and sugar. The cleaner your diet, the better you will feel and the easier it is to not fall victim to marketing!

XO

FITexecutive

Look out for these other seemingly healthy items: 

JIF Peanut Butter (Hydrogenated oils)

Canned soup (Sodium)

Skinny Cow items (Sugar)

Trail mix or granola bars (Sugar, saturated fat) 

Smoothies (Calories, sugar) 

FITfinds – Holiday Gifts

I’m sure everyone is busy finishing up their holiday shopping, so for this week’s FITfinds I’ll be providing some great gift ideas and the places to find them (some even only found in DC) for that fitness or yoga enthusiast in your life.

1. Fitlosophy Fitbook – This fitness and nutrition journal is great for a fitness newbie or anyone who just needs help tracking their workouts and nutrition. Keeping goals structured with a tool like this is a great way to stay focused on living a healthy lifestyle.

$22.95, Amazon

2. pvBody – If you’re like me, you’re of the school that paying hundreds of dollars for clothes you’re just going to sweat in isn’t ideal. Similar to sites such as ShoeDazzle, pay $49.50 a month, fill out an online profile, and pvBody will send you a box of a complete outfit to exercise in every month. Everything from running clothes to yoga gear is sold at an unbeatable price when compared to most retailers and you can always pause your subscription for a month if you like.

$49.50, pvBody

3. Birchbox – Do you know any woman who wouldn’t love a free box of high-end beauty samples delivered to their doorstep every month? Didn’t think so. Birchbox is a service that offers exactly that! Once a month they send a wonderful little box filled with new products to discover. Buy a 3-month, 6-month, or year long subscription for the beauty junkie on your gift list.

$30, $60, or $110, Birchbox

4. NatureBox – You’re bound to know somone who wants to make a New Year’s resolution to eat better in 2013. Help them achieve this goal with a subscription to NatureBox. This service provides a box of nutritionist-approved snacks and recipes on a monthly basis . Choose from a 3-month, 6-month, or year-long subscription

$59.97, $99.97, $199.97, NatureBox

5. Relay Foods – Fresh, local, healthy food and it’s delivered? Sign me up! Relay Foods is a great place to order local fresh food for anyone on your list. You can use the holidays as an opportunity to introduce people to this great service by ordering a Relay Ready meal for four and having a great holiday dinner party!

$35-$45, Relay Foods

6. Josie Maran Cosmetics – This brand offers eco-friendly cosmetics and hair products and uses fresh, natural ingredients to help women look naturally beautiful. The Argan oil comes highly recommended, but I’m sure any environmentally-conscience lady would appreciate a gift from here.

$48 for 100% Pure Argan Oil, Josie Maran Cosmetics

7. Sweetgreen Sweetpress Juices – This line-up of cold-pressed juices uses organic fruits and vegetables to create a complete set of delicious and healthy drinks to keep your life  and diet balanced

$6-7, Sweetgreen

8. Nike+ Fuel Band – This device can measure your daily activity (everything from walking to basketball to dancing), set goals for yourself, and sync to your mobile phone. This gift will definitely help get (and keep) someone on the move!

$149, Nike Georgetown

9. Manduka Black Mat Pro – Any avid yoga will appreciate this yoga mat, which has won for the all-around best one out there.

$94, Manduka products sold around DC at various locations

10. Just Give – While giving gifts is fun, most people have enough stuff and I’m sure anyone can appreciate some good old fashioned charitable giving. Use justgive.org to donate to a charity on behalf of someone on your gift list.

Any amount, www.justgive.org

Happy shopping!