Wholesome R.D. Mom

Making Nutrition a Way of Life


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A Glimpse Inside Earth Fare (Cary/Morrisville) + $50 Gift Card Giveaway

I am super excited about the new Earth Fare that opened this week (on March 25th, 2015 at 951 Morrisville Parkway) in Cary/Morrisville, NC. Since Earth Fare prides itself on providing “healthy food for everyone” with its stringent standards for natural and organic foods as well as wellness products…..this store concept is right up my alley. Hearing about Earth Fare’s beginnings which started as a restaurant-based concept in Asheville, NC in 1975, by the name “Dinner For The Earth,” made me want to go back in time.

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If you have ever been to one of Earth Fare’s other stores you will notice that this Cary/Morrisville store appears quite different. This location looks a little more the part of a mainstream grocery store (with bright lights, high ceilings and even skylights) while continuing to keep a food philosophy that can stand up to specialty grocers. The Earth Fare promise is that their products will contain:

No High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

No artificial fats or artificial trans fats

No Artificial Colors

No Artificial Flavors

No Artificial Preservatives

No Artificial sweeteners

No Antibiotics or Synthetic Growth Hormones in Fresh Meat or Dairy

No bleached or bromated flour

Now this food philosophy does not mean that everything in Earth Fare is healthy, as cookies, chips and soda (to name a few) can easily be found adorning end caps…..so don’t be fooled! Instead, what it does mean, is that you don’t need to worry about any of the 8 ingredients/additives listed above (which are thought to play a negative role in both mental and physical health). So when you see 6 pack of Mexican Coke in glass bottles (which follows Earth Fare’s guidelines by using pure cane sugar rather than HFCS or artificial sweeteners) may I suggest you continue walking. The general recommendation to shop the store’s perimeter holds true for Earth Fare just as it does the other grocery stores. The reasoning behind this, you ask? Because the perimeter of the store is where the fresh foods (with the least amount of processing) are typically found such as your produce, meat, dairy and grain sections (many of which do not require ingredient or nutrition labels).

With regards to produce, Earth Fare offers both organic and non-organic produce options which are clearly labeled: Circle tags for the organic produce (think “O” = organic) and square tags for the conventional produce (as seen below). Earth Fare also prides themselves on providing the freshest quality products and supporting the community which is why they feature a growing number of locally grown and/or regional products as well as those from family producers (which may be local to another Earth Fare store). I did check to make sure they carried a few of my favorite local NC brands such as Roots Hummus and Nello’s Sauce…..and they did…..so I’m hoping that some of my other local favorites such as YAWP bars will eventually earn a spot on their shelves in the future. By the way, if you haven’t tried any of these local brands they are a must…..but more on that in another post.

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For those of you who may be looking for guten-free products, Earth Fare carries many of which are scattered around the store in visible Gluten-free signage brackets (as seen below). It is important to remember that just because a product is Gluten-free it does not mean that it is healthy (and these Gluten-free sections are heavily filled with processed foods). Rather, try to stick to the naturally gluten-free unprocessed foods of which there are many…..around the stores perimeter!

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Earth Fare is known for their fresh produce, meat (which is antibiotic-free, without added hormones and humanely-raised) and seafood department (which is sustainable and traceable). However, do not overlook their bulk bin section, which I thought was the highlight of the store!!! Grains, seeds, nuts, flours, fruits, granolas, even loose leaf teas and herbs….you name it, they have it. Earth Fare wants you to “try before you buy” to ensure you are going to love what you take home. So of course I had a sample of their freshly ground almond butter and it sold me to make a purchase. My daughter loved operating the super simple nut butter machines (so please don’t be intimidated). I also sampled the honey roasted peanut butter, which I might add was dangerously delicious and tasted similar to peanut brittle.  Also, if you purchase a product that you find you are not fond of, you are able to bring it back for a refund. I love this idea as it takes away my apprehension to try new products (and nine times out of ten I end up loving and buying that product again).

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Earth Fare has numerous other departments such as a wellness/beauty department, a cheese department, a sandwich line, a hot bar, olive bar and salad bar, a deli, bakery, sushi station, and a smoothie bar (with a happy hour from 2-5pm). The smoothies were delicious but I was definitely on a sugar rush afterwards so now I see why they call it “happy hour” and why it only lasts so long….before….you…crash). I definitely would have loved a smoothie with some added vegetables or protein, so next time I will have to take advantage of their “build your own” option. Earth Fare has also just begun offering $3 kids meals so you may just find me one night in my yoga pants and messy updo “treating” my kids to dinner. We all have those days when cooking feels like a chore and all you want is a reasonable and healthy meal for you and your family to casually enjoy while also being able to pick up a few groceries for your next home cooked meal.

