What You Need to Know About Your Produce

Originally I had a much more fun post planned for today, but then I got an e-mail in my inbox and changed my direction completely. Needless to say I’m already ahead of the game for next week’s WIAW! Usually I would be a little annoyed at the thought of writing an entirely new post, but I think this topic is much more important for you all to hear today.

So, who was it that caused this drastic change in plans?

Actually the proper question would not be who, but what, and the what would be the Environmental Working Group (otherwise known as EWG). As stated on the EWG’s website, they are “the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization.”  Their mission “is to serve as a watchdog to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun, so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment.”



At first that seems like a pretty big undertaking for an organization that many have probably never even heard of, but EWG is funded by many supporters which you most definitely are familiar with such as The Walton Family Foundation (as in the Waltons of Wal-Mart!), The David and Lucille Packard Foundation (ever heard of Hewlett-Packard, aka HP, one of the leading technology companies in the world?) and many others.



EWG concerns itself with six key issues including consumer products, energy, farming, food, water, and toxics. The issue that the e-mail I received addressed an issue that everyone should be concerned with— Food!

Every year for the past nine years now, EWG has released what it calls its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. As the title suggests, this guide ranks the pesticide contamination levels in popular produce and shares it with consumers to so that we can make healthier decisions about which fruits and vegetables are safest for us to consume.



In addition to their Shopper’s Guide (and more importantly in my opinion), is EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.

Both the Shopper’s Guide and Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen lists are based on the pesticide residue tests completed by the USDA and FDA and according to their website, this year included more than 28,000 samples on 48 fruits and vegetables to ensure the most accurate results.

Here are the links to some of the invaluable information that EWG released this year regarding to pesticides:

Apples Top EWG’s Dirty Dozen (sort of like a newspaper article describing their findings)

Executive Summary (very concise and helpful!)

Methodology (again, a very clear and easy understand description of how they obtained their information)

FAQ’s (common questions people ask about pesticides)

Full List (ranks all 48 fruits and vegetables by level of pesticides)

As I stated before though, I think one of the most helpful things that the EWG creates for consumers is their Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists:


This is great to print out and store in your wallet, purse, pocket, etc. when you go to the grocery store. You can click here to get your own free downloadable copy so that you always have the list with you. I also printed out a list and taped it to my fridge at home for easy reference when I or my parents go to make a grocery list. All you need to do is look over at the list when you write down your groceries and if a produce item is on the Clean Fifteen write C (for Conventional) and if it’s on the Dirty Dozen write O (for Organic). That way you won’t forget while you are shopping. So easy!

It’s important to note though, that these lists don’t guarantee that if you buy something conventionally grown on the Clean Fifteen it’s pesticide-free or on the Dirty Dozen it’s pesticide-laden. These lists are based on test data and can only predict the likelihood of pesticides on the produce.

Also, some of you particularly observant readers may have noticed that the number of produce on the Dirty Dozen don’t add up to 12 but 14! As noted by the asterisks (*) beside the bottom produce of collards/kale and summer squash/zucchini, these vegetables did not make it into the official Dirty Dozen list, but when tested they showed evidence of organophosphate pesticides which is why they were added as “Pluses” to the list. Organophosphate pesticides are “potent neurotoxins that can affect children’s IQ and brain development, even at low doses.” I think it’s safe to speak for the masses, but I’m not even bothered in the slightest that EWG broke their 12 rule and included this produce on the list.



There are many still that believe there is no benefit to consuming organic over non-organic vegetables, but as you can see, I have a very strong standpoint on the matter. With severe gastrointestinal issues, I can really tell the difference when I consume conventionally grown versus organic produce both in taste and in the way I feel overall. I still skin most of my vegetables, but that doesn’t mean I’m safe. While it’s true that pesticides are more concentrated in the skin of produce, we now know that pesticides can actually be found inside produce as well, making none of our previous methods of preparation entirely full-proof.

My questions for you today are: Do you follow the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists when you shop? Do you try to buy organic produce whenever possible? 

