Confused about Organic Food? Truth vs. Misconceptions

Confused about Organic Food? Truth vs. Misconceptions

In recent years there’s been a huge increase in the number of organic products available. I’m as guilty as the next person for grabbing organic over conventional products, but does the label actually mean it’s better for you? When I make my food choices, I like to be informed but also spend wisely.

Produce: Organic, Local, Big Agg…

Many of us believe that organic means fewer chemicals and pesticides. As we learn more about the giant cogs that make up the agricultural industry, it’s becoming clear that this isn’t always the case. There are many chemicals that are approved for use on organic produce and large-scale farms often use them liberally. Other farms that aren’t labeled organic might be pesticide-free, yet because they use a minimal amount of non-organic chemical in very small amounts, they don’t qualify for the organic label.


Farmer’s markets and local growers are other great sources for sustainable and ethically grown produce and sometimes they can be much cheaper than store bought. Better yet, you have access to the people who actually grow the food and they have a local interest in keeping their livelihood. Most likely, they’ll have a vested interest in using as few chemicals as possible with an eye to a sustainable and healthy outcome for their customers. Talk to your local farmers and even if they’re not labeled “organic” find out what chemicals they do use and why.

The best option if you have the time and space is to grow your own food! Start small with a few pots and herbs on your windowsill, or make a little space for a raised garden bed. We’ve been amazed at how much we are able and willing to keep up with as we continually add to our garden. Our kids have taken a huge interest and as a result eat so many fruits and veggies right off the plant. It’s an amazing way to have onstructive and creative conversations about how to fuel our bodies with wholesome and nutritious food.

Keep in mind, most produce can be washed before eating which eliminates a large percentage of many pesticides before they’re consumed. However, there are a number of chemicals that are absorbed by the plants and can not be removed by washing and peeling. If you keep an eye on the Dirty Dozen list, you’ll get a sense of which items are best purchased organic when possible.

5 Ways to Choose the best Produce! 1. Visit your farmer’s markets & talk to the farmers. 2. Wash your produce. 3. Grow your own! 4. Keep an eye on the Dirty Dozen list. 5. Choose organic if it’s available and not too costly for you.

Processed Foods: Beyond the Health Claims

Organic does NOT mean healthy! Organic sugar is still added sugar and doesn’t necessarily mean a product is fair game for a healthy diet.

Let’s face it, we’re all trying to raise families and do our best to keep them happy and healthy. Many times that means choosing between a home cooked meal and pizza on the way to volleyball practice because you’ve got piles of laundry, homework to oversee and a work project that needs some finishing touches before tomorrow. We all need shortcuts, sometimes major game-changers and this is where processed and packaged foods save the day.

When deciding which options are best, take a look at the label and stick to things with legible ingredients (real food, imagine that!) and only 5-6 items. It’s also a good sign if sugar (or one of its many variants) are not listed or are near the end of the list. The first few items are the ones that appear in the highest quantity. Some day soon, added sugars will be more obvious on food lables which will make things a bit easier.

Every family has their tipping point, so find what works for you. With our tendencies for eczema, we’ve found that organic wheat products (or gluten free) have a major correlation with how our skin reacts.

The Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to grab an apple over a stack of cookies…

If you can’t afford or can’t find organic options, don’t let that stop you!  Making an effort to eat whole foods is always a better option than grabbing something full of sugar or highly processed. Grab that apple from Starbucks or the non-organic asparagus (because it’s HALF the price) if it will ensure you get those much-needed nutrients into your family!

The food we eat can have far-reaching affects, so it’s important to take it day by day and try to listen to what our bodies are telling us. Feeling bloated after downing three slices of meat lover’s pizza? Maybe add a few greens to that plate. Still peckish after that monster salad that was mostly greens? Maybe some beans or healthy carbs or protein would help balance it out. Feeling sluggish and a bit achy? Make sure you’re drinking enough water!

Sticking with your commitment to healthy habits

Sticking with your commitment to healthy habits

With the start of the New Year there’s a large increase in healthy eating, which usually means more people are working on healthy habits. As a family, this is a goal we’ve been working on for some time though we still have a long way to go. Looking back over the past year, I can say that I’m really surprised at how far we’ve come.

