For The Greater Goods (sm)

Krissy

Natural Cleaning Products You Should Be Using

 

Spring is officially here.  I love this time of year, when all things become new again. It the perfect time to start yournatural cleaning products Spring Cleaning.  It’s always a refreshing feeling when we can clean our homes and make it feel fresh and new!  For those of you who dread doing anything with the word CLEAN in it, I’ll try to help you make it as painless as possible.  This year instead of cleaning the traditional way with chemical-laden cleaning products that do more damage to our environment and bodies than good, let’s switch out those products with more organic or natural cleaning products that are environmentally safe!

To make the switch to all natural cleaning products easy, I’m going to name well-known conventional product brand names and list natural cleaning product alternatives.  Here we go!

Natural Cleaning Products for the Kitchen

Instead of these all purpose cleaners: Mr. Clean, Simple Green, and 409,
try Better Life-Whatever All Purpose Cleaner or Biokleen All Purpose Cleaner.

Instead of these dishwasher detergents: Cascade, Finish or Ajax,
try Ecover Zero-Natural Automatic Dishwashing Powder or Tablets.

Instead of these window/glass cleaners: Windex or Zep,
try Earth Friendly- Window Kleener or Better Life Glass Cleaner.

Instead of using Drano for a clogged drain,
try Earth Friendly-Earth Enzyme Drain Opener or Biokleen Bac Out Drain Gel.

Instead of those Pledge or Clorox surface wipes,
try GreenShield Organics- Biodegradable Fresh Sent Surface.

Natural Cleaning Products for Laundry

Instead of these toxic laundry soaps: Tide, ALL, Surf, Gain etc. ,
try Ecover – Zero Natural Laundry Powder , Ecos Laundry DetergentAllens Naturally Laundry Detergent.

Instead of these Fabric Softener and dryer sheets: Snuggle and Downy,
try Ecover-Fabric Softner and Mountain Green-Dryer Sheets-Free & Clear.

Instead of Shout and Spray n’ Wash for stain removers,
try Ecover Stain Remover.

Instead of Woolite for delicates,
try Ecover Delicate Wash.

Natural Cleaning Products for the Bathroom

Instead of Scrubbing Bubbles toilet bowl cleaner
try Earth Friendly-Toilet Cleaner or Biokleen Soy Toilet Scrub.

Instead of KaBoom Tub and tile cleaner
try Naturally Clean-Tub and Tile Spray Cleaner.

Instead of Soft Scrub,
try Ecover-Cream Scrub.

Natural Cleaning Products for the Home

Instead of these floor cleaners/wood cleaners: Mop & Glo or Pledge,
try Better Life-Simple Floored Floor Cleaner and Ecover Floor Soap.

Instead of air fresheners like: Glade and Air Wick,
try Air Scense-Natural Air Freshener or Orange Mate-Air Freshener.

Now that you know there are natural cleaning products for all those traditional conventional products, I hope you start going through your cabinets and start swappin’ out the bad with the good!  Trust me you will feel so much better making the switch!  Which are your favorite natural cleaning products?

Learn more about how to make the switch to Green Cleaning.

Understanding Organic Food Labels

I get many questions about this topic.  How do I know if I’m buying organic food?  How do I know if it’s safe to buy?  What does “All Natural” mean?   Well, this is my goal today, to help you find and buy organic food easily and give you some tips for what to watch out for.organic food

I’ll start with what to watch out for.  You need to ALWAYS be wary of the word “Natural” on a product especially if it’s a processed food product (packaged).  All I can say is to ignore it.  Unlike the term “Organic” which is highly regulated, the term “Natural” only means that the product doesn’t contain artificial colors and flavors.  There can still be plenty of unnatural ingredients in products simply labeled “Natural”.  Read more HERE.

How to read organic labels

Even today I run into people who don’t understand the importance of organic food or why they need to buy them.  Honestly, buying organic food and especially organic whole foods have never been so important.  There are many reasons to buy organic; here are the big ones:

  1. No toxic pesticides
  2. Support local farmers and preserves family farms
  3. Sustainable
  4. No GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms)
  5. High nutritional value
  6. Very few cases of food poisoning have ever been linked to organic foods or farm processor
  7. Humane treatment of animals and animals cannot be fed slaughterhouse waste
  8. Organic Farming prohibits use of sewage sludge
  9. Organic certification prohibits irradiation

How to read labels to find organic food

How do I know if fresh produce is organic?

