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Facts not fear: Choices to make when feeding your family
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Facts not fear: Choices to make when feeding your family

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Being the mother of two boys and now infant twins is no easy task.

They are always hungry!

One thing that can be challenging to a mom of a toddler who is just starting on solid foods and another toddler who is always hungry, but can be very picky, is the dreaded question: “What is there to eat?”

When I first became a mom, nutrition for my children was fairly simple. I relied on warming up bottles or nursing my children as the sole form of their nutrition. I never paid attention to all the choices available at the grocery store. However, as my oldest son approached his first birthday, a solid diet became much more important, and I realized there are many different options in the grocery store.

There is a point where you just need to arm yourself with accurate information to make quick and easy decisions when observing all of the food options out there. I have found that in order to do this, I need to select the food that fuels my family based on facts, not fear. It is part of the unspoken mother code to feed your family delicious, healthy and nutritious food – at least the majority of the time.

Here is a short list of things I often think about when heading to the grocery store:

Organic vs. conventional

Buying organic food is a preference, not a matter of food safety. It does not harm my children to feed them food that is not organic, and I, more often than not, select food grown by the conventional method.

When it comes to food production, the “organic” label refers to a specific production method, not the quality or safety of food. Organic farmers, ranchers and food processors follow a U.S. Department of Agriculture-defined set of standards to produce organic food and fiber.

For example, organic farmers are allowed to use certain pesticides and herbicides, non-synthetic fertilizers, non-GMO seeds, and/or organic feed.

There is no scientific evidence that proves organic food is healthier or safer for your body than the conventional counterpart. In fact, there are also very strict standards from the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration that convention farmers must follow to ensure food safety.

If you’re worried about pesticides, it’s important to remember that just because food has been grown organically does not mean that it was grown completely free from pesticides. There are certain pesticides that are allowed for use in the production of organic crops.

Regulations exist to determine which pesticides are allowed for use, but not how much can be used. As farmers, we must be good stewards of the land. Therefore, we only apply what is needed to maintain healthy crops free from insects and diseases.

Whether you choose organic or conventional, you will have selected a safe and healthy choice for your family. It seems like trying to get my toddlers to eat their veggies is still my biggest dilemma!

Gluten-free

Gluten is the name for the primary protein that is found in wheat. There is a small percentage of the population who are not able to consume food containing gluten. There are three important reasons to not consume gluten:

• If you have a wheat allergy – this occurs in about 0.1% of the population.

• If you have celiac disease. This occurs in around 1% of the population.

• If you have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity – this causes gas, fatigue or headaches after eating products that contain gluten.

For the rest of the population, however, consuming food that contains gluten is not an unhealthy option. I have seen packaging that calls chicken, oatmeal and other items that do not contain the gluten protein, labeled as gluten-free. Gluten-free labeling has been used as a marketing tactic to make a product seem healthier to the consumers who buy them. Just remember, going gluten-free is a food preference, not a food safety issue.

GMOs

This is something that you see a lot in the grocery store. This topic is something we as farmers feel very strongly about. There is a lot of controversy regarding this topic, but GMOs have been proven safe in repeated and unbiased scientific studies that have taken place over decades.

GMO technologies include when plant breeders use genetic engineering to develop new crop varieties with more desirable traits. One example of this is developing crops with a greater resistance to disease or a higher tolerance to drought.

Scientists have been studying GMOs for years and have concluded there are no health risks associated with growing or consuming GMO foods. There are also no benefits from consuming foods that are GMO-free.

I recently read an article that you could now purchase GMO-free water. Water! Know the facts, so you don’t fall victim to a marketing scheme. There are only 10 GMO crops on the marketplace today, and water is NOT one of them!

Foods must go through years of rigorous testing before they are allowed to even enter the marketplace. GMO foods must be approved by scientists with the USDA, the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (along with several other domestic and international organizations).

The conclusion is There are many choices available to us, and it is up to us as consumers to make the choices that best fit our families. As mothers, we love our families and we will do whatever it takes to protect them. For me, I find comfort in feeding my family “real food.”

I recognize that prepackaged foods that claim to be organic, gluten-free or GMO-free may sound more “healthy,” but many of these labels are marketing fads designed to play into consumer fear.

If we can teach our children good habits such as eating healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables, we are doing our jobs correctly. We have so many regulatory agencies in the U.S., and food that is grown in this country is safe for us to consume no matter what method is used. We just need to decide what our preferences are.

It’s important for us all to be informed when making selections. If you’re ever confused or need more information, reach out to a local university scientist, nutritionist or even a local farmer. We’ll help you separate fact from fiction and provide you with the tools to make good choices for your family.

Mollie Robertson was born and raised on a farm in southeast Nebraska. She now resides in southwest Nebraska near the town of Elsie with her husband, Greg, and four children: Knox, Rhett, Clara and Grace. She and her husband are the fifth generation (raising the sixth) to live on the family farm where they grow corn, soybeans and wheat. They strive to work hard every day and instill in their children how to be good stewards of the land, have a strong work ethic and be passionate about agriculture and feeding the world.

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Rainbow Pizza

Crust Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 tablespoon cornmeal

• 1 package quick rising yeast

• ½ cup warm water

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• 1½ cups flour

Toppings:

• 8 ounce jar of pizza OR pesto sauce

• Pizza toppings of choice (to make it rainbow, I like to use red, green and yellow bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, pepperoni, ground hamburger, etc.)

• Mozzarella cheese

Instructions:

1. Coat baking stone with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon cornmeal. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, add 1 package quick rising yeast to ½ cup very warm water.

3. In the bowl of your stand mixer mix together: 1 teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon oil. Add yeast mixture and stir. Slowly add 1½ cups flour.

4. Knead dough until elastic and smooth (add flour if too sticky). I like to knead in a stand mixer; just turn it on medium speed for two to three minutes.

5. Cover and let dough rise (15-30 minutes).

6. Preheat oven to 400 F.

7. Roll dough out on prepared pan — make as thick or thin as you desire.

8. Spread pizza sauce on rolled out dough. Add desired toppings.

9. Bake at 400 degrees in preheated oven for 16-18 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

10. Remove from oven, let sit 5 minutes before cutting and serve.

• If you prefer, you can substitute the pizza sauce with pesto sauce. Use only a small amount of pesto sauce and spread lightly across the crust.

• I do not add the cheese immediately; let it bake about 8 minutes, then add the cheese so it doesn’t get too brown.

• If you want a thicker crust, use 1½ of the ingredients.

• If using pepperoni, I spread it on a dish lined with a paper towel and cover it with a paper towel. Microwave dish for 10-20 seconds to get rid of some of the excess oil/grease.

• Microwave pepper slices about 15 seconds before adding them because they don’t always cook through during the baking time.

• Chop spinach into tiny pieces and picky eaters may not even notice it.

• The more veggies, the more nutrients and color!

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