Your Sustainable Kitchen Makeover

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Have you ever watched a food show where they go into someone’s kitchen and open up the refrigerator and cupboards for everyone to see? They always look so neat and tidy – there is no way that was a surprise visit! These shows make me think about my own refrigerator… what is in it right now? Leftovers? Vegetables that I need to eat? And working at Sustainable Table, of course I also wonder – how sustainable is my food? Where did it come from? What if someone wants to look inside, am I ready for my TV debut?!

Even if you shop at the farmers’ market or the healthiest grocery store in town, how sustainable do you think your kitchen is? There is a chance that chemicals, additives, pesticides, GMOs and many other unsavory toxins are lurking in your refrigerator, cupboards and under your sink.

Let’s take a look and see how to make some sustainable improvements. If you know what to look out for, you can start creating a healthier and more sustainable kitchen with each shopping trip.

Get started!

#1. Peek inside the fridge and cupboards… take a quick inventory. Get a sense of what you usually have on hand – veggies, dairy, meat, condiments, breads/grains, processed foods, etc.

#2. Tackle this makeover slowly… one item at a time. Don’t start throwing things out (see all about food waste in the new GRACE food waste section!) but as you run low on an item that you want to upgrade, start to think about alternatives.

#3. Pick which item you want to makeover (Carrots? Milk? Crackers?). On your next trip to the grocery store or farmers’ market, come armed with questions and be ready to read labels to make the best new sustainable choice.

#4. Enjoy the newest sustainable addition to your kitchen! Notice the flavor difference and think about the health implications for you, your family and the producers – relish in the fact that you are contributing to a sustainable world.

#5. Pick the next item. Repeat #3 – #4.

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GMO: If This Doesn’t Convince You, Nothing Will

I started this series, to help readers make the connection between personal health and sustainable food (read the first two posts here). Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have many perceived health issues and aren’t allowed in organic foods, so they must be problematic, right? Let’s dive in and see.

heatlhbloggmoTo start at the beginning – what are Genetically Modified Organisms? GMOs have had their DNA altered in a way that doesn’t happen naturally. Individual genes are transferred from one organism to another to obtain a desired trait or characteristic, including transfer between non-related species (such as placing jellyfish genes in pig embryos to create glowing pigs). The process is referred to as “modern biotechnology,” “gene technology,” “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering.”  For a more detailed and scientific description, read here. GM Food is usually created for a perceived benefit for the consumer or producer, such as a nutritional benefit, or a production benefit such as insect resistance or durability. The first commercial GM crops were released in the early 1990s.

Where do you find GMOs? Despite the very short amount of time that GMOs have been on the market, they have already infiltrated 60–75% of food products in the United States! As of 2003, most of the GM crops in the world were concentrated in the United States (63%) – and just a few other countries – Argentina (21%), Canada (6%), Brazil (4%), China (4%), and South Africa (1%). By 2006, staple crops that had become dominated by GMOs in the United States were soybeans (91% GM), cotton (88% GM), and corn (85% GM). In addition to GM crops, cattle operations often inject the genetically modified hormone rBGH, into their dairy cows and other hormones into beef cattle, and most cattle feed is also made from GM crops.

You can find GMOs in most processed food items that are non-organic and not labeled “non-GMO.” The most common GMO ingredients include:

From corn: corn oil, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, corn meal

From canola: canola oil

From cotton: cottonseed oil

From soy beans: soy protein, soy oil, soy sauce

In fact, while soy products are touted as health food, if you aren’t getting organic soy products (or products labeled non-GMO), there is a good chance that you are eating GM soy! Any of these soy products could easily be GM: soy flour, soy protein, soy isolates, soy isoflavones, soy lecithin, vegetable proteins, textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu, tamari, tempeh, and soy supplements.

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