Organic Pic

Vexing Vocabulary: Organic

By Rachel Duncan

In this edition of the Vexing Vocabulary blog series, we want to explore another commonly misunderstood nutrition buzz word: organic. We see it popping up in grocery stores more than ever before, but what exactly does “organic” mean?

It may be easiest to start with defining the non-organic food that we commonly consume. “Conventional” foods are what you could consider the opposite of organic. These may be grown using pesticides, synthetic or chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides to maximize the yield of the crop. The use of these technologies has been essential in the development of our agricultural system. It is important to know that the use of these conventional means of food production do not make foods unhealthy or unsafe for consumption. Rinsing and washing produce does not entirely eliminate pesticides, but can greatly reduce it. There is no conclusive research that pesticide, herbicide, or insecticide use are unsafe in the production of food.

In contrast to conventional food, organic food has limits on the technologies that can be used in production. Organic produce started being labeled as such in 1990, but there was no official definition of what classified the food as organic until the early 2000’s. Currently, of all of the food marketing terms, “organic” does have a legal definition and meaning. Before a farm or manufacturer can market their products as organic, a government certified inspector must confirm that the USDA standards are met in production. “Organic” means different things based on the food item. In the following paragraphs, we will define and provide examples of organic produce, meat, and dairy.


Organic produce does not use pesticides in production. This means that any weeds are controlled by natural means, such as crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching, and tilling). Insecticides are also prohibited in organic food production, so natural methods of insect control are utilized (birds, traps, etc.). No fertilizers can be used in crop production that contain synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.

Meat and dairy:

No antibiotics or growth hormones were added to the food products that were fed to the animals, meaning that the livestock are also eating organic feed. In conventional meat and dairy production, livestock may be given antibiotics and other medications to keep them healthy, but this is not allowed in organic production. Organic livestock must also be raised in living conditions that promote their natural behaviors, such as grazing on pastures. This practice has been shown to contribute to the fatty acid content of meats, and is beneficial to the health of the animal.

Processed foods:

There are no artificial coloring, flavoring, preservatives, or sweeteners in organic food products. Organically processed foods must have organic ingredients, with several minor exceptions.  Examples of this would include enzymes in yogurts, pectin used as a binding agent in jams, and baking soda in baked goods.


Levels of Organic Labeling

How can you identify what foods are organic? The USDA enforces the labeling of organic foods. The Organic Foods Production Act requires the USDA to hold nationwide standards for organic agricultural products so the consumer is aware of what they are purchasing. There are four levels of organic labeling that you will see in grocery stores:

100% organic:

All ingredients of the finished product are certified 100% organic. These products can be labeled with the USDA Certified Organic Food label.

Organic Label


95% of the ingredients of the finished product meet the organic criteria. These products can also be labeled with the USDA Certified Organic Food label shown above.

Made with organic ingredients:

70% of the ingredients of the finished product meet the organic criteria. The USDA Organic seal may not be used on the labeling of these products, but “Made with organic ingredients” may appear on the food label.

Specific organic ingredients:

This claim could be made on the food label of a multi-ingredient food product with less than 70% of its ingredients meeting the organic criteria. They may not display the USDA Organic seal, but they may list the organic ingredients that were used in the production.

The “Clean Fifteen” and “Dirty Dozen”

If you are interested in buying organic produce but have limited availability of organically grown fruits and vegetables, or are trying to keep an eye on cost, this can be a helpful tip!  The “Clean Fifteen” and “Dirty Dozen” can help you decide what produce is smart to buy organic versus conventional. The “Clean Fifteen” listed below on the left are found to have lower levels of pesticide residue than the “Dirty Dozen” listed to the right. If you are aiming to reduce pesticide residue in your diet, it may be helpful to purchase fruits and vegetables on the “Dirty Dozen” list that have been grown organically.

         Clean Fifteen

  1. Sweet potatoes
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Cantaloupe
  4. Grapefruit
  5. Eggplant
  6. Kiwi
  7. Papaya
  8. Mangoes
  9. Asparagus
  10. Onions
  11. Sweet peas
  12. Cabbage
  13. Pineapples
  14. Sweet corn
  15. Avocados

Dirty Dozen

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Nectarines
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Snap peas
  12. Potatoes


A Final Thought

At this time there is no conclusive research that organic food items have any more health benefits than their conventionally produced counterparts. It’s important to know that the organic label does not inherently make a food “healthier.” With that being said, if you want to shop organic, we encourage and support you in doing so! There are environmental benefits associated with organic farming practice, including but not limited to:

