Fear & Loathing on Facebook

Here’s what I’ve been learning lately on Facebook:

  • Packaged bread is poison so you should make your own. But wheat is also poison, so don’t bother.
  • You should never, ever, ever drink milk. Unless it’s raw, then maybe it’s okay. Never mind, it’s bad.
  • If you’re feeding your kids non-organic fruit while slathering them with drugstore sunscreen, you may as well be giving them cigarettes for dinner.

My Facebook news feed has become a very scary place, filled with dire and sometimes conflicting warnings about the poisonous food we’re feeding ourselves and our kids.

But it’s not just the usual suspects–like soda, fast food, and candy–that are being targeted. When I posted this photo of my son with a giant bag of frozen mango I got at Aldi (for the bargain-basement price of $3.29!), one reader immediately asked “Is it organic?” (No it’s not, I replied.) Another accused me of buying a bag full of GMOs. “This isn’t nutrition, sorry,” she said. So now food doesn’t have any nutritional value unless it’s organic?

Frankly, I’m worried about the climate of fear I’m seeing on Facebook about food, a place where eating fruits and vegetables isn’t enough unless they’re local and organic–or better yet, grown in  your own backyard (because we all have the time and acreage for that). A place where food is routinely labeled as “toxic” or “poison”. A place where you can instantly feel bad about your choices because even though you’re trying really hard, it’s not hard enough. (I know that some children have serious food allergies and intolerances that make certain foods dangerous for them. I empathize with parents who have reason to fear the food their kid gets at school and camp and church. That’s not what I’m  talking about.)

I’ve long considered my eating habits and my family’s eating habits works of progress, but I generally feel pretty confident in my choices. I’m concerned about synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones. I’m increasingly concerned about genetically modified organisms and support labeling. I shop at the farmer’s market when I can. I buy some organics when I can–and try not to feel inferior when I can’t afford it (read “Organic Mom“). But when our budget is feeling tight, I also have to reign in some of my food spending. And I know some people just don’t have the access to or budget for local meat or organic farmer’s market fruit.

I’m also okay with my kids having processed junk food on occasion when they’re out and about (read: “My Kid Likes Junk Food and That’s Okay“). I advocate for improving the snack culture for kids because the junk food is excessive (and I don’t think it’s healthy to associate achieving in sports or gathering in a group with eating junk). But I don’t think Fruit Roll-Ups themselves are “poisonous”–otherwise, I wouldn’t let my kids have those foods occasionally at a party or a friend’s house (read: “The Mom I Can’t Be“).

These are my choices. They may not be yours. But we both love our kids and are trying. I’m continually learning–and tinkering with the way I feed myself and my kids as I learn more (read: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes“). But I’m tired of the one-upping. I’m tired of the fear mongering.

I just want to enjoy my toxic mango smoothie without being judged. Is that too much to ask?

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  1. Beth says

    Woo hoo!! Improvements and changes for the better do not have to be judgmental at all. People are getting ridiculous about food, on both sides of the fence. Go Real Mom Nutrition!!!

  2. says

    I see the fear about food too, on Facebook and all over social media. As my husband not-so-politely says “the Internet enables assholes.” While I’m not sure everyone who shares their elitist food choices is an asshole, it certainly is easier to brag about something you did well (grow your own, make from scratch, etc.) than something you’re ashamed of like dropping the ball and ordering pizza again. Failure isn’t as fun as success.

    Food choice blaming doesn’t help anyone. With very few exceptions, a single food choice doesn’t equal a certain disease or negative outcome. I believe, as I think you do too, that healthy eating is all about moderation.

  3. Laura says

    Thanks for sticking up for those of us who are doing the best with the financial resources we have while also trying to make smarter food choices for our kids. I think most of us out there are reasonable, but those who aren’t sometimes make the loudest noises and see issues only as black and white instead of the grays (and various other colors/shades) in between.

    I’m hoping to be a fruit ninja mom in my city once my kid is in elementary school…

  4. Pamela says

    Oh my goodness, your sentiments about your newsfeed echo mine exactly. I told my husband that lately I almost don’t feel good about anything I’m having my kids eat. Even if I am buying organic as much as I can, how do I know if those are loaded with GMO’s? My son cried at Whole Foods the other day because I didn’t feel good about buying the fresh corn on the cob because it wasn’t labeled organic and I had read an article on fb earlier that day about 10 conventional foods you should never eat. I’m glad I’m not alone in having a difficult time sifting it all out. I like your idea of thinking about your food choices as works in progress. I’ll have to remind myself. Thanks for your post!

    • says

      Thanks Pamela. That’s such a sad story about your son crying over the corn–but I can relate. I worry that all the fear mongering has a lot of us paralyzed with doubt in the produce aisle! Just so you know, if a food is labeled organic (100% organic) it cannot by law contain GMOs. That’s not to say that the organic crops may not have become contaminated by GMOs but buying organic (or something labeled non GMO) is the safest way to ensure you’re not getting them. But eating fruits and vegetables is still important, organic or not! Thanks for your comment.

  5. Vickiesb says

    RIGHT ON!! I am so tired of being made to feel guilty about choices I make for my family. While I don’t like the GMO issue stopping eating everything is ridiculous. Will I cutg back on certain things? Absolutely but cutting everything out is not going to happen!

  6. says

    Love it, Sally! It’s helpful to know that you – who has some real expertise on the topic – can also feel daunted and doubtful about some of this stuff.

