Wednesday, May 29, 2013

GMO Roundup: As The Tides Turn Away From GMO's, Do We Have Enough non-GMO Conventional Crops To Meet Demand?

Just a couple of years ago the majority of Americans didn't spend much time thinking about our food supply. The term GMO (genetically modified organism) rarely came up in conversation. For years Americans naively believed if it's on a grocery store shelf, it's safe because the Food and Drug Administration protects us. Slowly we are learning that the government is not protecting us, but rather working to best meet the needs of corporations versus the health concerns of our citizens. Big Ag in the United States is a powerhouse, contributing 23 Million Dollars alone to defeat the GMO labeling initiative in California's November election. Food allergies are on the rise, diseases are on the rise, and our children are being hit hard by the numbers. We are left asking ourselves what has changed in the American diet over the past few decades to cause such staggering rises in incidences? I reflect upon the rise in Autism, when my daughter was born in 2003, autism was diagnosed in 1:144 children on average, now it's 1:50. Staggering. While we don't have one definitive answer to what is happening, we have many pieces of the puzzle to put together on our own. My mind directly goes to GMO's, BPA a proven endocrine disruptor, and many other environmental toxins that our government time and time again is failing to protect us from.

Even though our elected officials in Washington, D.C. are leaving us to fend for ourselves, it is the private sector that is slowly coming to the consumer's rescue. Just a few weeks ago, Chipotle made a bold move and made public their ingredients as GM or not. Whole Foods Market announced earlier this year that they would indeed label all products in their stores that contain GMO's by 2018.

With consumer purchasing power driving the demand of foods that are not produced with genetically engineered ingredients, we are facing a new dilemma. The percentages of crops that are Genetically Modified are very high, take for example 88% of corn crops are GM, 94% of soy crops are GM, 90% of all canola is GM. Which leaves small food producers searching high and dry for conventionally sourced ingredients that are not GM. As the New York Times reported this past Sunday, consumers are on the verge of boycotting foods that are not labeled. Progressive companies are stepping up to meet the demands before mandatory labeling becomes the law (if it ever does), but our conventional farmers can't meet the demand. Unfortunately, the wave of change is happening faster than our farmers can move away from GM crops. Of course organic produce is in high demand as well, but conventional non-GMO crops are what the food companies and the average American consumer are in search of.

The true question is, are we facing a crisis? Will our agricultural system be able to meet the demands of consumers? What a fascinating turning point in our food system. Only time will tell.


Related links:
Hungary Destroys all Monsanto GMO Corn Fields
Millions March Against Monsanto, 52 Countries and 436 Cities Around the Globe


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Greatest Lessons From Whole30

Sunday ended my Whole30 experience. I was truly surprised at how quickly the 30 days passed. I believe there are a few very important lessons from going through a 30 day cleanse from processed foods, sugar, dairy, alcohol, and grains. Being on the other side, I am always amazed at how much I learn about myself when I take on such eating based challenges.

Our relationship with food isn't simply based on providing the best nutrition for our bodies. If it was, we wouldn't have a multi-million dollar diet industry. I can also guarantee America wouldn't be facing a staggering 35.7% obesity rate. We eat what we like, we eat to pass the time, we eat because it comforts us. The majority of people I know try their best to provide their families with nourishing meals, choosing whole grains, organic when possible, limiting processed "junk foods". But still there's a huge disconnect, we find that we carry extra unwanted pounds, have low energy in the late afternoon, and often wrestle with a good night's sleep even though WE FEEL EXHAUSTED!

My Whole30 Top Lesssons! 

The greatest lesson I always take away from any whole foods cleanse is staring my eating habits and my relationship with food directly in the eye. There is no place to hide comfort and mindless eating in Whole30. When I'm preparing food throughout my day, I take a slice or two of cheese when making the girls' sandwiches for lunch. I eat the crusts off of GL's sandwich before I eat my own. I pour a bowl of cheddar bunnies for the girls' snack and enjoy a handful myself. I bake treats at home and enjoy them throughout my day, just one or two at a time. No big deal right? Isn't that what we all do? I can't really answer that for anyone, but myself. I mindlessly eat through out my day or I could call it snacking because snacking is the acceptable term.

Would you be surprised to hear that I had no desire to snack when I was following the Whole30 plan?

