Monday, October 31, 2011

Pour Some Sugar on Me!

Ahh, Trick Or Treat. When my kids bring me home candy! I love the night of trick or treat when they got to bed and I get to pick my favorites out before they realize how much candy they actually got! Only a few more years of this, I know. Soon they'll catch on to me and account for every piece. But hopefully I will be able to control my "candy monster" urges by then. My mom gave me a newsletter from Weight Watchers that talks a little about sugar. It share some myths, like "Cane Sugar is better for you than High Fructose Corn Syrup" (your body metabolizes it all the same, so it says you should just avoid all added sugar.). It also has two facts that I thought were interesting. First, the amount of added sugar the average American gets (mostly through desserts and beverages) a day is 31 teaspoons, while the AHA suggests only 6 tsp a day for the average American woman. (Men don't get any?) The other myth I found interesting was that non-caloric sweeteners are better for weight loss than sugar. Overall, the message is don't eat sugar in any form. This of course, makes me sad. Now how will I protect my kids from the dangers of eating too much Halloween candy if I don't eat most of their candy for them??? My mother used to make us divide our candy up into two groups, eat now and eat later. The eat later bag went to Aunt Janet's and lived in her freezer until...I actually don't remember ever seeing the eat later bag again. It's probably at that farm with a family that loves it where everyone's dog-that-keeps-peeing-in-the-house lives. Maybe my kids will have to make two bags too...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Green Halloween

This is kind of a repeat blog since I talked about this in the summer, but I thought since it's now ACTUALLY Halloween time it would be worth mentioning again. This summer when I was attending my second Webinar on Greener birthday parties, the seminar leaders mentioned a website they host called Green Halloween. Although I don't usually think of Halloween as detrimental to the Earth (Christmas strikes me as much less "green" with all the wrapping paper, junk toys, energy use from lights) I guess that Halloween has a little of that too. It looks from the website like their biggest thing is the Costume Swap Day which is the second Saturday in October. This I understand since MOST kids get a halloween costume, wear it once, and throw it out or it never gets used again. For my family, the costumes my kids pick are worn and worn and worn until they're 3 sizes to small, ripped and falling apart. My oldest was STILL wearing his Spider-Man costume (under his clothes of course...he couldn't reveal his TRUE identity) two years after it was his Halloween costume. Even though the costumes are expensive, I really feel like my kids wear them enough to get our money's worth, not only for the Halloween season, but throughout the year for dress-up.

The Green Halloween webiste also talks about hosting a greener Halloween party, how to conserve energy (although it's mostly year-round stuff, not really specific to Halloween.) They have a section for kids that has games and activities, that are, of course, green. There's also a section for schools, giving info about making their Halloween parties greener. They also mention the healthy aspect, so decreasing emphasis on the junk food aspect. I thought this was interesting:
"Green Halloween participated in numerous Halloween events last year and came face to face with thousands of children. We asked them what they would think if someone gave them one of the alternative goodies we had on our display instead of regular candy. After seeing the alternatives, not one single child of any age said they would rather have candy. Not one. Kids feel good when the adults around them model positive attitudes. If you’re excited about it – they will be too."

It's a neat idea and I think it's kind of cool to start with baby steps in going green, one holiday at a time. And who are we kidding, the best holiday of all is Halloween, so why not start there?!?!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Good-Bye Strawberries!

First, I guess I need to apologize for yesterday's post. I was informed it was too long and repetitive. I didn't mean to copy all that info.

As for today's post it's a farewell to the fresh fruits and veggies of the warm weather. As the weather turns colder, I'm always excited to start eating the winter squash that I love so much, but that seems to be about it for fall produce. It's so important to eat seasonally and locally, when possible, so I thought I'd look into what some good fall fruits and veggies are. The first on the list was apples, which made me feel like an idiot! Of COURSE that's a great fall fruit! Some of the other don't really strike me as fall food, but they're healthy non-the less. I found them on this site, but I'll cut and past here for simplicity.

20 Healthy Fall Fruits and Vegetables

Help your family eat healthier this fall by picking up some of the best nature has to offer. Find a local farmer’s market or check for local produce at your grocery store for these fresh fall fruits and veggies.