    But my real take away is the huge bag of frozen mango for $3.29. You’ve extolled the virtues of Aldi before, but I have never truly understood the opportunity I’m missing… 🙂

    • says

      I know you love your smoothies as much as I do, Tuesday, so you can understand my excitement about the mango. I would be happy to give you a Aldi tour sometime! 🙂

  7. Erika Fultz says

    I always read the “don’t eat this” posts with a big grain of salt. The way I see it, I’m going to get cancer from the aspartame in my Diet Pepsi, my cell phone, or my deodorant so I just try to moderate everything.
    My ex-husband is a produce inspector and he’d helped an agricultural science student with her thesis on organic vs conventionally grown fruits and veggies and, at the time of harvest, there was no measurable difference between the 2 types of produce… Just “food” for thought.

  8. Sara says

    I love this… And it should be noted that only 9 foods are possible to be GMO– and mango isn’t one of them! Only need to “worry” about alfalfa, corn, cotton (tastes terrible anyway!), canola, papaya, soy, sugar beets, zucchini and yellow summer squash. Unfortunately, they’re in most processed foods, but for the most part, fresh produce and fruits are good to go!!! And even better from Aldi where they don’t cost an arm and a leg!

  9. says

    When I saw that photo of your sweet boy with the inorganic bag of mangoes, I just thought Real Mom has some BALLS! My own giant bag of inorganic frozen (Dole!) mango is hidden in my freezer, where I just hope my snob children don’t bother to read the label to closely.

  10. says

    Great article! You worded it so well. It seems everyone has an opinion on food and what should or should not be avoided these days. It can make a person feel guilty – when really, there’s no reason to. I like your thought that food choices are a work in progress. Thanks for the post!

  11. says

    AMEN! I’m a gluten-free food blogger, and we even have food bullying in our OWN community! Everything in moderation! We’re not asking our readers to eat sticks of butter and tubs of cookie dough for breakfast – but for god’s sake, give us freedom of choice (within means) without all this judgement! I buy organic whenever possible, but I’m now terrified of anything that isn’t organic. I almost had a meltdown when I couldn’t find organic fruit at the store, and then I thought to myself “giiiirl, you’ve been eating non-organic fruit and sprinkling your days with GMOs for years – one more day and one more piece of non-organic fruit isn’t going to kill you.” Yes, I believe we should all eat BETTER, eat ORGANIC, and eat well whenever possible, but no one is perfect.

  12. says

    Oh my gosh, AMEN!!!!!!!! I’ve been seeing my Facebook feed get bombarded by articles by Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola like mad recently, and I’ve been screaming inside!! I’ve been a member of the fear-filled population before, but I’ve been taking the last few years to educate myself. Why? I have children who need the truth and need to learn to have an open mind and the drive to, well, KNOW.

    • says

      Melissa–yes, Dr. Oz will get you scared in a hurry, he’s all about toxic poison! 🙂 I love your point about wanting to have kids with open minds. Thanks for your comment.

  13. says

    Sally, I’m laughing because I saw your photo and had the immediate thought, “Someone’s going to take issue with the fact that the fruit isn’t organic!” That would never have occurred to me before starting The Lunch Tray!

    On the one hand, I love that readers are so well-informed and I’ve learned a lot from others about various foods and food issues. On the other hand, sometimes it feels a little like one-upmanship, i.e., “My food standards are somehow purer and more enlightened than everyone elses.” It’s a fine line and I think it comes down to intent and tone. If someone tells me in a considerate, concerned way that I ought to be worried about X or Y, I’m much more open to the message than if it’s tossed off with an attitude of superiority.

    Thank you for writing this post!

    • says

      Thanks Bettina. When I posted it, I thought the same thing. But I also have to be honest about what I buy and do. And I totally agree, I LOVE that people are focused on eating “real” foods–but as you say, it’s all about tone. I learn so much from my readers and have changed some of the ways I eat because of it. Thanks for your comment!

  14. Diann Thomas says

    You go girl!!! You have made me very happy to read this. The whole “good moms grow their own organic produce and avoid all things wheat” attitude really had me stewing. Since I live in a CITY in a CONDO, I do not have a place to grow anything. I am elated to find affordable produce to feed my kids. That said, I really do have to find a pick your own farm to visit this summer–the 4 yo twins a think strawberries come from a factory where the workers paint them red and stick the seeds on! Ha ha!

    • says

      Diann–yes, I live in the city too and have a VERY small raised bed in our yard (but have also lived in places with exactly zero space for a garden). If I depended on that for nourishment, we would have about four strawberries all summer! U-pick farms are a great way to get kids thinking about where fruits/veg come from, I hope you find some farms this summer–your kids will love them!

  15. says

    I totally love this post, Sally! My newsfeed looks a lot like yours. As a facilitator of whole food cleanses, I instruct my clients to check out the EWG clean 15 and dirty dozen to consider which foods are highly sprayed and consider buying those organic. But even if they can’t, it’s just as easy to whip up a low-cost veggie spray to clean conventional produce. It’s amazing what a little water and vinegar can do. I would rather see parents feeding their children and themselves fruits and vegetables of any variety – conventional, organic, fresh, or frozen – than sticking to the standard american diet of soda, fries, and burgers. Keep on doing what you’re doing. I love your blog, your posts, and your attitude! xoxo, Jess

    • says

      Thanks Jess! The message of “give your children a variety of produce, organic or not” is so important. And as you point out, washing produce well (organic or not) can go a long way.

