I am a lifelong sufferer of allergies. I’m pretty much allergic to everything, year round – all grasses, trees, weeds, dust, and pets. Although my symptoms have improved drastically over the course of the last 10 years as my body has healed, without fail I get the itchy eyes and runny nose this time of year. I really try to take the least amount of over the counter or prescription medicines and focus on eating and living as clean as possible instead. However, I am also thankful for those same medicines when all my natural remedy “go-tos” are just not enough.
Over the last several years, as I’ve tried to reduce my use of Zyrtec, I’ve experimented with every known holistic remedy I could find. I’ve tried chiropractic work and acupunture as well as countless body detoxes and eating programs designed to heal my gut and tame my overactive immune system. I’ve also tried many “at home” practices, some of which I continue to do regularly because I’ve found great relief in them.
So as we go full speed ahead into the worst time of year for you seasonal allergy sufferers, I thought I’d share my favorite natural ways to ease my allergy symptoms.
First, I eat clean with a focus on lots of fresh, raw foods. Diet has done more for me to help my allergies than anything else I’ve tried. Eating clean for me means this: minimizing processed foods, sugar, obviously no gluten, no dairy, and pretty much no grains either and maximizing vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, farm fresh eggs, and wild fish. Once I cut out all grains (not just the gluten), I experienced a big bump in relief from my allergies. Grains promote inflammation in my body, and allergies are an inflammatory condition. Any way I can eat to help reduce the overall inflammation going on inside me, I jump all over. An anti-inflammatory diet means I choose those clean foods that do not spike my blood sugar nor trigger my intolerances while also feeding my body all the needed nutrients to cool the fire within. Since grains and dairy are off the table, you may be thinking, what’s left to eat. A lot! All the foods I mentioned above are naturally gluten and dairy free – vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, meats, and fish.
Second, I rinse my sinuses often. Like pretty much every day or twice a day or three times a day during allergy season. Most allergy sufferers have heard of the netipot. For those of you that haven’t, it’s a little ceramic pot that you fill with water and a little bit of salt. You then lean over a sink with your head turned to the side, one ear up. Pour the water from the spout into the nostril on top. The water travels in one nostril and out the other and takes with it all of the allergens that are causing uncomfortable symptoms. I have a netipot, and I like it, but I love the NediMed, which is a bottle with a nozzle on top, so you can squeeze and add a little pressure to the salt water as it moves through and cleanses all the irritants out of your nasal passages. I highly, highly recommend one of these if you have allergies.
Third, I drink apple cider vinegar every morning. Apple cider vinegar has long been known as a cure-all for all kinds of conditions like diabetes, obesity, and other inflammatory conditions. Even though it is acidic, it has an alkaline effect on the body. And, it also has a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effect, which makes it a friend to all of those with allergies. To drink apple cider vinegar, it must be diluted. Add one spoonful to about ½ a cup of warm water and drink it – just try to get it past your teeth to avoid damage to your enamel.
Fourth, I love nettles. I take it in capsule form daily. Like apple cider vinegar, it also has an anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effect. Nature’s Way has a good nettles supplement.
Fifth, I have found relief for my symptoms in homeopathic products. When I was in the throws of my sick years, I saw a homeopath every month. She introduced me to the “quacky” practice of homeopathy. At first, I though it was a bunch of baloney, but I decided to try her “remedies” because I was sick and feeling miserable all of the time and figured I had nothing to lose. I have no explanation as to how homeopathic remedies work, but they really do work if you find the right one. That’s the trick – finding the right one, and it can take a few experimentations. Typically homeopathic remedies come in these little blue cylinders, and they look like tiny little white balls. You put the recommended dose under you tongue. Another way to take these remedies is to make a magic potion by dissolving them in water and then sip on the water throughout the day. The remedy I found to give me the most relief years ago is Kali Bichromium. I could almost feel my sinuses open up as soon as I put the remedy under my tongue. A combination remedy that I still really like and use regularly is Sinusalia.
