Category Archives: change

Top tips for clean eating

Three Top Tips For Clean Eating

What is clean eating?

There’s a lot of media exposure and talk about “clean eating” but what is it exactly? The widely accepted definition is that clean eating means avoiding highly processed foods, refined sugars, and eating a diet rich in whole foods in their most natural state. For fruits and vegetables that means buying organic for The Dirty Dozen. When it comes to animal products, it means buying free-range or pastured with no antibiotics, pesticides, or added hormones.

For some people a clean eating diet also means no gluten.  The challenge with going gluten-free (whether on a clean eating diet or not) is that you need to avoid the gluten-free crutch foods that are scattered all over the grocery store shelves. These highly processed gluten alternatives are not a healthy choice.

1. Start with breakfast

Many people often skip breakfast, possibly because they’re running late or they’re too busy to stop and have a meal. But breakfast is how you fuel your body for the day ahead. If you are going to have breakfast, don’t just choose simple carbohydrates or a fast food option. You want a real food breakfast that will provide healthy fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates.

2. Simple Swaps

  • Hummus is a great alternative to mayonnaise. But instead of being mostly fat, it’s mostly protein. And it has a similar consistency to mayo making it perfect for wraps, dressings, and spreads. If you’re buying it in the store be sure to read the label in order to make sure you are getting the cleanest possible option. Or make it really clean by simply making your own at home.
  • If you’re looking for yogurt it’s easy to be distracted by the fruit-flavored varieties on the dairy case shelves. But the prepared fruit yogurts tend to come with excessively high levels of sugar and may also have other artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, none of which you want on a clean eating plan. Instead choose plain, whole milk yogurt, either regular or Greek-style and add your own sweeteners and flavoring. Options could include fruit, honey, chopped nuts, or delicious spices like cinnamon.
  • Our modern diet has led us to feel that we have to have rice or potatoes or pasta with a meal. We’ve been taught that you “need” a starch. If you feel you still want that to make your meal complete, choose more complex carbohydrates like riced cauliflower, sweet potatoes, or simply double up on your veggies. Cauliflower can also be used as a substitute for mashed potatoes without too much extra effort.
  • Salad and dressing seem to naturally go together. Unfortunately, if you take the time to read the label on the back of the bottle it’s not good news. Filled with loads of preservatives and artificial ingredients, these are definitely not part of the clean eating ideal. Instead make your own vinaigrette by combining 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice, salt, pepper, and the herbs or seasonings of your choice.

3. Don’t Do This

Just as important as all the things listed above that you want to do, there are few things that you need to keep in mind to not do:

  • An easy way to clean up your diet is to skip those foods that are most highly processed and offer the least nutrition. That includes white rice, pasta, cookies, crackers, and chips. Choose nutrient-dense foods that will actually support your health like raw nuts, veggies, and quality proteins.
  • Juices, juice drinks, and soft drinks are empty calories. Truthfully they’re nothing more than liquid candy bars. They provide little to no nutritional value and should be avoided. Eat those fruits instead of juicing them so you can enjoy the fiber which helps to slow down how quickly the sugars hit your bloodstream. If you’re thirsty choose water, herbal teas, or home-made green juices instead.
  • We’ve been misled to believe that artificial fats like margarine are good for us. We’ve also been guided towards vegetable fats like canola or corn oil. What you really want is healthy fats like butter, ghee, or beneficial oils like avocado, olive, and coconut. These are nourishing, satiating, and supportive.

As you start your clean eating journey it can be helpful to use a food journal so that you can see the progress that you’re making. It’s also important to remember that it’s not easy to make all of these changes at once. Baby steps are the key to success here. Start with one thing, like eating breakfast or making a healthy swap. Master that and then move on to the next thing. Before you know it you’ll be well versed in what those clean eating choices are and you’ll be focused on your health goals.

Clean eating is a good step towards a healthy life. In fact, it’s one of the #IngredientsForAHealthyLife. If you’re looking to do even more and clean up not just your diet but your lifestyle, be sure to check out the Lean Clean Green subscription box

January Kitchen Cleanout

If you’re like me the thought of a new year brings hopes for shiny and new beginnings.  Part of that includes the kitchen.  After all it really is the heart of the home.  But the kitchen and pantry tend to get cluttered over time.  The disorganization and clutter happens slowly.  We become so accustomed to it that we don’t even realize how out of order things have become.  Disorganization makes it overwhelming when you’re trying to cook or meal plan. 