  16. Lee says

    Thank you so much for this! I follow you precisely because you have a balanced, rational view on food, eating and cooking. I would have bought (and still would buy) the non-organic mangoes too, without a second thought. There are conventional frozen mangoes in my freezer right now — and fresh ones on my counter, too. So there! *nom nom nom*

    Thanks again for keeping it real. I appreciate that so much.

  17. Shandra Locken says

    LOL…Yes! I try to buy organic when I feel like it really counts. Spinach and strawberries yes. Banana and mango no. If I don’t eat the skin, I just don’t worry too much about it. I buy organic dairy for the most part. But I cannot find organic fresh mozzarella! Am I going to give it up? No. And I cannot seem to give up my coffee creamer. There. I said it. I use coffee creamer. I love it. 🙂

  18. Alex Broadhead says

    I’m pretty sure that the point of organic food is not really that it is more nutritious or flavorful or even healthier for the consumer (though avoiding pesticide residue is always good). The point is sustainable agriculture – healthier farming pratices that don’t burn out the land and don’t require all sorts of pesticides, genetic modification, fertilizer, etc. You pay more in the short term, but it’s better for everyone in the long term.

    • says

      Alex–You’re right–that is definitely a reason to buy organics and I wish I could support sustainable agriculture with every purchase. But that’s not the reason I see promoted everyday, it’s mostly fear of pesticides. Those scary photos of conventional farmers spraying with pesticides, the lists of the “Dirty Dozen” (which, though very helpful, have scared a lot of people I think). I think many parents are worried that if they don’t buy organic, they are ultimately harming their child’s health–or at the very least, not doing everything they should to help their health. Thanks for the good point and the comment.

  19. Amy says

    I love this article, but then I feel like a hypocrite because I read through the comments and judged someone. To the mom who wouldn’t buy the corn, I really hope you bought organic corn somewhere else and didn’t just leave your child without corn! Dirty corn is better than no corn, IMHO! If your child wants to eat a vegetable, be happy and get him a vegetable! (Or maybe I’m just jealous because my 2YO currently would not eat a single vegetable if he hadn’t eaten anything in days and was starving.) As “It’s Not About Nutrition” says, it’s not about nutrition, it’s about habits. Keeping your child in the habit of eating vegetables is way more important than the organic-status of this one vegetable. Buy organic when you can, but don’t go without when you can’t. [sigh] Am I a terrible person for being so judgey?

    • says

      Amy–no worries! I think what she was expressing about the corn was something many of us have felt–the occasional confusion and uncertainty about what to do. I know my child has asked for random out of season fruits before (like whole apricots in January) and I’ve had a little voice inside me say “Yes, but they are from Chile and probably sprayed with xyz”. It’s easy to get caught up in the worry and guilt about this and not see the big picture (as you point out, how awesome that a child is asking for a vegetable or fruit!). We ALL judge from time to time. I’m guilty of it too. Thanks for your comment!

  20. Lisa says

    Great post! People are so quick to judge – and judge harshly. Don’t forget that refined white sugar = the devil and you should probably go ahead and start digging your grave now if you eat it. My favorite judgy food post of all time was related to a picture of a beautiful spread of mostly healthy food for a child’s birthday party. One of the items on display was a gorgeous tray of fruit kabobs. The fruit was in perfect rainbow order (ROY G BIV) and someone wrote “Cute, but looks dangerous. I wouldn’t serve to children!” I still am not certain what was dangerous -the whole, not cut-up, grapes, or the pointy kabob stick. Made me want to pull the fruit of the stick and poke the commenter with it:(

    • says

      Lisa–ha! Yes, I’ve had those kinds of comments before. And I totally forgot that white sugar is the devil, thanks for the reminder. 😉

  21. Aimee says

    A little bit of learning is a dangerous thing, especially on the internet. Seems like a whole lot of people take little bits of info and blow them up all out of proportion. Or make stuff up out of thin air. seems like you cant eat *anything* safely any more – grilled meat has carcinogens, rice has arsenic in it, fish have mercury . . .im sure tomorrow, well find out something shocking about potatoes.
    But Science is your friend here. Under federal law, “organic” fruits and vegetables can be grown using naturally derived pesticides. And they are, generally ( unless you personally know your grower and her methods, assume they are. It’s safer.) oh, great! Natural pesticides! Sounds fabulous! Why doesn’t everybody use them? Turns out they’re less effective (requiring more applications per growing season, which impacts the soil) more expensive, and (of the few most- used ones that have been tested, contain as many carcinogenic compounds as synthetics. Maybe in a few decades we’ll have something better, but for now, WASH ALL THE FRUITS AND VEGGIES! My advice? Just do the best you can, eat whole foods, treat yourself to bacon or cake on occasion, and don’t worry too much. It’s the worry that kills you.

  22. says

    Thank you Sally for once again bringing a grounded, “real mom” voice to this topic! As you can see from all the comments, your words have really resonated with so many others. I couldn’t agree more that the news feeds are loaded with extreme statements and claims which leave the average consumer worried and overwhelmed. Parents are just trying to do their best and raise healthy kids. We all live in our own “real world,” which means limitations of time, budget and yard space. I believe that those of us who work as educators in this field have a duty to help parents relax, to feel good about what they are doing right, and to make balanced choices within a “big picture” perspective. The Environmental Working Group’s own website even states, “eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.”

