Things I Avoid Eating

image credit: Adam Fields

Here are some things I like to avoid eating:
  1. Synthetic hormones (found in conventional meat and dairy products)
  2. Antibiotics (found in conventional meat and dairy products)
  3. Dioxins, PCBs, PBDEs, DDT and other environmental pollutants (found in fatty animal products)
  4. Mercury (mainly fish high in the food chain)
  5. E. Coli, Salmonella, etc. (a possibility with any meat or produce)
  6. Pesticides (conventional produce)
  7. Genetically modified organisms/ GMOs (nearly all processed foods, and many other conventional food products such as corn and oil)
  8. Food additives (non-food ingredients added to packaged and processed foods) including: artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, preservatives
  9. Imitation food/ manufactured food substitutes: margarine, high-fructose corn syrup
  10. Plastic
Organic produce from my farmer's market.

And here's how I try to do it:
  • Eat less meat, more legumes.
  • Eat only organic meat, and try to eat only grass-fed beef.
  • Eat only organic eggs and organic dairy products.
  • Eat limited seafood, and mostly wild Alaskan salmon or U.S. tilapia (click here or here for more seafood advice).
  • Eat local foods from producers I have met as often as possible.  Handle raw meat with extreme care.
  • I mostly prefer full-fat dairy, so I just try to eat less of it overall.  I prefer lean meats and trim off the fat from meat before eating it (although I sometimes cook meat with the skin on).
  • Eat mostly organic produce from my farmers market and CSA, prioritizing according to EWG's pesticide residue ratings.
  • Make as much as possible from scratch.  If I buy processed foods, I buy them only at Trader Joe's or Whole Food's (since they don't allow most of the weird food additives in their products), and try to buy products with only a few recognizable ingredients.
  • Eat real food (butter), not imitation food (margarine).
  • Avoid plastic packaging.  Never cook or reheat food in plastic containers. Click here to learn more about how to eat less plastic.

Obviously, I have more control over avoiding some things (preservatives) than others (environmental pollutants, E. Coli).  It's also depressing that my list of things to avoid isn't even necessarily comprehensive.  It seems I'm always learning of some new crazy thing going on in the world of industrial food, although by trying to eat predominantly non-industrial organic foods you can usually avoid most of these disturbing additions to your food supply. I also hope you realize that I arrived at this place after four years of gradual changes. In fact, GMOs only recently hit my radar.  I just switched to organic canola oil a month ago, and I'm still adjusting to the sticker shock. Although these guidelines might seem complicated to follow, a little trick you can use is to pretend you have gone back in time, and can only buy or eat what your great-grandmother bought or ate.

Your great-grandmother did not eat animals that were given hormones nor antibiotics nor genetically-modified feed.  She did not eat crackers made with genetically-modified soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup.  She did not eat blue yogurt or tortillas with a shelf-life of 2 years.  She did not cook with celery that had been treated with 13 different pesticides. She did not buy or store food in plastic.

Additional Resources
The Cost of Going Green (a series of posts in which I discuss how to save money while going green, the higher cost of organic food, and other money-related topics)

What things do you try hardest to avoid eating?


  1. Great post, Betsy! I sense you've read Michael Pollan - one of my heroes.

    We avoid "partially de-weaponized plutonium" and "sodium poisonate" (thank you, The Simpsons).

    Really, I follow most of your guidelines above although we don't eat meat. Also never drink soda except the very occasional root beer float!

  2. Totally with you! Not a pro myself, but every step in the right direction is still good!

    For oils, we're using coconut oil...not sure what the price difference is between that and the organic canola.

  3. Betsy, I enjoyed your post. I especially like how you framed this with "your grandmother" as a reference. I often think about that! :-) Nice job.


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