Investigating America’s Food Crisis with Organic Authority’s Laura Klein

November 29, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have our friend back on the show, Laura Klein. Welcome to Green is Good. LAURA KLEIN: Thanks so much. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You are a busy woman. Since we’ve had you on last three or four years ago, you are the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Organic Authority and now also the proud owner of EcoSalon.com. Wow! That’s all I can say is wow. LAURA KLEIN: Thanks, John. Love your enthusiasm. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, it’s true, and I just want to say thanks for coming back on. Obviously, I’ve watched from the sidelines as you’ve grown your great brand, Organic Authority, but for our first time listeners, in terms of being first exposed to Organic Authority and even EcoSalon, I just want to give them great exposure today and by the way, I’m online right now. I’m on your website. It continues to be beautiful. I’m on OrganicAuthority.com and later we’re going to talk about EcoSalon.com. Why did you and your husband launch OrganicAuthority.com? LAURA KLEIN: Well, I really got inspired. I’d gone to culinary school and I was not into the green and organic thing at all but through school, they had showed us the difference between organic and conventionally raised food and I had discovered a secret behind the fine chefs of the world in that they had been serving organically raised food on their menus for years but never bragged about that so that caught my interest so I asked the question why is organic food superior in flavor and quality? And I started studying the science behind it and that’s when I had a paradigm shift and I really discovered how America’s burgeoning health crisis- and this was quite a while ago, this was probably 10 years ago — how America’s burgeoning health crisis was related to and still is to the everyday foods Americans eat so I actually really got angry and I felt America needed to know the truth behind our food supply and so I knew I could write about this stuff and we launched Organic Authority. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wonderful. I’m on your site. It’s beautiful. Explain then still very relevant, what do you do with Organic Authority? What is it exactly, for our listeners out there? LAURA KLEIN: Organic Authority is an online magazine about food and healthy living and we publish recipes. We publish articles. We publish how-to content on green and healthy living so it’s a fabulous website. We publish about five articles a day and we also do cooking videos as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it, and then now EcoSalon is part of your family of brands. When did you acquire EcoSalon and talk a little bit about why? LAURA KLEIN: You know, we acquired EcoSalon in December of 2012 and EcoSalon is about conscious culture and fashion and it’s really female driven. Over 90% of our readers are female and we acquired this website because we felt it was a really nice complement to Organic Authority and it really also sells into our mission at Organic Authority, which is to change the world one reader at a time by inspiring change through conscious living and empowering individuals to live that change so it was a really nice addition. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What we love on this show is the solution oriented so talk a little bit about since you are the authority on this issue, the simplest way people can take control of their health and what’s going on now in diet and nutrition and ways that we can become healthier as people. LAURA KLEIN: Sure, sure, absolutely. One of the simplest ways people can improve the quality of their health is really just to upgrade the quality of their food, whether it be cook one more meal at home during the week. Maybe it’s adding more vegetables to your diet. It can be really, really simple. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be really easy and when you start doing these kinds of things, when you start upgrading the quality of your food, when you start cooking more for yourself at home, you actually will find that you start to feel better. Your energy starts to increase, You Start to get to know your food. Maybe you shop a little more at the farmer’s market or your grocery store, whatever is convenient for you, and start to ask questions from the produce man or your farmer about whatever it is you’re buying. Ask them cooking tips. If you love corn or you love eggplant ask them, ‘Hey, how do you recommend cooking this?’ I’ve actually received so many great cooking tips from farmers and so that’s one little simple way to improve your health. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Since we’ve spoken last, this whole issue of food as medicine and the whole plant-based diet revolution has really taken hold here in America and you live in the Los Angeles region but then you have the other side of the equation, Laura, of people saying whole foods and organic foods are too expensive for me or my family or the average American. Wherein lies the truth here? Is it better to be on a plant-based diet or organic diet and is it really more expensive? LAURA KLEIN: Right. It’s such a good question and we get that a lot and really, what it comes down to is where your values are because when you buy whole foods — what I’m talking about when I say whole foods — let’s define this. Am I talking about shopping at Whole Foods Market? Yeah, you can shop there, too, but when you buy whole foods, I’m talking about whole pieces of produce. When you buy zucchini, you buy a whole zucchini. When you buy cucumbers, you buy a whole cucumber. It’s that you really have to place a value on what is important in your life. Is it improving my health and cooking for myself and buying more fruits and vegetables and buying healthier food at the market for myself and my family or is it more important for me to go through takeout because I just don’t have the time? Because really, what it comes down to — or are you shopping a lot? A lot of people come up