    In reading the reports from the Family Dinner Conference, I was delighted to see the conclusion that the most important ingredient for a high-quality family meal was laughter! Let’s keep working together to remind everyone about what matters most when it comes to raising healthy families!

    • says

      Janet–thanks for the nice comment. I loved that part about laughter at family dinner too–so much more important than whether everything’s organic isn’t it? 🙂 And I like this line too “those of us who work as educators in this field have a duty to help parents relax, to feel good about what they are doing right, and to make balanced choices within a “big picture” perspective”. YES!

  23. says

    Thank you! This is so nice to see. We all have to do the best we can with the time and resources we have available. Making changes a little at a time is always better than nothing, but we shouldn’t be afraid to eat for fear of judgment especially from other moms.

    • says

      Melissa–yep, good point about the time AND resources. Some of us have more, some have less, but we all do our best. Thanks for the comment.

  24. Jess says

    Thank you so much for this. I love where you say that you are continually learning and tinkering with your/your family’s eating. This is what I am doing and often feel inferior because I don’t know it all/can’t afford it all/am killing my children with store bought celery (it’s on the dirty dozen list don’t you know?!?!? FEAR FEAR FEAR). I am really feeling good after reading this.

    As an aside, I would be interested to know what you thought of the taste of the aldi frozen mangos because I recently bought another brands bulk pack and the taste was awful. I’m calling the company tomorrow to complain. They also weren’t organic so may actually have been pieces of hydrolised soy protein non fermented tofu injected with GMO high fructose corn syrup and colored with Yellow dye.

    • says

      Jess–some of the mango pieces were sweet, some weren’t, which led me to believe that not all of the mango was likely perfectly ripe when they froze it. But for smoothies, it’s perfect. And I’m thinking of making a product called “hydrolised soy protein non fermented tofu injected with GMO high fructose corn syrup and colored with Yellow dye”. Do you think that would be a big seller? 😉

  25. says

    Sally…I so feel you. And I know you’ll forgive me for laughing and shaking my head through this whole post. I’ve been working on one myself along a similar vein — about how tired I am of all of us being so darned AFRAID of everything, and how I think ultimately that stifles our kids and creates the very eating issues we don’t want to instill. You know what? I shop almost exclusively at Whole Foods and farmer’s markets. I do NOT buy exclusively organic, though I try; I can’t always afford exclusively grass-fed, gold-plated, Swedish-massaged meats, though I try; and I refuse to make all of the cookies and so forth in our home — a rare treat, anyway — whole-wheat, chia-seeded, unrefined, no-white-sugared, carob-chipped, paleo, vegan cookies that have been blessed at the shrine to Michael Pollan that sits in my entryway. (What? You don’t have one?) That doesn’t mean that my kids aren’t healthy or that my husband and I aren’t healthy, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t conscious about our habits, and it doesn’t mean that we’re STILL not eating better than 80 percent of this country. I can’t. Can’t. CAN’T. Hate on somebody for non-organic anything. And I love that you got a big huge bag of non-organic mango for such a great deal, I love the picture of your kiddo, and I all-around love you.

    • says

      Bri–this comment made me laugh so hard! Swedish-massaged meats! Michael Pollan shrine! Thank YOU for the laugh and the encouragement. So glad we are friends, online and off! 🙂

  26. Susan says

    Excellent article. Something to also note is that the science behind the fear of non-organic, non-gmo foods is not nearly as strong as the evidence to just eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and less processed food.

    On that note, I thought it would be helpful to post a reminder as to the point of all this. If generally, people’s interest in eating fresh fruits and vegetables comes from a desire to maintain or improve health, then let’s review the history of the science.

    The majority of the scientific evidence for eating fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned) comes from large population based studies that show how people who eat more fruits and vegetables (in any form) tend to have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. The assumption is that they therefore tend to live longer or have higher quality of life.

    But, these are observational studies meaning researchers ask people to recall the foods they eat and fill out some questionnaires. The researchers almost never ask about whether this food was organic, local or non-gmo. So, given that we are talking about populations of people (thousands and thousands!), it is safe to assume most of the people in these studies were just eating the food that was most easily available to them– conventionally grown foods from the grocery store.

    These large studies formed our historical understanding of the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. So, let’s not forget that this basic principle was first based on overwhelming amounts of evidence in support of the healthful benefits of eating conventionally grown fresh food.

    That being said, certainly we need to do what we think is best for our families to be healthy. Perhaps that is simply to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and less processed foods. Some may want to take that a step further and try to avoid the chemicals used in food production. And a noble pursuit is to support our communities by buying fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Regardless of the way you decide to do it, being healthy or improving your health involves eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains either organic or non-organic.

    Susan Veldheer, MS, RD, LDN

    • says

      Thanks for this comment, Susan. Totally agree and it’s a very good point about the research. I absolutely don’t want people to be worried about eating produce because it’s not organic. Most Americans would do better simply to include more produce period. Thanks for this great background.

  27. says

    Love this post! You are so right. There is no way to protect yourself from every toxin out there. Yes, organics are great — if you can afford them and if they are available, but no one has access to organic EVERYTHING. Organic produce shipped in from Mexico or halfway across the world is likely not what you think it is anyway.

    Enjoy your toxic mango smoothie. I do. 🙂

    And thank you for always saying what I’m thinking much better than I could have.

  28. says

    Hi Sally

    Great post.

    All that fear is more damaging to kids’ health than those pesticide residues. Eating disorder anyone?