If you are trying to find organic produce, what you need to look at is the PLU code. If it has 5 numbers starting with a 9, that is organic.   This also might be accompanied with or without the USDA Organic Label sticker.  Conventional produce will have 4 numbers usually starting with a 4 or a 3.

What about packaged items?

These are what you might see on packaged items:

  • “100% Organic”:  If you see this on a package then all the ingredients in that package are organic and it may have the USDA organic seal on it.
  • “Organic”:  When a package is labeled organic then it means that the ingredients in that package are at least 95-99% organic. The product may also bear the USDA organic seal on the package.
  • “Made with Organic Ingredients”:  What this means is that the ingredients must contain 70-94% organic ingredients. It will NOT have the USDA organic seal on it. Instead the package may list a certifying agency like QAI, CCOF or one of many independent organic certifying agencies.  The ingredients list will identify which ingredients are organic.
  • If the product is below 70% organic it will not have the USDA organic seal and it might only list organic ingredients in the nutritional information panel.

Even if a producer is certified organic, the use of the USDA organic label is voluntary.  Some brands have higher standards than USDA and have chosen not to use their certification; Eden Foods is a good example of this.

Many people ask about the remainder of the ingredients in a 95% organic or 70% organic product.  Those remaining ingredients still have to meet a strict set of standards – they cannot contain GMO’s and they cannot contain artificial ingredients.  Oftentimes in a USDA organic product, the only things that aren’t organic are salts and those can’t be considered organic because they are minerals.

Also, not every food producer wants to go through the rigorous process of becoming certified.  This is especially true of small farm operations who cannot afford to go through the process. So when shopping at a farmers’ market, don’t be scared to ask how they grow their food.  Also, if you are shopping at a grocery store and in the produce section you see “Farmed Locally”, many times it is organic and a much better choice than conventional.  If you are concerned just find someone to ask!

I hope this helps your shopping a little easier when trying to make sense of the organic food labels. Do you have any tips of your own that I missed? Leave them in the comments!

Improving Children’s Behavior with Organic Foods

These days it seems you can’t go 24 hours without hearing stories of children with ADD or ADHD.  I’m 35 and I can’t ever remember any of my classmates having these kinds of issues back when I was in school.   Anyone can see that our S.A.D. (Sad American Diet) is playing a huge role in this and switching to organic food can make a great impact.  Most Americans are eating too much processed foods organic foodand not enough organic whole foods.  I’m not blaming it all on our diet. Of course I know that genetics and environment factors also play a part but remember this: just because you have a genetic factor does NOT mean you will get the disorder or disease.  That only happens 4% of the time the other 96% percent comes from our lifestyle choices and it’s up to us to make better choices for ourselves and our children.   Let’s take a look at a few things in the conventional diet that could be triggering behavioral issues in children.

Children’s Behavior + Non-Organic Foods

ALLERGENS

Allergens are in healthy foods, but if your body is sensitive to them, they might affect brain functions, triggering hyperactivity or inattentiveness. You might find it helpful to stop eating—one at a time—the top nine food allergens: wheat (gluten), milk, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish and corn. Starting a food journal with yourself and your children will help you find the culprit more quickly.

FOOD DYES:

Researchers have found that there may be a link between food dyes and hyperactivity and ADHD. The FDA requires FD&C Yellow No. 5, also called tartrazine, and FD&C Red No. 40, also called allura, to be listed on food packages. Other dyes may or may not be listed, but be cautious about anything colored before you put in your mouth or your kids mouth. Items to watch for: toothpaste, vitamins, fruit and sports drinks, hard candy, fruit-flavored cereals, barbecue sauce, canned fruit, fruit snacks, gelatin powders, cake mixes and the list goes on.  This is a good reason to read your labels.