Sixth, a couple more homeopathic allergy symptom easers: eye drops and nose spray. When I’m about to go nuts scratching my eyes or when the helicopter is taking off (Rob’s term for the way it sounds when I itch my nose), I go to these two products: Similasan Allergy Eye Relief and Sinus Relief.
Seventh, I take supplements: vitamin C, quercitin, and bromelain complex. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant famous for reducing inflammation, protecting our cells from damage, and strengthening the membrane of our cells. Quercitin is a flavonoid and bromelain is an enzyme (from pineapple), which both also help to reduce inflammation in the body. Allergies are an inflammatory condition, so boosting anti-inflammatory promoting nutrients in a supplement form helps.
These are just a few of the ways I naturally combat my seasonal allergies. I am not a doctor, so ask you doctor first before trying any natural remedy. Even though these solutions are not a prescription or over the counter medicine, they can have side effects. Your doctor will know if they are right for you to try.Read More
tuesday tips: natural ways to dye your easter eggs
This is probably one of the most fun posts I’ve written! For this post, I got to tap into my inner “kid” and also my inner “scientist” (have I mentioned that I was a middle school science teacher back in my pre-children days?). This project was like one big experiment, as I really did not know anything about dying Easter eggs naturally before starting. Finding an alternative to the Paas dying kit is something I vow to do every year after we dye our eggs, as I hate wasting perfectly good hardboiled eggs that are contaminated with all kinds of unnatural coloring. So this year, I set out to see if I could find a way to color my eggs with ingredients I already have around the house. I was so surprised at the result, and now I have a fridge full of pastel colored eggs, which are much more fun to eat that the plain white or brown variety.
When buying eggs to dye, I chose white free-range eggs. These happen to be on sale at our nearest grocery store, so that was a definite bonus since I was buying so many. In my mind, I always think of brown eggs as being more “natural” and healthy, and white eggs being kind of like white flour – the kind that comes from less healthy factory chickens. Well, that is a myth. The color of a chicken’s egg depends of the color of the chicken (kind of like the difference between us having brown eyes and blue eyes) and in no way affects the nutrients found in the egg. If you’ve ever visited a local farm to buy your eggs (fresh eggs from a chicken free to roam are the healthiest), when you open your carton of eggs to check for breakage, you’ll see eggs of all different shades of brown and white. So have no guilt about buying white eggs – they certainly soak up the dye better and result in much prettier dyed eggs than the brown variety.
The first step in dying Easter eggs was to hardboil the eggs. Check out this post for how to perfectly hardboil eggs.
The second step was to choose some brightly colored foods that I already have around the house. I tried to pick out foods that I remember staining my fingers or dishes in the past, as I am assuming these foods have pretty potent plant pigments. The first foods that come to mind are beets, blueberries, and turmeric. But upon digging around in my fridge and pantry, I found a few more.
Next, I followed these steps to dye my eggs. If the food was already ground, I skipped step 1, and if it was already a liquid, I skipped to step 4.
- Chop the food into small pieces.
- Place the food in a small saucepan, and simmer in 2 cups water with a little salt added for 10 minutes.
- Strain out the food over a small juice glass to separate the colored liquid or dye. (The cooked food can be stored in the fridge for use in other recipes.)
- Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to the dye.
- Place a harboiled egg in the dye for at least 2 hours, overnight for darker eggs.
To achieve the following colors, I used:
Blue: ½ purple cabbage
Purple: 1 cup grape juice
Dark green: skin of a purple onion
Deep blue: ½ cup frozen blueberries
Blue-green: 1 teaspoon spirulina
Pink: 1 beet
Dark Red: 1 cup cranberry juice
Orange: 2 tablespoons paprika
Bright yellow: 2 tablespoons turmeric
Light yellow: 1 sweet potato
Brown: 1 cup strong coffee
I have to say that I am both surprised and happy with the result! It was so easy to do, and I now my Easter eggs look both beautiful and appetizing. This was a fun project, and one I will definitely be repeating with my kids. I’d love to hear your ideas for foods to use when naturally dying Easter eggs. Please comment and share!