  1. fresh fall applesApples – Nature’s ultimate fast food! High in vitamin C and fiber, apples come in a wonderful variety of flavors, textures and sizes.
  2. Avocado – If apples are nature’s ultimate fast food, avocados may just be nature’s most perfect food. They are high in fiber, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and E.
  3. Bananas – another one of nature’s perfect, portable foods, bananas are high in vitamins C and B-6, potassium and fiber.
  4. Beets – known for their deep color (that’s a good thing) beets are a good source of folate, vitamin C and potassium.
  5. Cabbage - great in soups or salads, cabbage is high in vitamins A and C.
  6. CauliflowerCauliflower – while cauliflower doesn’t really pass the deep color test, it is still a great source of folate, fiber and vitamin C. Try it roasted or mashed for a change of pace.
  7. Chestnuts – while most people think of eating chestnuts roasted, chestnuts are really good raw as well. They are high in vitamin C.
  8. Clementines – these tiny little oranges are so much fun to eat! They are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and folate.
  9. Cranberries - think outside the Thanksgiving box and use cranberries in cakes, breads and muffins while boosting their vitamin C and fiber.
  10. Fall figsFigs – Did you know that fresh figs have more fiber than any other fruit or vegetable! Pair with a strong cheese or prosciutto for a good balance.
  11. Grapes - the deep purple and red varieties pack the most nutrition per grape. Grapes are perfect for lunch boxes and on the go snacks. Just remember to cut them and remove seeds for little ones.
  12. Grapefruit – good source of vitamin C, fiber and folate. Try the Ruby Red variety for a real treat.
  13. Kiwi -high in vitamin , did you know that the entire kiwi is edible? Yes, even the skin.
  14. Parsnips – Add a few cubes of parsnips to your next batch of mashed potatoes or mash them with carrots for a pleasant change. Parsnips are high in folate and vitamin C.
  15. Pears – In my opinion, nothing beats a good pear! Pears are wonderful on their own but they also work very well with cheese. Pears are high in fiber and vitamin C.
  16. pomegranatePomegranates – the very deep red color of a pomegranate tells of its healthy goodness! Pomegranates are a great source of iron and vitamin C.
  17. Pumpkin – pumpkins aren’t just for decorating. Their sweet flesh makes a wonderful soup and is also good in risotto. Pumpkin is high in vitamins A and C and folate.
  18. Squash – Winter squashes are a nutritional jackpot! They are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and fiber, and a good source of folate and thiamin. Roast, steam, use in soups, or even grill – there are so many ways to use squash.
  19. Sweet Potatoes - why settle for a regular old spud when you can get even more nutrition and flavor from its cousin the sweet potato? Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A, C and B-6, fiber, copper and potassium.
  20. Swiss ChardSwiss Chard – these deep, green nutrient rich leaves are high in vitamins A and C and iron. Wilt in a pan with a bit of olive oil and salt or steam for best taste!

Go for the dark, intense colors in the fall fruits and vegetables. Your body will thank you!


I'm tired. I feel like I'm always tired and it's kind of annoying since I don't have a newborn anymore. Aren't you supposed to be able to get a full night's sleep once you're kids are older?!!? Not a night goes by when SOMEONE isn't getting up and needing something or getting in bed with me. Last night I slept part of the night on the floor beside a toddler bed. I TRY to get to bed at a reasonable time, which usually ends up being around 11:30-12:00 and I don't get up early, usually between 7:00 and 8:00. So my question is how much sleep do you need? I know that a nice strong cup of coffee would probably help in the morning, but I haven't had to depend on caffeine in years and I'd like to avoid that. Everyone knows that caffeine isn't good for you, but I thought I'd actually check in to see WHY it's bad. Here's what I found:

The experts speak on caffeine, exhaustion and fatigue:

"Caffeine's immediate effects on your body"

It doesn't take a genius to see that there might be a downside to all of this neuron activity. In fact, uncontrolled neuron firing creates an emergency situation, which triggers the pituitary gland in the brain to secrete ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone). ACTH tells the adrenal glands to pump out stress hormones—the next major side effect of caffeine.
Caffeine Blues By Stephen Cherniske MS, page 56

Within five minutes after you drink your morning coffee, the caffeine begins to stimulate your central nervous system, triggering the release of stress hormones in your body, causing a stress ("fight or flight" ) response. The stress hormones are useful if you need to prepare yourself to fight or flee a dangerous situation, but if you are simply sitting at your desk you may feel a short charge of alertness, quickly followed by feelings of agitation. Within the next hour or so, after the stress response dissipates, you will probably feel more tired and hungry. At these low-energy times, many people reach for another cup of coffee, or eat a snack that is often high in sugar to "pep up" and stay alert. However, both caffeine and sugar only give you temporary feelings of increased energy, which quickly dissipate. For some people, this cycle of low energy followed by an infusion of caffeine or food continues the entire day -- leaving them feeling exhausted and unable to focus by 3:00 p.m. because they are drained from the ups and downs in energy their body endured throughout the day.
Active Wellness By Gayle Reichler MS RD CDN, page 12

Among other things, it stimulates the production of adrenaline, one of the hormones secreted by the adrenal glands to help us in extreme emergency situations. Our adrenals evolved to give our early ancestors the extra strength and alertness needed to escape a saber tooth tiger attack, but we don't often need that much adrenaline these days. Like sugar, coffee constantly stimulates the production of adrenaline, putting excessive wear and tear on the adrenal glands. And let's not forget that green tea and black tea contain caffeine, and even decaf still contains some caffeine. If you're sensitive to caffeine it can keep you awake at night even if you haven't had any since noon. If you're suffering from insomnia, your best bet is to drink nonstimulating herbal teas such as chamomile or mint in the evening. If you need a boost in the afternoon, try a cup of ginseng tea.
Prescription Alternatives by Earl Mindell RPh PhD and Virginia Hopkins MA, page 388

Caffeine triggers a stress response that involves a surge in adrenal hormones and the classic fight-or-flight "emergency," affecting virtually every cell in the body.
Caffeine Blues By Stephen Cherniske MS, page 98

Everybody "knows" that caffeine makes you more alert and clearheaded. Think again. A cup of coffee gives you a wakeup jolt because it triggers a stress response. Your adrenal glands are prompted to kick out the same stress hormones that are released when you perceive an external threat or danger. Your muscles tense, your blood sugar elevates for extra energy, your pulse and respiration rates speed up, and your state of alertness increases so you're ready to wrestle with or run from environmental dangers. You may be only sitting at your table or desk drinking a cup of coffee, but your body doesn't know that. It's preparing for action.
The Memory Solution by Dr Julian Whitaker, page 261