SUGAR

We all should know by now that sugar is our enemy.  We need to stay far away from the stuff as much as possible and I have no doubt that sugar plays a HUGE roll in behavioral disorders.  Back in the 1800′s the average person consumed 10lbs of sugar a year, sounds like a lot huh?  But do you know how much the average person consumes today?  The average person today consumes 199lbs of sugar a year, that’s PER PERSON.   That’s pretty frightening don’t you think?  If I could stress one thing to you, it would be to cut out or at least cut down on sugar.  Read your labels, the average soda has 45-50grams of sugar in one can (12oz) can, that’s 12 tsp of sugar.

Poor nutrition can cause a child or adult with ADD/ADHD to become distracted, impulsive, and restless. The right foods (especially organic, whole foods), on the other hand, can lessen those symptoms.

Protein is a good choice, stick with organic poultry, grass fed beef and organic or pastured raised eggs. Beans can also be a good source of protein. Quality protein are used by the body to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals released by brain cells to communicate with each other. Protein can prevent blood sugar spikes which increase hyperactivity.

GOOD FAT

Fats play a part in our energy, we need fats because they help the slowing of our food absorption, which plays a role in proper energy regulation.  Meaning we will have more energy for longer, unlike sugar which burns off very fast.  Good fats to add to your children’s diet are organic coconut oil, ghee, grass fed butter, cold pressed oils, organic nuts and hemp seeds are all good choices.  Put them in smoothies or salads, or spread on vegetables.

My take away from today is to always choose organic whole foods over processed foods when it comes to feeding your children. If you suspect your child might have behavioral problems try taking a good look at your child’s diet before you do anything else.  Cut out the sugar and processed foods and eat more organic whole food meals.

How have you seen improvements in your child’s behavioral issues with a change to organic food?

Organic Toddler Food: Tips to Keep Your Tiny Ones Healthy

Have you ever wondered what is healthy for you to feed your toddlers (ages from about 1-4 years)? I’ve been in the same boat.  I hate to think about what I fed my first two children in their young life.  They were fed plenty of chicken nuggets, Spaghetti-O’s, tons of Campbell’s soup and Goldfish….uorganic toddler foodgh… that’s enough to make me want to cry!   Thankfully I have learned so much since those years, and now that I have a third toddler running around I am happy to say that she has never had those kinds of foods in our home. When you’re not at home this can be a challenge, but nothing a little prepping can’t fix!

What I think is important for all of us human beings, from infancy until well…death, is to always eat WHOLE foods.  What does that mean?   That means to eat food in its purest form, foods that contain 1 ingredient, foods that you can pick straight from the garden.   The more you can steer clear of processed foods (yes, even organic processed foods) the better your health and longevity will be and it will benefit the future of our toddlers and their future children.

Here is a good guide line for feeding yourself, your family and of course our active toddlers:

Always buy organic when possible.  I recently wrote a blog explaining which foods are most important to buy organic.  Buying organic helps us reduce the pesticides and chemicals that are used in farming. We definitely want to keep as much of that away from our toddlers.   For the produce that you can’t buy organic, just make sure you soak/wash them before you eat them.  I usually fill the sink up with water and pour 1 cup of vinegar in the water and let my veggies and fruits soak about 10 minutes, after that I drain water and let them dry on kitchen towel then put them away.

To mention once again, I must stress that staying away from processed foods is going to be key. There are so many chemicals, dyes, additives and preservatives and not to mention GMO’s in those foods… none of which our bodies can handle especially our babies and toddlers.   I very much cringe when I see moms feeding their toddlers Cheez It’s and Cheerio’s – there are better options available for all of those finger foods that toddlers love so much.

Here are some good options for organic toddler foods:

These are just a few options of organic toddler food that you can buy. These are processed, but much better than the conventional brands, and all are free of GMO’s – they’re great for being on the run and having something on hand to keep them occupied and well-fed.

Bottom line: feed your children whole foods whether they are toddlers or teens.  They are going to be healthier, get sick a little less and be less prone to allergies and food sensitivities.   If I could recommend any book to you about eating a whole foods diet, I would recommend Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.  It’s all about preparing whole foods and properly prepared meals for your whole family!