We all know fast food restaurants are just about the least healthy places to refuel our bodies, as they are known for using substandard ingredients that are laden with chemicals and have a high sodium and toxic fat content. But alas, even the best of us can find ourselves desperate for a good meal while away from home. It is spring break season, and that means families are taking road trips to the mountains for some skiing or to the beach to get a little color. Although the best option is to pack a cooler with healthy fresh food, we’ve all been in the situation, especially on the way home, when we’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, our healthy food we’ve packed is getting old, and we’re starving.
This past weekend, my daughter and I hit the road for a volleyball tournament in Houston. Like a responsible mother, I packed the car with waters and plenty of healthy and well-balanced snacks, but by Sunday, the snacks were running out (we were growing tired of eating them anyway), which left us searching for somewhere to fill our gurgling bellies. We opted for Subway – plenty of gluten free, un-fried options for us both.
Fast food can be quite unfriendly to us gluten-free folks, but thanks to today’s technology, the internet follows us wherever we go, and so does access to every fast food chain’s website with information about all of their allergen friendly options as well as calorie counts for most menu items. Even though an item is listed as gluten free on the company’s website, always make sure to ask each specific restaurant about cross-contamination. For example, some restaurants are careful to prepare their foods in designated gluten free fryers while others cook gluten-free and gluten-containing foods in the same oil.
Besides the issue of avoiding gluten at a fast food restaurant, we also have the issue of trying to make healthy eating choices. Fast food restaurants are notorious for cooking their foods in an unhealthy manner and using low quality ingredients that often contain all kinds of chemical additives. When choosing your gluten free meal at a fast food restaurant, keep in mind these tips for the healthiest option:
- Avoid fried items: the oils used to fry the foods are the type that are packed with omega 6 fatty acids (those that promote inflammation), plus most chains do not change their oil regularly, resulting in rancid, toxic cooking oil. Choose grilled items instead.
- Minimize sugary condiments: most condiments at fast food restaurants have a high sugar and high fructose corn syrup content as well as many preservatives, colorings, and other additives.
- Go for colorful produce: salads contain fiber, micronutrients, and are low calorie options.
- Choose complete meals: protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber make up a well-balanced meal.
- Avoid high calorie creamy options: ask for no mayo or other creamy sauces.
- Drink lots of water before, after, and during your meal: fast food is high in sodium, so drink plenty of water to cleanse your system.
- Order the smallest portion sizes: even medium sizes are too big, so order the small size always.
- Skip the high calorie desserts: even though most ice cream menu items are gluten free unless they have cookies or brownies mixed in, the ice cream dispensers are often not cleaned regularly, so mold and bacteria can contaminate your treat.
Gluten free options at 10 of the most popular fast food restaurants:
1. Wendy’s: Wendy’s has quite a few healthy gluten free options. Their baked potato, chili, apple slices, and salads (choose those without croutons) with most of their salad dressings are all gluten free. Or, order their bacon, hamburger patty, or ultimate chicken grill filet without the bun. Healthiest option: plain baked potato with a small bowl of chili (360 calories).
2. Chick Fil A: If it’s not a Sunday, Chick Fil A has an excellent gluten free menu, including new gluten free grilled chicken nuggets. Order their chargrilled chicken filet without the bun, their chargrilled chicken garden salad or chargrilled chicken and fruit salad. Most of their sides are gluten free – side salad, carrot raisin salad, coleslaw, fruit cup, applesauce, waffle fries, and yogurt parfait – as well as their dipping sauces and condiments. For breakfast, choose their egg, bacon, or sausage without the bun and hashbrowns. Healthiest option: Side salad with grilled nuggets and light Italian dressing and a fruit cup for dessert (225 calories).
3. McDonald’s: McDonald’s does not have a designated gluten free fryer for their fries, so if you’re in the mood for an unhealthy fried splurge, McDonald’s is not the place to indulge. However, their beef patties, mcribs, beef steak, Canadian bacon, grilled chicken filet, sausage, and scrambled egg are all gluten free if you order them without the bun. Their Caesar salad without chicken, bacon ranch salad with grilled chicken, southwest salad with grilled chicken, and side salad are all gluten free as well as most of their Newman’s dressings. McDonald’s basic condiments are gluten free but watch out for the fancier options like their big mac sauce or their buttermilk ranch sauce. Healthiest option: Southwest salad with chargrilled chicken and Newman’s Own light balsamic dressing with apple slices for dessert (340 calories).
