Monday, June 20, 2011

The Dirrrrty Dozen

I eat an apple a day. It's not only to keep the doctor away, but I like my apples with Edwards Freeman (Conshohocken) No Salt Added Natural Peanut butter- it is a delicious afternoon treat that keeps me satisfied until dinner time. Anway, there have been times (albeit, rarely) while biting into my Golden Delicious apple that I notice it actually tastes like chemicals- which is slightly disturbing. I always eat the apple with the skin on since the skins contain lots of fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients that the flesh just doesn't contain. Of course I would prefer to buy organic produce, but organic produce tends to cost lots of $$ and I just don't have it in my budget to spend the extra dollar per pound- especially since I eat produce like it's my job (which it kind of is I guess...)- which will quickly add up.

Anyway, a recent study by the Environmental Working Group looked at USDA and FDA data on 53 different produce items from 2000-2009. There are some studies suggesting that pesticides can increase the risk for ADHD, hormonal problems, and cancer. Many people were up in arms about the link to ADHD, some thinking "AHA! This is why almost every child in American now has ADHD!". I'm going to counter that with the fact that very few Americans, let alone American children, eat any whole fruits and vegetables. How can pesticides be the problem if the children aren't even eating a serving or two of fruit or vegetables in a day? I am pretty confident that pesticides found in celery, spinach, and apples are not the reason children have ADHD. Even though potatoes are on the dirty dozen list, I believe that much of the pesticides are removed after all the processing to make them into potato chips or french fries, which is the main form of potatoes in an American child's diet.

However, there are some fruits and vegetables that contain more pesticides than others, and the study shows that apples with the skin on are the most contaminated. Other produce likely to carry higher levels of pesticides include celery, strawberries, and peaches. What concerns me is the fact that I had a client last week tell me she is avoiding eating any food on the dirty dozen list and limiting her fruits & veggie intake because she doesn't have the money to buy organic, and does not want to eat pesticides. This study has the potential to do major damage to people like my client. Instead of eating fresh fruits and veggies that may contain small levels of pesticides, many people are opting to get their fruits & veggies through juice drinks, or just avoiding them altogether. And yet... they still eat out at McDonald's and buy frozen meals. It doesn't make sense.

Some key quotes from Alex Formuzis, spokesperson for the Environmental Workers Group:
"The Environmental Working Group recommends buying organically grown - or pesticide-free - versions of fruits and vegetables on its "worst" list [...]If organic produce isn't available or is too expensive, consumers should buy the conventionally grown versions[...]The health benefits are too important[...]Never pick a bag of Doritos over a conventionally grown apple."

The Alliance for Food and Farming, a California-based farmers' organization, dismissed the findings of the study, saying that children could eat hundreds of servings of fruits and vegetables without negative consequences. "The residues, if they are found at all, are 10 to 100 times below the levels established by the federal government," said Teresa Thorne, an alliance spokeswoman. There is no need to eliminate any food from the dirty dozen list from your diet.

The "Dirty Dozen" (ranked: produce with the highest levels of pesticides)

1.       apples
2.       celery
3.       strawberries
4.       peaches
5.       spinach
6.       imported nectarines
7.       imported grapes
8.       sweet bell peppers
9.       potatoes
10.    domestic blueberries
11.    lettuce
12.    kale/collard greens
The "Clean Fifteen" (ranked: produce with the lowest levels of pesticides)
1.       onions
2.       sweet corn
3.       pineapples
4.       avocado
5.       asparagus
6.       sweet peas
7.       mangoes
8.       eggplant
9.       domestic cantaloupe
10.    kiwi
11.    cabbage
12.    watermelon
13.    sweet potatoes
14.    grapefruit
15.    mushrooms

***MY ADVICE: Buy organic produce on the dirty dozen list if you can afford it, and for fruits you zest (lemons, oranges, limes). If you can't afford organic, wash your produce under running water and don't worry about it. Eat 2 cups of fruit everyday, and at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, and you will reap many health benefits! The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. found in fruits and vegetables are wayyyyy too important for you to decrease or eliminate from your diet.

5.    Environmental Worker's Group.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The New Food Plate Has Finally Arrived!!!

Today is a big day in the nutrition world.... the new "My Plate" ( was unveiled with help of First Lady Michelle Obama and replaces "My Pyramid". The first Food Guide Pyramid was unveiled in 1992 and then revamped in 2005 into "My Pyramid" which was changed to emphasize physical activity, whole grains, and healthy fats (instead of sweets and fats which were on the old food guide). "My Pyramid" was supposed to be individualized and interactive to meet the needs of Americans, the only problem was that no one understood what it meant, and those without internet access could not get their individualized plan. Even dietitians complained about how it was hard for the normal person to understand, and dietitians themselves had trouble explaining the visual design.

The new "Food Plate" is very simple and shows what your plate should look like at each meal. Slightly less than 1/4 fruits and protein, and slightly more than 1/4 vegetables and grains, with a serving of dairy on the side.

First Lady Obama stated at the presentation today:
"This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we're eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country.... When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we're already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So it's tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids' plates. As long as they're half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we're golden. That's how easy it is."

The idea behind the plate is that Americans eat off of plates, and not pyramids. Anyone who can read can understand it, and for those that can't, plates will be made showing the actual food examples.

The website states the goals of My Plate with special attention to goals of the
Personally, I think this is a great step and a much easier desing for the American population to understand. It's just unfortunate that it has taken this long, considering that dietitians and nutrition-related health professionals have been using the plate design for many many years. Lots of $$$ was put into the interactive website and marketing of "My Pyramid", but I do not feel that it is all lost money. The MyPyramid website ( does give people the ability to evaluate their diets and find out their specific needs, which cannot be done by just looking at the plate design. I guess you can see I see the glass half-full (of skim milk) with regards to the expenses and effort used for MyPyramid.