with these excuses but you really have to get honest, okay? And, really be honest with yourself and look at where you’re spending your money because unfortunately, America does not value high quality food enough and it has shown up in a really big way with our obesity epidemic. If we perhaps spent a little more on our food, perhaps we wouldn’t be overeating as much. Perhaps we wouldn’t be eating as much sugar, as much salt, and by the way, we do need salt in our diet but it’s too much in the processed foods. People are just eating way too much and so our value system really has to shift and place a priority on eating a healthy diet because ultimately, actually what’s going to happen is if you’re eating a healthy diet, you’re losing weight, you’re feeling great, you’re going to actually save money on health care, on doctor’s visits, on prescription drugs, on all this kind of stuff because that’s really what happens so if you spend an extra 10, $20 at the checkout at the grocery store a week and actually cook more for yourself at home, it’s going to hit your bottom line in other places and you had another question in there, John, that I wanted to address that is one more that is escaping me at the moment. JOHN SHEGERIAN: No, it’s about is it more expensive to live healthy in the organic foods than just our regular processed stuff junk that’s out there? LAURA KLEIN: Well, that goes back to what I had just addressed in terms of is it more expensive to live healthy? No, it isn’t because you have to make choices. People kind of cringe at this but I can shop at Whole Foods and shop at Trader Joe’s and have this same bill at the end. I’ve actually done it many times. Yes, Whole Foods has more expensive items than Trader Joe’s, but if you shop smart there and you shop their sales, you shop their private labels, meaning not the branded stuff, you can walk out of there with the same bill and another question you had asked about do we need to go meatless, that type of thing. I’m an advocate of you need to eat the diet that’s right for you when it comes to meat and vegetables. I really don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all type of thing but what I do believe and what I’ve experienced in my own life and by the way, I do eat meat. I call myself a conscious carnivore and what that means is that I qualify my meat when I buy it so you can eat meat but I think everyone should add more vegetables to their diet and embrace meatless Monday and by the way, if you eat less meat, you’re going to save money at the checkout because eating meat is expensive. Eating meat is really a luxury. If you go to third world countries, they don’t eat as much meat as we do because they just don’t have the money and I think we should really kind of treat it that way. It is really kind of a luxury and I do think we should care more about how our animals are raised and processed. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so interesting. Since we’ve spoken last, with the advent and the introduction of Life Foods, Chipotle, Veggie Grill, the whole juicing phenomena. Are you more hopeful the direction we’re heading or is that outweighed by again, the rising, as you pointed out earlier in the show, the rising obesity and diabetes rates that still exist in America and doesn’t seem to be turning back that tide? Where is the balance here and which trend gives you hope and despair? LAURA KLEIN: Well, I actually am hopeful because with these trends, consumers are asking more questions. They are taking more control of their health. They are becoming more of their own advocate but we still have a long ways to go. People still really believe that, Oh, I can eat anything I want and if I have a donut in the morning accompanied by a Diet Coke, that’s a great breakfast, which is really setting yourself up for blood sugar failure and really setting yourself up for diabetes and obesity but I really, really do have hope because a lot of our readers have actually written into us and said, ‘Thank you so much. I use all of your recipes and without even trying, I lost 30 pounds.’ I had a mother write in and say, ‘You really inspired me to go organic. I did it for my child and I didn’t even intend it but I lost 25 pounds just because I was eating organic with my child,’ and so it can have really kind of an effortless impact on your life and so people are really surprised. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re down to the last two minutes. On your website, you give away cool kitchen tools like Vitamixes and KitchenAids and other cool things. I get your email drops all the time. How does someone enter to win one of these giveaways and how do they engage more with your websites? Because I want to push more people towards you because you’re going to be helping them and that’s your mission so how does it work? LAURA KLEIN: Thanks so much, John. If you want to enter any one of our giveaways, all you have to do is go to OrganicAuthority.com and in the upper right corner, click on the newsletter icon and sign up for the newsletter. We just gave away a Vitamix. Those things are awesome. Those have over a $550 value. On EcoSalon, we do the same thing. We have really cool giveaways. You can go there as well, EcoSalon.com, and in the upper right corner, click on the newsletter icon and it’s really fun. People love it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s great. A minute left. Any shameless plugs? Go right ahead. LAURA KLEIN: Well you know, you can follow us on Facebook. You can go to Facebook.com/OrganicAuthority, or just go to OrganicAuthority.com. Then click join the Facebook icon, the Twitter icon — and same for EcoSalon. If you have any questions for us, we have conversations going on all day long on our Facebook pages and it’s really fun engaging with our readers. We absolutely love it. We also have our goodie box on Organic Authority, which has over 440 products for $129, which is a really great deal and our readers love. JOHN SHEGERIAN: She’s our friend. She is the authority. Laura Klein, you are a sustainability rock star and truly living proof that green is good.