4. Burger King: Burger King’s patties,Tendergrill chicken filet, bacon, ham, cheeses, egg patty, and sausage patty are gluten free when ordered with no bun. Their fries and tacos are also gluten free at locations that have a designated fryer. Burger King has a Tendergrill chicken fresh garden salad with apple and cranberry and a long list of gluten free condiments and sauces. Healthiest option: Tendergrill chicken filet with no bun and no mayo (210 calories).
5. Whataburger: The beef patties, grilled chicken filet, cheese, sausage, and eggs at Whataburger are considered gluten free when ordered without the bun as well as their hashbrowns, garden salad, apple and cranberry salad, and many of their sauces and condiments. Check with the individual restaurant to see if they have a designated fryer for their fries, otherwise there is risk for cross-contamination. Healthiest option: Garden salad with grilled chicken filet and low fat herb vinaigrette dressing, skip the croutons (330 calories).
6. Subway: Almost all of subway’s meats, cheeses, produce, and sauces are gluten free, so feel safe ordering any of their sandwiches without bread or their salads. The only menu items to avoid are their pizzas and meals with meatballs, seafood sensation, teriyaki chicken, or croutons. Healthiest option: Turkey breast salad with Italian dressing and apple slices for dessert (180 calories).
7. Arby’s: Meats, bacon, sausage, and egg items at Arby’s are gluten free when ordered with no bun. Two salads, the chopped farmhouse salad with roast turkey and the chopped side salad, are both gluten free in addition to several of their dressings. Arby’s does not fry their fries in a designated fryer so skip that unhealthy treat. Healthiest option: Chopped farmhouse salad with roast turkey and light Italian dressing (250 calories).
8. Sonic: Grilled hamburgers, grilled chicken, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, ham, philly steak, egg, onions, and peppers are all gluten free when ordered without the bun. French fries and tater tots are gluten free if the restaurant uses a designated fryer. All of the condiments, cheese, produce, and fritos are gluten free at Sonic as well. Healthiest option: Classic grilled chicken sandwich, no bun and no sauces – just the meat and produce, and apples slices without the caramel for dessert (335 calories).
9. Jack in the Box: Besides ordering a bunless burger patty, grilled chicken filet, or grilled chicken strips, the grilled chicken salad, chicken club, or southwest grilled chicken salad are your best options. Most of their dressings, sauces, and condiments are gluten free, and for breakfast, choose scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage with no bun. Healthiest option: Grilled chicken salad with low fat balsamic dressing and apple bites without the caramel for dessert (310 calories).
10. Taco Bell: The chicken, steak, or veggie cantina bowls are gluten free, and the hashbrowns, black beans, rice and most condiments other than the border fire sauce, green tomatillo sauce, and red sauce are also gluten free, but that is it. All other items contain gluten. Healthiest option: Chicken cantina bowl (560 calories).Read More
It’s the time of year when I can’t take one more day of bitter, bone chilling cold. Good thing I don’t live anywhere north of Texas or I’d never make it! The nostalgia of bundling up in my layers of soft and fuzzy comfies to nestle up by the fire has surely worn off, and I start counting down the days until the much needed holiday – Spring Break. This year, like so many others, my family chose to make a run to the sun in order to thaw and relax on a beautiful beach somewhere far south of here. Besides packing a bathing suit and sunglasses, we loaded up on sunscreen in order to protect our largest organ from the quickly increasing threat of skin cancer and premature aging.