Another great lesson to learn with Whole30 is recognizing how what we put into our bodies directly affects how we feel, our energy levels, how we sleep, and even what we crave. On a whole we are greatly miseducated about nutrition. We don't understand how our body digests processed foods. Let's say for example your Doctor mentions your blood sugar is running a bit high. The initial reaction is, but I don't even like dessert. We assume to threaten our health we have to be drinking 40oz sodas, eating at fast food restaurants, and enjoying a daily dessert or two. That's a huge misconception. Over the course of an average day, we are consuming 22 teaspoons of sugar hidden in our foods compared to in 1990 we were consuming 4 teaspoons a day. Here's a list of sneaky names for sugars, I urge you to please start reading your labels. I would be as bold to say there is some form of sugar in at least 90% of processed foods (foods that come in a bag or box, pre-packaged and factory produced). A great measure is to try to consume a snack that only has 10grams of sugar or less per serving. Be sure to check what constitutes a serving size as well, most of the time that is greatly misleading as a serving size is not standard, but manipulated by the manufacturer. Whole30 allowed me to take a break from my sugar cravings and mentally face how often I don't realize a little sugar here and there truly adds up in my day. It does sadden me to say, we are learning more and more about the toxic effects of sugar on our body. Currently I am not quite ready to reintroduce sugar back into my diet.

Once you mentally grasp the fact that you can do anything you set your mind to for 30 days, your body begins to respond in ways you could never imagine. We all have our list of foods we hold on to tightly that we could NEVER DO WITHOUT, but you can. What is there to lose from putting our ingrained habits on hold for 30 days and discovering new things about your body? The insight I have gained the past 30 days is profound. Just two months ago, I didn't want to get out of bed before 10am. Week2 of Whole30 and I was cycling 10 miles BEFORE 10am. I'm not kidding, nor am I exaggerating. My sleep habits changed, I found myself recognizing the signs that my body wanted to be in bed by 10-10:30 and I pride myself on being a night owl. I haven't looked back and I am sleeping solidly at night. I no longer have late afternoon lulls where I just want to go take a nap or put a bandaid on the vicious cycle with a late afternoon iced coffee (full of sugar and milk of course). My blood sugar is incredibly stable through out the day and I only snack post work out with recovery foods, like baked sweet potatoes. I don't have sugar crashes and intense sugar cravings. My skin is radiant and clear. I don't get bloated, even during the changes with my monthly cycle. My palate dramatically changed, I even find some foods like unsweetened apple sauce to be too sugary tasting to me (and I am a self professed cupcake connoisseur). Being on the other side of Whole30, I realized how much I've gained physically and mentally. Because so many people ask and want to know, I lost 12 pounds simply eating fresh foods over the course of Whole30, but it was not my focus. My body just responds incredibly to cutting out processed foods and my results are average. Slipping on a pair of pants I couldn't get over my hips a few months ago is all bonus to how I'm feeling.

So what's the Whole30 catch?

There is no catch. You are asked to give up sugars, processed foods, grains, alcohol, legumes, and dairy. It is simply eating fresh foods, think of it as foods that are perishable and would rot in a less than a week if left out on your counter. There are guidelines to help you understand what the best ratio is of the fresh foods you should eat. Imagine 1/2 a plate of vegetables, 1/4 of lean protein, some fat, and fruit, that's the major focus of Whole30. There are a ton of free resources on the web about Whole30 and the Paleo lifestyle. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about my experience!


Time: What You Need To Know About Sugar

Whole 9 Life


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Staying Remarkably Present

My imagination gave me the pleasure to run wild with all the magnificent things I could do on the last full day of school. I could ride my bike up the canyon or maybe just ride my bike a mile to the trailhead and hike a trail that had been closed all summer due to the fires. Or maybe I could do a little shopping with some Mother's Day cash I received. Yes, that offer from a friend for lunch out would be perfect. There's always errands to run and I am so much more efficient with out kids in tow.


Remarkably I have stayed present lately. Today I stayed home and did housework, instead of all those fun things I listed. I organized baskets, filled a large black trash bag with clutter, and put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker. I did laundry and cleaned out the refrigerator. I don't really have an explanation for my desire to be present, maybe Whole30 (speaking of, I'm on Day 27 of 30). Where has Denise gone?

Monday, May 20, 2013

GMO Roundup: Chipotle's BRAVE Move! Chipotle Labels GMO's!

