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The “F” Word: FOOD…

What a big topic. One I am very passionate about.

How often do you wonder how the food you eat gets to your plate? Where exactly did it come from? Who packaged it? Who grew it? Did the animals live a a good life and die humanely? What does this long list of ingredients on the back of this packet really mean?

Do you really care? About any of these?

Truth is…if you care about your own health and that of your family you need to know the answer to these questions. You need to question, to look further, to look beyond the bright colors and shiny happy packaging.

John Robbins cared. The only son of the founder of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire, John Robbins was groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps, but chose to walk away from Baskin-Robbins and the immense wealth it represented. Can you believe that? He began to question and wonder and research where his food came from and how it was affecting our health. He went on to:

“…pursue the deeper American Dream…the dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.”

I believe this is called Responsibility…

He is considered by many to be one of the most eloquent and powerful spokespersons in the world for a sane, ethical and sustainable future. When John spoke at the United Nations, he received a standing ovation. Pretty amazing for a man who had the immense wealth of the Baskin-Robbins empire dangling before him. How inspiring.

I have learned a lot over the years about food. I have researched, read books and articles, watched documentaries: Forks over Knives, Food Matters, Earthlings and Food Inc. , talked to professionals in the healthy living industry and interviewed several too. I feel very strongly about only giving my son real food…no cheap, fast food filled with preservatives and additives and colorings.

I read the labels on everything.

Don’t automatically believe what it says on the cover of a box...turn it around and read the ingredients list…and then do your own research. You might be surprised that the “all natural” statement on the front does not quite match the list on the back. It would be nice to just walk into a store…any food store and not even have to question the statements written on the front, or have to look at the ingredients list…just believe everything that is written and that the companies truly have your best interests at heart. Unfortunately though the majority don’t. They care about making money. One rule is that the longer the list of ingredients on the back of a box, the more you should avoid it. Words you cannot pronounce easily, numbers and colors are also a definite “No thank you.”

You also need to be aware of what is in your body/hair/skin products. I won’t go into detail about this, but there are many toxic ingredients in these products you need to watch out for. Here are a couple of links which provide some info on this. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5971/12-Toxic-Ingredients-to-AVOID-in-Cosmetics-Skin-Care-Products-Infographic.html and http://www.safecosmetics.org.

I know it can seem like a lot to learn and feel overwhelming. It’s just a little homework though…focus on how great it will be that you now know.

Then there is the topic of GMO’s – Genetically Modified Fod, conventionally and organically grown fruit and vegetables. It is not necessary to buy all of your fruits and veggies organic. There is a list – called The Dirty Dozen which lists the 12 fruits and veggies it is important to buy organic as they do contain a high pesticide residue. As for GMO’s…to be avoided! Some of the top GMO foods are: Soy, Corn, Canola…Here is a great post on them: http://theorganicmomma.com/the-top-10-gmo-foods-to-keep-away-from-your-table/

When you are in the store, you know those annoying little sticky labels that you peel off your fruit and veggies?! Well there are numbers on them that tell you whether they are organically or conventionally grown (use of pesticides), or GMO. Anything beginning with a “9” = Organic, with a “4” = Conventionally grown, and with an “8” = GMO.

Regarding meat…I used to love eating it. Bacon sandwiches, a steak, a Sunday roast...yummy... But this feeling began to permeate my being, becoming stronger and stronger…it kept whispering…What are you doing? You say you love animals, how lovely they are, how much you care and here you are eating them…

Shortly after, I stopped eating meat. This was 15 years ago. Now I’m not saying that this choice is right for everyone. I have come to understand that some people really seem to need to eat meat for their health. Buying meat from factory farms though (which is the majority of meat in this country) supports an industry that is incredibly cruel to animals. How those animals have lived and died and what they were fed affects the quality of the meat that ends up on your plate and your child’s plate. And that’s a fact.

Rather for example buy your meat once a week from a local organic, certified humane farmer (this also requires some research) who does care about how his animals have lived and died, than buying it every other day from a cheap source. Even if that means you eat less meat on a monthly basis at least what you do buy will be much better quality and healthier for you and your family. And if it doesn’t say “organic, free range, grass fed, certified humane” it definitely isn’t. And even if it does say it, it doesn’t mean it truly is either. Companies get away with a lot these days. Again my suggestion is to do your own research…it’s worth it.

Gene Baur is the founder of the nations largest farm animal protection organization, Farm Sanctuary and has committed the last 25 years to improving the lives of farm animals.

As he says:

Animals in today’s industrialized farms are treated like commodities. They are crowded into warehouses, confined so tightly that they cannot easily walk or even turn around. They are de-beaked, de-toed, and their tails are docked without anesthetic. Their bones break because their bodies have been manipulated to grow so fast that they can’t support their own weight. Factory farm animals are denied fresh air, sun, wholesome food, room to move, and the freedom to exhibit their natural behaviors. This rampant abuse of millions of animals every day is largely invisible to the public..

I had the honor of interviewing Gene Baur last year.


Tinkerbell a rescued piggy, very happy at Farm Sanctuary

There have been countless times I have lain awake at night thinking about the suffering that animals endure. I feel powerless and deeply sad at this situation and that most people just want what’s easy and convenient and cheap. Feeling like this doesn’t help the animals or me though, so I made a commitment a while ago to focus on what I can do. I don’t go out of my way to talk to people about all this, but when asked a question I will answer. The discussions that arise though are not always easy.