A fresh start

With the beginning of a new year is a great time to make a fresh start. Time to get rid of everything that’s getting in the way of your organized, healthy kitchen.  Once it’s cleaned out, you’ll find it easier to make wonderful, healthy meals to feed yourself and those you love.  I love cleaning out my kitchen and always set aside some time in the first week of the year to get things back on track.  After all of these years I’ve gotten to a point where it’s quick and super easy.  In order to help you enjoy a sparkly fresh start with your kitchen I’ve made this handout.  With just 15 items it’s a simple and easy to understand way to get your fridge, freezer, pantry, and kitchen ready to go for the year ahead.

A kitchen cleanout can seem a bit overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.  Break the task list down to make it easier on yourself.  Set your timer for 30 minutes and go down the list.  At the end of 30 minutes you’re done for today (or do another 30 minutes if you’re feeling motivated).  With just a few cleanout sessions you’ll be amazed at how organized your kitchen is.  Before you know it you’re ready for the year ahead.


You can get free copy of this printable here.

Focus – The Word Of The Year

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New day, new year, new word.  Each year I pick a word of the year.  One word that I use to help me pay attention to my goals and to give me a touchpoint to refer to throughout the year.  It sounds simple but it’s harder than you think to pick just one word.  To think about the overall goals for the year ahead, to find something meaningful that resonates within me as my inspiration.

This year I’ve chosen the word focus.  Last year’s word was balance  and I certainly put a lot of thought and effort into staying mindful with that word.  I feel like I did better with the whole work-life-spirit-me-others balancing act (although there is always room for improvement).  But being in balance and being focused are two very different things.

When I chose the word focus I had not really thought about all of the different meanings.  I was concentrating on the verb, to become more focused.  I meant it to be more attentive to things and to narrow down on what’s important.  To try to winnow through some of the distractions and what I call “The Octopus.”  You’re probably familiar with it.  The Octopus is where you feel like you have everything under control, then you get distracted by other things but you fold them in to what you’re doing.  Then you start spinning another plate or two and the next thing you know you’re overwhelmed, trying to figure out how to corral everything back under control.

But it’s a noun as well, bringing something into focus and I like that idea as I begin on the path that is this delicious new  adventure of a new year.  And it turns out I also like another definition as well.  To become a central point. I see that as being your resource, your go to person for reliable information about ingredients, food, nutrition, and health.  That loops back to the first time I did the word of the year challenge and chose the word inspire (you can read about that word here).

If you’d like to pick a word of the year consider writing it down.  You can even go online to and find others who are using the same word as you are.  Whatever your goals are for this new year I wish you many good things along the journey.

Be well,

Mira e-sig



PS – If you’re nerdy like me you probably want to read what the official dictionary definition is.


[foh-kuh s]  
noun, plural focuses, foci
1.  a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity:  The need to prevent a nuclear war became the focus of all diplomatic efforts.
2.  Physics. a point at which rays of light, heat, or other radiation meetafter being refracted or reflected.
3.  Optics.

  1. the focal point of a lens, on which rays converge or from which they deviate.
  2. the focal length of a lens; the distance from a focal point to acorresponding principal plane.
  3. the clear and sharply defined condition of an image.
  4. the position of a viewed object or the adjustment of an opticaldevice necessary to produce a clear image:
    in focus; out of focus.
4. Geometry. (of a conic section) a point having the property that the distances from any point on a curve to it and to a fixed line have  constant ratio for all points on the curve.
5. Geology. the point of origin of an earthquake.
6. Pathology. the primary center from which a disease develops or in which it localizes.
verb (used with object), focused, focusing or (especially British)focussed, focussing.
7. to bring to a focus or into focus; cause to converge on a perceived point:  to focus the lens of a camera.
8. to concentrate: to focus one’s thoughts; to focus troop deployment in the east.
verb (used without object), focused, focusing or (especiallyBritish) focussed, focussing.
9. to be or become focused:  My eyes have trouble focusing on distant objects.
10.  to direct one’s attention or efforts:  Students must focus in class.