In October of 2011 I contacted Chipotle to ask them about the corn they use in their stores and namely if it came from BT corn (which is genetically modified corn that the USDA labels as an insecticide, not a food). The response I received from Chipotle was remarkably candid and confirmed my suspicions. I did respect them for being so open with me, but I felt a great deal of let down because Chipotle has this fabulous marketing machine painting them as the sustainable fast food choice. While my initial thought was with their corn, as corn is a crop that is over 90% genetically modified in the United States, I learned other products were also GM that Chipotle served.

For the record, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not sustainable. It has been scientifically proven that GMOs demand more on the land, deplete their soils, and annually require more herbicide application. Of course that herbicide is produced by the company that also sold the farmer the seeds. Funny how that works. 527 million pounds of herbicide have been used on GM crops since 1996. Strangely enough, changing the DNA of plants and spraying them with a shit load of herbicides are not stopping super weeds from growing. Now, chemical companies want farmers to use a form of agent orange 2, 4-D on PLANTS WE CONSUME. Yes, this is happening. We are on the cusp of eating plants that were sprayed with a derivative of agent orange

Back to Chipotle. Today I caught wind of Chipotle's brave move. They have identified on their website all of the foods they serve that contain GMOs in an Ingredients Statement. They openly discuss how they are working towards changing the fact that they serve foods with GMOs including their usage of soybean oil and how they've replaced their fryers with non-GMO sunflower oil. My mind is blown. I can not help but recognize, I was a part of this change. I am proud of Chipotle for their transparency, as I can not name one restaurant that notes what foods contain GMOs on their menu. As soon as they start sourcing non-GMO corn for their chips and drop soybean oil, I'll be the first one in line to start eating there again. As for now, they are still on my avoid list.


Non-GMO foods that you can eat at Chipotle: Beans (black or pinto), carnitas, cheese, sour cream, corn salsa, GUACAMOLE, lettuce, and all salsa. Sorry, no chips yet!

The small red G box denotes, GMO. 

Truly a great day for fast food in America.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Whole30 Challenge Meal Ideas Weeks 2-3

Tomorrow will mark the end of week 3 of my Whole30 Challenge. I am surprised it has gone by so quickly. I am completely thrilled with the place I have arrived in just three short weeks. I have found there is an initial knee jerk reaction when discussing food choices with people and my opportunity for discussion is limited because of that knee jerk reaction. Food is linked to lots of emotions and holding onto, which I very easily relate to. Right now I am in the WOW THIS IS AMAZING LET'S TALK ABOUT FOOD stage of Whole30 and I love when I find others who want to openly talk about how they eat.

So what have I been eating? Fresh food is the simplest answer. If it comes in a package (other than say, berries) I'm not eating it. Packaged and processed foods haven't touched my lips in 20 days.


 Yes salad for breakfast. That's one of the biggest changes I've made, craving greens at Meal1 (saying Meal1 helps avoid the common pitfalls of what your brain thinks the first meal of the day should be). Arugula, avocado, sliced almonds, raspberries, blackberries, coconut shreds. Olive oil and balsamic drizzle. My absolute favorite! 

 Greens in with my eggs, fresh salsa, avocado, and sweet potatoes. 

 Baked grapefruit, simply sprinkle with cinnamon, almonds, and shredded coconut. 400 degrees, 20 mins. Absolutely divine, I've also enjoyed it for dessert.

Simple enough, sweet pots, greens, and fresh salsa. Makes me content. 

LUNCH OR DINNER Aka Meals 2 or 3:

 Uncured ham, turkey, olives, artichokes, roasted peppers, rested on a bed of lettuce. 

Turkey meatloaf baked in cabbage leaves! My brilliant idea. 

The turkey meatloaf, green beans, salad. Notice proportion here, ALL THE VEGES, some protein. That's my favorite style. 

The Green and Grains bar from Whole Foods, the slamming deal of $4.99. I chose spinach and kale and skipped the beans and grains! Tons of veges and my favorite, cashew cream sauce. A real treat.  

 Arugula, tuna, Bubbies pickle, olives, tomato, cucumbers, olive oil, and vinegar. 

This was a left over lunch, broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach, zucchini. Watermelon and uncured turkey. 