  29. says

    Why Aimee, don’t you know that potatoes are one of the dreaded “white foods” that’s going to spike your glucose through the roof and cause Type II Diabetes on the spot? 😉

    My feeling is that life is too short to be paranoid about food. By all means try to make good choices, but if reality intervenes, there’s no need to beat yourself up, or worse yet, beat anyone else up.

  30. Liz says

    Great post, Sally! I can never understand the sanctimommies who go out of their way to make other parents feel bad about the choices they make for their own kids – whether it’s bedtimes, overscheduling, underscheduling, computer use or birthday party good bag contents!! We all love our kids and try every day to do right by them, so what purpose does it serve to get down on someone whose choice you don’t agree with? Other than the satisfaction of self-righteousness? Thanks for articulating it so well.

    • says

      You’re right–this post could be written about so many other mommy-wars topics. And I LOVE the term “sanctimommies”. 🙂

  31. Amy says

    On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen some ugly snark from moms who don’t, or can’t feed their kids organic produce. They take my stance as a personal criticism and make fun for avoiding what I do consider poison. That’s what pesticides are by design. But I won’t apologize for avoiding conventional strawberries, grapes or anything else that gets doused and drinks up the chemicals like a sponge, never to be washed way because they’re inside the cells, not to mention the GMO crops that are designed to produce their OWN pesticides. The “it’ll kill bugs but can’t hurt YOU” theory doesn’t work for me.

    Were our world not so polluted already, perhaps I wouldn’t worry so. But few chemicals are tested efficiently for human exposure, much less tested as the ever-changing mystery cocktail we receive on a daily basis from many sources besides our food. So if I know a way to mostly eliminate a bad substance then gosh darn it I’m going to try. However, slamming the well-intentioned bag of bargain mango for being conventional (it’s thick skinned – it’s ok), or for being GMO (it wasn’t – that’s papaya), was a bit silly and proof that the internet is not a fool-proof source of nutrition advice, or any advice for that matter.

    • says

      Amy–I hear what you’re saying. There is certainly snark on both sides! 🙂 Nobody likes to feel judged, whichever side they’re on. I’m sure you go about it in a much kinder way than a lot of people. We all have to do what we think is right and respect the choices other moms are making for their families. I don’t fault people for buying organics or trying to avoid these substances–I want to avoid them too! But I don’t like the scare tactics some of them are using and the tone that it can take. Thanks for chiming in!

  32. says

    Sally, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    There seem to be more scare tactics than ever on social media. People read something somewhere about the evils of a product and feel the need to “share” it.

    Sometimes these are informed people who are truly concerned and speak from experience. A lot of times it is someone who saw something and felt the need to pass it along without ever checking to see if there is any truth behind it.

    I applaud you for doing the best that you can for your family with what you have.

    That is what we should all be focusing on without feeling the need to defend ourselves.

  33. says

    Yes! It’s not about sticking our heads in the sand or throwing your hands up in the air and saying “I give up!” it’s about doing the best you can and trying not to let fear rule your family life. There have been days I’ve had to log off of FB because the rhetoric just gets to be too much…like the time I read a comment that a conventional apple is “a slow death.” Ummm…

  34. says

    I love this post, thank you! I believe in holistic health and nutrition but I don’t believe in going broke over your food!
    Life is short and too short to not let your children have the occasional chip or ice cream cone.
    It has gotten to the point where I don’t visit certain facebook pages because all they spout out is guilt ridden fodder.

  35. Michael says

    I guess here is what makes me absolutely insane about this sort of thinking: The point of educating about the problems in our food supply is not to shame anyone, make fluffy girls turn into rage filled psychopaths, and certainly not so that we can just eat nothing and starve. It is this: Our food did not *used* to be poison. Fruits and vegetables in their original states were not dangerous. Wheat just sixty years ago contained only a small amount of gluten, as opposed to the 60% that it does today. Meats are horrible only because of the things we pump into them. Our food has become toxic because of the things that humans have done or are doing to them. The corporations in charge of these changes are *never going to take steps to make it better* unless the public becomes aware, and pressures them to stop. It will only get worse. However if the public becomes aware and they notice a shift toward healthy eating they will chase the dollars toward fixing things. They *can* stop coating vegetables with crap, they can raise meats without grains, hormones and antibiotics, if they hybridized grains over the short span of sixty years into a hot mess, they could focus on putting them back. None of this will happen though if we don’t demand it.

    • says

      Michael–I’m not sure who the fluffy girls are in your comment (I’d prefer the term women or mothers for people on both sides of this issue) but I understand what you’re saying and agree that they’re doing some messed up stuff with our food supply now–and that it’s much different today than it was just a generation ago. And I support activism that works to make companies accountable and transparent about what they’re doing. But we can’t let that stop us from eating fruits and vegetables or it shouldn’t give us anxiety over every purchase, especially when we’re trying very hard to make healthy choices.

  36. christine rennegarbe says

    AMEN!!! I have a 1 year old so I started paying more attention to things over the year and it’s just discouraging and feels hopeless. It makes me feel like anything I do will make my daughter get cancer. I had to pull back on reading some articles because it’s out of hand!

    • says

      Christine–yes, cancer looms large in my list of worries because it’s in my family and I’ve had it as well (skin). It seems like every week, there are articles liking so many things with cancer. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and afraid. I’d like to think there’s a happy medium between being aware and being overwhelmed. But some days that’s easier than others. Just when I think I’m making good choices about food, an article comes along about the sunscreen I’m using or the makeup I’m wearing. It’s enough to give me a head of gray hair!