Hormel And Applegate Farms: If You Can’t Beat ’em, Buy ’em

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Recent news from Reuters reveals that Applegate Farms LLC is in talks with Hormel Foods Corp in a deal that would allow Hormel to purchase Applegate. While this joins the fray of firms in the meat industry looking to merge or acquire one another, this particular deal stands out for a couple of different reasons.

As a producer of organic meats, hot dogs, bacon, and deli products Applegate holds a position that stands apart from Hormel’s “natural” brand. As discussed here before, the term natural is very lose and although it does have some standards when it comes to meat (as opposed to other products such as cereals, juices, etc) it really doesn’t mean much and is often used by companies to nutri-wash their products while charging higher prices. Overall market share in conventional foods is falling as more and more people pay attention to what’s really in their food. When they make that shift their purchasing habit change which means less profit for conventional and “natural” product lines.

Applegate is not a small company. Based in New Jersey they are estimated to be worth as much as $1 billion. As a privately held corporation there is no way to know exactly what their value position is but needless to say they are a profitable company that fills a market need.

As an independent producer they have more control over their line, what they do, how they source, what they provide to their consumers. If this deal goes through they will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Hormel which is a major food producer who is not believed to be as concerned with food sourcing and, for lack of a better word, quality (meaning organic). The web of who owns your food is large and quite confusing. If you want to know the big brands behind organic check out this graphic of organic foods acquisitions and alliances by the Cornucopia Institute (click on the graphic to enlarge it for clarity).

This deal represents a disturbing trend. It’s one thing for small organic, cleanly sourced food processors to get bought out by competitors. Lately, however, it seems that even large and profitable firms are succumbing to the lure of corporate America. The purchase of Annie’s Homegrown Inc. by General Mills  raised a lot of fuss and fury by consumers. For a little while. That seems to have died down at the moment, and that’s probably what Hormel is banking on. Weather the storm, allow people to vent, and then they’ll forget. Because the brand packaging won’t change. And people may not continue to read the label or to stay on top of what changes are being made to their food. Often it’s easier to just shop on auto-pilot.

While many of these deals previously happened behind the scenes, they’re certainly gaining more attention at the moment. In part due to the size of the companies involved and the amounts of money on the table. Remember food producers are in business to make money, to earn a profit. Unfortunately for the majority of food items available that means sourcing artificial ingredients, chemically created “foods” and unhealthy additives. If it’s cheaper it’s better seems to be a driving reason to use these ingredients. And if your product doesn’t hold up to what consumers want, the answer, apparently, is to buy out those who do.

Good, Better, Best

Good better bestI recently had the absolute delight of being invited to cook in the fabulous kitchen at Three Goats Farm.  Designed and operated by the amazing Primitive Diva, Melissa Humphries, this is a fun place to hang out and you couldn’t ask for better company to hang out with.

Getting ready for the launch of Primitive Diva TV, PDTV, she invited me to film an episode while we chatted about the concept of good, better, best, when it comes to food and nourishing your body.  I love helping people move up the nutrition ladder so to speak.  It’s difficult to go from a highly processed food plan to one that truly nourishes your body.  I certainly know, from personal experience  and from working with clients, that it’s a step-by-step process which takes time and effort to achieve.  I don’t know anyone who has made a huge jump overnight and managed to stick with it.  You start where you are, decide what you’re going to focus on, and begin to make changes.  Just as in the fable of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.  Small measurable changes, mindfully made over time are most often the ones that are sustainable and lead to long-term, healthier change.  Extravagant changes and massive numbers of them, all at the same time, are overwhelming.

One way to manage this change is to focus on shifting food, recipes, ingredients up the ladder from good to better to best.

Here’s an example that we used in the filming.  [In case you’re interested we made the polenta and Tuscan Stew recipes from The Pantry Principle on pages 124 and 145 respectively]  In the example below I’m going to talk about upgrading your polenta.

Good is when you decide to shift from a heavy processed food and/or restaurant/take-away diet to making more foods at home.  There is often less chemicals, less sugar, salt, and fat.  The serving sizes are more reasonable.  In the case of polenta this may mean purchasing a chub of polenta and heating it up at home as part of your recipe.