Earth Fare’s pricing appears comparable to Whole Foods, Kroger and Harris Teeter for many products. There were many “grand opening” sales going on this week so it is difficult to speak to the sales as of yet. However, I did snag some great deals on local grass fed beef, organic berries and other produce so I’m hoping these sales will continue to happen at regular intervals in the future.  Earth Fare also has their own branded products of which about 75% are organic…so those products may be a good option when it comes to everyday pricing.

Because I do love a good deal, I was pleased to find out that Earth Fare has lots of additional ways save on your groceries. They offer online coupons along with their monthly, weekly and daily deals. Additionally, you will want to make sure and set up a tomato Bank account so that you can earn points for each visit to the store, on your purchases and by bringing your own bags. Once you reach 100 points that’s, cha-ching, $1 off. I’m personally not a fan of receiving text deals, but if you are, then they’ve got something for you too.

So now that I’ve given you a glimpse of what the new Earth Fare can offer you, aren’t you eager to check it out yourself and enter a giveaway to win a $50 Earth Fare gift card? Feel free to check out the Earth Fare Morrisville/Cary store happenings.

Earth Fare is giving one of my Wholesome RD Mom readers a $50.00 gift card in celebration of their new store opening!  Entering for a chance to win is easy. The winner will be randomly chosen and you can do any of the following as each action will give you one chance at winning.  Please leave a SEPARATE comment for each action you do in order to be counted as separate entries.

  • Leave a comment about what you would buy if you won the $50 gift card.
  • Like Earth Fare Cary/Morrisville on Facebook – which is a great way to find out about deals at the store: (be sure to come back here and leave me a comment letting me know you did this).
  • Invite a friend or two to follow Wholesome RD Mom on Facebook (be sure to come back here and leave me a comment letting me know you did this).

Details about the giveaway:

  • You must live in Cary/Morrisville or the surrounding area to be eligible for the giveaway.
  • Giveaway ends Wednesday, April 3rd at midnight EST.
  • There will only be one winner for the $50.00 Earth Fare gift card.
  • The winner will be notified and will have 24 hours to claim the prize, otherwise another winner will be chosen.

Disclosure:  I was given a gift card for my time spent touring Earth Fare. The thoughts and opinions above are all my own. 


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Q and A: Greek Yogurt

Reader Question:

My son loves yogurt, especially Greek Yogurt. Organic Greek is hard to find. He prefers the flavored varieties but the amount of sugar is crazy! Do I just stick to plain Greek yogurt and flavor it with syrup/honey/vanilla/fruit/granola or is there a better option?

Answer:

Greek yogurt is a great source of protein (with a whopping ~23 grams per 8oz) and calcium for growing kids and can be found in a multitude of varieties (whole, 2%, fat-free, light….etc) and flavors. So how do you choose a healthy Greek yogurt with all these choices?

Lets take a step back for a moment and talk about shopping for food (in general). I typically keep an eye out for 2 things on a food label:

1.) A short list of ingredients. 

2.) Ingredients with a known source (and no, a test tube or lab doesn’t count). For example, if we take a look at yogurt we know that the ingredient “milk” comes from a cow, “cane sugar” is derived from sugar cane (albeit processed)….etc. What about natural flavor or aspartame? Can you tell me where those came from? EXACTLY! Now, this is a general rule and won’t work for everything, but it’s important to know where your food (and ingredients) are sourced, so it’s all part of a learning process.

When we look at plain yogurt, it almost always fits the bill! So yes, it is typically one of the healthiest options. However, it doesn’t appeal to everyone’s tastebuds. So what can you do to jazz it up?

-add a touch of honey or maple syrup and a few drops of your favorite pure extract (vanilla, lemon, almond, coconut….etc) for flavor. Maple syrup and vanilla is our family’s favorite (I also make sure to use the alcohol-free extracts if I’m not baking with them as they have a smoother flavor profile).

-stew some berries or apples with cinnamon in a saucepan on the stovetop (to pull out the juice and soften the fruit), let the mixture cool, store it in the fridge and mix it into the yogurt as you like (you can also puree the mixture).

-mix in a dallop of your favorite pure fruit jam.

-mix together plain yogurt and fruit yogurt to cut the sweetness in half.

-pulverize some dehydrated fruit (strawberries, mangos, etc) and mix it until you reach your desired taste.

-top with granola, toasted chopped nuts, or crushed homemade graham crackers.