  37. Ginger says

    Oh, this predates Facebook. I’ve homeschooled my children for 20 years. I went through a period of horrible depression many, many years ago because I was made to feel so inadequate. Our family was suppose to wake at 5 am, feed the livestock, gather the eggs, milk the goats, come in and have a homecooked breakfast with all our fresh ingredients as well as homemade bread with home ground wheat (because buying flour was just not good enough). My husband would lead the children (at least 10 of them) in family devotions before the kids happily did chores in my immaculate house and then we would start school and everyone would be cheerful, attentive, and helpful. Psshhhh. Well, my family didn’t look ANYTHING like that model that all the other homeschoolers in our group seemed to pretend they were. I spent years wondering why my children (only three – obviously my husband was a fallen man because he didn’t want 10) fought with each other, didn’t cooperate with my vision of perfection, and why I couldn’t achieve this perfection myself. What was wrong with me? Now I know that we all find our own “normal” and what works for our family must be what works. Not saying we should strive for something we are currently not, but baby steps! Baby steps!

    • says

      Ginger–how interesting and how true that we all start with a vision of how we’re supposed to be as a family but it doesn’t always work out that way! Thanks for your comment and perspective.

  38. says

    I think this is a terrific post – thank you. We should be working to support each other instead of tearing each other down over something as ridiculous as organic mangoes.

    And, as far as your toxic smoothie – can you make me one of those? Sounds delish.

  39. says

    I *SO* enjoyed this post, because this too is my life. In fact, I wrote a comic novel about it, published last year, with the title JULIA’S CHILD. The main character is driven to distraction over her choices, and I had a blast writing it.

    Sally–if you email me your snail address, I’ll happily send you a copy.

    It’s great to exist in a world where information is so easily distributed, but one’s Facebook feed is sometimes hard to read. Hang in there!

  40. Caty K says

    It’s another extension of the mommy wars, lol…
    And sadly people are very invested in whichever side of the fence they prefer, which makes it hard to “mingle” with those who don’t mesh with your preferences. Plus then the internet makes it easy to flame and sling rants because you don’t have face to face contact.
    Glad you shared this, it can be hard putting on a game face when some of the commentary is such a personal attack–but do try not to take it personally. Everyone these days is very insecure about what is or isn’t ok to eat, which we can thank the media for. How often do they botch the medical report findings with their quick summaries that are sensationalized to grab headlines? ALL. THE. TIME. No one knows who or what to believe anymore so they cling tighter and tighter to myths and misinformation like a trapped animal, lashing out…

    • says

      Thanks Caty. I don’t take it personally, it just makes me angry that people are spreading fear about healthy foods, which makes people confused and anxious about every purchase, even those purchases they *thought* were healthy (like fruit). And there is a one-upping that I find irritating as well. And you’re right–so easy to flame and forget manners when typing a comment on Facebook. Thanks for your comment!

  41. Megan says

    Brand new to your blog but I’m loving what I’m reading. That big bag of mango chunks from Aldi that your son is holding is sitting in my freezer right now with the intent on making my daughters some smoothies before school tomorrow morning. It’s not organic, it probably IS all GMO, but ya know what? It’s fruit. It’s not filled with high fructose corn syrup or dyes. And it was within our food stamps budget. I’d say it’s a win. I read a lot of natural living blogs and ooh and aah over all the organic gourmet meals and beautiful antique furniture and organic cotton dresses from Hanna Andersson and the like and it’s easy to feel badly about the hand-me-down clothing my girls wear and the non-organic gmo produce and the lack of after-school enrichment activities and such. But it’s out of the budget for this single parent of three. Your post was a refreshing change. I’m going to go make myself a toxic smoothie and hug my kids.

    • says

      Megan–thank you so much for your comment and your perspective. (We do hand-me-down kids clothes around here too!) You have to do what’s best for yourself and your family and as a previous commenter said, fiscal health is very important too. And the good news is that mango is actually on the Environmental Working Group’s “Clean 15” list, which means it tends to have less pesticide residue than other produce. So feel good about your smoothie! 🙂

  42. Amelia says

    Love this post, the only thing I don’t agree with your “question” of..so now food has no nutritional value if not organic? For me it is organic and Non-GMO. The chemicals and GMO’s are no joke & cause serious/fatal conditions in humans and animals. I am sorry that people judge you for not buying organic or non-Gmo. These can be quite expensive. I do grow some of my own & swap with friends of mine. I belong to a CSA and buy farm fresh eggs, avoid gluten and dairy on a daily basis. The evidence that disease is running rampant in this country can no longer be denied due to our food source. My hope is that one day everyone will know the truth and be able to eat clean & healthy. At least give people a chance to make their own decisions and do our best to lead by example of good health due to a healthy lifestly.

    • says

      Amelia–thanks for your comment. I know that GMOs are a big concern–and I understand the worries about them. I’m worried about chemicals in my food too–and I love fresh, organic produce as much as the next person. What I’m trying to convey in this post is that there’s a culture of fear on Facebook that I think can end up discouraging people from buying any produce–or at the very least, cause people to be riddled with guilt and anxiety over every purchase. That’s no way to live. And so many people do not have the means or the time to grow their own or shop at farmer’s markets, buy fresh eggs (I buy them at the farmer’s market for $3.50/dozen but they’re $1/dozen for conventional at the store), etc. Of course people should be allowed to make their own decisions and do what they feel is best for themselves and their families. But I don’t like when people, instead of educating and informing, spread fear and criticize other moms (and I’m certainly just not me–this stuff is everywhere in comment threads on Facebook).

