First of all, there is no judgment here, only encouragement! So let’s get started! Unless you have a health crisis, Organic Eater does not recommend most people “go organic” all at once, by throwing everything you currently have out the window. Way too overwhelming, expensive, and may freak you out so badly that you give up before you get started. No, no my friends. Baby steps are the way to go here. Unless you are one of those who thrive in an “all or nothing” mindset, then by all means go for it! Everyone is at a different point in their health journey, so the starting point will look different for everyone. Look at this list and decide where you at? and where you need to go. These are NOT laws here, just guidelines. Let’s look at everything healthy through a “good, better, best” scale. Remember, it’s a journey…..
Good: (this list does not mean it is good for you, but rather it is “good” only within the scale of good, better, best) Could also be read as “the least bad”:)
*Dairy: rbst or rbgh hormone free dairy (now available in store brands at most grocery stores and even at Target! Yay!) Mercola milk article See Dr. Axe video that describes the difference between pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized. In the comments section of the Dr. Axe video above, I have written extensively about pasteurized milk, in a response to a reader’s question on dairy. See this page for additional dairy resources.
*Meats: Nitrate and preservative free meats (“all natural” can mean nothing, read ingredients). See this page on the truth about saturated fats. See this page on reading Poultry Labels before you buy. See this page for additional meat label resources.
*Eggs: look on cartons for free range, organic if you cand find them at the store, but see this page called Expanations/Benefits here on my blog, and click on the EGGS link to read all you could ever want to know about eggs. Understand that “free range” doesn’t always mean a lot. See this page for additional organic egg resources.
*Junkfood: organic “junk foods” (at least there is no trans fat or synthetic preservatives)
*Produce: any pesticide/herbicide free produce (on this point, ANY produce is better than none, so some of you may need to just start increasing your real fruit and veg intake and worry about organic later)
*FastFood: only vegetables (salads) from fast food if you must (only because the salad would probably have less yuck in it than the “meat” products). The cheapest meats are always hormone filled and antibiotic filled because that is the cheapest way to make factory meat. Think “pink slime” quality here, and go with vegetables instead.
*Restaurants: only salads or quality meats from quality restaurants where everything is made from scratch there (not canned or prepared/frozen/shipped with preservatives), “real food”.
*Beauty&Cleaning: natural beauty products and cleaning products may have some advantages but you must read the labels (much more coming, on what to look for)
*Supplements: quality supplements (usually the name brands in my opinion)
*Sweeteners: sugar in a “healthier form” such as the less processed sucanat, turbinado, less processed organic brands. Know that I am not saying these are “good”. ONLY that they are a tiny bit better than the white stuff. Here are links to an article at Mercola as to why you do NOT want to use agave or another one on artificial sweeteners. Make your choices for where you are, but have a goal of eliminating practically all of it in order to reach your health goals. Here is my new favorite article on sweeteners.
*Juice: along with sugar, limit store bought juice (full of fructose and little fiber). I don’t recommend store-bought juice, but if you “have to”, “Good” versions may include organic or 100% juice or fresh squeezed at the store. Again, only because they are better than sugar filled store bought fake stuff.
*Grains: whole grains (wheat or any others) may be somewhat healthier than the white/enriched grains (for more fiber), but the latest research is showing the overall damage of today’s grains can outweigh the fiber benefit. If giving up grains is “like crazy, no way”, then at least switch to “ancient grains” like quinoa for healthier versions with more protein. Of the grains, rice seems to be the most benign, so if grain free is too extreme for you, go with ancient grains or rice.
*Dairy: organic whole fat dairy, pasteurized is a better than ultra-pasteurized. See Dr. Axe video for details. See my own comments on the Dr. Axe video post, where I try to answer an OE reader’s question about dairy. More dairy resources.
*Meats: organic meats. More meal label resources.
*Eggs: see above for link with explanation. More organic eggs label resources here.
*Produce: organic produce
*FastFood: quick restaurants like “Chipotle”, but not fast food. Think “real food”.
*Restaurants: organic restaurants of high quality organic & local foods used, all made from scratch (may be challenging to find)
*Beauty&Cleaning: organic beauty and cleaning products
*Supplements: high quality supplements usually in a raw or whole foods form, possibly organic, with guarantees of quality.
*Sweeteners: natural raw honey (unprocessed) is the “better” version of sweeteners, but that doesn’t mean go crazy using it. Many consider this the “best” sweetener. Same with using raw or dried fruit as a sweetener. Fructose is the problem with all of these (see Mercola article here), so they all need to be limited to some degree.
*Juice: better/best juices (although still limited due to fructose) would include fresh made juice made in your blender/juicer at home. I don’t have 3 grades for this category:)
*Grains: For many, a gluten free grain or sprouted grains (like Ezekiel Bread or your own sprouting) is a better option. Those are my rare treats (trying to keep to once/twice a month). I have not sprouted anything myself, but am fascinated with the possibility and want to educate myself further on the subject.
*Dairy: raw dairy (not sold in NC) or fresh local organic grass-fed if you have access to that. Many have learned how to make homemade yogurt, butter, etc. by using raw milk. I am not there yet. See Dr. Axe video about pasteurization. Consider almond milk or coconut milk if you only have access to pasteurized dairy. Pasteurization is the process developed by Louie Pasteur, and has nothing to do with “pastures” or pasture fed (grass-fed). More organic dairy resources here.