The whole journey started after our 2nd child was born in November of 2013. We weren’t happy with our health, our energy levels or our eating habits.  With a toddler in the house that was regularly fed a very balanced diet, we were forced to realize that our own diets weren’t quite so balanced or nutritious. As our inquisitive toddler was sure to see the dichotomy here, we made a commitment to improve our own eating and exercise habits in order to set the best example possible.

Over the next few months, we made small and gradual changes that we pushed ourselves to make into healthy habits. We exercised more, took time to cook healthy meals, invested our time in learning more about how to improve our eating habits, made small changes in our home and schedules to accommodate our new goals and so on. It’s actually difficult to pinpoint what each step was because they were small and the process felt gradual and is still evolving to this day. I can vividly remember looking at a few of the sites I regularly use today (for recipes and advice) thinking, that’s way too hardcore for us. Fast forward to a few months later, and those same websites are my current staples.

Beyond food, we’ve been exercising more and took steps to make that a priority. Sure, there are days and weeks when we slip up or life gets in the way. I took almost a month off in December due to all the family gatherings and our crazy schedule. Could I have made time for it? Yes!! Did I feel as good as I have for most of last year? Nope! Lesson learned. It can be really difficult to keep something going (even when you know the results are worth it) when it requires extra work on your part. Getting up at 5:30 am is HARD! Especially when the sky is pitch black, your bed is cozy and warm, the baby was up during the night and you know you have a million other things to do later that day. Despite my laziness, I can honestly say that starting back up was no picnic at first, but now I’m back in gear and loving the benefits once again. It’s worth the extra effort to keep those healthy habits going, even on the worst days!

It’s pretty amazing how much our lives have changed in the past year. We’ve gone from having a new house, a toddler new baby and a sluggish and unhealthy lifestyle to having a toddler and a pre-schooler, much healthier habits, a new love for cooking as a family and a huge increase in energy. All those things have made us more productive in our daily lives too. We’ve taken time to pursue personal and family goals and plan for our future. It can be so frustrating at times because you feel like you’re making all of these positive changes but not really seeing any results. I’m here to tell you, the results are coming! Even now, they’re not big changes but I can definitely see how far we’ve come and can only imagine on how those changes will start to affect our lives exponentially.  It’s a work in progress and will be for some time to come. but we’re moving in the right direction.

**Be sure to contact me directly if I can answer any questions or help you pursue your goals this year.**

Teach Gratitude & Giving

Teach Gratitude & Giving

With the craze of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the deluge of Christmas decorations, advertisements and hype, it seems impossible to teach gratitude and show kids what the Season should really be all about. My goal this year is to turn the conversation around from “What do you want this Christmas?” to “How do you want to give back this Christmas?”.

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We are extremely fortunate as a family. We have a house, loving family, food in our bellies and good jobs to help pay the bills. There are many things we would like to change for the better and we have to save our pennies for those future plans, but we have everything we need….and then some. Sure, we have to pick and choose where to spend this month but we are careful not to spend beyond our means. Not only because we don’t want to be in debt but more significantly, because we want to show our children that this season isn’t about satisfying material wants. More than anything, we want our kids to understand that we should appreciate each other, all that we have and help provide for someone less fortunate than ourselves.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of shopping and preparing for family and friends that we seem to run out of time and energy before we begin. But now, more than ever is when we want to think beyond our selves. I want our family to find joy in bringing smiles to other people’s faces, to spread happiness not as an obligation but because it teaches us something about humanity. The simple pleasure we find in giving and caring for others should fuel conversation and a willingness to keep giving back all year through

Here are some ways we plan to learn about gratitude this year:
1. Donate food and gently used clothing.
2. Pack up and donate gently used toys to a Toy Drive.
3. Participate in a “Giving Tree” from our local school.
4. Limit our Christmas list and ask for something that’s not for ourselves.
5. Have the kids participate in making gifts for family and friends.

Here are some ideas for older kids:
1. Donating your time at a Soup kitchen. Real people encourages real compassion.
2. Set a grocery budget (a less fortunate family might have) and have the kids shop for a meal. Make a list together beforehand and let them understand the compromises that will have to be made.
3. Help a local organization make Christmas baskets. Actively participate in giving back and show the spirit of giving.