 Spaghetti squash, local grass fed beef meatballs, tomato sauce, fresh made slaw with avocado. I've really come to dig spaghetti squash, we used it this past week in a curry as well instead of noodles. I don't miss the real thing at all. 

This was a dinner at LarkBurger in Boulder. We ordered ours bunless, with the truffle aioli as it didn't contain any dairy or things from our avoid list. Side salad, I opted for no dressing because it was either ranch or soy based (I'm not eating soy right now). 

That's a pretty good look at how I've been eating. My body has responded incredibly.

Here's a glimpse into Week 1 with more Whole30 information. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Eat Play Love's GMO Roundup: Debunking Common Pro-GMO Myths

The Alarming Truths About GMO video is a part of the Label It Washington Proposition I-522 which is going to vote in November 2013! I personally enjoy how many of the pro-GMO bullet points are directly addressed and debunked. This is the first in a weekly post series summarizing and linking through to articles I read on GMO crops and labeling initiatives happening around the country!

Accompanying article for more information:
Research Reveals Previously Unknown Pathway By Which Glyphosate Wrecks Health

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Let Me Count The Ways, Mom

Mother's Day always seems to pry open the floodgates into the memories I keep tucked away from my childhood. My mother gave birth to 3 boys in 4 years and I came along much later, when the youngest of my brothers was five and a half years old. In the majority of my childhood memories, I find myself by my mother's side. My brothers were school age when I was a baby and as the reel plays over and over in my mind, I am always my mother's sidekick.

My mother had a very natural way of making me feel special as a child. When I recall the simplest of gestures, they always bring a smile to my face. Sometimes it was how she'd press a penny into the palm of my hand and nod to get a handful of Chiclets gum from the machine on our way out of the Italian Market. Or how she'd always leave a bowl of rice aside for me when she made stuffed peppers, so I could enjoy it with sugar and milk. Every birthday cake came from her oven. I don't believe one night passed when my mother wasn't there to tuck me into bed. There were countless times she did without something, so she could use the money to provide for us. Every school performance my eyes nervously searched the crowd to find my mother, who was always smiling back in a reassuring way, basking in the glow of our achievements. I'll never forget the moment she buttoned me into her wedding dress, on my wedding day, 35 years after she gracefully wore it when marrying my father. Even into adulthood and 1,800 miles between us, she has remained by my side.

And now? My memories have transformed in ways I never quite imagined, as I experience my mother become Nana to my girls. The greatest gift I have given my parents is the gift of being grandparents. Their spirits are so vibrant in the girls' presence. I have the joy and great fortune to watch my mother give unto my girls those small moments that I know will leave an everlasting impression upon their childhood.

On this day, home in Colorado basking in the joy of being a mother, I know my mother is right by my side. Thank you mom, I wouldn't be half the woman I am today without you.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Enough is Enough! Whole30 Challenge, Week 1

Sometimes the ball starts rolling with a pair of jeans that don't easily button. My mind quickly reasons that they must have accidentally been placed in the dryer, of course shrinking them a bit. Truthfully the dryer excuse doesn't quite answer why my shirts, heck even my underwear, aren't quite fitting the same either. I go through weeks of mental torture, avoiding mirrors, wearing leggings and dresses, or the Boulder staple stretchy yoga pants. I am well versed in the typical avoid, avoid, avoid behaviors until one day, I pulled the scale out from under my bed. I dropped all of my clothes to the floor and stepped on with my eyes closed. My right eye opened first, peaking at the number just above the tips of my toes.

A number, I was finally ready to digest. I wrote the number down on a piece of paper, knowing there was no way I would allow it to grow any larger. I will admit, it made me sad, but it also was the swift kick in the ass I needed to motivate myself to change my bad habits. 

I started trying small ways to change my habits, like only putting one tablespoon of Torani Vanilla Syrup in my coffee in the morning, instead of two. Or eating an egg sandwich with one slice of bread, instead of two. Huge effort, huh? The numbers on the scale weren't budging. I think one day I lost 1/2 a pound and stepped on the scale two days later to find it back to the original number. 

A few days after my half hearted attempts at changing my diet, a friend mentioned to me the name Whole30 and the book associated with the website, called It Starts With Food. So I went home, put the book on hold at the library and start poking around on the website, which happens to be full of tons of great information. I have a conversation with Josh, share some of the basics of Whole30 with him and he quickly agrees to jump on board. 