Although the sun does emit harmful rays (UVA and UVB rays we often hear about), it also does some pretty healthy things for us too. Sunshine lifts our mood by increasing the production of serotonin. And, vitamin D, the amazing nutrient crucial to a healthy body, is produced in the skin upon exposure to sunlight. With the increased use of sunscreen, vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic. I hear about someone new that has a critically low vitamin D level about once a week (one being my husband). Vitamin D is necessary for so many functions, but one that stands out to me is its role in a healthy immune system. With so many of the diseases these days being linked to an under or over active immune system, vitamin D deficiency is nothing to mess around with. Although you can eat foods and supplement with vitamin D, nothing beats good old-fashioned sunshine to boost your levels. And this sunshine must be soaked up without the sunscreen barrier in order for vitamin D to be produced in your skin. 20 minutes of daily sun exposure without sunscreen should do the trick – just avoid the hours between 10 and 2 when the sun’s harmful rays are most potent.
A few other ways Vitamin D helps maximize your health and wellbeing:
- Actually protects against cancer, skin included
- Supports your kidneys
- Boosts your muscle strength
- Nourishes your teeth and bones
- Promotes healthy blood pressure and cardiovascular system
- Necessary for a well functioning immune system
When you go to the beach on vacation like my family just did, you stay out in the sun much longer than the recommended 20 minutes for vitamin D production. Sun protection becomes a necessity, as the sun’s harmful rays can quickly burn your skin, damage and age your skin cells, and ruin your vacation. Because all sunscreen is not created equal, choose your sunscreen wisely to maximize your protection while avoiding harmful chemicals. Your skin has a very large surface area with lots of tiny blood vessels swarming right beneath, so anything that soaks into your skin has direct access to your bloodstream. Approach picking a healthy, holistic sunscreen the same way you do when selecting packaged food – inspect the label and avoid harmful ingredients while choosing natural and effective ones instead.
What should you look for in a sun protection product? Let’s start by identifying the difference between a sunscreen and a sunblock. A sunscreen is an often toxic chemical that soaks into the skin and filters the sun’s rays (more effective against UVB than UVA) so they can’t penetrate into the skin. A sunblock is a physical sunscreen that sits on top of the skin and actually blocks all of the harmful rays (UVA and UVB) from the surface. Because sunblocks sit on top of the skin, they are thick, white, and greasy and don’t easily wash off – remember the white noses of lifeguards so many years ago? Two common sunblocks are the natural minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Many sunscreens are a combination of both chemical sunscreens and a physical sunblock. When picking out a sun protection product, inspect the ingredient label and avoid products with these chemicals:
- Benzophenones like dixoybenzone and oxybenzone
- Vitamin A or retinyl palmitate
- PABA and PABA esters like ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, and padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA
- Cinnamates like cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, and octyl methoxycinnamate
- Salicylates like ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, and octyl salicylate
- Digalloyl trioleate
- Menthyl anthranilate
- Avobenzone or butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane and Parsol 1789
Opt for all natural ingredients instead, making sure a mineral sunblock of either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide is included. Other natural ingredients that nourish your skin in a sunscreen product are:
- Coconut oil
- Vitamins D and E
- Shea butter
- Jojoba oil
- Eucalyptus oil
A few of other sun protection tips…
- Your first line of defense is a healthy diet: Eat plenty of fresh raw foods that deliver nutrients to your skin, a balance of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids that protect your skin, and avoid processed foods that fill your skin cells with unhealthy toxic fats.
- Take advantage of clothing: Choose SPF clothing for water and outdoor sports, and always wear a hat.
- Choose SPF of 30: SPF means Sun Protection Factor and is the ability of the screen or block to protect against the sun’s harmful rays. The number determines the length of time you can stay out in the sun, so an SPF of 15 means you can stay out in the sun 15 times longer than you can without sunscreen. Any increase in SPF after 30 provides only a miniscule amount of increased protection, so focus on picking sunscreens of SPF 30.
- Don’t forget your lips: Nothing hurts worse than burning your kisser, so choose natural protective lip balms too!
- Re-apply often when in the water: The difference between waterproof and water-resistant is in how long the sunscreen maintains its strength. Water-resistant sunscreens maintain their strength after 40 minutes in the water, while waterproof sunscreens maintain their strength after 80 minutes in the water. Either way, re-apply every hour to be the safest.
- Avoid toxic and less effective spray-on sunscreens: They damage the lungs and add extra chemicals to the mix while providing a lower quality of protection.
