iStock 628097352 Cropped According the U.S.D.A., organic products are in nearly three out of four grocery stores. Yet organic food sales including fruits, veggies, dairy, beverages, packaged foods, breads and grains, snack foods, meat, fish, poultry, and condiments only account for four percent of the total U.S. Food sales, according to recent industry statistics.

The Environmental Working Group releases a list of its Dirty Dozen, which includes foods that tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and showed higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce items. Nearly two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture contained pesticide residues. 

The Dirty Dozen 

1. Apples
2. Peaches
3. Nectarines
4. Strawberries
5. Grapes
6. Celery
7. Spinach
8. Sweet Bell Peppers
9. Cucumbers
10. Cherry tomatoes
11. Snap Peas (imported)
12. Potatoes

Also to note with high number of residues include: Hot Peppers and Kale/Collard Greens.

Although some fruits and vegetables are cleaner of pesticides than others, if you cannot afford to purchase organic varieties of the list above, remember to wash them with a soft brush and mild soap and water. Some foods like broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, melons, potatoes, berries and some others may require a soaking in a one to three ratio of a vinegar and water mixture. This helps kill all the bacteria.

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Every year in January, pretty much every lifestyle publication is filled with diet tips and recipes, healthy eating plans, and all sorts of challenges to improve your overall wellness in the New Year.

And those are great (we publish some ourselves), but sometimes all the focus on health food means you're losing out on deliciousness and the overall experience - eating is supposed to be fun, after all! Accordingly, here's what we're craving as we kick off 2018...

All Things Home-Grown.

iStock-495112704This might be the year that you really get in touch with your food, starting from the ground up. And we mean that literally! Gardening of all kinds will become even more popular during the upcoming year, whether you have a yard with plenty of space or just a window box.

Maybe 2018 will be the year that you really get in touch with your food; after all, there's definitely something fulfilling about being involved in the culinary process from the seed to plate. Plus there's an added bonus for parents - starting and maintaining a garden is great project to do with your children since it starts them on the path to lifelong healthy eating and appreciating where their food came from. 

Pickling And Fermentation.

iStock-491563730These old school techniques are experiencing a revival in 2018! Pickling is good for so much than cucumbers; for instance, pickled onions, beans, carrots, peppers, and more all make for plenty of flavor and relatively few calories.

On a related note, in 2018 you might discover that the fermentation process isn't just for booze; rather, a lot of fabulous - and healthy - foods are fermented including kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut. If these fit into your diet plan, fermented foods can have a lot of important nutrients as well as probiotics that can help improve your overall health. 

Breakfast Goes Global.

iStock-636743610The classic bowl of cereal or yogurt and granola might be less common in 2018 as our breakfasts start getting a multi-cultural twist. All humans need a boost of energy in the morning, of course, and some cultures do it particularly well.

Mexican chilaquiles, Costa Rican gallo pinto, pan-Asian ramen, pho, and congee, Middle Eastern shakshouka, Egyptian Ful Medames and more all make wonderful ways to start the day. Plus these foods make awesome dinners and lunches too - breakfast shouldn't be limited to the mornings. 

Anything But Pasta.

iStock-477749476Gluten and carbs have gotten a bad rap from nutrition experts lately - and depending on your dietary needs and restrictions, you might be avoiding them anyways!

Whether you're low-carbing it by necessity or by choice, you should check out some alternative pasta options like the aptly named spaghetti squash, butternut squash, zucchini, black bean spaghetti, cabbage, edamame, or even cauliflower work well depending on the type of dish you're creating. 

Non-Animal Proteins.

iStock-491364738Whether you're going vegetarian or vegan for health reasons, because you're a friend of the animals, or simply because it's more environmentally friendly as a whole, there's no denying the fact that it's become downright trendy to forgo meat. Plus tempeh, tofu, seitan, and other substitutes and faux-meats are becoming more readily available than ever!  

This trend goes hand in hand with the push for a more global menu as well - after all, a large portion of the world doesn't eat meat, chicken, or fish - at least not in the amounts that most north Americans do! 

Let's make 2018 the year of awareness and respect for food and its origin - here's to healthy, creative, and delicious meals for everyone! 

 

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Is one of your 2018 New Year's resolutions to become a locavore? Perhaps it should be...

Why Eating Local Is Great For (Nearly) Everyone In The World.

The idea of eating local isn't a new one, although the somewhat awkward term "locavore"  was coined relatively recently. In fact, it is how humans ate for our most of our existence! However, the concept of eating (mostly) local has become a trend for two pretty good health-related reasons.

It Lowers Your Environmental Impact.

The first reason to stick to locally produced ingredients as much as possible is that it is much better for the health of our planet. By decreasing the energy and subsequent fuel required to transport food across the country or around the world and eating close to the source, you're minimizing the impact your consumption makes on the environment. 

Eat Local, Get And Stay Healthy! 

The second reason is that eating local can often be better for your own health! After all, food produced nearby that goes straight from the farm to your table with relatively minimal processing tends to be better for you in regard to both nutritional value and general satisfaction. 

What's more, larger food producers that ship nationwide or internationally also may add more stabilizers or preservatives to keep things shelf stable, which sometimes makes them taste noticeably different than your local options. And while flavor preference is somewhat subjective, we think everyone can agree that fresher and with less processing means things just taste better! 

You Really Get In Touch With What's On Your Plate...

Most of us are pretty disconnected from our food sources - unless you work on a farm or live in a rural area, the biggest connection that most of us have with what we eat is probably at the supermarket. And picking up things off the shelf isn't exactly visiting the source! 