What organic toddler foods do your tiny ones like? Any tips I missed for feeding your toddlers organic foods?

Organic Pistachios: 7 Health Benefits & Tips

We always hear about the health benefits of other organic nuts like almonds, walnuts etc…but we rarely ever hear about organic pistachios.  I have good news folks.  Organic pistachios have some awesome health benefits!   The pistachio nut are the dry fruits from trees called the Genus: Pistacia.  These trees are mostly found in the warm dry indigenous areas of Western Asia, but are also grown in the Mediterranean regions and the United States too.  In ancient times the pistachio has been revered to as a symbol of health and wellness. How awesome is that?  I’m already starting to like this nut a little more than I did before ;)

organic-pistachios

Photo Courtesy of Savannah Lewis

7 Health Benefits of Organic Pistachios

1. Rich Source of Energy

100 g of nuts contain 557 calories. In addition, they are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and an excellent source of antioxidants. Organic pistachios contain phytochemicals and other strong antioxidants such as carotenes, vitamin E and selenium, which help with tissue-damaging free radicals. In addition to thiamine and vitamin B6, organic pistachios contain other B vitamins that your body needs for strong metabolism and energy production.

2. Digestive Aid

Organic pistachios help with digestive problems like IBS, heartburn, high fiber organic pistachios provide you with prebiotic benefits, helping you maintain good gut flora (beneficial bacteria) in our stomach, which also boost our immune system.

3. Minerals

Organic pistachios are an excellent source of minerals.  Our body cannot make minerals so it’s important that we ingest them.  They are an awesome source of copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. 100 g of nuts provide 144% of the daily recommended levels of copper. Copper is an essential trace mineral that is required in neuro-transmission, metabolism, as well as red blood cell synthesis.

4. Reverse Hair loss

Organic pistachios contain a good amount biotin.  Many people who are experiencing hair loss also are deficient in biotin.  If this happens to be your case, try some organic pistachios for starters… it’s worth a try right?

5. Healthy Brain

Because organic pistachios have a high quantity of vitamin B6, this helps in increasing the hemoglobin count in the blood. This oxygen rich blood is then supplied to the brain making it even more active.

6. Heart Healthy

They are heart healthy. Organic pistachios improve your general health by decreasing cholesterol levels and increasing ones monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

7. Weight Management

If you like to snack on nuts, you can help control your weight by limiting your portions. The fiber content of the nuts may make them more filling, helping you to eat fewer calories later on in the day. A study published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” in June 2010 found that participants who consumed 240 calories worth of pistachios for 12 weeks lowered their body mass indexes and triglyceride levels more than those who consumed 220 calories worth of pretzels. Also, UCLA researchers did a study of overweight adults who were able to lose the equivalent of 10–12 pounds over three months by cutting 500 calories and adding an afternoon 3-ounce in-shell pistachio snack.

Tips for How to Store Organic Pistachios

Raw, unshelled pistachios can be placed in a cool dry place for few months. However, shelled kernels should be placed inside an airtight container and kept inside the refrigerator in order to prevent them turning rancid.  Storing them in the freezer can help you keep them much longer.

I think those are some wonderful reason to start eating some organic pistachios don’t you?  Eat them as a snack, throw them in a salad.  I bet they would make a delicious nut butter if you throw some in your blender or food processor… hmm the ideas!!  If you can’t find good organic pistachios nearby, buy organic pistachios online.   Buying organic will ensure that your pistachios are pesticide and GMO free!!

Do you love organic pistachios?  What kind of recipes do you use them in?  What fun ways do you eat them?

Organic Cherry Chocolate Truffles: A Recipe for Yum

I bet you didn’t know that National Cherry Pie Day is coming up on February 20th.  Cherries are a rich source of antioxidants and flavonoids which have anti-cancer benefits.  They are also rich in melatonin which can help the body’s sleep patterns.  Cherries can even slow down the body’s aging process, with the flavonoids isoqueritrin and queritrin, antioxidants that work to eliminate byproducts of oxidative stress and slow down the aging process.  Add cherries to your diet easily with organic cherry juice, organic cherry butter or organic dried cherries.