  • Reduced land mass allocated for corn* and soy production (a majority of corn grown in the U.S. is grown to feed livestock, and most livestock do not naturally consume corn).
  • Improved fatty acid profile of meats (particularly with beef and eggs animals that consume their natural diet digest better, better utilize nutrients, more naturally partition nutrients, and as a result are healthier. Fat content in grass-fed beef is naturally lower and contains fats that are easier to breakdown. Free range organic eggs contain significantly more omega-3 fatty acids in the yolk of the egg.) For more information on this topic, look for our upcoming blog on grass fed, cage free, and wild caught!
  • Improved quality of life for the animals being raised
  • Improved allocation of resources to local consumers (reduced carbon footprint)

* Corn is a very demanding crop and is known for stripping nutrients from soil, depleting it over time, and reducing yield of other crops. There is evidence that the organic farming method which feeds livestock their natural diet of grass in pastures leads to leaner animals, increased availability of land mass for other farming practice, and an improved impact on the nutrient contents of the soil.

You may have noticed that organic food products are more expensive than their conventional counterparts. This is because the yield of organic food is typically lower, and more labor, time and money are invested into the production. If you are interested in buying organic foods, there are some ways to offset the higher prices. Shopping in season is an effective way to save money on organic produce. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are less expensive and fresher! It is also a good idea to shop around and compare prices of organic items. Taking advantage of local farmer’s markets is a great way to eat organic products and to support your community.





Sit ups

Sit-Ups, The Secret To Belly Fat Reduction?

One guy walks into the gym and asks the other guy, “I want to lose my belly fat, it’s been years since I’ve seen my abs!” The other guy follows up with “Easy man, crunches and sit-ups for a flatter stomach!”

Sounds familiar, right?

Well, before I get into the real-world application of this famous topic, let’s dive into a little research…

Sit ups


One study compared two groups, an abdominal exercise group and a control group. For consistency purposes, both groups had the same calorie count. The abdominal group performed 7 ab exercises for 2 sets of 10, 5 days/week, for 6 weeks! Result? Other than the abdominal group significantly improving their abdominal muscular endurance, there was no significant change in belly fat, or drop in body fat percentages.

All together now – *GASP*

I know what you’re thinking, so now what?

Well, another study compared a non-exercise group to an exercise group, with a slight catch, they were both following a diet that placed them in a calorie deficit (eating less calories than they were putting out via exercise). Results? BOTH groups experienced significant body mass and body fat reductions with the exercise group gaining improvements in exercise performance. And guess what? Not a single sit-up was performed.

Shall we pause for another gasp?


So, spot reduction, a myth? Definitely.

If you’re a guy and you’re struggling with your “spare tire”, here are a few questions I have for you…

  • What are you currently doing to transform your body?
  • Are you including weight lifting to your routine? PS – tune in next week on how exercise selection in the gym correlates to a strong core…and no, I’m not talking about sit-ups, or crunches 😉
  • How would you rate you habits in and out of the gym? Are you being consistent?

We can go on and on with this list. The key is to keep it simple – have a plan, execute, and be consistent. And no, being in the gym 7 days a week is not the answer.

Have a crazy schedule and a family to care for? 3 days per week in the gym is a GREAT start. Click HERE to find out how my clients are doing it.

Or check out the results for yourself – this is Brad. I worked with Brad for quite some time. I can tell you for a fact that we did not program an “ab routine” into his lifting plan. We stuck to the basics…lifting, minor cardio, and consistency week in and week out.


-Eddie Larios

Founder/Coach for AMP Fitness

Click here to learn more about my Men’s 6 Week Alpha Challenge à


1) “The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat.”

2) “Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independent of the method for weight loss.”


Trust the Process: a client reflection and celebration of lifestyle change by Jamie Hildebrand


Let me begin with how this all began. How all I wanted to do was prove to everyone I could do another show. How I wanted to walk on stage again for the third time with a smile and flash of my accomplishment of a 12 week prep. However, this time was different. This time I was so much further and ready for the show. I was at a great starting weight 135lbs about. I was lean enough to still enjoy food and not have to put my body through a major shock. I was so excited to hear these words exit Andrew’s mouth. He said it with a smile and so much encouragement that I was so pumped to start this journey again with him.

I met Andrew in December of 2015. I was referred to him by a friend and immediately was interested to hear his thoughts about foods and shows. When we started I weighed almost 150. I didn’t consider myself fat, but I definitely wasn’t in shape. I met with Andrew and told him I wanted to compete. I told him I wanted to do a show and compete in the figure category. That was it. That was my goal. Stand on stage and be a figure competitor. Oh, how I was so far from knowing the real goal.

What’s the Deal with Expiration Dates?

Did you know approximately 90 billion pounds of edible food in the US gets thrown away each year?

The dates on food labels can be deceiving and down right confusing, which can lead to perfectly good and safe food being tossed in the trash.  In reality, you really can use the dates as a guide for freshness, rather than an indicator that food has spoiled.