Better is realizing that corn is one of the most highly genetically modified crops on the face of the planet.  You don’t want to eat conventional corn anymore because you want to avoid the GMOs and probable heavy pesticide residue.  So you choose organic corn.  Possibly still in a chub.  Or maybe you decide to make it from scratch and you use organic ground cornmeal plus other clean ingredients.

Best means you’ve decided to really focus on eating well and are buying organically grown, sprouted cornmeal.  The sprouting adds extra nutrition, better digestibility, and reduces phytic acids and enzyme inhibitors which can interfere with nutrition.

One step at a time we work our way up the ladder to better digestion, better nourishment, better food sourcing.

We had a great time chatting in the kitchen.  As you can see from the picture above the food was so enticing that the aromas got us and we didn’t get a picture until after we’d dug in and started devouring it.  Mr. Diva came in at the end and polished off a plate of his own.  I promise, this recipe is a winner.  And so is Three Goats Farm.  I’m so excited for the launch of PDTV and I’ll be sure to post a link to share once this episode goes live.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about food, nutrition, holistic health, or how to take your recipes from good to better to best, don’t forget to take advantage of my AskMira January special.  Purchase two hours of my time, which you can use any time during the year, and get a half an hour free.  That’s a $50 value.  This offer is only available for the month of January but you can use the time in 15 minute increments anytime you like during 2015.

And in the meantime, let’s eat well to be well.

Word Of The Year — Balance

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Last year with the encouragement of my friend Sue Painter I  chose a word to focus on for the upcoming year.  It was the word inspire.  And last year was definitely a year of inspiration, change, and huge personal growth.

I enjoyed the process so much that I decided to do it again.  Oddly enough it’s not that easy to pick a word.  When you stop to consider that this word is a guiding focus for the year ahead, to think about how to condense all of your goals and hopes into one single word, it can be a bit overwhelming.

After much careful consideration I’ve chosen the word balance.  The dictionary defines it as:

1.  an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
synonyms: stability, equilibrium, steadiness, footing

stability of one’s mind or feelings.
“the way to some kind of peace and personal balance”

the ability of a boat to stay on course without adjustment of the rudder
2.  a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
synonyms: fairness, justice, impartiality, evenhandedness, egalitarianism, equal opportunity

harmony of design and proportion, the relative volume of various sources of sound.

3.  an apparatus for weighing, especially one with a central pivot, beam, and a pair of scales
synonyms: scale(s), weighing machine

the zodiacal sign or constellation Libra

4.  a counteracting weight or force
synonyms: counterbalance, counterweight, stabilizer, compensation

the regulating device in a mechanical clock or watch.

5.  a predominating weight or amount; the majority.

6.  a figure representing the difference between credits and debits in an account; the amount of money held in an account.
the difference between an amount due and an amount paid
synonyms: remainder, outstanding amount, rest, residue, difference, remaining part, an amount left over

verb: balance; 3rd person present: balances; past tense: balanced; past participle: balanced; gerund or present participle: balancing

1.  keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall
synonyms: steady, stabilize, poise, level

remain in a steady position without falling

2.  offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another
synonyms: weigh, weigh up, compare, evaluate, consider, assess, appraise, judge

As a word nerd I love the fact that it’s both a noun and a verb.  But even more, I like what it stands for and how my focus in the year ahead, my intention, is to seek balance, find balance, be balanced, and to provide balance for others.  As part of how I practice I assist people with their health goals, that brings them into balance with their bodies.  As a holistic health practitioner I support them in looking at all aspects of their current state of being, that brings them into balance in many different areas of their life, a “way to some kind of peace and personal balance.”  That really resonates with me; I hope to be the rudder that helps others find the balance they need.

On a more personal note is the idea of balancing so that “different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.”  As I focus on the year ahead I need to be mindful of balancing my own healing journey with my food sensitivities, my personal commitments, my clients, time with friends, spiritual growth, focus on family, and personal development.  That balancing act is never easy, but I believe it’s worth focusing on.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, peaceful year ahead!

image:   ImageChef

Vitamin Zzzzzzzz

Screenshot 2014-12-11 13.25.35I’ve been making changes to what and how I eat in order to support my health and deal with recently diagnosed food intolerance issues.  I began to suspect that I had food intolerances, or allergies, when I noticed several physical symptoms.  One of them was that my sleep seemed to be getting worse.  This was in spite of taking supplemental support (tryptophan and vitamin B6) as well as the use of essential oils like lavender and serenity.