I love how there are days dedicated to sweets, but the whole pie thing just isn’t for me.  I don’t make pies…well that’s a lie I’ve made a few chicken pot pies in the past, but now that my family is mostly gluten free I just don’t do the pie thing anymore.  Do I miss it…eh sure, but I like being healthy better.

So how am I going to celebrate this awesome day?  Well I’ll tell you… instead of cherry pie, I made organic cherry chocolate truffles!   That are pretty darn yummy too.  My kids LOVE when I have to make treats for my blogs because they know they get a special treat when they come home from school…and this one is one of their favorites.   I make these kind of truffles all the time.  There are so many ways to make them, today instead of raisins I replaced them with dried organic cherries!   Getting excited yet?

Organic Cherry Chocolate Truffle Recipe

Directions:

In a food processor or a blender add the nuts (1st 3 ingredients) and process or blend until finely ground. In this picture…I let it go too long and it started to turn in to butter…don’t be alarmed if this happens to you, it will still turn out perfectly fine…that’s just what I get for tending to my toddler ;)

organic-cherry-chocolate-truffles-recipe-step-1

Next throw in all the other ingredients and process or blend until well combined, it should form a nice dough and easily come off the sides of the blender or processor.

organic-cherry-chocolate-truffles-recipe-step-2

Now roll into balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  I got 15 tablespoon sized balls, but you can make them smaller to get 30.  After you have rolled them, you can add an extra touch and roll them in anything of your choice.  You can chop up dried organic cherries and nuts and roll them in it, or you can do just nuts.  I rolled mine in unsweetened coconut flakes and raw cacao nibs (I like the crunch of the nibs).   If you want to get really fancy you could even dunk them in melted chocolate…oh the possibilities!!!

organic-cherry-chocolate-truffles-recipe-step-3

Place them in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to harden slightly and your done!   Store these in a air tight container in fridge and they will keep for about a week.  Store in freezer for longer storage!

organic-cherry-chocolate-truffles-recipe-final-product

Additional Notes for Organic Cherry Chocolate Truffles:

  • Use any combination of nuts
  • Instead of Stevia, try a little raw honey or maple syrup (you might have to add a tablespoon or two more of raw cacao powder)
  • Instead of organic cherries you can use organic cranberries (that’s what I usually use) or any other dried fruits
  • Don’t like cacao powder or are allergic? Try carob instead
  • Is your dough too dry?  Don’t worry add a little splash of water until you get the right consistency.

What is your favorite organic cherry pie recipe?   I would love to know if anyone else knows of any good recipes for gluten free pie crusts? Please share in the comments!

 

Organic Dark Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

Chocolate.  I cannot think of a better gift or treat than chocolate for Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter!).   Especially organic dark chocolate.  That is my personal favorite and not only because it tastes delicious, but because organic dark chocolate is loaded with tons of health benefits too!

5 Benefits of Eating Organic Dark Chocolate

organic dark chocolate

Photo by John Loo

  1. If it say’s cacao (70% or higher is the best) in the ingredients then you know you are getting the purest form of chocolate.  Cacao is a superfood which contains the highest amount in beneficial antioxidants. Those antioxidants help our body fight free radicals, free radicals cause oxidative stress in our body and speeds up the aging process.
  2. Cacao encourages production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin which soothes depression, anxiety and irritability… (no wonder!)
  3. Dark chocolate helps to lower blood pressure which lowers the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  4. Don’t be alarmed of the high fat content of organic dark chocolate. Organic dark chocolate contains the good fats (oleic acid, which also promotes healthy heart and a good heart disease preventative).
  5. The last one I will list is why organic dark chocolate is popular for Valentine’s Day:  organic dark chocolate contains many chemical compounds that have positive effects on your mood.  Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating organic dark chocolate will make you feel happier!

There are many more benefits of organic dark chocolate and cacao, but maybe I will save that for a later post.  I want to get to the fun stuff now.  Organic dark chocolate recipes!   Here are my two favorite recipes that I make on almost a weekly basis at home.