Caffeine increases the stimulating neurohormone, noradrenaline, and reduces the calming neurotransmitter, serotonin.
The Crazy Makers by Carol Simontacchi, page 191

Caffeine also stimulates the production of norepinephrine, another stress hormone that acts directly on the brain and nervous system. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are responsible for increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and that "emergency" feeling. In fact, the emergency is quite real. caffeine can trigger a classic fight-or-flight stress reaction with all of the results listed in Illustration.
Caffeine Blues By Stephen Cherniske MS, page 57

I particularly recommend that you avoid caffeine. What caffeine actually does is set off a stress response. It stimulates your adrenal glands to make epinephrine and norepinephrine—the same stress hormones that are produced in response to any stressor. This sets the stress response in motion, causing tense muscles, elevated blood sugar, and increased pulse and respiration. You may feel mentally sharper because your brain is high on adrenaline. It's ready to rumble. One cup of coffee for most people isn't damaging. But as you may recall from our discussion of the three stages of the stress response, if stress hormones remain elevated, the body is thrown into a state of chronic stress. By sipping on coffee, tea, or caffeinated soda all day long, you are forcing your adrenal glands to continue to pump out stress hormones.
The Memory Solution by Dr Julian Whitaker, page 165

Caffeine works by mimicking a hormone that tells the adrenal glands to crank out more adrenaline. The adrenal glands think there is a stressful situation and that they are supposed to be making more adrenal hormone.
Herbal Defense by Ralph T Golan ND, page 280

A dosage of 50 to 100 mg caffeine, the amount in one cup of coffee, will produce a temporary increase in mental clarity and energy levels while simultaneously reducing drowsiness. It also improves muscular-coordinated work activity, such as typing. Through its CNS stimulation, caffeine increases brain activity; however, it also stimulates the cardiovascular system, raising blood pressure and heart rate. It generally speeds up our body by increasing our basal metabolic rate (BMR), which burns more calories. Initially, caffeine may lower blood sugar; however, this can lead to increased hunger or cravings for sweets. After adrenal stimulation, blood sugar rises again. Caffeine also increases respiratory rates, and for people with tight airways, it can open breathing passages. Caffeine is also a diuretic and a mild laxative.
The New Detox Diet by Elson M Haas MD, page 30

Caffeine and nicotine overstimulate the adrenal glands. When these substances, other stressors, and a generally poor diet are combined, the adrenals can enter into a state of emergency. They become depleted of important vitamins, such as B-complex vitamins and vitamin C.
Complete Encyclopedia Of Natural Healing by Gary Null PhD, page 233

Although we think of caffeine in coffee as the "wake-me-up" chemical, chronic use of it may cause fatigue, headache, moodiness, and depression in some people. Because caffeine boosts energy through increasing the production of ATP, the basic unit of energy production in your body, one school of thought suggests that chronically stimulating this system may deplete it, sort of like overworking the soil in farmland. Recommendation: If you are a caffeine junkie (more than 3 cups of coffee a day) and can't get through the day without your coffee fix, you may be promoting your fatigue with caffeine and need a rest period. Go slowly with your reduction to zero caffeine to avoid developing overwhelming sleepiness and a bad headache.
Doctors Complete Guide Vitamins Minerals by Mary D Eades MD, page 324

Caffeine can have a detrimental effect on blood sugar. When caffeine is ingested, the nervous system is stimulated. Adrenaline is released and, in turn, the liver begins to emit stored blood sugar. Insulin is then released, and blood sugar drops below normal—a common seizure trigger for people with epilepsy. Caffeine can also constrict blood vessels in the brain. It is important for people with epilepsy to know that caffeine can be an ingredient in medications, including some antihistamines and decongestants.
Disease Prevention And Treatment by Life Extension Foundation, page 739

For an optimal response to our plan, we recommend eliminating or sharply reducing your caffeine intake. Caffeine raises levels of adrenaline, causes overexcitation, increases stress, and impairs the relaxation response. It's hard to be at peace when you're revved up on caffeine.
Ultraprevention by Mark Hyman MD and Mark Liponis MD, page 241

Learn more:

So even though I'm dragging this morning, I think I'll stick to the OJ and eat some oatmeal to help get me going. Maybe tonight I'll shoot for 10:00 as a bedtime...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Slowing Down

We had a great weekend! The weather was nice, we went to the pumpkin patch, and the kids played football outside (my daughter was wearing heels, but played football none-the-less!) It was FINALLY a relaxing and enjoyable weekend and I think it was because we didn't have any activities to do. This session (there's a sign I'm over-programmed--I think in YMCA session time!) we're going to cut back. No swimming lessons, no gymnastics classes, no soccer...just more time for us. Of course we're adding cheerleading and maybe wrestling and we're still doing Cub Scouts and dance, but for us, it's cutting back. I'm hoping this gives us a chance to stop and take a breather and enjoy life instead of constantly rushing to get to the next thing. I'm always worried my kids are going to miss some opportunity and I want them to be active. With the exception of my oldest, I never FORCE them to do activities (my oldest insists he wants to do something, then halfway through the session gets bored and doesn't want to continue.) I think it's important for them to get exercise and the organized sports are good for them socially as well. But watching them play yesterday was nice too. It was good to see them just having time to BE instead of be somewhere. I'm excited to give this new schedule a try. I suspect that my oldest might get bored, especially if he decided against wrestling after his 3 day trial camp, but it's only 6 weeks until the next session starts.
*I realize this isn't a very "green" blog entry, but I'm was thinking along the lines of creative play. You know, how it's better to give a kid blocks because they can make them into anything rather than a Dora that talks and moves because a Dora that talks and moves isn't anything but a Dora that talks and moves. I've been planning for Christmas gifts lately...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Has the Time Come?