What else would you add to our list?

Why is food all I think about?

Why is food all I think about?

Morning, noon and night, I think about food. Preparing food, buying food, packing food for lunches, toting food along for errands or road trips in case someone gets hungry, choosing healthy food, wondering whether or not to buy organic (at twice the price) food…it never ends.

I think of myself as a decent enough cook and my family doesn’t seem to disagree. We strive to eat healthy and keep a decent mix of fruit and vegetables in our diet. Sugar is under constant surveillance to keep it at a minimum or at the very least, opt for natural rather than processed sugars. No one in our household is on any sort of diet, we strive for healthy every day and keep a decent amount of exercise in our daily lives. Yet, all I think about is food. It’s exhausting!

So we’re embarking on a new strategy. I feel that we’ve learned a lot in the past year or so about portions, balancing our nutrition and cooking in general. I’ve enjoyed cooking so much more, especially when I have a plan of attack when it comes to meal-planning. One of the things we loved about Blue Apron was the convenience of having some order within our chaotic schedules. Not to mention recipes we’d never have tried on our own. My one main challenge is the planning, left to my own devices I end up rotating the same meals over and over. That’s no fun for anyone.

In an effort to cut back on spending (especially with the Holidays coming up, eek!) we’re trying something new. Essentially, it’s simply a meal-planning service that gives you recipes for every meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) and a shopping list for each. You can choose to follow it or not, whatever your preference but it at least gives you a framework to work within. My one main gripe is that the shopping lists are not consolidated. If I want to shop for the week, I have to combine quantities on my own. This is no big deal for pantry staples, but for fresh ingredients it’s a bit of pain. One main plus, is if you aren’t particularly thrilled about a menu choice you can swap it for 3-4 alternatives or just choose to eat leftovers. I typically pack my own lunch for work so that’s a big bonus for me. Leftovers are also a huge bonus over Blue Apron, hopefully they will help reduce the morning chaos that usually ensues as I try to get everyone out the door.

This is week one, so I’ll be sure to report back!

 

Bitter Sweet Happy Ending

Bitter Sweet Happy Ending

My husband had a tiny cottage before we got married. We actually lived there for about a year after we got married until shortly after our daughter was born. A variety of factors led us to move when she was three months old and we’ve rented it out ever since. We have been trying to sell it for quite some time and finally, it’s time to say goodbye.

We spent a few hours there recently with both our girls, taking down the last remnants of our life there. They had a great time…

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For us, it was a bit harried as we tried to coral our youngest, who is intent on getting into everything she shouldn’t.

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As we drove toward home, we had no regrets. But there is definitely a feeling of bitter sweet reminiscing. This was our real first home together and we worked hard to make it our own. We are lucky in that we can take pieces of it with us and always hold on to those memories.

Health Apps

Health Apps

With the announcement and release of Apple’s new Health app, a slew of new apps have been appearing that take advantage of its functionality. Everything from recipe planning to fitness tracking is covered. Whether you want to simply live a healthy lifestyle or lose weight, there seems to be something for everyone.

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Here are a few that I’ve discovered so far:

Human: a fairly simple app that tracks your movement and encourages you to move for at least 30 minutes a day. It’s pretty great looking and for someone who wants something simple to keep them motivated every day, this might be a good fit.

Yummly: a super clean and beautiful way to access tons of recipes and build a shopping list with just a few clicks. There are tons of filters and ways to sort the recipes so you can target exactly what you want. Pretty snazzy if you want to get inspired or keep organized for the week.

Noom Coach: an app that tracks activity and food to help you lose weight. It’s by far the simplest interface I’ve seen for adding food and has lots of suggestions and coaching tips to keep you focused. One great feature is a color coding system to help you get a more balanced diet and focus on the right types of food in the optimal quantities.

There are lots more out there and more to come soon, I’m sure! I’m holding out for a FitBit update so my flex will sync with Health. It’s pretty neat how information from many sources can be brought together in one place. It will be interesting to see what other creative ideas come of it!

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