Basic 3 Ingredient Organic Dark Chocolate:

Directions:

  1. In a double boiler melt coconut oil over medium heat.
  2. When fully melted take pan off burner and add in the cacao powder and sweetener and stir until smooth.
  3. Poor into pan lined with parchment paper, chocolate molds or even a glass plate and stick them in the fridge to harden. Once hardened remove from plate or mold and store in fridge or freezer.

Basic Organic Dark Chocolate Recipe #2

Directions: same as the above recipe

Optional Add In’s

Add the following in during the 2nd step:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite extract (Vanilla, peppermint, almond etc.)
  • Chopped organic nuts (my favorite is almonds and pecans)
  • Dried fruits like; raisins or Goji berries
  • Coconut flakes
  • Fresh fruit (I’ve made ones with pomegranate seeds which turned out delicious)
  • Sprinkle a little sea salt on top before you put them in refrigerator

Some Final Notes:

  • I have made both these recipes by just using liquid stevia and also powdered stevia.  I would start small and add to your liking.
  • These recipes can be made in the microwave, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
  • Basic recipe #2 can be stored at room temperature for about a week.  I still store mine in the refrigerator and in the freezer for longer storage.  I like my chocolate cold.
  • To make chocolate chips drop little rounds on to parchment paper

Here is an excellent list of organic dark chocolates that will be perfect for your loved ones on Valentine’s Day!

Natural Dental Health: Tips & Recipes

I have been interested in natural dental health for awhile and practicing it in my own family for over a year, and I’m natural-dental-health-homemade-toothpastehappy to say it’s been working wonders!  When I began my healthy lifestyle and took out all the chemicals in my household that meant that toothpaste had to go too!  No more fluoride toothpaste in my house!  I also started researching for a good homemade toothpaste recipe and after trying a few different ones I came up with this one, which was finally kid-approved!

Natural Dental Health: Homemade Natural Toothpaste- Fluoride Free

  • 6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 6 Tablespoons Baking Soda
  • 10-20 drops of essential oils (peppermint or spearmint) or you can also use peppermint extract also.
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon of stevia (start small and add to your liking)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin (optional)

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients together and store in clean glass baby jars or a small mason jar.  Dip your tooth brush in and brush away!

If you would rather not make your own here are a few good options I can recommend:

There are many variations of the above recipe, but my kids like this one the best. There are also some very wonderful tooth powder recipes if you like powder better, I would recommend this recipe.

What other stuff can you do for natural dental health?  Well there are many things you can do to help improve the health of your teeth. The most important thing that most people don’t even think of is our diet.  Most of us know that sugar is bad.  But did you know that what you eat and nourish our body with can actually heal your cavities naturally, painlessly and at no cost!  Yes, it’s true. If you want to know more pick up the book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price, DDS.  He was an amazing dentist back in the 30′s, and he traveled around the world to different countries in the search of healthy people. He found that the primitive peoples who ate their indigenous foods were in the best health and their teeth reflected their health.  Other primitive regions who were introduced to modernized foods (sugar, white flour, refined oils etc.) were not as lucky and he found dental cavities and poor health, crooked teeth etc.  It’s a very good lesson that what we eat has a direct link to our health, not just our teeth, but our whole body.   If you or your kids are dealing with cavities and don’t want to be drilled, always try the natural way first, I promise you if you are consistent with it you will have remarkable results!  Find more good tips on how to heal your cavities naturally.

4 Additional Tips & Tricks for Natural Dental Health:

  1. Oil Pulling:  Oil pulling is an excellent way to pull toxins out of the mouth and leaves your teeth feeling fresh and clean as can be.
  2. Activated Charcoal is another good way to pull out toxins from your mouth and teeth. An added bonus is that it naturally whitens teeth.  It can get a little messy though, so make sure you brush over your sink.  I would do this a couple times a week.
  3. Floss, we all know the benefits of flossing so keep at it, helps those gums stay strong!
  4. A Hydrogen Peroxide rinse.  After I bush I like to swish for a few minutes with equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water. This will keep bacteria at bay and also has the added benefit of whiting teeth!

Did you find this helpful?  What tips do you have for natural dental care? 

