The Time to Go Organic is Now…

Recent news regarding an increase in the allowable pesticide levels used on conventional produce is disturbing, to say the least. In case you haven’t heard, the EPA has increased the allowable amount of Glyphosate on food crops from 200 ppm to 6000 ppm. Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide has been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, neurological disorders, DNA damage, and birth defects,  not to mention the damage it is doing to the environment. What this means for us is that we will be eating food more laden with chemicals. This is due to the fact that most of the conventional, processed foods that we eat contain corn, soy, sugar, and canola, which are some of the most common GM crops. GM crops are able to withstand high levels of Glyphosate because that’s what they were created to do. Farmers need crops to survive a dousing of chemicals designed to kill the superweeds that “infest” the fields.

So, unfortunately, most of the foods that we are eating will be doused with chemicals. What’s the solution? Our family has decided to deal with this in three ways:

  1. Give up most processed foods, unless they are certified organic and certified GMO-free
  2. Buy only organic produce
  3. Grow our own food – I found a company that sells only GMO-free seeds called SeedsNow.com and so far, I am really happy with them. This way, we can guarantee that the produce we grow is organic and safe.

Doing these things not only ensures that what we are feeding our family is safe and nutritious, but it also keeps our money from funding Monsanto and big agriculture!

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French Lentil Soup

Soups provide a great way to add lots of vegetables to your diet. They are also great as left-overs!  As my family and I are trying to eat a more plant-based diet, we have to find alternate sources for protein. This one packs a protein punch, with about 18g per cooked cup.

  • 2 shallots, chopped (if you can’t find shallots in your store, substitute with 1 yellow onion)
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 organic celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 organic red pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tbs unfiltered olive oil
  • 2-3 cups greens, torn (you can use collards, spinach, chard, kale, or a mixture of any)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced and rested for five minutes
  • 6-8 Cups Water
  • 2 Cups French Lentils (you can substitute regular green lentils if you can’t find French.  I get mine in bulk at Whole Foods)
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 box crushed tomatoes (I say box because we are trying to avoid canned foods due to the possibility of BPA. POMI makes delicious boxed tomato products that you can find in most stores)

Saute the shallots, carrots, celery, and red pepper in olive oil until the shallots are tender.  Add the garlic, basil, oregano, and bay leaf. Stir in the lentils, water, and tomatoes and simmer for at least 1 hour. If you are using collards, kale, or chard, add them with the lentils.  If you are using spinach, add it at the end because it wilts very easily. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Money Over Health, Part 2

OK, so I am going to step up onto the soapbox now and rant about diets. I’ve been on just about every one of them. I’ve read just about every fad book. You’d think I would be an expert by now!  Well, I am an expert of sorts, I suppose. I know a lot about diets and I know what to eat with what, how much to eat, when to eat. I know about the macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) and how to combine them. I know it ALL. Or, at least I thought I did. And I know I am not alone. The CDC estimates that over 35% of Americans are obese. That is alarming! More alarming are the statistics about children and adolescents. “Obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States – triple the rate from just one generation ago.

Being overweight or obese may not seem like a huge problem in and of itself, but major health problems seem to accompany the condition – heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, need I go on?  When Americans spend billions of dollars treating diseases each year but disease rates and spending are on the rise, something is drastically wrong here! I don’t think I am a paranoid person, but it seems like someone wants us to be sick. “Healthcare” is, after all, a business. Plus, I learned that the “trusted” FDA gets its food recommendations from the very industries that profit from it – the meat and dairy industries. (Please see The China Study for an eye-opening look into the food industry. Also, check out my links page for more recommendations for great reading and helpful sites)

So, here’s an idea: prevent disease instead of treating it once it’s happened. As Hippocrates (c. 460 BC – c. 370 BC) so astutely said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” A good way to start is this:

Eat Less C.R.A.P. :

  • Carbonated Sodas
  • Refined Sugars
  • Artificial Sweetenrs
  • Processed Foods

Eat More F.O.O.D. :

  • Fresh, Organic Fruits and Vegetables
  • Organic, Plant-Based Protein
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Drink Water

I am in the process of building up my recipe page, but in the mean time, check out my links page for cookbooks that have inspired me.

 

 

Money Above Health – The Dairy Lobby

Can you believe that the dairy industry wants to change the definition of “milk”? Specifically, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation have petitioned the FDA to include non-nutritive sweeteners, such as aspartame, in the definition of “milk” so that it does not have to be labeled. This would affect reduced-calorie dairy options. So, you could be inadvertently exposing yourself and your children to dangerous chemicals when you think you are doing something healthy. Not OK! Please use the link to the right to find local dairy farms in your area! That way, you can know for sure what you are giving to your family. My family gets our milk from Apple Valley Creamery in East Berlin, PA. Every Friday, our milk gets delivered in glass bottles and it is delicious! It is also no more expensive than buying the organic brands in the store. Plus, we get to support a local family!