Do you struggle with keeping healthy choices on hand for your hungry teen? Does anyone else have a teen that opens the fridge and just stares blankly inside for something to eat, only shutting the door and rummaging through the pantry for some chips or something that comes in a package for a quick hunger fix?
Teenagers have a whole lot going on inside their sprouting bodies. They are not only physically active and mentally challenged daily, but they are also growing and changing by leaps and bounds. Keeping up with all of this activity requires a LOT of fuel. Three well-balanced meals per day are not enough to meet their caloric and nutritional needs – healthy snacks between meals are necessary to refill their tanks.
Feeding your teenagers healthy food in our current food culture is nothing short of a stiff challenge. All of those sweet, flavor enhanced, nutrient-lacking, addictive processed and packaged foods are marketed to them multiple times per day. But we moms are up for the challenge! You can do your part to raise smart eaters by having good, nutritious food on hand for your hungry teens and by teaching them how to prepare and feed themselves. Below are 20 ideas for you to stock in your fridge, but first, here’s a few suggestions to help you get started:
- First, teach them to eat well-balanced meals and snacks regularly to supply their bodies with what they need for physical and mental success and for growing into strong, healthy adults. Teach them the acronym CFPP – carbs, protein, fiber, and fat – the first one is easy to eat, the other three require more deliberation when preparing a meal or snack.
- Have a white board or other list posted in your kitchen or pantry with the healthy options that you have currently stocked in your kitchen. Update your board regularly.
- Teach them to make their own food – this is a life skill. Have on hand simple foods they can learn to prepare for themselves.
- Store all (or most) of the ingredients to make a particular snack or meal in the same general area, so they do not have to go searching for all they need. Then teach them where you will be keeping those ingredients.
- Make double and triple batches of your teen’s favorite foods whenever you cook, so you can store individual portions in your freezer and fridge for easy reheating. Teach your teen where the leftovers are stored, and write on your board what is available.
- Prepare your stocked fridge ahead. Block a couple of hours one morning a week to go to the grocery store to buy fresh food, and then chop, prepare, cook, and store food where your hungry teen can spot it. Show them where you store the prepared food, and list these items on your board.
- Accumulate LOTS of condiments. Choose the healthiest options available of your family’s favorites, so your teens can personalize their own foods. Don’t cringe if they smother their meal in BBQ, and just remember it is most important that they get the healthy food in their bodies.
- Utilize shortcuts. Most grocery stores have pre-chopped fruits and veggies, premade dips, and other premade healthy foods. Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are also an option. Even though I’m always on my soap box saying fresh is best (and that is true!), what is even better is that your teens get the nutritious food into their bodies. So, if prepared foods are what fits in with your lifestyle, choose the healthiest stores and options available and stock your fridge that way.
Keeping in mind these suggestions for success, below are 20 ideas for a well-stocked teenage fridge. Obviously, only supermom can have all 20 of these ideas on hand at all times. And since we’re going for a simple, healthy life, we’re not trying to be supermom. So, choose a few of these options that are your family’s favorites to have on hand all the time, and then choose one or two more to try each week. Always have your whiteboard updated with what you have stocked, so your teen can find the healthy options.
20 Ideas to Stock your Teenage Fridge –
Fruit with nut butters – Fruit is sweet, comes in nature’s packaging, and is filled with carbohydrates, micronutrients, and fiber. Have on hand nut butters for dipping and spreading to add a little protein and fat, making it a well-balanced snack.
Raw and baked veggies – Vegetables are crunchy, colorful, and can be eaten raw or easily baked into chips. They are fibrous micronutrient superfoods, and creating tasty chips out of them is no more difficult than chopping, tossing in a healthy oil and seasonings, and then baking until they reach your desired crunchiness. Serve with dips for added protein and fat.
Nachos – make your own potato or veggie chips, or try a healthy packaged version of chips by looking for gluten free, whole grain varieties with very few ingredients. Try lentil or bean chips, and those made with quinoa, flax, corn, rice, etc. Have a variety of shredded cheeses on hand for making nachos, so you can turn a carb heavy snack into a well-balanced snack with protein and fat.
