Thursday, April 22, 2010


Happy Earth Day!

Every year Earth Day becomes more top of mind as it becomes more prominent in the media. Habits that we start now for Earth Day can help save the planet for our kids and grandkids--and can improve your health NOW.

Let's face it--the kitchen is probably the one room in the house that produces the most trash and uses a whole host of unpronounceable chemicals too. We make hundreds of buying decisions for the kitchen--and they can either help or hurt the environment. Below are my favorite ways to help mother nature, while at the same time, putting money in your pocket and improving your health too!

1. Grow Your Own. Growing your own vegetables, herbs or fruit not only gives you orgnically grown produce, it also dramatically reduces your carbon footprint for eating those foods. Think of the transportation costs saved--your personal ones and also the trucks that transport produce sometimes thousands of miles! Plant a peach tree today. It will be a few years before you can enjoy the fruits, but at that time you can enjoy organically grown peaches. (Peaches are one of the fruits with the most detectable pesticides.) The health benefit of growing your own? Gardening is great exercise and is very good for your mental health too! (for those gardening or time challenged: start with a cherry tomato plant on the patio!)

2. Decrease Your use of Chemicals. Baking soda and vinegar or lemon make a great substitute for an abrasive cleanser. (and there are entire books on natural cleaning recipes.) There are many biodegradable, natural cleaning products on the market too. Seventh Generation (most grocery stores) Method (Target) and Meyer's Clean Day (Bed, Bath & Beyond and Natural food stores) are just a few. My personal favorite for the kitchen is Meyer's Clean Day--completely biodegradable and cruelty free. You can also have a single (natural) fragrance for the whole house. I like the Geranium scent.

3. 3. Be Picky about Packaging. Sometimes you just can't get away from individually packaged foods. Some of the single serving cookies, crackers etc can help save us from ourselves! It's best when you can get away from layers of packaging or purchasing larger or refillable packaging. For example, Method hand wash and Mrs. Meyers comes in a bag so you can refill your pretty soap dispensers. When you buy the Meyer's Countertop Spray, the bottle suggests refilling it with water and 2 Tb of their All Purpose Cleaner to have the same cleaning effects. Biodegradable packaging is also on the horizon. Sun Chips now comes in a biodegradable bag!

4. Use Reusable Bags. OK-I'll admit that I have the reusable bags in my car but I often forget them. I usually remember when I'm checking out, so I'll instead just put the food back in the cart and bag it when I get to the car. When I buy a few small items at Walgreens, etc, I'll just walk out with the product and receipt in my hand. If you find yourself forgetting the reusable bags more than remembering them, you can now recycyle the extras at Target and Walmart.

5. Buy Recyclable.
In most communities that's #1 or #2. I've found that many of the organic products (box of organic greens at Sam's) are recyclable. Take advantage of curbside recycling and if you don't have it, encourage your community to start it.

6. Buy BPA Packaging. If it's BPA free it will most likely be labeled as such. Many plastic products have BPA, a chemical that has been found to have estrogenic effects on the body. (Hint-I've noticed that a lot of the plastic plates and glasses made in China specify that they are not dishwasher safe or only safe on the top rack. This probably means that they contain plastics that are more likely to come out with high temperatures.)

7. Stop buying Water Bottles. We stopped buying individual water bottles a few months ago because it was just too easy to grab one on the way out the door. Instead I just take a glass of water in the car with me or use a reusable bottle.

8. Buy larger packages of food.
True, a family of two may not be able to use 2 quarts of artichoke hearts that you can find at Sam's! Then, find a friend to share it with--which is exactly what I did with my artichokes!

9. Cut down on Plastic Wrap. Plastic wrap has been known to also contain BPA and other plasticizers not good for health. It's mostly a problem when it comes into contact with a high fat food. I'd guess that most of us use plastic wrap in the microwave at times--just don't let it touch the food.

10. Keep Baggies to a Minimum. What do you do with that half of avocado, lemon or onion? Well if you're like me, you probably put it in a zipper bag. Recently I began using a small refrigerator container instead. I've noticed that putting it in a container also keeps it from getting pushed back in the produce drawer and getting lost.

Enjoy Earth Day and remember: your choices today can make a healthier planet tomorrow!

If you have more ideas, please post a comment!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Become a Fan of Cereal!

I've been a cereal eater all my life. It's a quick breakfast and an easy way to start the day with a whole grain, a serving of dairy and it's a great vehicle for a fruit serving too. My bowl is usually a smorgasbord of cereals--some Cheerios, with a bit of granola and some ground flax seed to top it all off. Or Raisin Bran with a sprinkle of oats. I also love Go Lean Crunch with a sprinkle of ground flax seed or wheat germ.Generally I slice up half a banana on top in the winter or some fresh berries or peaches in the summer.

My new winter favorite is what I call blue oatmeal. You cook the oatmeal 'til it's just about done and then put in about 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries and cook another 30 seconds to a minute until the blueberries just start to pop.

So now you get the picture--a cereal breakfast doesn't have to be the same day in and out. And the good news is it's super healthy. Besides the benefits mentioned above, research says that it's a habit you should stick with:
  • Frequent cereal eaters have healthier body weights--that includes men, women and kids--even if the cereal is pre-sweetened. In the 7-9 year old age group, 50% of kids who ate fewer than 4 servings of cereal in 14 days were overweight compared to only 16% of kids who ate more than 7 servings in 14 days.
  • Eating cereal is associated with better nutritional status--especially calcium and fiber intake.
  • Cereal can help lower your cholesterol. The soluble fiber found in oats, oat bran and Cheerios can reduce bad LDL cholesterol levels. I've always been a fan of cheerios--for toddlers, it's a perfect finger food, for kids, it's a fun to eat, low sugar cereal. For adults it's a tasty way to start the day.
  • Girls who continue to eat cereal regularly are less likely to become overweight during adolescence.
  • Because ready to eat cereal is quick to eat, it encourages breakfast eating. Kids who eat breakfast do better on test scores and have fewer problems paying attention in the morning and have reduced absenteeism and tardiness.
  • People who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off have one thing in common--90% of them eat breakfast and 80% eat cereal and fruit for breakfast.
Just one more word of advice which I think I'll follow: Go Pour Yourself a Bowl!