FDA Wants Your Opinion on Dairy-Product Labels - (JPG v2)

Safer Alternatives to Chemical Sunscreens

Summertime presents a special challenge for those of us with kids who want to play outside all of the time. How do we protect our kids from the sun safely? This is an especially important issue for me because my daughter is a beautiful little freckle-faced red-head. My sons, on the other hand, inherited more of my husband’s Mediterranean genes 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I have been reading a lot about the harmful effects of conventional sunscreens. Specifically, how they contain chemicals that are considered endocrine disruptors. WHAT?  So when we think we are protecting our kids from the harmful effects of the sun, we are actually harming their growth? This is really disturbing and I, for one, am angry about this.

I immediately set out to find a safe solution and what I found are physical, or mineral, sunscreens that contain only zinc and titanium dioxide. Remember how lifeguards back in the day used to have white noses?  Well, that’s zinc oxide. Newer sunscreens don’t leave a white mess on the skin. The only downside is that mineral sunscreens have to be reapplied more often and usually don’t have higher than a 30 SPF.  But, I think this is a small price to pay for the safety and health of my family. I mean, when I read that the ingredients found in chemical sunscreens may be linked to early puberty, reproductive cancers, and infertility, I knew I had to protect my kids!  One that I really like is this one from Alba Botanica. It goes on nicely and it is pretty economical, as mineral sunscreens go.

 

 

Tropical Fruit Smoothie

This is a summer favorite in my house! It is packed full of vitamins, fiber, and omega 3’s.

  • A Handful of torn kale leaves
  • A Handful of pineapple chunks*
  • A handful of mango chunks*
  • one orange
  • 1 Tbs chia seeds or flax seeds
  • 2-3 mint leaves
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • several raw walnuts

Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender (I have a nutribullet, but there are other high-powered blenders, such as the Vitamix and Ninja), mix, and enjoy!

*You can use fresh or frozen, depending on the consistency you desire.

 

Homemade Dijon Vinaigrette

Making your own salad dressing is a great way to eliminate additives and other chemicals found in conventional, store-bought brands. Along with Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Creamy Blueberry Dressing and Ginger Almond Dressing , homemade Dijon Vinaigrette is one of my favorites. Here’s my version: (For one large, family-sized salad)

1/4 cup of unfiltered, organic olive oil (I had a hard time finding unfiltered olive oil in conventional supermarkets, but Whole Foods’ 365 brand makes a delicious and well priced one)

1 clove of minced garlic

2 large, fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

1Tbs Dijon mustard

Place all ingredients in a jar, shake vigorously, and serve!

*I find that this dressing tastes really good on a salad made of arugula, mixed greens, or any other peppery greens.

Let’s Get Composting!

When you start adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, you are going to have a lot of organic waste in your trash. Is there something better you can do with all of that than simply throwing it away?  There is. Why not start a compost bin?  That is a great way not only to cut back on the amount of trash that you throw away but also to provide a nutritious soil mix for your vegetable and flower gardens!  We started a compost bin several months ago and I can tell you that we have really cut down on our weekly trash. Plus, our nutrient-rich compost will save us a ton of money next year when it’s time to add more soil to our vegetable garden. In addition, we are providing the most organic and nutrient-rich soil we possibly can to our garden. I can imagine how beautiful our produce will be!

We purchased our bin at a local home-improvement store. You can find one at home-improvement and home and garden stores, or you could find one here, along with all of your other composting needs  Here is a picture of our bin:

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Living Outside the Box

One of the biggest changes my family has made is cutting out processed foods. This means that we try to avoid foods in packaging, when possible. Obviously, this is not possible ALL of the time, but we try to buy foods as close to their natural state as possible. If the food has to be packaged, I look for those with minimal ingredients.

We also try to make more things at home, such as salad dressings, mayonnaise, breads, and pasta sauces. You can really avoid a lot of dangerous additives if you make your own! See the recipe page for tips on how to make more things from your home.

Grow Your Own!

The next thing we did was start our own vegetable garden. I had never before experienced the joy and pride in cultivating a garden! Although my local grocery store has a beautiful selection of organic fruits and vegetables and my town has a fantastic weekly farmer’s market, we wanted to try our hands at growing our own. I also wanted to show the kids how rewarding it is to pluck dinner from our own back yard!

I am very fortunate to have a neighbor and friend who is much more skilled and seasoned in the art of gardening. She shared this book with me. I do not have a green thumb, so any help is greatly appreciated!  Square Foot Gardening taught us how to provide the right mix of soil to grow a really nice garden.  I used organic, non-gmo seeds and currently have a variety of lettuces, kale, rainbow chard, carrots, celery, tomatoes, red and purple peppers, collards, lemon cucumbers, and eggplants. I also have an extensive herb garden on my deck which includes basil, oregano, chives, rosemary, mint, cilantro, cumin, thyme, dill, parsley, and wheat grass.

It is so much fun to cook when you can just walk outside and help yourself to natures bounty!

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