We started the program on Saturday and haven't looked back! So what is Whole30? Basically it's committing to 30 days of eating whole foods, it has also been associated with the Paleo Diet.      

No grains
No sugar
No legumes
No alcohol
No dairy
No white potatoes
No processed foods

If you were to look at my plate for a meal, 1/2 would be vegetables, there would be small serving of fruit, a small serving of healthy fat (like avocado), and then about a palm sized amount of lean protein. Boom! That's it. I've had an incredibly successful week on Whole30. I've attended a birthday party, book club, celebrating a soccer goal with my girls at an ice cream shop, and not once did I break from my commitment to Whole30. If you do have a slip up, the calendar resets and day 1 starts the very next day. Even though it is NOT encouraged by the creators of Whole30, I've been weighing myself. I needed some reinforcement, coming from such a defeated space. 

The Whole30 program agrees with my body very well. I don't feel hungry at all, I am not craving sugar (which is very out of the ordinary for me), and I have tons of energy. I started riding my bicycle again when the weather warmed up and I've been averaging about 10 miles a day in the saddle. Two weeks ago, I didn't get out of bed until 10 am. Day 3 of Whole30, I was out of bed and cycled 10 miles before 10am. The difference is that dramatic. 

Going into week two, my energy level is up. I remember this feeling clearly from doing my annual Whole Foods cleanse in January. I will be posting photos of my meals in the next couple of days, if you are interested in seeing what amazing foods I've been eating. 

I feel like this experience may just be a game changer, opening up a new way of eating for me! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Our Nintendo Wii U Commercial Experience

Back in March I was contacted by an ad agency that works with Nintendo. What felt like moments later,  my entire family was on a conference call with the creative folks behind an ad campaign they had in mind for the Wii U. A few days later I received an email asking us if we wanted to fly out to Seattle to shoot a commercial for Nintendo. We happily agreed. Our entire family was flown to Seattle and we spent a day filming and getting a red carpet tour of Nintendo of North America's headquarters. To say I was giddy about this experience would be an understatement. I've always been a Nintendo fan girl and it all started when I was 12 years old. If someone told me decades later I would be standing in Nintendo, as a special guest, to film a commercial I probably would have laughed off the notion!

I soaked in the entire experience and realized how incredibly lucky and special it was for us to have this as a part of our family's history. When we walked in the doors, all of our names were displayed in the lobby on a huge screen, welcoming us. During part of our tour, we were allowed to shop at the Nintendo employee store, it was amazing like a small version of Nintendo World in NYC, our names were even displayed in there! We ate at the Mario Cafe, rubbed elbows with the creative geniuses behind Nintendo (hello, even more amazing). I must confess, when they were filming us leaving, Mario was there holding the door for us, waving goodbye and I was brought to tears. Those were tears of gratitude and happiness.

A couple of weeks later, we were contacted once again and told our footage was selected to be used in a commercial campaign!!! After I got over the initial shock of that news, I couldn't wait to see the commercials. Not more than a week later I started getting texts, messages on Facebook and Twitter from friends so excited that they saw our family in a Nintendo commercial while watching Hulu!!! One was even during Jon Stewart and that almost made me faint!  I also love to play Words With Friends and apparently the commercial is playing on there as well. I never did get to catch the commercial "live". I tried for quite sometime to see it on HULU, but it was a real life needle in a haystack scenarios. So many friends were happy for us, it made me happy. We've had an overwhelming positive response to the campaign. The number of times people took time out of their day to tell me I had a beautiful smile brought me to tears. They loved the girls and how truly excited they were for the experience.

Being a part of Nintendo's history, made me proud as well. Even though we aren't considered gamers in that community, we most certainly are casuals. Nintendo is a part of our family's experience and I love experiencing the Wii U with my daughters! I truly wouldn't have it any other way, the WiiU brings us together for special family time, we learn how to work as a team, work how to embrace our competitive nature, and laugh a ton.

Nintendo has truly changed our lives, I am forever indebted.

Here's the 30 second commercial:

Nintendo also produced a 2 minute 30 second video for their website. It is hosted on their site, so you have to click through and watch it there. I hope you enjoy!

Wii U Videos, The Haskins Family 

Disclosure, I was not paid by Nintendo to write this blog post, nor asked to do so. We were compensated for our trip to Seattle and for our work filming the commercial. This post is simply to share our experience!