It was easy to raise my third child as a vegetarian. I didn't eat meat and when I started him on purees and thicker foods, I just fed him the same foods I was eating. He didn't care. He didn't really have a choice. By now he's two. And he's aware of the food on his plate, and more importantly, the food on everyone else's. He now notices that his pizza doesn't have "roni" like his brother's and that that chicken leg his sister is nibbling on looks interesting. So now I have a problem. Do I force him to be a vegetarian or do I allow him to eat the foods the rest of my family eats? (Disclaimer here, I do my best to guide my older children to non-meat food choices as well.) I know that it's healthier for him to not eat meat, and I'm a little worried about what eating meat will do to his little digestive system that's gone this long plant-based diet (he does eat dairy and eggs though.) I've know all along that he wasn't going to STAY a vegetarian for his entire life, especially since the rest of the family isn't, but I was hoping that he'd make it a little longer than two years. I guess the fact remains that he IS two. He's still to young to make his own choices about food. If you let two year olds choose what they want to eat, the candy industry would explode! As his mother, it's my job to make sure that everything I put on his plate is good for him and he can then choose from those healthy items which he wants to eat and which he doesn't. (Side note here, he rarely chooses to not eat anything!) That said, I think I should also try to relax a little more about his diet. It's not going to hurt him if he eats a "roni" from his brother's pizza, or picks a little chicken meat off his sister's plate. I won't serve him a helping of meatloaf, but if he takes a forkfull off the plate beside him, it's part of his learning experiences. This doesn't mean that I'm not going to keep telling him, "Yuck, meat. Don't eat it." But that doesn't seem to work with dog food so I doubt it will work with a hamburger either.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hair Color

I've decided to color my hair. I haven't done it in a long time, since college, and I wasn't sure where to start. I can't afford to have it done professionally, so I'm just going to go to the drug store and pick up a bottle. Besides the most obvious choice of which color to buy, I, of course, am also looking for the least harmful. But it's hair color. By nature it has to be pretty chemically, right? So I'm doing some research. My first stop was the Cosmetic Database. I searched for hair color and just scrolled down until I recognized a brand I thought I could find at the drug store. I also Googled "natural hair color" and cross referenced those results with what I found on the database, since "natural" isn't regulated and when speaking about hair color is can mean, looks natural, not made from natural products. To spare you my entire search, I found something that will be perfect for me! It's a score of 5 on the cosmetic database, which isn't low risk, but it's still in the medium range, which I'm willing to do. The best part is that it's semi-permanent! So if I don't like it, 28 shampoos later it's gone! It's ammonia free and has anti-oxidants (buzz word! Your hair is dead, does it NEED anti-oxidants??). It's Clairol's Natural Instincts so I should be able to find it easily. I actually feel a lot better. I was feeling guilty about putting chemicals on my head and I was unsure about how it was going to turn out, but hopefully this should solve BOTH of those problems. Now to choose the color...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Today seems like a good FALL day, so I thought I'd share some healthy fall recipes.
Pumpkin Pancakes
1 C whole wheat pastry flour - 3/4 C unbleached white flour
1 Tbs baking powder - 1/2 tsp salt (I omitted)
2 tsp cinnamon -1/2 tsp ground ginger -1/4 tsp allspice - 1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1 C pureed pumpkin or winter squash
1 tsp vanilla
2 C milk
3 Tbs canola oil

Stir (and sift) together all the dry ingredients in a med. size
bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs with the pumpkin & vanilla.
Beat in the milk & oil until smooth. Add to flour mixture. Cook as usual!

Squash and White Bean Soup
1 sm onion, diced
2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 C water or vegetable stock
1 butternut, kabucha, or hubbard squash, peeled and cute into cubes (about 7 cups)
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 Tbsp miso
1 Tbsp tahini
2 C cooked white beans
1/2 C minced fresh parsley
sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot over medium-low heat, add onion and oil. Stir gently to spread and then cook about 15 minutes without stirring until the onions are brown and caramelized. Stir in garlix. Add water/stock and squash. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer 30 minutes until squash is tender. Puree squash mixture in blender or food processor with spices, miso, and tahini. Add water if soup is too thick. Return to pot and stir in beans and parsley over low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with pumpkin seeds if desired.

Kale and Rice Casserole
4 C cooked brown rice
1 cup minced kale, collards, chard or spinach
1 1/4 C milk
3 eggs
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 C shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Oil a 2 qt casserole dish. Mix greens into cooked rice and spread in prepared baking dish. Beast together milk, eggs, yeast, and seasonings. Pour over rice. Top with shredded cheese and bake 40 minutes until firm.