If you haven’t already, I urge you to click on my link above, print out your own copy of the EWG’s Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen lists, and go put it in your wallet so that you can reference it whenever needed. Even further, why don’t you print out a few additional copies and give them to your friends and family so we can all be a little safer in what we put in our bodies!


A huge thanks to Jenn for allowing me to participate in WIAW week in and week out (even though I always break the rules 😉 )

Shared at Fat Tuesday as well.


Edited to add: I received a comment that you can read below from a website that claims that organic and conventional produce are equally safe and that the EWG is trying to make people fearful of eating fruits and vegetables.

Addressing the first part, you can read about the USDA’s National Organic Program, as well as their Organic 101 Blog which answers a lot of questions that consumers might have about organic regulations. The most interesting for me was that “the USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used” (Source). Also, while studies show that organic produce may not necessarily be higher in vitamins or minerals compared to their conventional counterparts, organic produce is less likely to contain dangerous toxins that can impact your health (Source).

For the second part of their comment, I would like to repeat a quote that I shared in my response to them below from EWG’s FAQ page: “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Eating conventionally grown produce is far better than skipping fruits and vegetables. And with EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™, consumers don’t have to choose between pesticides and healthy diets (Source). Also on the FAQ page the organization was asked if we should stop eating produce that is on the dirty dozen list. They responded that that is not their intent in creating the list as chemical-laden produce is still healthier than the much more popular snacks of candy and junk food (Source).

Finally, the EWG provides many studies on their FAQ page and website that support their claims. I am not trying to convince people to only buy organic; I am just providing the most convincing evidence that I have seen so far in the debate of organic vs. conventional. If you have any objections, questions, concerns, opinions, research, etc. that you would like to share, feel free to leave links in the comments below! Thanks for making this a great discussion!

It’s 2:30 Somewhere (WIAW)

First of all, I want to thank everyone for their encouragement on my Friday and Monday posts. Your support, advice, and kind words are much appreciated.

Now, today is the first Wednesday of March and thus we have a new WIAW theme!

However, I’m going to pick up all of the lovely greenness next week and go on with my original plan. A recipe round-up!

Last week I asked my fellow WIAW-ers to share their favorite vegetable recipes and as you can tell below, you guys definitely delivered.

Women in Real Life’s Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Carrots and Quinoa


Jennifer at Jenmi Jenmi’s Cheesy Garlic Cauliflower Bread


Meghan at Clean Eats Fast Feets’ Roasted Cauliflower with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette


Meghan also contributed her Cheddar Cauliflower Soup


Heather at Kiss My Broccoli’s Cauliflower Dessert Crust Pizza


And now for the title of this post… I bet you were all wondering about that one, am I right?

Ha. I love corny jokes.

Yes, I went to the dentist yesterday. Fortunately it was just a routine appointment; however, I ended up being there for about an hour (twice as long as normal) because I had to get three sealants touched up. Got to prevent those cavities! I’ve already had enough drilling in my mouth for a lifetime.

One of my best friends also is having to go to the dentist this week, except her’s is an oral surgeon. Wisdom teeth. Ugh.

I’ve already had my wisdom teeth removed, but I wouldn’t wish that on anybody over their Spring Break. Please say your prayers for her that everything goes alright!

Continuing on with the tooth theme, in my business lab I have a group project involving researching Oral-B Toothbrushes and thinking of new innovations that the company could make to their product. One part of market research is interviewing customers. Remember how I told you how awesome you all were? Well, I need some help.

We are not legally allowed to enter a grocery store and ask consumers questions about their products, so I am pleading asking you to fill out the survey that my group has created. If you are kind enough to fill out the survey, you can either reply in the comments section with your answers, or you can email me at alleyhays [at] gmail [dot] com. No… my name is not alley… That is a story for another day folks.

And your reward for being so awesome and helping me out with my school project? Check back later this week for two new recipes. Two.



To conclude this WIAW post, I leave you with some more wisdom teeth humor.

If you haven’t already seen this video, you must, really:

Nothing is complete without a creepy cat meme.