*Eggs: organic, truly free range local from a farmer you know and trust is your best source for eggs. Go to my Explanations/Benefits page and click on the eggs link. If you see a Maximized Living doctor, they often have resources for you. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is another resource. You will have to search for a CSA in your area, or go to the local farmers market. More organic egg label resources here.
*JunkFood: home made organic, local, sugar free or low sugar (and possibly grain free, maybe raw) “junk food” (at this point, it’s hard to call it junk food anymore; we’ll call them treats instead)
*Produce: fresh local organic produce (your own garden is the dream version here)
*FastFood/restaurants: eating at home so you know exactly what you’re eating and where it came from will always be “best”:)
*Beauty&Cleaning: homemade cleaning and beauty products so you know exactly what you’re putting on your skin (your largest organ and very important what you put in it). I am sure there are many organic brands you can trust in this “best” category. Weleda is the only one I know of at this time, but research will come up with many others.
*Supplements: you probably don’t have to supplement too much if you’re getting most of what you need in real whole foods every day (few of us do that!). Exception would be Omega 3s because most of us need to supplement that. I only buy the best quality Omegas because they can go rancid so easily.
*Sweeteners: For me, stevia (stevia ONLY, not a sweetener that has stevia IN it) is my best sweetener because it does not raise my blood sugar levels like honey can, nor does it contain fructose. I am in process of switching to a more natural, green stevia rather than the white stuff. I will keep you posted on that step in my own journey. I have found no research yet, that indicates stevia causes any health related problems like “artificial sweeteners” do. If I ever find that information, I will re-evaluate at that time. It is also recommended by Dr. Mercola, and I value his medical opinion. Many consider raw or dried fruit or raw honey a “best” sweetener, but it needs to be limited if weight loss or insulin resistance is a factor.
*Juice: better/best juices (although still limited due to fructose) would include fresh made juice made in your blender/juicer at home. I don’t have 3 grades for this category:) (Here is a recipe for homemade lemonade)
*Grains: going grain free is the best option for many, although absolute 100% elimination of all grains may not be necessary, unless there is a health crisis. Elimination of all wheat (gluten) is much more attainable with all the products available now. To be able to do this, you will need to become very familiar with coconut flour and almond flour. They are amazing substitutes!! Some form of a better grain is usually a “treat” on the weekend. Yes, I consider a piece of Ezekiel bread to be a treat. Hilarious, I know, but I am still trying to lose weight. That may change once I reach my goal. The Perfect Health Diet, which Mercola is now recommending, does suggest white rice and potatoes as starches in strict moderation, but excludes all grains.
There is probably a scale for clothing, electricity, cars, electronics, and every other thing you purchase, but this is where we’ll start, and you can go as extreme as you want after getting these down.
SO, WHERE DO YOU FALL IN THIS RANGE? USE THIS BROAD FILTER TO GET AN IDEA OF WHERE YOU’RE AT AND WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU WANT TO WORK ON. Some of you have a health crisis that will determine what to do first. Some will want to start with a food group you consume the most of (like meats or dairy). Some start with: as each item they currently have is used up, the next purchase is the more healthy version. Some will be so hesitant to do this, you will only pick one item out of the entire list and that’s OK too. Start somewhere, but just start. In the words of Nike, Just Do It! Did this page help you? Contact me if you need a little more help in getting started. I love helping newbies!
- 12 Foods You Should Always Buy Organic (thedailymeal.com)
- See DrAxe.com for lots of info and videos on how to buy organic, benefits of grass fed beef and cheese, and may others. I appreciate how quick and “absorbable” his videos are for us “lay people” to understand!
- see The Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 for lists of worst and best produce to buy organic or conventional
- I LOVE this quick post and video from Brooke Thomas at bthealthsource.com who reviews several food products and why they are NOT healthy, and offers a healthier version.
- Here is a fantastic quick list of what to throw out of your pantry (or never buy in the first place), from Dr. Mark Hyman. Use this as a guide for cleaning out the bad stuff from your pantry and fridge. On #9, I have made a few recipes using xylitol only because it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like white sugar does. It has been recommended in many healthy recipes because of that. Use it to wean off sugar if you need to, but keep in mind It should be used as a treat if used at all. Crunchy Betty has a great post asking if we should even call it natural, if you are interested in reading some of the questions surrounding it. Update: My most recent reads indicate it’s a great cavity fighter, so now I’m really “on the fence” about how much we will use. Leave a comment if you have advice on this! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
- Home Cooked Healthy has a post on asking Why, What, How when getting started with baby steps to your new lifestyle
- I love Kitchen Stewardship’s juice decoder as an explanation for why you do not want to give your kids juice. She also has a MUCH more extensive “bad, OK, great” list that is printer-friendly, if you would like to print 7 pages. It also covers food storage and some health & beauty and cleaning items. I appreciate her “No way” section on her scale, and wonder if OE should have an “always avoid” list as well. (Warning: IF you already feel overwhelmed here at OE, do not go to her more extensive list! It may overwhelm you. Baby steps. Love ya. Mean it.)
- Butter Believer has a post on What to do if raw milk is unavailable to you, along with a few details about milk and dairy products you need to know in making the best decisions you can (i.e. do NOT buy “ultra-pasteurized” milk)
- This is a helpful chart that tells you “How to turn any recipe into a real-food recipe” from homemademommy.net It’s great to print it and use for later reference when cooking.