In general, most foods can be consumed days, weeks, even months past the dates printed on their label. However, there are some dates we should follow closely:

  • Baby formula
  • Deli meats, unpasteurized dairy products, ready-to-eat cold foods, uncooked hot dogs & sausages.
  • Pasteurized dairy products tend to have a gracious life (take a whiff, you’ll know if it’s past it’s prime)
  • Eggs can be eaten 3-5 weeks after “use by” date. (FYI: older eggs make better hard boiled eggs!)

If there’s visible mold (green spots or white fuzz) a funky smell or a slimy texture, toss it!

For more information on how YOU can do your part in reducing food waste, click here!

Resources: USDA FSI Food Product Dating, USDA Food Waste Challenge

Supplement Navigation 101

By Laine Greenawalt MS ACSM-CPT, RDE

Dietary Supplements – How to navigate the advertising chaos and be an informed consumer.

Have you ever considered taking a dietary supplement? If so, you’re not alone. More than two-thirds of Americans take dietary supplements each year and the supplement industry was booming in 2016, generating 121.6 billion dollars. As a health professional, it’s exciting to know that the public has taken such an interest in their health. But with this booming industry also comes a plethora of information. Add this to the constant barrage of advertisements selling everything from weight loss to increased muscle size and you have dietary supplement wilderness that is often confusing to consumers. So how do you navigate the hype and determine if a supplement really is for you? Here are a couple things to consider before starting a new dietary supplement.

homemade nut butter

Homemade Almond-Sun Butter with Dried Cranberries

homemade nut butter


  • 3 cups unsalted almonds (or 1½ cup salted & 1½ cup unsalted) good source of fiber, healthy fats & a source of plant based protein
  • 1 cup unsalted sunflower kernels excellent source of vitamin E & great source of copper and vitamin B1 (thiamin)
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • Optional: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg

Week 1 Lunch and Dinner Meal Prep

See below for recipes for lunch and dinner to get you through Monday-Friday. Prepare all ahead of time or break them up throughout the week!

Lunches For The Week:
Monday- Apple Turkey Sandwich + baby carrots
Tuesday- Buffalo Turkey burger on whole wheat bun + roasted broccoli
Wednesday- Turkey meatballs + whole wheat pasta + asparagus
Thursday- Buffalo turkey burger + brown rice + parmesan green beans
Friday- Apple Turkey Sandwich + baby carrots

Dinners For The Week:
Monday- Buffalo Turkey burger (no bun) + brown rice + roasted broccoli
Tuesday- Turkey meatball hoagie + side salad
Wednesday- Chicken Teriyaki stir fry + brown rice
Thursday- Buffalo turkey burger  + sweet potato fries + side salad
Friday- Lemon Ranch chicken + brown rice + side salad

Weekly Meal Prep Set-Up

I can’t stress to my clients enough the importance of being prepared. When you are prepared you can make a better decision. It takes the guess work out of what to make and takes you out of situations where you are stuck and are forced to make a bad decision.

Even if you can’t prepare your whole meal ahead of time, I think it can still be extremely helpful to at least do what we call, “meat” prepping. Preparing your meats in advance allows you to take away the most time consuming part of the meal. Dinner on a week night should not take you more than 20-30 minutes,unless you are someone with a more flexible schedule who can balance cooking dinner on a regular basis. I recommend spending the bulk of your work on the weekend. After grocery shopping, it should only take you 1-3 hours to clean, cut, and cook. For some people, breaking apart the cooking into a Sunday and Wednesday night can better maintain freshness of meals but still create some ease during the week.

Week 1 Breakfast Meal Prep

Below are overnight oat recipes for breakfast to get you through the Monday-Friday. Some recipes are doubled and are to be made for multiple days of the week!

Grocery list:

Dry oats (2 1/2 cups)
Skim milk (2 1/2 cups)
Chia seeds (1 tbsp. and 2 tsp.)
Honey (3 tsp.)
Walnuts (2 tbsp.)
Chocolate chips (2 tbsp.)
Banana (1 medium)
Natural Strawberry Jelly (2 tbsp.)
Mixed berries-fresh or frozen (1 cup)
Natural peanut butter (2 tbsp.)
Apple (1 small)
Cinnamon (1/4 tsp.)


Apple Oatmeal Bake


2 c. dry oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 medium apple, diced
1 egg
1/4 c. honey
2 c. skim milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Spray an 8×8 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Combine oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
4. Dice apple in small bite sized pieces.
5. In another medium sized bowl, whisk together egg and honey. Add milk and vanilla extract. Whisk until well combined.
6. Spread half of the oat mixture into the 8×8 pan evenly distributed. Add half the apple pieces.
7. Add the other half of oat mixture, then top with the rest of the apples.
8. Pour liquid mixture over oats in the baking pan so it is evenly distributed.
9. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.

Nutrition Facts:
Yield- 12 servings
Calories – 100
Carbs- 20g
Protein- 4g