  43. Becky B. says

    Amen. I don’t know when everyone became so hyper fanatical about the nature of food. I have gotten a lot more back to my natural/organic/hippy parent roots lately being pregnant with baby number one, and I love feeling good about the food we eat these days. But I’m not crazy about it. I pick and choose the things that are most important to me to buy organic or local, and planted the things I know will get eaten in our garden in the back yard. Mangoes, by the way, are on the list of safest to eat non-organic produce, so a bargain on frozen mangoes is AWESOME!!! Those things are so good for you!!!!

    • says

      Thanks Becky. I’m with you–I’ve definitely changed a lot about how I eat and how I cook/bake since becoming a parent. I genuinely enjoy making a lot of things from scratch and pay much more attention to things like synthetic pesticides, country of origin, etc. than I did before. But as you say, you can make yourself crazy thinking and worrying too much about it! Appreciate your comment.

  44. Amy says

    This is wonderful! I just found your website. I am a pediatric RD and a new mom…and have just discovered these terrifying messages on facebook. I think I’m fighting two battles at work- educating and re-educating. Thanks for putting some good common sense out there!

  45. Cynthia Taylor says

    thank you for the chuckles 🙂 It is so true. I am also trying to avoid these things but it seems virtually impossible to follow all those guidelines- no I do not have a Whole Foods store or equivalent nearby or even long distance! I try to buy the best available and affordable so that means non- organic, and since foods are not labeled GMO I have no idea except most corn and soy is GMO. Thanks again for the reality check-now I’m off to my non organic strawberry banana smoothie with Almond milk ( love it ) !

  46. Cynthia Taylor says

    Another comment -question. Who do you subscribe to on Facebook? I am not reading comments regarding GMO, quality of vegetables and fruits, organics etc. Maybe you need to review your friends and groups 🙂 Of course I have customized my Facebook so most of my newsfeed is art (art journaling, mixed media) related- only recently have I joined some groups focused on recipes. It makes a huge difference. I also have a few that provide positive quotes, etc. I did the same for Twitter! Anyone who mostly advertises or negative is unfollowed. Thanks again. Loved your post !

  47. says

    Sally, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    There seem to be more scare tactics than ever on social media. People read something somewhere about the evils of a product and feel the need to “share” it.

    Sometimes these are informed people who are truly concerned and speak from experience. A lot of times it is someone who saw something and felt the need to pass it along without ever checking to see if there is any truth behind it.

    I applaud you for doing the best that you can for your family with what you have.
    That is what we should all be focusing on without feeling the need to defend ourselves.

  48. says

    I live by the 80-20 rule. I try to eat organic, sustainable, pastured products 80% of the time and give myself (and family) a break 20%.
    If I’m on vacation I want to enjoy vacation and the culture I’m in, not pack/transport all my own food bc I know everything will be cooked in GM vegetable/ soy oil, or won’t be pasture-raised or organic. Sometimes I just want that tasty roasted pork made all day on the side of the road! — Or as you say, a fruit roll-up here and there, or a giant bag o’ mangoes at a steal of a price while knowing that our food system is twisted and snack culture is out of whack.

  49. Leah @ Beyer Beware says

    Thank you for saying why so much of us out thinking. I support moderation and always trying to improve your health. However, I am also human and will someday die regardless if I have organic my whole life.

  50. SarahJane86 says

    I’m a mumma jsut like you, with extremely similar attitidues to food, and one of the things that has made me feel immensely better about this is Tim Minchin’s “The Fence”

    Here’s the best bits:
    This is my song in defence of the fence
    A little sing along, a anthem to ambivalence
    The more you know, the harder you will find it
    To make up your mind, it, doesn’t really matter if you find
    You can’t see which grass is greener
    Chances are it’s neither, and either way it’s easier

    I’m taking the stand in defence of the fence
    I got a little band playing anthems to ambivalence
    We divide the world into terrorists and heroes
    Into normal folk and weirdos
    Into good people and pedos
    Into things that give you cancer and the things that cure cancer
    And the things that don’t cause cancer, but there’s a chance they will cause cancer in the future
    We divide the world to stop us feeling frightened
    Into wrong and into right and
    Into black and into white and
    Into real men and fairies
    Into status quo and scary
    Yeah we want the world binary, binary
    But it’s not that simple.
    I’m taking the stand in defence of the fence
    I got a little band playing tributes to ambivalence
    We divide the world into liberals and gun-freaks
    Into atheists and fundies
    Into tee-tot’lers and junkies
    Into chemical and natural
    Into fictional and factual
    Into science and supernatural
    But it’s actually naturally not that white and black

    Hope you enjoy it.

