Alter Eco Giveaway, Prop 37, & My Latest Investigation

I’ve got three very important things to share with you this Halloween!

#1 – An Awesome Organic Chocolate Giveaway

If you have never tried Alter Eco Organic Chocolate before – here’s your chance! Alter Eco is hands down my favorite indulgence right now. I like it so much that I cannot keep it in the house because it will be gone in a matter of minutes!

Alter Eco Chocolate is sustainable, fair trade, organic and Non-GMO project certified. Their chocolates do not contain added fillers like “soy lecithin” and other junk you find in typical popular chocolate brands.  I like every single flavor I’ve tried so far – but the Dark Coconut Toffee, Dark Mint and Dark Quinoa Crunch are tied for the win.

I reached out to Alter Eco last week because our next vacation is taking us to Peru & Ecuador in South America where they harvest and produce many of their products. I am hoping to spend part of my vacation to learn more about superfoods like Quinoa (which Alter Eco also makes) that I eat every week. And I wanted to thank them personally for supporting and donating to the Yes on Prop 37 - the campaign to label genetically modified foods in California.

During our conversation – I asked if they would be willing to host a giveaway…. they were more than thrilled and generously accepted!

Alter Eco will be sending a gift basket with an assortment of all their chocolates to 10 readers!  I absolutely can’t wait to hear what you think of all of the different variations and if they will become your favorite too.

You can enter to win up to three times:  (Deadline: Midnight on November 5th, 2012)

1. SUBSCRIBE to Food Babe and leave a comment below

2. Spread the word on Facebook or Twitter and leave another comment. (Optional)

3. Sign up to call California voters to vote Yes on Prop 37 Ballot Initiative to label genetically modified foods. If you sign up – please just leave another comment. (Optional)
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Are You Getting Conned By Cheap & Toxic Chocolate?

15 dollars for 8 pieces of chocolate….?! That’s all I could think about on a recent trip to the mall while walking past the famous chocolatier, Godiva. Are you getting conned by this cheap & toxic chocolate company? I mean 15 dollars for 8 pieces of what? What is Godiva doing that make these chocolates so much more expensive than other brands of chocolate? Is it handcrafted? No. Is it made with organic milk and cream? No. What about real pure cane sugar? No. It must have real vanilla? No! (They actually use artificial vanilla made from a wood by-product!) And they obviously do not package their chocolate in a box made of real gold. So what is it?

It is marketing, marketing, marketing and trickery at its best!

Are these ingredients worth it?

Godiva chocolate has been tricking many of us for years into believing that paying a premium for chocolate means you are getting higher quality treats, but this can’t be further from the truth! Take a look at the ingredients in one of their chocolates and you’ll quickly realize what they’re selling are fancy-looking cheap ingredients wrapped up in a pretty gold box. How are they getting away with this? And what about all the other popular chocolate brands, are they selling us junk ingredients too?

Chocolate ingredients to look out for

Let’s be real here – eating chocolate on occasion is absolutely an okay treat – but there’s a lot of consideration that needs to be made when choosing how to get your fix. Unfortunately, our food system’s top priority is the bottom line so we need to pay attention to the ingredient label on every single product we buy. Chocolate can provide a daily dose of much needed antioxidants or it can be a chemistry experiment full of man-made artificial ingredients. I do not like supporting brands that try to trick me into buying questionable ingredients. Voting with your dollars is one of the only ways to voice disgust for the unhealthy chemicals in food, and it can also directly influence change by hitting the bottom line of the food companies that continue to sells us cheap, harmful, and potentially dangerous ingredients.
Just look at the ingredients in popular chocolate candy out there; they are despicable and it’s why I don’t buy these brands any longer, even for an occasional “treat”:

Popular chocolate bar ingredients - 1

Popular chocolate bar ingredients - 2

Hershey’s, Ghiradelli, Russell Stover, Godiva, Nestle and M&M/Mars all use unhealthy and harmful ingredients like:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – Princeton University found that HFCs commonly found in candy prompts considerably more weight gain than conventional sugars and is linked to obesity. The latest statistics are startling and show that 42% of us will be obese by 2030 and obesity will be the leading preventable cause of death in America by 2019. We must do everything we can to stop this slippery slope by not consuming chemically refined sugars that make us eat more than we should.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) – We don’t know for sure how much of these candy brand products are genetically modified since they are currently not required to be labeled in this U.S.A. (Hopefully that will change soon if Prop 37 passes in California!) But we do know that the consumption of GMO foods poses a serious threat to our health and has been linked to toxicity, cancer, allergic reactions and fertility issues. It’s really hard to find a chocolate these days without the ingredient “soy lecithin,” which helps keep chocolate smooth and together. Unfortunately soy is one of the most common crops to be genetically modified. And even the sugar that chocolate contains can be from genetically modified sugar beets! When buying any chocolate (or anything in general), remember to read the label just to make sure all ingredients are listed organic or Non-GMO Project verified to avoid GMO’s.
  • Growth Hormone – Chocolate usually contains dairy, which means that unless it’s organic chocolate, you are likely consuming milk from cows that have been conventionally raised with antibiotics and growth hormones. rBGH is a GMO found in cheap conventional dairy products that many of these chocolate brands use to make their milk chocolate. That means that by simply eating a piece of chocolate you or your family could be ingesting a substance that in excess levels has been reported to cause breast, colon and prostate cancers.
  • Partially Hydrogenated Oils (a.k.a. Trans Fat) – The 4th ingredient in Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Mint is partially hydrogenated soybean oil. This is alarming because trans fat has been shown to be deadly even in small amounts. “Previous trials have linked even a 40-calorie-per-day increase in trans fat intake to a 23% higher risk of heart disease.” 40 calories is a mere 2% of a typical 2000 calorie per day diet – and could easily be the amount of trans fat found in many types of chocolate.
  • Artificial Colors – We’ve discussed artificial food coloring a lot before, but I think it needs a little more air time, considering we are talking about chocolate – a substance that is usually white, brown, or dark brown and doesn’t actually need coloring! I was floored to find coloring in Godiva’s 8 piece gold box and Russell Stover’s pecan clusters. When companies manufacture chocolates using chemical fillers and fake ingredients that don’t have natural colors, they have to add color to trick our senses into making us think we are eating something real. The most widely used dyes are contaminated with known carcinogens, linked to cancer and known to cause hyperactivity in children. Also, watch out for “caramel coloring” that may sound natural but is not. It’s often manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which creates carcinogenic compounds that are also linked to cancer.
  • Artificial Flavors – Thousands of secret food chemicals can be hidden under the label “artificial flavors.” Some of these chemicals are actually never reviewed by the FDA because they are used in such a small amount. Food company scientists develop ways to use chemically derived ingredients that turn on and off certain taste buds depending upon the end goal – changing something from bitter to sweet, and so on. Allowing artificial flavors in your diet gives these scientists the ability to mess with your senses and trick you to like, eat, and buy more fake food than you would otherwise.

