Spend Wisely & Eat Healthy with the Clean 15

As big a bummer as my last post was about the Dirty Dozen and the myriad of ways modern agriculture and food packaging are trying to kill us, the upside is there is another (happy!) list . While we avoid produce from the Dirty Dozen if we can’t get it organic, we go flipping crazy buying the stuff from the Clean 15 and gorge ourselves silly on them, guilt free. Buying these conventionally grown foods (and saving some serious cash) makes me feel like I’m getting away with something, and apparently I am devious enough by nature that this is a big plus in my book.

How I feel when I channel my inner-Rachael and save money.

The Clean 15
These conventionally-grown foods contain the absolute least amount of pesticide/herbicide residue on the market, and I have no guilt about feeding these things to my family (and baby).

1. Avocados – (*Swoon!*) I buy these by the bag at Costco. Great first food for baby, and it freezes well enough that Augustine would eat it as a snack, even if it was a little strange looking. Guacamole is perfect for when you have a slew of these become ripe all at once.

2. Sweet Corn – Alas, our low-carb-paleo lifestyle puts a hamper on this one more than I’d like.
3. Pineapple
4. Cabbage
5. Sweet Peas
6. Onions – Thank goodness, because literally every meal I cook starts with this tasty fella.
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes – A family favorite! Beware, if your toddler eats too many he WILL get jungle rot in his diaper. Ask me how I know.

How to cut a mango without swearing.
And apparently really impress your coworkers in the break room at lunch. 

9. Papaya – This guy skeeves everybody out but me.
10. Kiwi
11. Eggplant
12. Grapefruit 
13. Cantaloupe
14. Cauliflower – A low-carb girl’s best friend!!! It is mind-blowing what you can do with a boring head of cauliflower, especially when you consider it only has like 2 calories. Pizza crust, rice, “potato” soup… we eat this about 3x per week, with absolutely no grumbles from my 10 year old.

Cauliflower + Food Processor = Rice

15. Sweet potatoes – We LOVE sweet potatoes and eat them in any form. We will be featuring one of our favorites, an amazing and simple baked cinnamon sweet potato bites recipe on our next freezer meal cooking session.
(16). Mushrooms 

So as you can see, trying to make healthy and well-informed decisions does not always have to be expensive/depressing/time consuming. And if you’re like me, you can feel like you’re sticking one to the man in the process!

Lowdown on the Dirty Dozen

I have insomnia. The type that causes me to lay awake for hours thinking and obsessing about all the horrible things that ever have happened to me, are currently happening, or what could happen if I were to go on vacation to the Amazon and fall off a small canoe while traveling down the Nile and there were hippos and leeches and piranhas and even worse, giant man-eating crocodiles, and one of them decided I looked tasty and I was frantically swimming swimming swimming trying to get away and I turn around and all I see in the murky water is a gaping pink maw coming at me AND THEN IT’S 2 A.M. AND I’M LAYING IN BED WITH MY HEART POUNDING AND I’M SWEATING AND GENERALLY NEVER GOING TO FALL ASLEEP EVER AGAIN. True story.

Freaking. Terrifying.

My point is, I do not have the talent that my husband has for easy and blissful sleep anywhere, any time. I know, because I spend a goodly amount of time laying next to him listening to him breathe as I contemplate his demise. Night time is an opportune time for me to explore all my shortcomings and ways that I can do better for my family. One way that I pacify these voices without either making myself crazy or completely breaking the bank is to follow the guidelines of the Dirty Dozen.

As much as I would love to only buy free range, organic, non-GMO, fair trade foods grown and produced by tree-loving hippies and farmers who sing their flocks to sleep each night, I just can’t justify the cost. I want to eat healthy, but even more than that I want to spare my children and their rapidly growing bodies the hazards of constant pesticide and herbicide exposure. Things like this are seared into my psyche, and I agree with it wholeheartedly:

I get around this by choosing my battles, and spending extra money for organic when it comes to the things in my fridge and pantry that pack the most poison. The dirty dozen outlines the top 12 contenders in order from the highest pesticide concentration to the lowest. The things on this list we simply do without if we cannot get them organic.

Dirty Dozen
1. Apples (Trader Joe’s is my favorite place for organic apples)
2. Strawberries (I’ve lost hours of my life thinking about how many I’ve picked and eaten pregnant with Ayden. He’s so smart now, he probably could have cured cancer if I hadn’t marinated him in pesticides for 9 months.)
3. Blueberries (Costco has a big bag of organic frozen mixed berries that are my toddler’s favorite dessert)
4. Celery (good riddance)
5. Peaches (I haven’t had a fresh peach in years. *sob*)
6. Spinach (Costco has 1 lb. organic baby spinach for $4.53!)
7. Bell Peppers
8. Nectarines
9. Cucumbers
10. Cherry Tomatoes
11. Snap Peas
12. Potatoes (This tuber sucks up all the pesticides in the soil)

We’ve found making informed choices about organic produce an easier undertaking when its boiled down into a nice tidy list like this. Even better, there’s yet another list out there of produce that has the least amount of pesticide contamination, but I will cover that in another post. I try not to sweat the occasional lapse when eating out, but I figure our day-to-day intake is minimal so we can take a hit.

