Tamara’s Food List (including foods we try to avoid at all cost!)

jarssmPeople are ALWAYS asking me what foods we eat and what foods we avoid for our family! I’m going to make this short for now and add to this as things come up in conversations! Bear in mind that – as with eye color – we have the full spectrum of variations in our little family—2 vegans, 2 “mostly vegetarians”,  1 “rabid carnivore”, 1 “goat” (will eat nearly anything)!

Basic principals:

  • We eat all organic and
  • As a family we avoid most animal products (although our youngest loves meat and dairy –  much to his vegan father’s consternation!)
  • For eggs (when we get them) we try to go with organic, free range, pasture raised (yadda yadda) – because chickens confined to traditional (or even the majority of so-called “cage-free”) high-density factory or commercial barn structures have a higher tendency to encounter and eat lead paint chips, even if they are raised “organic”!

Our “Never” or “Almost Never” List (because these things are well documented to be high in lead, some because they are naturally high in calcium and lead bio-mimics calcium and is readily taken up and concentrated via the same natural mechanisms in the plants listed here):

  • Spinach (I will rarely have spinach out, but never feed it to my children).
  • Himalayan Pink Salt (This has been shown to have high levels of lead by independent 3rd party testing.)
  • Most Multi-Vitamins (We have not yet found any brands consistently demonstrated to be lead-free by independent third party testing.  This includes specifically avoiding calcium supplements for our children.)
  • Sunflower Seeds (I will very rarely have sunflower seeds and don’t feed them to my children. We avoid sunflower seed butter and instead stick with almonds, cashews, peanuts and other tree nuts!)
  • Bone Broth (not hard to avoid because we keep a vegetarian home).
  • Most oils (particularly seed oils, and especially if you expose them to high-heat during cooking! Unheated high-quality olive or coconut oil used sparingly are our go-to exceptions.  I also love Avocado oil!

Things we limit our consumption of :

  • Chocolate (because it is hard to find lead-free sources; we try to buy single ingredient, USA processed cocoa paste, cocoa nibs or cocoa powder and we make our own chocolate things.)
  • Bread and flour products (because our kiddos’ digestion is messed up from being lead poisoned and too much bread has sent Avi to the hospital in the past!)
  • Refined sweeteners (when absolutely needed for some deserts, we use high quality organic maple syrup, raw organic coconut sugar or raw, and  sometimes minimally processed organic agave – used sparingly – as our preferred choices).

Here’s a good graph you might want to check out, from our neighbors to the north!
Click to see the full graph and search for your favorite foods and their lead content!

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 9.47.38 PM

 If you would like to support my advocacy work so I can keep writing! 
(and sharing consumer goods testing results) please check out this link and this link too!  Thank you!

Things we eat on a regular basis (most or all organic)… aka  -our “Yes” list!:

  • Berries! (fresh, local, seasonal, organic raspberries, blackberries, marionberries, mulberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc. Last year we started growing our own organic raspberries —yum!)
  • Cucumbers!  (The kids love them sliced with organic red wine vinegar and dill.)
  • Avocados! (usually with organic red wine vinegar filling up the spot where the pit used to be… as a favorite of the kids.)
  • GREENS! (Romaine Lettuce, Collards, Kale, and especially Lacinato (“dinosaur”) Kale are favorites (usually raw as a snack or lightly steamed with a sprinkling of homemade organic lemon-tahini sauce)!
  • Cherry tomatoes (any type of tomatoes actually—Charlie loves tomatoes sprinkled with Icelandic sea salt!)
  • Celery sticks! (Sometimes with peanut butter, sometimes with salt, sometimes with umeboshi paste!)
  • Fresh, local corn on the cob (also with umeboshi paste instead of butter!)
  • Homemade bean salads. (Organic kidney beans, garbanzo beans and red wine vinegar is a favorite of our kids!)
  • Homemade bean soups and stews (beans soaked overnight, soak water discarded, pressure-cooked).
  • Brown Rice, Barley, Oats, Millet, Quinoa, Amaranth and other whole grains (soaked overnight, soak water discarded; pressure-cooked)
  • Potatoes (little purple Peruvians, yams and sweet potatoes — they’re yummy and so much healthier!)
  • Oranges, Clementines, Mandarins and other tasty little orange fruits!
  • Kiwifruit!  (The kids would eat a dozen of these every day if they could!)
  • Washington State apples (we love Fuji and Honeycrisp in season!)
  • Bubbie’s pickles (or Portand’s own MoonBrine!)
  • Soymilk (Westsoy Organic, Unsweetened Plain)
  • Nori seaweed (our kids LOVE both home-made sushi and also snacking on plain nori!) [& yes we do have concerns about heavy metals and radiation.]
  • Sea Palm fronds (another favorite snacking seaweed!)
  • Chips (we rotate brands and flavors – always organic; no added sugar, preservatives or artificial ingredients)
  • Pasta (Tinkyada’ Pasta, Joy Brown Rice pastas and Lotus Foods’ Organic Jade Pearl Rice Ramen are favorites!) we try to have it less often, but with lots of boys it is hard to avoid! *see flour products above.) The thing about pasta is that the boys are less likely to “perpetually self-feed” (as they do with bread – lol!)
  • “Real”  bagels from time to time [our current favorite in Portland is Joel Bundy’s magnificent, authentic New York-style chewy, boiled-and-baked masterpiece of bagel goodness! (Bundy’s Bagels 1421 SE 33rd Ave., 503-880-8550, bundysbagels.com. ]
  • Nuts! Pistachios, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts. (Trader Joe’s has a good organic nut selection.)
  • Edwards & Sons’ Instant Miso Soup (convenient dry packets – just add boiling water, + sometimes a little extra tofu!)
  • Various dried fruit & veggies [we have a food dehydrator and this saves a TON when we dehydrate tasty delights – especially things like fresh winter Shitake Mushrooms and summer fruits and berries – for year-round availability and economy!]
  • Coconut Bliss Ice Cream (Len and the kids like this, but I hate this stuff!)

As always, thank you for reading!  And please let me know if you have any questions.


Tamara Rubin
Unexpected Lead Expert
Mother of Four Sons

16 Responses to Tamara’s Food List (including foods we try to avoid at all cost!)

  1. Suzanne March 29, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

    What are your thoughts on specifically grapeseed oil?

  2. S June 11, 2017 at 6:35 am #

    Do you avoid Swiss chard as well? Is it too similar to spinach WRT lead? I didn’t see it on the list.

    • Tamara June 11, 2017 at 7:19 pm #

      I wouldn’t say we avoid it, but it is not something we eat. 🙂

  3. Suzanne October 19, 2017 at 8:12 pm #

    Have you done any testing on elderberries/elderberry syrup?

  4. Maria November 20, 2017 at 11:59 pm #

    I never imagined that unprocessed fruits and vegetables or meat contain lead. I am specially surprised about spinach. I always thought it was a healthy green vegetable to feed to my children. Does it matter if the spinach is organic?

  5. Lili January 8, 2018 at 2:12 pm #

    Thanks Tamara for the valuable wealth of information you provide in your entire website!!!
    Would it be safe to consume greens, even spinach or any other leafy green, if grown in fabric/plastic pots with home-made compost, “organic” soil, rock dust, little Dr. Earth’s fertilizer, little fish liquid fertilizer?

    • Tamara January 11, 2018 at 4:54 pm #

      I think if you are growing it yourself in known lead-free soil / pots, etc. then that is a great alternative!

  6. Lili February 6, 2018 at 3:14 pm #

    Thank You Tamara for all you do and for answering so many questions, you are helping people and shining light with such strength and your intentions are undisputable the best!!!

  7. Lili February 6, 2018 at 4:11 pm #

    I found this article about some store bagged soils


    This about fabric pots

    🙁 Growing food made us feel independent and safer, but it is so sad that we have to worry even about this stuff

  8. Diana February 6, 2019 at 10:04 pm #

    What sort of salt do you recommend using?

    • Tamara February 6, 2019 at 10:13 pm #

      Hi Diana,

      Sea salt (not mined salt.)


  9. Momof3 February 18, 2019 at 10:57 am #

    How about root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoe, radish?

    • Tamara February 18, 2019 at 12:07 pm #

      Love those – but wash well and always peel (unless you know soil is lead-free.)


      • Momof3 March 17, 2019 at 5:53 pm #

        Thanks! I heard that root vegetables can absorb lead in the soil? Not sure if that’s true… also have you tested the green tinted glass bottles that avocado oil is stored/sold in?

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