Greek yogurt with trail mix – Store a container of trail mix (have them choose their combo or make different varieties every week) by the Greek yogurt in your fridge. Drizzle a little honey and add chopped fresh fruit on top if desired.
Meatballs – Prepare ahead different varieties of meatballs by mashing ground turkey, egg, seasonings, and diced fruit and veggies together, form balls, and then pan fry them in a little coconut oil. Our favorite is a turkey – apple – celery – sage combo. Have several condiments on hand for dipping.
Protein salads – Prepare ahead simple chicken, salmon, tuna, egg, or bean salads. Make with Greek yogurt instead of mayo for a creamy probiotic boost, and add chopped veggies and fruits as well as seasonings. Enjoy a scoop by itself, wrapped in a gluten free tortilla, or between two pieces of Canyon Bakehouse gluten free bread.
Pizza – Make doubles batches of a nutritious gluten free pizza crust topped with cheese, meats, and veggies. Freeze or refrigerate individual slices.
Baked sweet and white potatoes – Bake potatoes ahead of time, and store them in your fridge near all the fixings like Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, bacon bits, chopped onions and veggies, etc.
Sandwich/panini drawer – Create a drawer or basket on a shelf in your fridge for sandwich making. Include Canyon Bakehouse bread, sliced veggies, nitrate free sliced deli meat and cheese, and your teen’s favorite condiments. Mix it up by turning an ordinary sandwich into a Panini with the Breville Panini maker.
Trail mix shelf in your pantry – Make a space for containers of all types of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, gluten free pretzels, popcorn, dark chocolate, and shredded coconut. Include scoops and cups or bags, so your hungry teen can personalize his or her own well-balanced snack.
Smoothies – Teach your teen how to make a killer smoothie with healthy, strengthening ingredients: almond or coconut milk, frozen berries and fruit, spinach (if you can work it in), nut butters, and a protein powder like whey, egg, or vegan option like Sunwarrior protein. Avoid soy. Add cacao powder and gentle sweeteners if desired. Invest in a Magic Bullet or Nutri Bullet for easy transportable smoothie making.
Hearty cookies and bars – Use nut flours or nut butters and gentle sweeteners to make batches of cookies and bars that have necessary protein and fat but healthier sweeteners. Peanut butter and jelly bars, chocolate peanut butter bars, chocolate chip cookies, gutty putty, and raw almond cookies are a few options.
Hardboiled eggs – Hard boil a dozen eggs and create delicious snacks with seasonings and condiments. Teach your teen to make a mean deviled egg. Or serve cut up on a piece of gluten free bread. Omelet muffins are another easy make ahead egg snack.
Quesadilla drawer – Fill a drawer or basket on a shelf of your fridge with corn or gluten free tortillas, grated cheese, seasonings, diced chicken, mushrooms, green chiles, and veggies – all the ingredients to make this TexMex favorite.
Muesli – Make a big batch of muesli for breakfasts or snacks by covering gluten free rolled oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut, and a gentle sweetener or stevia with almond or coconut milk, and let it soak overnight. Bake or dehydrate left overs to make granola.
Pigs in a blanket – Pancakes aren’t just for breakfast. Make an extra batch of pancakes, and warm up an Applegate Farms sausage link to roll in a pancake.
Bell and Evans gluten free chicken nuggets with dipping sauces – We love these gluten free chicken nuggets and tenders. Serve the nuggets with favorite condiments like BBQ or mustard, or roll up a tender in a gluten free wrap and include a variety of veggies like romaine lettuce, avocado, onion, tomato, and bell pepper. Or, cube a rotisserie chicken or any left over chicken or meat to be dipped and eaten as a finger food.Read More
I am on an anti-plastic kick at the moment. I started realizing how much plastic I use and discard every week – produce bags, Ziploc bags, plastic wrap, and other food items. I am going through mountains of the stuff every year! Several years back, Rob and I started making changes to reduce our plastic waste. We stopped buying the plastic water bottles (the single serving type you see everywhere) and invested in a dozen Nalgene bottles to use and refill daily (thanks to Rob for turning our family on to these 100% BPA free containers). We also ditched our plastic containers for leftovers and invested in all glass – Pyrex and Glasslock Snapware. And, like most people, I found some fun reusable grocery shopping bags, so we could “go green” and cut down our waste each week. But lately, I have decided to make more changes, going a few steps further to decrease our family’s footprint in the world of plastic waste.