Of course, Greek yogurt can also be used in many recipes for dressings, dips, marinades and baked goods and as a substitute for sour cream and mayo as you may see in some of my recipes.

In the real food world Greek yogurt should be made with just 2 ingredients: milk and live cultures.  However, once you begin reading labels you will soon discover that many Greek yogurt brands on the market contain a slew of other unnecessary ingredients.

One of these added ingredients includes sugars: Milk, in its natural state, contains sugar. For example, plain Greek yogurt contains about 6-9g of sugar per 8oz (1 cup). Additionally, if the yogurt contains some sort of fruit it will have a higher sugar content (as fruit naturally contains sugar). So don’t panic when you see the number of sugar grams. Rather, look at the ingredients label and pay attention to the added sweetener and the form it is in. Some of these added sweeteners include (in which I would consider descending nutritional order): fruit/fruit juice/fruit concentrate, honey, cane sugar, agave, fructose, high fructose corn syrup or even artificial sweeteners (stevia, sucralose, aspartame).

Now, I never like to make anyone hyper vigilant about every single thing that is put in their mouth, as balance plays a very important role in health (both physical and mental). However, I do believe in educating the consumer so that informed decisions can be made.  So, what might be some other aspects to look for in a Greek yogurt?

Is the yogurt organic? The organic label would imply that the product is GMO-free, as certified organic products cannot contain genetically modified organisms. Additionally, an organic label would ensure that the milk used to make the yogurt was not derived from cows given antibiotics (which can interfere with the effectiveness of human antibiotic use). So now I want you to ask yourself whether this is important to you.

Additionally, some so-called yogurts are disguised as “Greek” through the use of milk protein concentrate. This highly processed ingredient is often used to boost the protein content of these “yogurts” and to create that Greek yogurt mouth-feel (even though the yogurt has not gone through the traditional straining process). Why? Well, because “Greek-style” yogurts are cheap for food manufacturers to make and sadly, they are in business solely for a profit.

Now think back to my formula for choosing food products:

1.) A short list of ingredients…….and

2.) Ingredients with a known source.

So, if you run across a yogurt containing any other ingredients such as fillers (corn starch, maltodextrin), colorings, flavors (even natural flavor), stabilizers and preservatives those varieties should then take a back seat….need I say more?

Also, it’s important to remember that fat is not your enemy. A little bit of a full-fat yogurt will keep you much more satiated than a fat-free variety. Although, this can be a personal preference, you should base your buying decision on your current health status and your typical yogurt consumption. For example, I believe a full-fat yogurt on an occasional night is definitely a pure delight. Now if I were a regular consumer or had elevated lipid levels I might rethink the full-fat variety. Do you get my drift?

So there you have it! I’m hoping that you can confidently buy a yogurt that suits you and your family (as we all differ with regards to health, monetary resources, stances on GMOs and product availability). Or if you want to take it one step further, you can make your own yogurt in the comfort of your home…..but that will be saved for a different blog post.

With all this being said my family tends to stick with plain yogurt (spruced up with a touch of maple syrup and pure alcohol-free vanilla flavor) with the occasional fruit yogurt here and there. Some of our current favorite fruit yogurt brands include: Maple Hill Creamery, Wallaby Organic and Siggi’s. Additionally, on a side note, if you ever have a question about a product or an ingredient always feel free to call the company and inquire. As a consumer you have the right to know!

 

 

 

 

 


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My general rule of 5 ingredients or less (that are pronounceable and have a known origin)

We had a science birthday for my son where we conducted experiments, made organic munchable molecules (various cut up fruits, whole wheat pretzel sticks and cheese cubes), created milk art and ended with a grand finale of diet Coke and Mentos “explosions” which, by the way, are pretty awesome!

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After everything was done and over I had 2 rolls of Mentos left. I was thinking that the kids might enjoy having a Mento on occasion (as we never buy them) and that it certainly wouldn’t hurt them……..after all, I used to eat these things nonstop as a kid (and they are in fact the “Fresh maker” which just might get rid of hummus breath and my run on sentences). However, after taking a look at the ingredients, I decided that the best place for the Mentos was the trash or in another 2 liter of diet coke solely for the sake of science!

Ingredients: sugar, wheat glucose syrup, hydrogenated coconut oil, rice starch, natural flavors, gum arabic, sucrose esters of fatty acids, gellan gum and Carnauba wax, Beeswax

I’ll stick to my general rule of: Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce (or have no clue where they are derived). Also, why oh why do companies still use trans fats (which come from hydrogenated oils) after all of the evidence pointing to their health dangers?

Have you ever looked at a Nutrition Facts label or Ingredient list on a food product that you used to eat or had at home and made up your mind that you would NEVER buy it again? What was it and why?