  51. Brigette says

    Enjoyed this posting and the comments. I know it’s hard to be a consumer today, feel that way myself. We want our families to have a safe food supply. We want to behave responsibly when it comes to our environment and natural resources. We want animals to be treated well. We’re being blasted with conflicting messages. Who to believe? My opinion is that it’s important to think about the agenda behind the message. Is the message based on scientifically valid information, pseudo-science which sounds plausible but is not accurate, marketing which is trying to sell you something or wants you to send money to the “cause”, or politics? I do have concerns about some of what you (and others) are saying. As someone intimately involved with food production, there are a number of misstatements being made, especially when it comes to organic and GMO, that trouble me. It is clear to me that you want to be well informed and I appreciate that. Let me give you a few examples of what is troubling me. The hormone-free marketing phrase is patently untrue. All plants and all animals have hormones. Now I can buy the “no-added hormone” marketing phrase, note not science based, since it refers to the use of r-BST in dairy cows. But that is to a degree misleading as well, because it BST is a naturally occurring hormone in milk. The misperception is that food animals are ”fed” hormones. Also not true. In the past, it was a common practices to inject beef animals with a growth hormone, however that practice is not widespread today. Food animals are not routinely “fed” antibiotics either, despite what you hear. Many of those making claims are also repeating bad information, even if they present themselves as experts. Perhaps they are experts in their field, but they are not necessarily knowledgeable as to what is actually happening on farms. Many have never set foot on a farm. For the most part, farmers use antibiotics, under the supervision of a veterinarian, to treat sick animals. If an animal is treated, there is a withholding period before the animal can enter the food chain so that the antibiotics have left the animals system. Animals are tested for antibiotic residue, as is milk, so that they don’t enter the food chain. In the case of chickens, small amounts of antibiotics are in feed, to combat coccidiosis, which occurs in the chickens gut, however it is not one used in human medicine. Then take the EWG’s list of produce…do you think that’s based on science and not marketing and politics, in other words fund raising? It’s designed to frighten you. Doesn’t mean that it’s accurate. What exactly does the marketing term “natural” mean? There is no standardized definition of what natural means for unprocessed foods. When you go to the farmers market to purchase “natural” or “naturally raised”, do you ask what that really means or just feel good about the purchase?Arsenic is natural, but do you want to eat it? My neighbor at the farmers market (yes, I sell produce at farmers markets) sells “free-range eggs”. They free range in the driveway and in the road, she has no idea what they’ve eaten. Is that what you want? I’ll pass, thanks, in favor of bird with a nutritionally sound diet. The notion that pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides) are not used in the production of organic foods is also incorrect, and I happen to think that such an over simplification of the term is a disservice to the farmers who have gone to the time and expense of becoming “Certified Organic”. Certified Organic producers ARE allowed to use some 2,500 pesticides which have been reviewed and are permitted by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). And Certified Organic apple growers are allowed to use antibiotics. It’s one of the few tools they have available to fight fire blight, which kills apple trees. There are other sustainable growing systems in addition to Certified Organic, for example, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Certified Naturally Grown, so there are options to Certified Organic. Asking about practices, rather than labels, may get you closer to what you want to know. It’s important to understand the distinction between genetically engineered crops and the term genetically modified, even if only for your own comfort level. It has become common place to use the two terms interchangeably but they do not actually mean the same thing. Do you all know that the DNA used to produce herbicide resistant soybeans (aka Round Up Ready) is a single gene from a petunia? Do you also know that Bt, bacillus thuringienis, as in Bt corn, is used by Certified Organic growers and gardeners, and has been since the 1960’s? Do you know that Monsanto is not the only company doing work with genetically engineer crops? Conclusion: It’s good to be somewhat skeptical and ask questions, but one must be cautious as to the validity of the information. And it’s difficult to be a consumer.

  52. says

    Thank you for this lovely post. Coming from a farm family that is not only NOT organic, but also that plants GMO foods, I appreciate that some people are recognizing the scare tactics and dangerous rhetoric. We had a roadside stand selling fresh produce for 26 years. It was absolutely wonder to have a plentiful supply of fresh fruits and vegetables whenever I wanted them. I could literally walk into our “back yard” and eat all the tomatoes, apples, cherries, or cucumbers I wanted. I would absolutely love to talk with you regarding your concerns about pesticides (which organic farmers also use) and GM produce if you’re interested. But, again, lovely post regarding the scare tactics that are so prevalent today.

  53. says

    I’ve more concerns about certain organics and whole milk. I find it crazy that so many are concerned about the foods that have zero chance of making them sick (GMO’s, irradiated meats, “pink slime”, pasteurized milk) and promote some that are more likely to have pathogens. So many of the food deaths and severe illnesses lately have an organic source. It comes down to wash and cook it properly. The consumer has a part to play in food safety.

  54. Susan Mac says

    I really appreciate all this information. I have two toddlers and am very concerned with their diets. I really am not so concerned if their food is organic as I would like to find out more about GM foods. I think because I have only started hearing about it recently and I lack any education about it.

  55. Elizabeth says

    Hi Sally,

    Thanks for having the courage to post this. While I love Facebook, it’s become the NEW National Enquirer of sensational marketing and story telling. As a registered dietitian, it overwhelms me too. Nutrition shouldn’t be so complicated. Eating a bag of chips occasionally won’t set you up for heart disease tomorrow, wheat is not your enemy, juicing is not for everyone….I could go on and on with the things I see posted that has lead to so many friends even judging my own plate when we dine out together. Moderation is what I as well as many dietitians promote. Be cautious when you are receiving advice from a “nutritionist”. Their training and background is completely different from a dietitian. Thanks for your post. Refreshing!

  56. says

    Just came across this, and love it! Next time someone tells you you’re eating GMO foods remind them that the banana and potato were the original GMO foods, both being non-edible until crossed with another plant.

    Then slam dunk it by telling them that frozen foods have been proven to be healthier than even some of their “fresh” counterparts.

    Finally – you rock so pfft on them.


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