Don’t get me wrong, I was sleeping.  But it wasn’t as restful as I was used to, I was waking more frequently, and I was noticing that my dreams had changed.

Food intolerances can create a cascading effect on the system due to the increased inflammation.  This inflammation can:

  • increase mucous production causing stuffy noses, full sinus, and post nasal drip
  • impact cortisol levels which in turn can cause a shift in hormonal levels affecting sleep
  • cause itching, rashes, and other skin irritations which can make for restless sleep
  • affect gut health which impacts the whole body and, again, can cause discomfort which can interrupt sleep
  • inflammation from food intolerances may also impact joint health or cause swollen tissues

Any and all of which can add up to less than optimal sleep.  And without sleep, well, many of us don’t function well.  I know this is especially true for me.

When we are dealing with health and wellness we sometimes forget to pay close attention to our bodies.  To listen, if you will, to what they are telling us.  The small, creeping clues of “not feeling well” can be indicators of a larger problem.  If there’s a pattern or consistency to that we need to pay attention.  Food journaling can be a great way to stay on top of this.  Most of us think that we will remember what we ate and how we felt.  But, as I frequently joke with others when I ask them to food journal, ‘I can’t remember what I had for breakfast on Tuesday how am I supposed to remember everything I ate and how I felt for an entire week?’   I knew I wasn’t sleeping well, I knew I was having more mucosal production, but I wasn’t paying attention.  Until I journaled myself and realized that there was a pattern.  That lead to testing which lead to answers.  Very simply, very straightforward.

How do I know I’m on the right track?  Because it’s getting better.  I confess, even though I’ve been doing this for years with other people, even though I’ve personally seen the benefits of changing what and how I eat to meet the needs of my bio-individual body, I’m always amazed when simple changes can have such a profound effect.  Within two weeks of modest changes I’ve started to sleep so much better.  The third night that I woke up realizing that I had “zonked out” I knew I was on the right path.

It’s not easy sometimes, but it is simple.  Getting better quality sleep is making me feel better.  I wake up refreshed and ready to hop out of bed and get started with my day.  It’s fabulous how much great sleep can help you feel so much better overall.  And feeling better is both it’s own reward and the motivation.

Want to know more?  Contact me for a free Food Journal page and find out if you have food related health patterns.


More info:  giving up dairy

photo:  PhotogLife

What Mcdonald’s Wants

A recent headline, “McDonalds to eliminate eight menu items”,  touted the fact that McDonald’s is examining their menu, reducing choices, and possibly changing some of it’s ingredients.  They’re also trying to shake their reputation as the “supersize me” place.*

McDonald’s is changing, supposedly in response to consumer demands.  But there are still so many things wrong with this.  They are nutri-washing.  Putting their spin on it to try to misdirect you away from the fact that this is still high caloric, nutritionally poor, chemically laden JUNK food.  They want your dollars, that’s why they’re changing.  But they’ll do the least amount possible and trumpet the changes as loudly as they can to try to get your attention.  Their claim is that this is in response to consumer demand. That’s great, it’s a good thing to listen to what people want.  But let’s be honest, it’s also because profits are down.

I believe they are failing to take into account the fact that fewer people are going to McDonald’s not because they have “too many choices” or because it takes “too long to get through the line.”  They are not going because they are choosing to eat whole, more nutritious, real food.

When I was a kid going to McDonald’s was a treat.  We rarely went and if we did it was special.  Somehow over time McDonald’s has become a daily meal choice for a lot of people.  Not just a simple burger and fries, not just for a treat, this is how we have been encouraged to feed ourselves.  And we’re paying the price for it in health.  Yes, that $1 value meal or that $.79 supersize option may seem like a good deal financially, but when it comes to your health it’s a poor investment.

Let’s be honest, McDonald’s isn’t the only company doing this.  Burger joints, fast food places, and other junk food options abound in our society.  But if we want to be healthy, if we want to really nourish ourselves, we need to learn to make different choices.  McDonald’s is getting picked on mostly because they’re one of the biggest and because they keep trying to spin it their way.