In addition to following these lists fairly closely in our home, we also buy only organic milk (Trader Joe’s is one of the cheapest places I’ve found). We are in high hopes that this will spare our pre-teen son from sprouting breasts or our (hopefully) future daughter from starting her period at 9 years old from all the hormones most dairy cows are given. We also avoid canned goods and bottled drinks as much as possible, due to the often high BPA contents of these items. I thought I was being completely paranoid until I discovered that the university hospital where I work is currently undertaking a fetal BPA and phthalate exposure study and measuring babies’ genatalia after birth. Greeeeeeeeat. I’m not a total nazi about this, as we’ve been known to use the occassional can of refried beans, and I’m not going to stop my thirsty child from drinking a bottle of water when he’s running around in our 90 degree weather if that’s the only thing available. But, I’m certainly not going to buy him bottled water to drink at home when we have a wonderful water filter at the kitchen sink.

Not a big fan of this look in a fetus.

Five years ago we started this process by making the commitment to buy only organic milk, which felt huge and unbearably expensive at the time. Over the years we have slowly adopted other lifestyle modifications, and I can only imagine that ten years from now we might well be living like naked recluses in the rain forest in an attempt to escape the chemical exposures of everyday life. Each family has to decide for themselves what is important to them, and taking that first little step is by far the most important one.

Us 10 years from now…scared of everything!

Kayte’s Bio

Name: Kayte

Family:  I am a married mother of two stinky little boys, ages 10 years and 19 months. I have been married for 11 years and still rather like my husband, so I think I’ll keep him around at least another 11.

Augustine, Kayte, and Ayden
Yes, it has been nearly a year since a decent picture of us was taken.

Background: I grew up as number 9 of 10 children, with the age range spaced out about 36 years. It was interesting, to say the least. We traveled the U.S. and Mexico for a good part of my childhood, and finally settled down in a small town in Wyoming when I was 10. My parents figured it was time to put down some roots, considering I was about to go through puberty and my little brother could read and write Spanish but not English. Before you ask, no, my father was not in the military. He was 18 years older than my mom and liked to fish, so we traveled from fishing hole to fishing hole, winding up in Mexico when word on the street was there was great large mouth bass and crappie fishing there. Wyoming sucked. For 9 years. Then I moved around like a vagrant after high school, from Kansas City to a mid-sized city in South Carolina. By the time I met my husband at 21, I’d moved residences 17 times since graduating high school, burnt down an apartment, and was homeless twice (once briefly, once for 3 months). After baby #1 and an awesome natural birthing experience, I became inspired to be a nurse and did so in 2010. I’ve worked in Labor & Delivery, ambulatory surgery, antepartum, postpartum, and newborn nursery for 3 years before getting up the nerve to go to grad school to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. So here I am now, juggling 2 jobs, 2 kids, a needy toddler, a surly 10 year old, and full-time graduate school. I’m thinking I might as well have another baby and seal the misery deal.

Food: Unlike my mom (Mary), I seldom have the time or forethought to meal plan. We eat mostly low-carb or paleo home-cooked meals, organic as much as possible, fairly strictly following the concepts of the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen in order to maximize our food budget. Currently I make it to the grocery store about once per week, and each day am faced with the “Dear God what am I going to make for dinner” dilemma and subsequent emergency grocery store run by hubby on the way home from work. But that is about to change as of this weekend! I start my clinical rotations in a month, and am anticipating life as I know it to come to a bloody and screeching halt, so having a freezer full of ready made meals is a must. This next 12 months until graduation will be a grueling marathon run, and I’m trying to keep the hysterics to a minimum.

Greatest food challenge: Figuring out what to make for dinner every day. Shopping with a toddler. FINDING ORGANIC PEAS!!! Not eating too many carbs because they make me fat, and since losing 40 lbs of baby weight a year ago I’d really like to stay this size. Getting my toddler to eat dinner (thank goodness he’s cute).

Favorite quote:  Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” -Mark Twain

Hobbies & interests: I am a huge reader, which is a horrible thing when I should be “enjoying” my assigned reading for school, yet there I am night after night devouring Gone Girl or the like. I am rather crafty, as I love to paint, sew, make jewelry, and have dabbled in just about every craft at some point. Unfortunately, school is seriously stifling my inner creative genius at the moment. I am on a bellydance troupe, and we perform 1-2 times per month at local venues. This, too, will have to take a backseat for the next year as well.

Ancient Echoes Bellydance Troupe

A favorite recipe: Hmm. Its tough to choose, but I have a bit of a crush on Alton Brown as well as his meatloaf recipe. Its. Amazing. Here is the link. We try to eat mostly low-carb/paleo, and the next time we make this plan to substitute the BBQ chips with BBQ pork rinds to make it lower-carb.

Photo courtesy of http://www.foodnetwork.com