The April issue of Sarasota featured Al and Erin Rosas, Ocala-area farmers who have taken the culinary world by storm with their organic grass-fed beef, which is now a star of Longboat Key restaurant Pattigeorge’s menu. But beyond their love of food, the Rosas are organic consultants, nutritionists, research specialists and healthcare consultants. They’re determined to get the word out about the benefits of eating organically, and they shared some tips and tricks to help jump-start your own organic lifestyle.
A few simple changes make for a much healthier lifestyle.
After years of experimenting, Al and Erin Rosas have come up with a system for eating organically that they refer to as “Pragmatic Organics.” Instead of asking families to transition to a healthier organic lifestyle in one big gulp, Pragmatic Organics helps parents and children do so in small, easy-to-swallow bites. It’s something the entire Rosas family is passionate about. “One in two kids is medically overweight because of what they’re eating, and the life expectancy of this coming generation is shorter than that of their parents’,” Erin, a medical research specialist, nutritionist and healthcare consultant, says. “That’s never happened before.”
The Rosas’ Pragmatic Organics theory encourages families to live by the rule of 80 percent, in which 80 percent of the food they consume is completely organic and 20 percent is non-organic “treats.” It’s OK to indulge in a diet soda or some non-organic ice cream every once in a while, Erin says, but the ultimate goal is to live as cleanly and healthily as possible. “The ‘rebirth’ of organics isn’t even a rebirth,” she explains. “It’s a term we’ve come up with because we’ve polluted everything so much.” Adds Al: “We have to get to the point where we appreciate it again.”
10 EASY STEPS TO ORGANIC LIVING
Follow the Rosas’ 10 simple steps for eating well and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
Set an example. If you want your child to eat organic vegetables instead of ice cream, then you should do the same. Explain to them why you’re serving them organic foods, and the risks and benefits of eating organic, whole foods versus eating fast food every day.
Stock your fridge. Spend a few hours each week preparing large amounts of a few recipes, then freeze them in convenient portion sizes. If you know you’ve got something healthy at home, it will be much easier to bypass the drive-thru on the way home from work.
Read labels to avoid the “Big Three.” The big three are high-fructose corn syrup, hormones and antibiotics, and trans fat or partially or wholly hydrogenated oils. Avoid them at all costs.
Retrain your palette. When you eat by the Pragmatic Organics system, foods won’t need to be labeled “good” or “bad.” Children will understand that there are foods that are OK all of the time and foods that are fine to eat 20 percent of the time. They’re not off limits—they’re limited.
Eat together. The benefits of family interaction at the dinner table are immeasurable, say the Rosas. If you make the time to eat together, you’ll have the time.
Shop together. Discuss why an item is put in the shopping cart or why it is vetoed, and allow your children to make some of their own choices as well.
Don’t reward with food. Don’t overfeed your children with junk food out of guilt for not being there, explain the Rosas. Instead, reward them by spending time together.
Cook with your kids. Get the entire family involved, and be sure your kids know exactly what ingredients go into the food you’re making. Let everyone pick a dish and then prepare each one together.
Watch what you drink. Too often, juices are filled with sugar and calories—same with sports drinks and sweet tea. Instead of a mass-marketed brand, drink four to six ounces of organic orange or apple juice. Limit soda and sports drinks to small amounts, if you allow any at all. Instead, strive for more water: It’s inexpensive, good for you and easily available.
Control your portion size. A serving of meat should be no bigger than a deck of cards; a full serving of rice or pasta is half a cup. But be sure to eat plenty of organic fruits and veggies—you can never have too many.
SOURCE: “10 Easy Steps to Pragmatic Organic Living,” www.alrosas.com
A few simple ways to make life greener.
Living green and eating organically go hand-in-hand, but wary consumers needn’t worry: they won’t have to trade their business suits for Birkenstocks just yet. “One of the biggest changes that people can make to reduce their carbon footprints is as simple as changing their light bulbs,” says Erin Rosas. “You’re saving energy, and you get the benefit of having your energy cost go way down.”
Another way to live more greenly is to buy laundry detergent without oil. Instead, choose one with phosphates, which, Erin explains, “helps reduce our toxicity and our dependency on oil.”
Then there’s the elimination of what the Rosas refer to as “the Big Three”—high-fructose corn syrup, hormones and antibiotics, and trans-fat—which they say can be done by eating foods such as organic, grass-fed beef. “People don’t realize that there are clouds of methane gas in [cows’] feed lots,” Erin says. Therefore, making the decision to eat free-range, grass-fed beef is better not only for the cows, but for the environment as well—it reduces carbon output.
“Think of all of this as health insurance,” Erin says. “You’re voicing your opinion about things that don’t support the environment and don’t support sustainability. There’s much more to organics than people realize.”
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW WON’T HURT US?
Not according to Al and Erin Rosas, who expound on the merits of eating organically.
The health benefits of organic foods are myriad in scope, say Al and Erin Rosas, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. “We’ve got to get back to what’s real,” Al insists. “Whenever I cook something, I try to keep it as simple as possible.”
“The ‘rebirth’ of organics is not a rebirth,” Erin adds. “Organics are very old. We’ve just polluted everything so badly that we’ve had to come up with a new name for clean food. And there’s a huge social awakening about the health benefits of organics—so many people go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that.’”
Those health perks include lower cholesterol; a diet that’s higher in omega-3s and heart-healthy fatty acids; and the elimination of high-fructose corn syrup, a substance that tells your body to make fat and ultimately contributes to weight gain. “Obesity is an epidemic,” Erin explains, “and it’s completely preventable in most cases, but it’s killing our children. By 2010, one in two children in the United States will be obese. This is the first generation of children who will not live longer than their parents. We need to look at what’s on our kids’ plate and do something about it.”
Eating organically can help reduce premature maturation in young girls through the reduction of hormones and antibiotics, which can also cause breast cancer in young women, Erin says. “What we’re doing with organics is paring down, and the added benefit is that you get so much more nutrition put back into the product.”
In addition to running their farm, consulting for fisheries, supermarkets and organic farmers, helping major corporations improve their eco-image, and Al’s work as a master chef and restaurant consultant, the Rosas have worked as organic consultants for 15 years, trying to spread the word about the advantages of healthy eating. Though they feel they still have a way to go, they believe that people are open to the idea of a new way of living. “Given the choice,” Erin says, “people would rather do the right thing.”