Breakfast is from:
Lunch and Dinner are from: The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook by Cathe Olson

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wedding Bells

This past weekend the last of my best friends got married! Despite the call for bad weather, just as she was about to walk down the aisle (on an outdoor patio) the sun came out, the wind died down and the rain held off and she had the sunset ceremony she had hoped for! I had 3 glasses of wine, went home and threw up then couldn't get off the couch until 4pm. I don't drink much. But at the reception, I mentioned to someone how I felt guilty drinking the wine because of the chemicals. He informed me that wine is from grapes and therefore all natural. I was skeptical. So I decided to check it out.

I Googled "chemicals in wine" and found this site. It's written by an Australian Naturopathic Nutritionist and he actually uses the term "chap" in his article so you KNOW he's reputable! He spent two years researching wine and health and the "French Paradox" (the way the French have such low levels of heart disease but eat a diet rich in saturated fat and cholesterol.) He cites multiple studies in his article and has a lot more infomation than I'm summarizing here, but overall, he says wine it good for you, in moderation of course, because of the anti-oxidents which counter the free-radicals. He says it better, "Frankel's team reported in the British Medical Journal in 1993 that the phytonutrients in wine, with names like Flavonoids and Resveratrol, significantly inhibited the oxidation of lipids (ie. fats & oils) and cholesterol in human blood. It should be mentioned that a primary cause of cardiovascular disease is oxidative damage to the artery walls caused by oxidised or rancid lipids and cholesterol in the bloodstream, causing the artery walls to become inflamed, leading to the build-up of plaque that narrows the artery."

He goes on to talk about people with wine allergies and what can cause them. "These sufferers restrict their consumption of wine because of headaches, facial flushing, sinus problems and other negative reactions." (Would those "other negative reactions" include drunk dialing and yelling when you think you're whispering?) This is where the discussion about chemicals come in. "Chemicals that are permitted by law for use in winemaking include pesticides, herbicides, equipment cleaning chemicals, and sulphite preservatives." Just like with other juices, those @%$# pesticides are lurking in your wine. I didn't know this, but "grapes used in winemaking are not washed. This may come as a surprise to many people, who would naturally assume that grapes are washed after picking but prior to fermentation to remove all traces of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides. Sadly, that is not the case. The obvious question is "Why not wash the grapes?" Unfortunately this is not possible, as grapes are normally 'machine harvested' and the grape skins are damaged by the picking equipment and grape juice is released. In other words, the collection containers are filled with damaged grapes in a sort of liquid mush, and there in no way that the grapes can be washed." Suddenly, those organic wines don't look so expensive after all! And of course we need to add preservatives to our food. In wine they are sulfides. "As a simple rule, any wine that is capable of being shipped long distances and stored in hot tropical 40c temperatures, will need high levels of preservative sulphites to stop the wine from deterioration. Such high preservative levels can be a culprit in what we call 'restaurant syndrome' and most consumers have experienced the ill effects of a good night out." He then goes on to talk about the alcohol that's in wine and how the liver cleans it out and what to do to aid that process (lots of water and B vitamins...which would have been helpful to me YESTERDAY!)

So I guess wine is like everything else out there. If you drink the conventional wine, you're going to have pesticides and preservatives in there, but if you're drinking organic you're not.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Yet ANOTHER database!

Yesterday I blogged about the Cosmetic Database (BTW, I went to to grocery to get that lotion today and OF COURSE they didn't carry it!!! THIS is why I need a smartphone! I bought another Neutrogena lotion that looked similar and didn't have parabens.)

Today I was FINALLY getting a chance to glace at my Kiwi Magazine online newsletter and I found an article about how to detox your family. It's pretty basic stuff that I already know, one being to stay away from food additives. The cool thing is, they gave a database web address for food additives! It just checked it out and it's GREAT! It's from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and it's a pretty easy site to navigate. This is the info from the home page for food additives:

Shopping was easy when most food came from farms. Now, factory-made foods have made chemical additives a significant part of our diet.

In general, it's best to avoid the following ingredients.

  • Sodium nitrite
  • Saccharin, Aspartame, Acesulfame-K
  • Caffeine
  • Olestra
  • Food Dyes

And don't forget to cut back on sugar and salt, which cause more harm than all the other additives combined."

Most of these I knew about, but I guess I didn't really know that last part, about sugar and salt. And that's actually great, because I can read "sugar" and "salt" on a label, whereas it's a lot harder to decipher many of the other additives (although "sugar" has so many forms now.)

It also has a chart that shows the safety of all food additives, rated similarly to the cosmetic database, and then a huge glossary of additives. So if you've ever wondered what pantothenic Acid is, now you can find out! I'm really excited to use this as a reference in the future!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Riding in the Cart