That said, going to the farm or the source of our food just isn't realistic for most of us on a regular basis. 

It Just Tastes Better.

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 3.47.19 PMEating local isn't only about altruism and eco-friendly positivity, however. There's one reason to stick to locally produced food that's actually pretty selfish if you think about it - and that's the simple reason that food produced nearby tastes better! After all, if your food is not subject to multiple days of storage and shipping, it'll be fresher and more delicious. And if you're in the Midwest, may we recommend AE Dairy products made right in Iowa?

And that's because locally produced products are fresher - and in the case of something like dairy products, freshness really matters! And that's why you should definitely try to eat local more in 2018! 

iStock 841783906 CroppedWith holiday parties, tempting holiday treats and the cold weather-induced exercise-diminished lives we often lead during the holidays, health and wellness goals often get left by the wayside come December.

While your worries about mass holiday weight gain aren’t likely to be realized – average holiday weight gain is only about one pound per year – much of the time, we don’t lose it. It is certainly important to be aware of your health and nutrition choices during the holidays, but it’s equally important to remember that your body is resilient, and your health is ever-evolving.

That means you can (and should!) enjoy holiday treats, and you can do so with a clear conscience, knowing that the holidays are only temporary. So, while it is your right and duty to enjoy all that makes the holidays the best time of the year, these simple strategies can keep you on your feet until you get back to your usual routine:

Eat A Balanced Snack Before The Party

You know the party tonight is going to have tons to eat and drink. So you should fast all day to make up for future calorie consumption, right? WRONG! Restricting yourself during the day will only make you feel more hungry later and could lead to consuming way more than you would have, had you only stuck to a relatively regular routine during the day.

Offer To Bring A Dish – And Make The Healthy(ish) One

If you’re heading out to a party, it can feel like the Wild Wild West – you don’t know what’s going to be served and definitely can’t count on finding healthy options. Here’s the solution: offer to bring something to the party, and make it good-for-you! That way, the host loves you for helping out, and you love you for guaranteeing there’s at least something healthy to nosh on. It’s a win-win.

Don’t Skip Your Favorites

If your holiday favorites are less-than-flawless from a nutrition perspective, don’t skip them. That’s right – DON’T skip them. You’ll regret it and think about them nonstop if you do. Instead, serve yourself a reasonable portion, and then walk away. There will be more of it at the next party, or at least next year.

Be The Activity Instigator

During the holidays, you might not hit the gym as often as you normally would – especially if you’re hosting guests – but that doesn’t mean you’re destined for sedentary living. It’s easiest to stay active when you’re taking the lead. Suggest active group activities: Go for a walk around the neighborhood! (See the lights! Go sledding! Bring the kids to the park! Walk into town for last-minute gifts! Walk to the store (you know you’ll forget some key ingredient for some staple recipe)! Set up the family football game, if the weather holds!

Cut Your Cocktails

There will be plenty to drink, so no need to guzzle. Try cutting your cocktails with lighter ingredients, which will save you on both calories and alcohol. Mix have a glass of egg nog with half a glass of milk. Try a wine spritzer to spice up your vino – mix half a glass of white wine with club soda and a splash of fruit juice. Most of all, remember – enjoy! The holidays come but once a year.

Wilk Kristen H2 CroppedKristen Wilk, MS, RDN

Hi! My name is Kristen, and I’m a registered dietitian nutritionist. I’m a contributor to Womensforum, and I also work for Pre Brands. In this and former roles, I’ve worked with a variety of food and beverage companies. Thoughts and opinions presented here are my own.

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Planning to work on your fitness in the New Year? You've probably already researched and created a workout plan and perhaps a diet plan as well. And it's all probably fabulous - but have you considered how you might include dairy as part of your 2017 fitness and wellness #goals? 

Dairy Is Your Secret Weapon In The Gym.

Or on the field, track, or studio depending on what your favorite activities are and where you need to perform your best. 

You probably don't think of cheese, cream, or other dairy products as being particularly healthy or good fuel for workouts. After all, foods using these ingredients can be kind of heavy and filling. However, a glass of milk can be a great way to recover after a serious workout, and many forms of dairy offer plenty of protein and other nutrients that you need to be as healthy and active as possible. 

Dairy Is A Superfood.

Especially for your bones! We all need calcium for strong healthy bones of course, and whether you're an avid athlete or just a regular gym-goer, you want to make sure you're giving yourself the elements that you need to create high bone density. 

Plus, dairy is often fortified with vitamins A and D, making it even more valuable and necessary for your overall health. Finally, it's full of protein, making it exactly what you need after a tough workout! 

Dairy Has You (Re)Covered. 

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Dairy is sometimes touted as a great post-game recovery drink or snack for athletes - and for good reason! Of course, we're starting to think that it's somewhat underrated in this regard. After all, a cold glass of milk is probably not the first thing you reach for after a long run or a tough workout, but perhaps it should be! Chocolate milk (like the reduced fat version from our sponsor AE Dairy) might be an especially delicious post workout treat. 

Not only does dairy have plenty of calcium for strong bones and protein for energy, many of the less processed dairy products contain plenty of good fats that will improve your health in an incredible variety of ways. Just stick to the simpler or "whole" versions of most dairy products, e.g. whole milk, full fat cream and butter, and fresh high quality cheese. 

Dairy Should Be Part Of Your 2017 Regimen, And Here's Why...

There are tons of reasons why you should make eating dairy a key component of your fitness and wellness routine, but perhaps the most important one is also the most basic - high quality and fresh-tasting dairy products just make everything more delicious. And isn't that the best reason of all?

 

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