Hope you have a happy Wednesday!


What is your favorite corny joke? 

Have you ever had your wisdom teeth taken out?

Will you be super nice and take the survey for my business class?

Peas Please! (WIAW)

You guys are fantastic, do you know that? There have been literally so many comments in the past few days that I just haven’t been able to answer them all! Plus, I have “life overload” right now. School work, internship applications, summer job applications (What?! There is still snow on the ground for crying out loud!), and lots of things to do when I’m home on the weekends…

Like going to basketball games. And working in the concession stand during varsity basketball games— Let me tell you: it’s crazy! My weekends also involve a lot of fun food stuff:


Look for a future post on this gluten-free bread sometime soon! My mom and dad cannot say enough good things about it, so I’ll just take their word that it’s amazing 🙂

This WIAW month however is not about bread. It’s about vegetables!

For starters, let’s talk about how amazing peas are.


Peas Please!

Just a few fun facts that I found interesting regarding these lovely green seeds (Source): 

  • Peas are relatively high in protein compared to other vegetables (5.4 grams per serving).
  • Two of the most popular types are sugar snap and snow peas.
  • Peas have been around for a very long time. The oldest was found in a cave in Burma dating back 9750 years.

Here are a few of the ways that I have been enjoying this awesome vegetable lately:

Shepherd’s Pie


Cooked Peas and Beef Pot Roast


Cauliflower “Rice” Risotto



I have been eating a lot of other vegetables as well, in the form of Chicken, Carrot and Yellow Squash Soup (with Coconut Oil)



And Spaghetti!


I can’t even remember the last time that I had spaghetti. It has probably been almost a year. With wheat allergies and grain sensitives, regular pasta is out. And with an allergy to tomatoes, traditional spaghetti sauce is also not an option. So, I had to get a little creative in the kitchen. It ended up turning out pretty tasty, despite the nontraditional colors!

Tomato and Grain-Free Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Allergy-free, Tomato-Free, Grain/Gluten/Wheat-Free, Egg-Free, Milk-Free, Nut-Free, Low Carb, Paleo, GAPS Diet Friendly

1 serving


  • 2 cups spaghetti squash (cooked using the oven method)
  • 1 cup grass-fed ground beef (cooked in beef broth)
  • 2 cups broth (I used beef broth)
  • 1 zucchini, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2-2/3 cup squash, raw or cooked (I used butternut squash, but any kind would work)
  • sea salt and other seasonings to taste (black pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic/onion powder, parsley, etc.)


  1. Prepare the spaghetti squash and ground beef.
  2. In a medium-sized pan add the broth, zucchini and squash puree. Bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes or until zucchini is tender (cook longer if the squash is raw as well).
  3. Drain the vegetables and place in a food processor. Blend until well combined and smooth. Mix in the ground beef.
  4. In a serving bowl measure out the cooked spaghetti squash, then top with the meat sauce. Season with sea salt and any other desired seasonings. Enjoy!

Note: After baking the spaghetti squash I like to cook a single serving in more broth to make it tender and more flavorful!


So far this is as close as I have been able to come in replicating the taste of spaghetti and meat sauce with the restrictions that I have. I’ve heard that carrots can also be a great substitute for tomato in recipes, so I’ll have to try that out next.

I have to say though, that for those without food allergies, this probably seems like a pretty odd recipe. Some may even call it strange.

Yep, that’s right! This spaghetti recipe is going to join the ranks of others in Sprint 2 the Table’s Strange But Good recipe link-up this Friday!

Sprint 2 the Table

And now I must say farewell my blogging friends! I’m off to study some MIS vocabulary for an exam tomorrow. Wish me luck!


Do you ever get a “life overload”?

Have you eaten any peas lately? What fact surprised you the most about them?

What is your favorite Strange But Good combo for the week?

What I Ate When Tackling the BEAST

Wow. Dramatic title much?

You may (or may not) be wondering at my lack of posts during the last weeks of July.