Congratulations! You all get to ride in the cart while I grocery shop! PLEASE sit down and don't try to jump out when you see something you want or I'll have to use that dumb strap! You're lucky since we're only shopping for one item today: Body lotion. As the weather gets cooler my family's skin starts to get dryer so it's time go shopping.
Here are the requirements:
  • It must be paraben-free
  • I have to be able to get it at the grocery store.
  • It must be under $5 a bottle.
  • It must have a "low-hazard" rating on the Skin Deep database.
  • It must WORK! My oldest has eczema so we need something strong!
OK, so here we go. First I'm going to check out the Skin Deep Database. It's a fantastic tool that is great for doing a lot of the leg-work on just such a shopping expedition as ours. There are tons of categories of personal care products to search to see what the toxicity level is. I'm just going to go to "Eczema/damaged Skin". They are ranked from the lowest hazard level (a 0) to the highest(a10). I usually have to to to at least a 2 (the highest number to still receive a score of low hazard) before I find anything I've ever heard of. Actually, the second product on the list is Cortizone 10, with a score of 0, which is good to know for Eczema flair ups. But I'm still looking for an everyday moisturizer. I had to switch to just moisturizer and there were SO many different products, I decided to just type in a brand I've had good luck with in the past: Neutrogena. I was surprised to find that a few of their products received a score of 2! I checked the ingredients and found that it was paraben free! (I chose to go with Neutrogena's Norwegian Formula Daily Therapeutic Lotion, Body Moisturizer, Fragrance Free.) I priced it online and it's $7. I'm willing to negotiate on my $5 rule since it's a pretty big bottle. OK, now I actually have to go to the store and buy the thing! But now I'm an informed consumer. I LOVE this site because it allows me to figure out what I need before I'm standing in the grocery store aisle. I have time to really LOOK at what I'm buying.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Congrats to Sesame Street!

Yet another blog post that I got from Slow Food! In their newsletter they had a story about Sesame Street introducing a new character that doesn't have enough to eat. I LOVE how Sesame Street approaches topics like this! In the article talks about a one hour special that Sesame Street will air (actually already aired, sorry about the lateness!) that addresses how Lily, the new muppet, deals with growing up in a family that doesn't have enough to eat. The other muppets help her plan a food drive and also visit a community garden (yeah!).

"The special aims to address the growing problem of hunger in America, where nearly 17 million families like Lily’s have limited access to food, according to Jeanette Betancourt, the senior vice president for outreach and educational processes at Sesame Workshop. Children age six and under make up 9.6 million of those who are hungry, she said."

What a horrible statistic! It makes me think of Hell's Kitchen (I know I'm repeating myself) and how, in the name of high standards of fine dining, mass amounts of food are thrown away, simply because they're not cooked to someone's liking. It really disturbs me to watch as they throw away beef Wellington after Beef Wellington simply because it's overcooked. I can think of 9.6 million people who wouldn't complain! And the waste of resources to raise that beef that was thrown in the trash. Uggg!

So, again, I'm applauding Sesame Street. Her's a You Tube clip from the episode.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Enchanted Forest

Friday night (before we went to was a busy weekend) we took the kids to The Wilderness Center's Enchanted Forest. It was a really cute fall nature activity. It was a night-time hike on a nature trail, lead by "fireflies" (robed volunteers carrying lanterns) lined with jack-o-lanterns. Every so often there would be a stop where there would be a person dressed up and they would do a little talk about themselves (dirt, slug, raccoon, spider, luna moth, skunk). Some of the talks were a little above my kids, but I think they all (well, maybe not my little guy. He kept wandering off during the talks and trying to light leaves on fire in the jack-o-lanterns--pyro) learned something.

I like doing activities like that with my kids because I feel like it gives them a better sense of the natural world around them. Besides getting them out in nature, it gives them a real look at what the REAL world looks like, beyond our suburban backyard. I don't want my kids to be one of those that actually thinks food comes from the grocery store, not realizing that it's grown somewhere before it gets there. Having a respect for animals is really important to me, and taking my kids to the wilderness center is a great way for me to impart that to my kids. We're ALWAYS talking about respecting our pets feelings (when she hisses and her ears are flat, that means the cat doesn't like being carried like a baby). It's important for me to make sure my kids know that when we talk about being green, on the most basic level, like not littering, they can see what nature is supposed to look like and what we're destroying we when litter. Plus, it's just nice to unplug and hike around a little!

Monday, October 10, 2011

POD Home

This weekend we went to Columbus to visit my in-laws. While there, we decided to take the kids to see COSI since it's been awhile since we've been there. Nice exhibits, my youngest got drenched at the Ocean exhibit, cool Dora/Diego exhibit...anyway not what I'm really blogging about. In their outside exhibit, Big Science, they have an OSU Engineering/Architecture student collaboration project called a POD House. It's a pretty cool *little* house that was designed for sustainability, energy-efficiency, and space-saving. It's designed for one to two people and it's honestly about the size of a shed! It's a pretty cool concept, but I'm not really sure how it would work in reality. I found some pictures online as well as a YouTube clip that shows how it was constructed, but it's really more of a Rah Rah OSU thing. I found it really interesting and I thought it would be a great thing to share with all of you. (I'm not really sure about the copyright on the pictures so I'm just going to give you the link here. These are the best that I could find and they're really a great view inside (which is kind of hard to get from COSI) and the outside).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chicken Soup