Not only have I been minimizing our plastic usage as an environmental effort, but I am also concerned about what chemicals may be coming in contact with our food. Some plastics are known to leach chemicals into the food they contact, so this has been the second reason I have decided it is time to look for other options.
Before I fill you in on three of my new favorite green items, let’s talk plastic. Not all plastics are created equal, and this inequality results in some types of plastic adding their own chemical cocktail to our food, while others are considered safe. Seven basic plastic types can be identified by their assigned number, which is found on the bottom of each container inside the recycling triangle symbol. To keep things easy, everything today is in 3s: three plastics to avoid, 3 that are safer, and 3 reusable green products to help you cut down on your daily plastic usage.
Three plastics to avoid:
#3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) – This type of plastic is used as a cling wrap for meat, cheeses, and anything else in the grocery store as well as in some salad dressings, water bottles, plastic trays in boxed cookies, candy wrappers, and medical tubing and containers. It contains three harmful chemicals that can leach into your food: phthalates like di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) that mess with your hormones, vinyl chloride that is a known carcinogen, and dioxin that both messes with your hormones and is a carcinogen. When buying cling wrap, look for brands like Saran Wrap that use LDPE instead of PVC plastic. PVC plastic is rarely recycled but can be in some recycling programs.
#6 PS (polystyrene known as Styrofoam) – This type of plastic is used in take out containers, egg cartons, party cups, and disposable silverware. It is known to leach styrene, butadiene, and benzene into food and messes with your hormones, affects fertility, and is a known carcinogen. Styrofoam can be recycled in some recycling programs.
#7 PC (polycarbonate) – This is found in baby bottles (scary!) and the lining of food cans. You may have heard of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) that affects hormones because it is a synthetic estrogen and is a known carcinogen. Look for BPA free on the label of any bottled or canned food items you buy.
Three plastics that are considered safe:
#2HDPE, #4 LDPE, and #5 PP – These are considered the healthiest plastics and are usually recyclable. You can find them in milk, water, and juice bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs, cereal box liners, straws, medicine bottles, bread bags, and grocery, trash, and retail bags.
#1PET – This type of plastic is found in bottles and containers such as soft drinks, water, sports drinks, ketchup, salad dressing, peanut butter, pickle, jelly and jam jars, and oven food trays. These are safe for using one time but not to be reused because they are porous and difficult to sanitize. These bottles can be recycled.
#7 PLA (polylactide) – These are made from renewable sources like corn, potatoes, sugar cane and other high starch sources as an alternative to petroleum based plastics. Although these are not able to be recycled, you can compost them in your backyard, and they decompose within a couple of weeks.
Three green alternatives to cut down your family’s plastic usage:
Lunchskins – I love my new reusable snack and sandwich bags. For years, I bought Ziploc bags in bulk and found I use them daily not only for packing snacks and meals but also for gathering together all sorts of things for storage. Lunchskins are made of a thick cotton fabric with a polyurethane liner. Their product has been subjected to testing and come up clean – no phthalates, BPA, or lead and no odor or chemical leaching was found. These handy sacks are dishwasher safe and close with Velcro, making them perfect for grab and go snacks as well as storage for your odds and ends.
Bowlovers – I don’t know what makes me more happy – being green or the whimsical sayings that cover my leftovers. Cut down on your cling wrap usage by covering your leftovers with these fun 100% cotton washable covers that come in several sizes.
Simple Ecology produce bags – These organic cotton reusable produce bags are a great way to cut down on plastic usage. They come in different sizes and are machine washable. Just throw them in your grocery cart with your reusable shopping bags, and fill them up with all kinds of fresh goodness each week.Read More