Luckily for us not all chocolate is designed to trick you or have scary ingredients. There are many choices available that are delicious and actually nutritious!

Organic chocolate bars

  1. Alter Eco Organic Chocolate – This is my absolute favorite organic chocolate right now. I like to choose organic chocolate whenever possible, to lessen my exposure to pesticides. The cocoa bean, from which chocolate is produced, is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. The Dark Quinoa Chocolate bar tastes just like a “Nestle Crunch,” and the Dark Coconut Toffee bar totally satisfies your “Butterfinger” craving.  I have a hard time keeping these bars in the house… my husband and I seem to always fight over the last piece.
  2. UnReal Candy – Although Unreal isn’t certified organic, they make a point to choose sustainably sourced chocolate and use no GMOs, growth hormone or antibiotics in their milk chocolate. They’ve perfectly reinvented classic candy favorites likes M&Ms, Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups without most of the junk. Now only if they could do this for all the other candies out there like candy corn! They make perfectly sized mini-treats you can find at most drug stores and some Targets, which is why they made my Non-GMO candy list.
  3. Kopali Chocolate Covered Organic Superfoods – Their organic chocolate covered goji berries are addictive and a tasty alternative to “Raisinets.” I love goji berries because they are less sweet and more chewy than raisins and have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any food. Antioxidants are very important because they fight all the free radicals and toxins you can accumulate in your body that cause aging and disease.
  4. Righteously Raw – This may be one of the most health conscious organic chocolates available on the market that actually tastes good! This chocolate is completely raw and made with several types of superfoods. You are getting 100% of the benefits from eating chocolate when it is in its raw state. Righteously Raw just came out with bite size flavors that I feel great about eating everyday with no guilt because there is no refined sugar! The mint is my favorite and reminiscent of “Andes Creme De Menthe” chocolates that are full of artificial food coloring and trans fat.
  5. NibMor Organic Chocolate – I met the founders of this whimsical chocolate company recently at a fundraiser for Prop 37 in NYC. I had honestly never heard of them or tried their chocolate before. Luckily I got a few samples to take home… and let me just tell you, they did not make it home! I ate them all on the airplane and I’ve been buying little boxes of their perfectly sized squares called “daily dose” ever since! The addition of cacao nibs to their chocolates adds a nice crunch and ups the percentage of real cacao you are getting per bite.

My Favorite Mug – Bodum Giveaway!

If you have been reading Food Babe for a while now – you probably have noticed I am absolutely obsessed with this one mug from Bodum. I use it every. single. day.

I like that this mug has a 15 ounce capacity because I drink a lot of water before I eat or do anything first thing when I wake up, using it for my daily habit of drinking hot water with lemon and cayenne. The double wall feature keeps liquids either cold or hot depending on what you desire, so it’s perfect for keeping my tea hot longer while I work or get distracted with meetings.

This mug is awesome for quick oatmeal at my desk at work or to keep soup or stovetop oatmeal hot longer at home. There is nothing like warm comforting food that actually stays hot to the last bite! And of course I drink green juice and shakes in it all the time. I generally just like the over feel of the mug in my hand and the fact that is clear so you can see what you are drinking or eating. No other mug has taken its place since I discovered it years ago.

I’m not alone either, my husband loves this mug too – he uses it for beer! And so does my friend Amy… it’s her favorite glass in my whole kitchen. Last year at work, a co-worker borrowed my mug while I was on vacation and she accidentally dropped it and it broke. Being a good friend and citizen, she of course replaced it – but I can only begin to imagine what she was thinking, she had to have been a little scared of my potential wrath!

:)

Given my affection for this mug – I’m THRILLED to announce that Bodum has generously offered to give away a set of 4 Bistro Mugs to 5 lucky Food Babe Readers!

I know you will love this mug as much as I do… I’m so excited for you to have a chance to win them!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

To enter, follow these simple steps:

1. SUBSCRIBE to Food Babe

2. Like” Bodum North America on Facebook

3. AND leave a comment below by Noon on Monday, Nov. 5th. I’d love to know your favorite kitchen appliance or utensil!

Good Luck!

Food Babe

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Contest is now closed. Congratulations to CJ Hunter, Linda Black, Robin A., Shannon Ruark, and Lisa for winning the Bodum giveaway! Check your email for details. If you didn’t win – These awesome mugs are available on Bodum.com.