Well it's here. Cold and flu season. I've already had 3 kids out sick in my class an my little guy is all snotty. I hate watching my kids be sick with a cold since it's a virus and there's not really anything I can do about it except treat the symptoms and wait until their little bodies fight off the bug. So I always try to feed them "power food" which may or may not really work, but I figure pumping them full of vitamins and minerals and whatever else is in Kale and blueberries and all those other good things can't hurt. Then there's the treating the symptoms part. Let me preface everything I'm going to say next with this statement: I am not opposed to traditional medicines. I'm not advocating not getting vaccines or not going to a doctor, I'm just looking a greener way to make my kids feel better when they have the sniffles. OK, now THAT's cleared up! The reason I'm looking for something other than Dimatapp is that I work hard to monitor what my kids eat on a daily basis, trying to avoid putting chemicals in their bodies so it seems a like I should continue along that path when they're sick. I've tried using Similasan's Cold and Mucus Relief which I *think* does pretty well. It's available at Giant Eagle, which is convenient, and is 100% natural, whatever that means. It uses homeopathic ingredients which aren't supposed to have side effects (I'll be honest, I kind of like the "may cause drowsiness" side effect) and doesn't have any dyes or alcohol or HFCS (I'm not really even sure if other drugs do, but it seems like it's in everything!). As an adult, I've taken it too and I think it does pretty well, but since I've been nursing or pregnant for what seems like the past 7 year straight, I don't usually take medicines until my symptoms are REALLY bad. I liked Halls Breezers, since they're medicine free, but they have a lot of dyes in them, but no HFCS. And this is going to sound REALLY hippie, but I herbal tea works best for my sore throat. It's the warm water, not the herbal stuff, but I don't want to drink cup after cup of caffeinated tea in the evening. So along those lines, I'm including a recipe for the most holistic cold remedy of all: Chicken Noodle soup. Since I don't eat chicken, it's really more of a vegetable soup, but you can always add shredded chicken to it if you want (I do this for those in my family that do eat meat.) It's from The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook by Cathe Olson. I LOVE this cookbook because she always adds ingredients just for the nutritional boost, which is especially great when you're battling the a bug.
Miso-Noodle Soup
51/2 C water
2 TBSP Chopped wakame (it's a sea vegetable that can be found dried by the Asian food)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 c chopped kale, cabbage, watercress, or other green
1/2 cup snow or snap peas (you need to use fresh. Frozen ones just get nasty in the soup!)
1/2 cup small uncooked pasta noodles (we use ABC noodles)
8 oz tofu, diced (or chicken)
2 TBSP miso (we use Hatcho Miso, which is strongly flavored. I've also used white miso which is much milder)
soy sauce to taste

Place water and wakame in medium-sized pan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered 10 minutes, or until pasta is just cooked. Remove from heat, stir in miso (you need to take a little liquid from the pan, and mix it with the miso in a small bowl to form a paste, about the consistency of ketchup and THEN add it to the soup. Otherwise you'll end up with chunks of miso in the soup). Season with soy sauce if desired.

I love this recipe because it's fast and is uses wakame and miso as well as dark leafy greens, all of which give a great nutritional boost (I've already talked about the wonders of kale, but miso has 8 amino acids and is a good source of veggie protein as well as live enzymes which aid digestion. Wakame is high in protein, iron, calcium, vitamins and trace minerals.)

Stay healthy!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More about GMOs

I can't really take credit for this blog topic since it's from a forward from my husband. I was talking to him about what I learned the other day while doing some research for my blog post about PLU numbers. I found that it's optional to add that 8 in front of the PLU number that indicates a genetically modified item. He found this article on USA Today. ( I love the last line!)

Group seeks labels on genetically altered food

Americans are mostly clueless about whether the food they buy has been genetically altered. But in a nation increasingly concerned about food ingredients, there's a new push for that to change.

The actions come at a time when American consumers are more closely reading product labels and are showing greater concern about the ingredients in the foods they buy.

Critics say there are safety questions about eating such foods — and note that labeling is required throughout the European Union, Russia, Japan and even China.

But executives at the Biotechnology Industry Organization insist there's no need for labeling. "Anyone who has ever studied the issue has come to the conclusion that there are no health issues here," says CEO Jim Greenwood. "Unless the scientists have stopped being scientific, this will be rejected."

Some 88% of the corn planted in the U.S. is genetically engineered, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It shows up in many packaged foods.

"This is about the consumer's right to transparency," says Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm and a member of the Just Label It coalition. "People deserve the right to know what they're eating."

The campaign includes a commercial that features a blindfolded family struggling to eat — symbolically blind to the genetically altered food. The family members wreak havoc, even knocking over dinner candles that catch the table on fire.

But the FDA is not likely to be easily swayed.

While not commenting on the petition, Tamara Ward, an FDA spokeswoman, says the agency "has not found that foods from genetically engineered organisms, as a class, present different or greater safety concerns than their conventional counterparts."

The coalition hopes consumers will visit its website,, and comment on its FDA petition, says Andrew Kimbrell, a coalition member and executive director for the Center for Food Safety.

Eating genetically engineered food, says Hirshberg, "makes guinea pigs of us all."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


*Sorry Mom!*
I don't eat meat, as you all know. But my dad got a cow, or part of a cow, or someone in his family got a cow, anyway, I now have a freezer FULL of dead animal. This cow came from the Stark County Fair, which bothers me because we walked through the beef cattle last year and it brought tears to my eyes. But that's not really where I'm going with this. My mother was watching my youngest the other day. When I got home I realized I needed to get my stew in the crock pot for dinner, I was in a rush...anyway she was kind to help me get my dinner ready. Her job was to cut this massive roast into chunks. She asked where I got it, and I told her it was from a cow at the fair. "Ewwww!" was her response. Which kind of startled me. I asked her why and she said it's because you don't know where it came from, which surprised me even more! I know (or could easily find out) not only where that cow came from, but who it's parents were, see where and how it lived, and talk to the farmer (or kid in 4-h) that raised it. I found it strange that she would think it was gross to eat THIS cow, but a cut of meat from Acme is fine. Which made me remember a "fun" statistic I heard/read somewhere about ground beef. So I Googled "How Many Cows go into 1 lb of ground beef?" And I found this:

In just 4 ounces, a typical burger patty is packed with the meat and fat of 50 to 100 cattle from multiple states and two to four countries.