Well, after I came back from Myrtle Beach…


My stomach was feeling great! I took a week off of eating fats, because I had a feeling that I wasn’t digesting them very well. That meant no almonds, no oil, and no pistachios! Instead I subsisted on…

Bananas, beans, carrots, raspberries, prunes, chicken and protein powder.



The only time my stomach hurt during the whole trip was the day I drank a lot of almond milk (almonds… duh!)

Then when I got back, the almond butter returned!


Along with bloating, stomach pain, “bubbliness” and a whole lot else. Still not as bad as before, but unwelcomed nonetheless.

On the Monday after my return I drove an hour for a homeopathic/naturopathic appointment.

During the consultation the naturopathic nurse took my health history, asked a lot of questions, then led me through an electrodermal reading where she tested different accupressure points in my body.

With this she determined that I had a mold allergy (which I already knew). She found that my body was deficient in vitamin B and C. I also lack choline which is a neurotransmitter helping with short term memories. Iodine is another level that she tested, and because I rarely use salt I am not getting enough.

The two biggest revelations though were when she told me I had hypoglycemia and an overgrowth of candida. I knew what both were prior to this appointment, but I had no idea that some of my symptoms were being caused by them!

Hypoglycemia is where your blood sugar drops if you don’t eat every 2-3 hours. This explains why I had difficulty focusing during Calculus and band (right before lunch), as well as English (which I had at the end of the day). My mom said that hearing this diagnosis she was surprised that a managed to get still get all A’s.

Then she explained more about candida to me, which is the real kicker. Candida covers all of my symptoms! Caused by an imbalance in my gut (from overuse of antibiotics) symptoms range from allergies to stomach and gi problems, to fatigue and cold extremities, candida can even cause irregular periods!

This appointment was very enlightening, and I left with a list of supplements, vitamins and special instructions to help me beat these BEASTS!!

At first I just started taking the supplements, then I jumped head first into the anti-candida diet. Phase One.

For phase one I am supposed to be following the Atkins diet, but with my food allergies and nut issues that would be nearly impossible. Unless I starve!

Instead I am following a modified diet based off of Whole Approach’s plan listed on their website. They even provide a pdf of acceptable and not acceptable food!

Here is a sample of what I eat when following the anti-candida diet:


Green, sprouted lentils from Whole Foods. To cook, boil 1 1/4 cups of water in a small pan the add 1/4 cup of lentils. Cook in boiling water for five minutes. Then cover, remove from heat and let set for another five minutes.



With hypoglycemia I am supposed to eat smaller meals more frequently, preferably something with protein.



For lunch I wanted to use up some asparagus tips that I had in the fridge, and BAM, instant salad. Warm asparagus tips, cold chicken chunks, and fresh crunchy lettuce.


For my after lunch snack, I need something quick and super simple.



Much the same as lunch with vegetables being the main focus. Kale and green beans. Not much protein, but I needed something easy in my stomach.



Thanks Peas and Crayons!

As you can pretty much see from my post above, vegetables are this summer’s staple. I’ve also been digging protein powder and stevia (I finally found a version that doesn’t aggravate my stomach! STOKED!!)

Another staple this summer that happens to be non-food is Disney Channel.

Say what?

Yes, I know I’m eighteen. And I know that I am going to be heading off for college in a week… But Disney Channel has been an unexpected, but totally awesome perk of babysitting! The shows are so wholesome and uplifting. Just today I watched Radio Rebel, a movie featuring Debbie Ryan. Was it cheesy? Yes, but in a good way. She reminded me the important life lessons of being yourself no matter what anyone else says.


Tell me something that you like to do, that others may not be super supportive of. For me, that would be reading. I read constantly. Blogs, books, newspaper articles, internet articles, health posts, magazines… Information is always at my fingertips. Learning is what I love to do. Does that make me scattered? Yes. Do I always make sense? No. But that is who I am. I like being “in the know.” When I don’t know something, I look it up. That’s me.

Want to know more about me? Check out my About Me page at the top AND my last post where I share my idiosyncrasies while singing the ABC’s.
Have a LOVELY day! No matter who you are.