Their food transparency campaign backfired badly because they tried to look like they were responding to consumers demand for information.  Well, consumers DO want more information.  But they were shocked to discover what was really in their McD’s meal.  (Of course from a Pantry Principle perspective the transparency campaign didn’t go far enough as it didn’t address GMOs, antibiotics, pesticides, etc; it simply mentioned ingredients without revealing their impact on health — such as TBHQ which has been linked to cancer and asthma among other things.)

When it comes to this corporate spin it’s important to learn how to look at what’s really going on.  Are changes being made across the board or just to a few items?  Is there an underlying reason for the changes?  Is the company touting “response to consumer demand” as their pat-themselves-on-the-back reason for change?  Sadly they’re quick to give themselves props for being responsive but frequently they only do the bare minimum when it comes to this responsiveness.  Trying to do just enough to convince consumers to come back and buy their products.  And let’s not forget, while we’re examining the headlines and corporate messages, are we eating the way we really want to?  Are we nourishing ourselves and making choices for health?  That last question probably should be the first one when you look at what’s really in your food.


*If you still haven’t seen the documentary film Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock, or you want to watch it again, it’s available for free on Hulu.

photo:  Kici

Giving Up Dairy

Dairy Collage

Food Intolerance Journal – Week One
With my recent discovery of food intolerance issues I’ve had to make some changes to my nutritional plan.   Honey is a little tricky and I do need to read the label to make sure that it’s not part of the sometimes cascading list of sweeteners found in some foods.  Berries, and melon are fairly easy to avoid and since they aren’t in season right now I’m telling myself that by avoiding the frozen ones I’m on a journey to heal my gut in time for them to be back in season again and hopefully back on my plate.

Dairy on the other hand?  Well that’s proving to be more challenging.  In my first week I’ve had less than stellar success with my new dairy-free lifestyle.  This is in part due to the need to travel and in part due to all the places that dairy hides in the diet.  When looking at labels remember to also look for casein, lactose, and whey or variants of those since they are a part of the milk product.

I should clarify, I need to avoid cow’s milk dairy products.  Goat’s milk is fine and sheep’s milk (if I could source it here in Texas) would also be fine.  Luckily I like goat’s milk cheese and goat’s milk yogurt is available at my grocery store.  But I’m also looking to alternative dairy (coconut, almond, rice, hemp, oat, or flax milk-based products) to help replace any dairy in baking or drinking as a less expensive and easier sourced option.  The biggest challenge with the alternative dairy is that most products come with added carrageenan.  Made from a red seaweed it’s not a healthy option for anyone, but especially for someone with a challenged digestive tract.  Found in products that come in those convenient containers in the dairy case, in the tetra-pack versions, in frozen confections made with alternative dairy, it’s really hard to get away from carrageenan.  My options are to find brands that don’t have it or to make my own.  Feeling squeezed for time I’m really not interested in making my own at the moment so my current favorite option is to purchase coconut milk in BPA free cans.

For other dairy options I am definitely looking in a more vegan direction.   I’m not switching to a vegan diet, but it does offer some great substitutions for dairy.  One that I was recently introduced to is a fabulous dish called RawFredo.  A raw vegan version of spaghetti alfredo made with spiraled zucchini and a cashew based “alfredo” sauce.  This sauce was so delicious that I can’t wait to make it again.  I’m not ashamed to confess that not only did I lick my bowl, I grabbed my spatula and, ahem, “cleaned” the blender jar.  I’m grateful to my friend and colleague, Primitive Diva, for introducing me to this delicious dish.

While it takes time and effort to make these changes the end result is definitely worth it.  In order to be successful when accommodating any shift in nutritional plans, the key is to find delicious alternatives to what you are used to eating,


photo credits:  MaxStraeten, wax115

General Mills Buys Annie’s Homegrown

who owns your food?

The concept of corporate food ownership is rapidly becoming an important part of the conversation.  It started a long time ago but has increasingly made headlines starting back in 2013 with California’s Prop 37, a proposal to label GMOs on foods.  Major food manufacturers paid tens of millions of dollars to fight this initiative and ultimately outspent those who wanted to know by a factor of nearly ten to one.  Jeffrey Smith, the founding executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, and a very active consumer advocate and public speaker, stated that although Prop 37 did not pass it achieved two very important things.  It brought the issue of  genetically modified foods and GMO contamination to a great level of public awareness.  It also brought to light the web of who owns your food.  The Cornucopia Institute has a great graphic that shows who really owns your favorite organic brands.