Eat two hamburgers a week — as the average American does — and in a year's time the consumer samples a stampede: 5,200 to 10,400 cattle.

THAT is gross to me! The sad thing is that these cows don't live on a farm, like my Fair Cow did. They live in a factory farm, packed in with hundreds of other cows, knee deep in their own manure, being fed a diet of corn (probably GMO), which isn't a natural diet for a ruminant (animal that chew cud).

I kind of feel like this is getting a little preachy, so I'm going to just sum up here that generally speaking, locally raised beef is better than what you're buying in the grocery. If you live in the Canton area, and are interested in locally raised beef or poultry, I just got an email from Simon Certified Organic Farms about their October Harvest Days. Also, if you have any good pot roast recipes I have a few roasts I need to use...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The First Rule of Rules

I'm a teacher. As a teacher I set rules. The first rule in making rules is to be positive. Your rules shouldn't be "Don't ____." They should be an imperative statement. So instead of of a "Don't run in the hall." rule you should have a "Walk in the hall." rule. You need to tell kids what TO do, not what NOT to do. It's easier that way. You're telling them what you expect, not what you don't expect. When you give a "Don't" rule, you're leaving the option of the "do" up to them.

It's the same with eating healthy food, as I found out this weekend. I was at Sam's Club with my dad/Stepmom. My Stepmom and I were talking about what foods are OK to eat since she's been trying to eat a healthier diet. She said her nutritionist is telling her not to eat all kinds of thing (similar to what I do here, I guess) but now she knows what NOT to eat, but not what TO eat. So I've decided to blog about things TO eat, not what NOT to eat. So, as Michael Pollan says, EAT FOOD!

It's always best to eat organic food, but it's not always possible. I said a good rule of thumb is to eat lots of fresh food, but she was concerned about GMOs. I told her to check for that PLU codes starting with an 8, which does indicate a GMO, but then I found out that it's OPTIONAL to add the 8 so you can't assume that if it doesn't start with an 8 it's not GMO. The good news is that very few US grown produce is GMO, except for Hawaiian papayas, some zucchini and yellow squash, and corn on the cob. If you don’t buy these organic, they *may* be genetically-modified (or they may not be).

Whole grains are always good. This includes rice (brown and wild), millet, quinoa and oatmeal. I found that the Raisin Rack all of these in bulk (not wild rice).

If you eat meat and/or dairy, look for grass-fed or pastured. Cage free, isn't the same thing. The organic label is always good here too. There aren't factory farms in Canton, Ohio so if you're buying locally raised meat, you're probably in good shape too.

Here's a good fall recipe that meets all the "Do" rules:
Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf in Acorn Squash
2 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 c brown rice
1/2 C wild rice
1 TBSP minced fresh rosemary
2 1/2 C boiling water
1/2 tsp sea salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 C dried cranberries
1/2 C chopped pecans or walnuts
1 acorn squash

Heat oil in saucepan. Stir in onion and saute 5 min. Add celery, rice and rosemary. Saute 10 min. Pour boiling water over rice. Add salt. Cover and simmer 35-40 minutes or until water is absorbed. Season with black pepper. Stir in cranberries and nuts.

To make the squash:
Wash and put whole squash in slow cooker for 8 hrs. OR, cut in half, brush with olive oil and roast, face down, in a 375 oven for one hour.

Fill 1/2 squash with pilaf (of you want to unhealthy it up a little you can add some honey or brown sugar).

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm Changing the World!!!!

Well it's official! Everyone in the world is clearly reading my blog and changing their products accordingly! I was at the store the other day looking for shampoo for my two year old. (I like California Baby best, but Target is the only place close that sells it and I needed it NOW so I was limited to Giant Eagle's selection.) There, in the baby aisle, was Pamper's Kandoo Shampoo, (in a pump form, I was being picky!) and it had a tag attached (extra packaging, not so green, Pampers!) that said, "Paraben Free"! My Skin Deep database lists it as a level 6, but the ingredient list still has parabens listed. This OF COURSE means that Pampers has been reading my blog and has decided to change their product to be greener so that I can buy it and I don't have to drive to Target to get the 3X more expensive California Baby! THANK YOU Pampers! (I of course won't actually buy Kandoo Shampoo again because it is Funny Berry scented. Why do companies think kids want to smell like artificial fruits?!?! He's TWO! He's supposed to smell all clean and snuggly after a bath, not like some kind of candy that turns your mouth blue!)

But, seriously, I think it's great that Pampers has changed it's product to be better for it's users and the planet. How great that consumers are now more aware of what's in the products that they buy! And what's even better is that they're causing companies to change (and boast about the changes) for the better! Michael Pollan is always saying that we "vote with our dollars" when he talks about how we can influence companies to change to more natural/organic ingredients. I think this is a perfect example! Now if we could only do the same thing about that disgusting funny berry smell....(Pssst! Pampers, this is your cue to make fragrance free toddler shampoo! I'll be looking for it on Giant Eagle's shelf in about a week!)