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How can you help promote healthy eating in your household?

Here are a few tips that have helped my kids begin to understand what it means to eat real food while promoting an intrinsic desire to eat healthy (….well, at least most of the time).

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  • Cook your meals at home. When we eat out we are often bombarded with meals that are higher in fat, sugar, salt and calories compared to home-cooked meals. Cooking at home additionally sets an example for kids and provides them with an understanding of where food comes from and how it gets to their plate. Meals that are enjoyed together as a family create a cohesiveness which can carry numerous other health benefits as well. So save your dining out for special occasions….you’ll also notice that you’ll save a lot of money eating at home…..BONUS!!!
  • Involve your kids in the selection, preparation and cooking process (for example: grocery shopping, selecting what goes in their lunchbox, preparing the meals). This process provides a great opportunity for your to teach your children about various foods, where they come from, their nutrition value (or lack there of) and how they affect our bodies.
  • Make healthy foods accessible.…..especially when it comes to snacks. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grain snacks available and accessible for your family so that choosing something healthy is easy. You can do this by pre-washing produce and having it in a bowl on the counter top, prepping 1 oz bags of nuts (1/4 cup) in ziplock snack baggies and having vegetables washed and cut (in a tupperware in the fridge) to munch on at any time. Also, make sure that water is available at all times. Making healthy choices becomes even easier when you make the processed junk food inaccessible and by this I mean: just don’t buy it. Trust me, it may take a little adjustment at first, but soon your child will be grabbing fruit and nuts to snack on.
  • Don’t be a sneaky chef: when using a fruit or veggie in a recipe have your kids help add it to the mix. I have my daughter put 2 big handfuls of spinach into our smoothies because I want her to know that she likes spinach. Additionally, don’t avoid a vegetable just because your child disliked it in a certain way in the past. Rather, try serving it prepared differently: grill it, eat it raw with dip, steam it, roast it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, puree it in a smoothie, grate it and cook it in spagetti sauce, chop it up and sauté it for a frittata…..the possibilities are endless.
  • We use the “one bite” rule at our house when it comes to trying foods. My kids are well aware that if they don’t like something they do not need to eat it. However, it’s important to try new foods so we have them try one bite and if they really don’t like it they can spit it out. This rule eliminates the fear of having to consume something they really dislike and gives them an appreciation for food and a desire to try new things.
  • Avoid the “clean your plate club” and phrases such as “you need to take 4 more bites before you can be excused/have dessert).” Rather, ask if your child’s tummy is full and let them be the judge. Children are quite intuitive to their hunger levels and it is unhealthy to play with their hunger and satiety cues.
  • Food should be eaten at the table (with an exception here and there……for example: my kids love to take their popsicles outside and snack on ingredients during food prep). Additionally, there should be no distractions such as electronics or TV when eating. This is not always easy, but if you make a conscious effort to eat together as a family it becomes second nature.
  • Never use food as a reward or bribe and never withhold food from a child as punishment. This is not always easy, but is very important! Find a way (that works for you and your child) to celebrate accomplishments without food……. such as a trip to a museum, a small tangible toy, a pass to stay up 30 minutes passed bedtime, a movie night (of their choice)…..etc.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect when it comes to all of the above. However, I formulated these tips based on observing what worked and what didn’t work with my kids. Unfortunately, when I slack on my own principles the ones who suffer most are my children. I owe it to them to cook meals at home, ensure we eat together as a family, keep healthy food readily available, involve them in the whole process and watch them flourish in wisdom and health. One day when my kids grow up and are on their own I hope to look back and say, “I’m so glad I made nutrition and health a priority and set a good example for them to follow.”


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Serving Sizes? How much should I be feeding my child?

I frequently get asked about serving sizes for different ages. Therefore, I’d like to start off by clarifying the difference between a serving size and a portion size because these terms are often used interchangeably.

A “serving” is the amount of a food recommended in consumer education materials or the amount of food that a nutrition facts label is based on.

A “portion” is the amount of a food you choose to eat at any given time (which could be more or less than a serving).

Ultimately, food intake should be based on inner body cues and hunger levels rather than serving sizes (and children are typically much more intuitive to their hunger levels than we adults are). However, the chart below provides a good example of how food portions should vary based on body size. For instance a child’s palm is much smaller than an adult’s palm so a served portion of meat should be adjusted accordingly. Note, this does not dictate portion size as your child may still be hungry or may feel full. Rather, it serves as a guide. Just think…….your hands go with you wherever you go so you and your children will always have this guide “handy”……now how cool is that?

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