Unfortunately many people think that if a food is an organic label that means it’s fine.  But the ownership of that product has a lot to do with it as conventional food corporations continually try to change, modify, or defeat labeling that would provide you with information you want to know.  Because consumers are demanding cleaner labels.  They’re shying away from conventional brands.  And profits are down for those conventional manufacturers.[1]  In order to bolster their bottom line many of these corporations are now seeking out and buying up majority share or total ownership in organic food companies.  And once they own them they change them.[2]

Contrary to what you may believe, food manufacturers are not really in business to make food.  They’re in business to make money.  With conventional food products that often means finding ways to save money, cheaper ingredients, brand building, and misleading marketing.[3]

The latest food company buy is the acquisition of Annie’s Homegrown by General Mills.  Although Annie’s and General Mills have both put out a huge marketing spin claiming that things will remain exactly the same, that the company is still committed to providing the organic goodness and quality that their consumers are used to.  The public however is very skeptical and grumbling loudly.  They don’t believe the hype and they are, at least for now, watching closely.  This may have to do with the fact that General Mills spent over $1.1 million on defeating Prop 37 and has continued to pour dollars into the anti-GMO labeling campaign every time the issue comes up.  They also very publicly announced that they would not be offering any more GMO-free products after discovering that GMO-free cheerios didn’t appreciably raise market share.  (Perhaps some of this has to do with the fact that it’s an exploded grain cereal which is nutritionally deficient and as consumers learn more they’re seeking out healthier choices?  But I digress…)

If nothing else the media attention and consumer outcry is giving clear notice to conventional food manufacturers that consumers are no longer blindly following.  They’re learning to think for themselves, to learn what’s really in their food, and to make value-based purchasing decisions that can have significant impact.


[1] General Mills is now seeking to reduce their costs by up to $140 million as they see profits and market share shrinking.  Cereal sales alone are down by 9% and overall General Mills business has dropped considerably.  No word about how the Annie’s acquisition was inspired by this.  It will be very interesting to see where these changes come from and how it impacts their brands.  Once concern is that they’ll wait until the furor over the Annie’s acquisition dies down and then make modest changes.  Unfortunately as consumers we tend to forget who owns that brand.  And staying on top of the web of ownership isn’t easy.

[2] Example of change:  Stonyfield Farm used to be a separate company making yogurt.  Starting in 2001 Group Danone began to buy up shares in Stoneyfield; they now own 85% of the company.  Recently there have been a number of what I consider to be unhealthy (and unwanted) changes to the product.  Starting with the fact that they no longer have a cream on the top product.  Their marketing claims this is because “We’ve stirred in the cream…to make our creamiest, smoothest, whole milk yogurt ever.”  Not really, what they did was homogenize the product.  Easier and less expensive. Certainly not what the consumers are looking for.  They’ve also been adding pectin to their yogurt.  I clearly recall that it wasn’t in there before.  Pectin is a thickening agent.  To me that indicates the possibility that they are no longer allowing a full setting process on the yogurt and are force thickening it with pectin. This takes less time which probably increases profits but also decreases the health benefits as the live active bacteria may not fully culture.

[3]  Misleading marketing example:  Twix Swirls by General Mills.  It claims to be a good source of calcium and vitamin D plus touts the whole grains in the box.  However the ingredients list reveals a totally different story:  whole grain corn, sugar, corn meal, corn syrup, canola and/or rice bran oil, salt, trisodium phosphate, red 40, yellow 6, blue 1, and other color added, natural and artificial flavor, citric acid, malic acid, bht added to preserve freshness.  Another way to read this list is:  GMO, sugar, GMO, GMO, possible GMO, salt, trisodium phosphate*, artificial colors**, possible MSG, artificial flavors, GMO, allergen/highly inflammatory agent.  


*Trisodium phosphate, TSP, while deemed GRAS has been shown to cause irritations to the lining of the gut and is linked to both osteoporosis and kidney calcification.

** petroleum based artificial colors are strongly linked to attention related issues in those with AD/HD