It’s like you are seen as someone strange, doing something unnatural not eating meat. Sometimes I feel attacked before I have even said a word.

A good friend and I were talking last year about meat and me still not eating it and she said something like…oh you’re funny like that…kind of waving her hand and making a face. Funny?! ! In my book it’s called giving a shit

I have tried to understand this attitude, but I never will. I told her that if she knew what went on in factory farms she would not buy meat from there any more. She said “probably” with a shrug and then that was it. End of subject.

I really struggle with this complete indifference and lack of care about how animals end up on your plate.

Others say: Oh but it can’t be that bad….The people that say this have never done any research about where their meat comes from (they admit this)… My answer is simple: Yes it really is that bad.

wayne dyer quote

Here is another great, informative article on the meat industry/food safety: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-friedrich/usda-inspector-general-fo_b_3333853.html

I have not given my son any meat to eat, but if he chooses one day to eat meat, then OK. He will at least be well educated on the topic of FOOD and where it all comes from and the options available to him. He will then be able to make an INFORMED CHOICE. And soon I am going to start reading labels with him in the store and I will make it a fun experience. I will get creative. It is my responsibility to raise him in this way…not just to blindly place food in front of him with no knowledge of where it came from.

Eggs…the labels on the front of the carton do not generally mean much in regard to animal welfare. Here is a pretty great guide from the Humane Society about what all the labels mean: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/confinement_farm/facts/guide_egg_labels.html

And you may ask…what about FISH?…As I don’t want this to be a never-ending piece, I will post one link to an interesting article and suggest…again...that you do more of your own research. It is necessary. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/wild-fish-farmed-fish_b_812308.html

As parents of course we want the best for our children and yet I have seen a real disconnect and lack of knowledge occurring with the food that parents give their children. Robyn O’Brien, mother of four was shaken awake by the dangerous allergic reaction of one of her children to a “typical” breakfast. In a TEDx talk she gave, she brings insight, compassion and detailed analysis to her research into the impact that the global food system is having on the health of our children. Well worth watching.

When I hear parents ask: “Who has the time for all this?” and “Does it really matter?” I say: You make time…And…yes it really matters. I am a single parent on a tight budget. But I make time. I make it a priority…because it matters. My sons health is important to me. My health is important to me. There are a huge number of sites out there with great ideas and recipes and fun, creative, affordable healthy snacks for kids…of whatever age. A couple of websites by parents that I love are http://www.livelearnloveeat.com and http://www.raisingheartyboys.com.

Educate your children. Teach them. Involve them.

Last month I interviewed Lisa Wilson, founder of the Raw Food Institute. She is truly an inspiration supporting people living their most healthy life. She has 3 children and talks about the importance of involving children in the food process and educating them. Another amazing mother I interviewed Lisa Druxman founder of Fit4Mom and Fit4Baby also talks of the importance of educating yourself on food companies and growing your own garden.

Food really does matter…Knowledge is power and changing your choices will not just support your health but the planet and animals too.

Even Prince Charles has addressed this important topic of FOOD saying: “Questioning the conventional worldview is risky business. And the only reason I have done so is for the sake of the younger generation and for the integrity of Nature herself. It is your future that concerns me and that of your grandchildren, and theirs too.”  

Here is the full article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-hatfield/prince-charles-calls-for-_b_1279085.html

Below is a quote by the inspiring Tony Robbins again. How eloquent he is.

“A the present time, when most of us sit down to eat, we aren’t very aware of how our food choices affect the world. We don’t realize that in every Big Mac there is a piece of the tropical rainforests, and with every billion burgers sold another hundred species become extinct. We don’t realize that in the sizzle of our steaks there is the suffering of animals, the mining of our topsoil, the slashing of our forests, the harming of our economy, and the eroding of our health. We don’t hear in the sizzle the cry of the hungry millions who might otherwise be fed. We don’t see the toxic poisons accumulating in the food chains, poisoning our children and our earth for generations to come. But once we become aware of the impact of our food choices, we can never really forget. Of course we can push it all to the back of our minds, and we may need to do this, at times, to endure the enormity of what is involved.
But the earth itself will remind us, as will our children, and the animals and the forests and the sky and the rivers, that we are part of this earth, and it is part of us. All things are deeply connected, and so the choices we make in our daily lives have enormous influence, not only on our own health and vitality, but also on the lives of other beings, and indeed on the destiny of life on earth.

Thankfully, we have cause to be grateful – what’s best for us personally is also best for other forms of life, and for the life support systems on which we all depend.”     – from the book Diet For A New America by Tony Robbins

A compassionate world truly does begin with YOU. We all have the ability to make healthy choices as individuals and for our families.

Yes…sometimes I do still lose hope that the world will ever truly change…that enough people will begin to ask questions, to wonder, to research…to really care…but I make myself focus instead on all that is moving in the direction of truth, of compassion, and of responsibility…and the power that we as individuals have to truly make a difference…

And surely that is something to be celebrated….


The lovely Oliver the sheep (now in heaven) and I at Farm Sanctuary

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates

“Optimum nutrition is the medicine of tomorrow.” – Dr. Linus Pauling

By Annabel Ruffell

What Journey are YOU on?