24 Kids Lunch Ideas with Organic Foods

I don’t know about you, but making kids’ lunches everyday can get VERY repetitive and boring.  I know in my house, I kids-lunch-ideastend to always steer to the same things, which is usually a gluten free sandwich, carrots and celery, apples, soaked almonds, roasted plantains, and a very small treat.  I did this for 2 months straight.  My kids were positively bored of eating the same thing… I noticed that more food was coming back home in the lunch boxes rather than being eaten at school.  That’s when I knew I needed to start getting more creative in coming up with my kids lunch ideas. So of course that led me to one place… yep, PINTEREST!!  I wasn’t disappointed either. I got so many ideas that now I am stocked with ideas for making my kids’ lunches more fun, and I am going to share them with you!

Now my kids have a fun lunchbox called a PlanetBox.  It’s kind of bento style and made of stainless steel and comes with stainless steel containers and a nice carrying case that you can put an ice pack in and a thermos.  I just love it, and my kids are in their second school year using it.  As a mom I think it’s very important for us to gravitate towards more economical ways of packing your kids’ lunches. Before investing in the Planet box, my husband and I would buy new lunch boxes every year, and go through a TON of sandwich bags, snack bags etc.  Those things do add up, not only in our budget but in our landfills too.

Back to the lunches, I’ll break these kids lunch ideas it into sections: main, sides, and treats to make it easy.  Just remember one of the best ways to get the MOST out of your children’s food is to do your best to make it organic. This will help you feel good that their food will have fewer pesticides, no GMO’s and adequate nutrients!

Kids Lunch Ideas: Organic Main Dishes

  1. Yogurt – A container of organic, high fat, low sugar yogurt, you can even add raw honey or stevia to sweeten naturally.  For sides you can pack granola, and or bars to sprinkle or dip along with pretzels, strawberries and grapes or any fruit.
  2. Bacon and Eggs – This is one of my kids’ favorite. Bacon slices, hard boiled eggs, sliced avocado.
  3. Pancakes/Waffle sandwiches – When I make my daughter gluten free pancakes in the morning I double the batch and use them for lunch too. I make the kids sandwiches out of pancakes instead of bread. They love it and you can do so much.  Blueberry pancakes make a yummy PB&J sandwich!  You can also make a yummy savory sandwich, adding bacon/sausage and eggs!
  4. “Sushi” – This is a fun one.  Take your nitrate free sliced meats, and roll up whatever you want in them (cheese, sliced veggies, cream cheese, sprouts etc) and slice them in 1 inch sections and they look like “sushi”.  Another fun one is to use organic soft shell tortillas and roll up nut butters and jelly.
  5. Salad – My daughter requests salads once in awhile.  I like to add chunked up meat or tuna for some protein and the veggies I know she will eat.  I always give her a little container of organic ranch dressing so she can add it herself.
  6. Leftovers – This is a wonderful idea, and I do this often. My kids’ favorite leftovers to take in their lunch are: meatloaf, meatballs, tacos, homemade pizzas. The sky’s the limit!
  7. Soup – If your kids have one of those soup thermoses then soup is a very nourishing lunch, especially if it’s homemade. You can also find good organic soups online if you don’t have time to make soup.
  8. Sandwiches – They come in all shapes sizes. Make them fun! Cut them in different shapes, this is especially fun for the younger ones. There are many yummy gluten free bread options too. Try using different breads: bagels, sliced, rolls, and even lettuce!
  9. Jerky – For a main dish may sound silly, but it’s another favorite of my kids. We make our Jerky homemade but there are also some good organic jerky options available online as well.

Kids Lunch Ideas: Organic Sides:

  1. Fresh Fruit – apples, oranges, kiwi, pineapple slices, melons, berries, etc.
  2. Fresh Vegetables – cucumber, carrots, peppers, celery, snap peas, etc.
  3. Crackers – rice, wheat, multi grain, etc.
  4. Granola bars or you can make at home using this organic granola recipe.
  5. Nuts
  6. Dried fruits
  7. Chipspotato and corn.
  8. Pretzels

Kids Lunch Ideas: Organic Treats & Beverages:

  1. Sweet treats – I only add one very small sweet treat to my kids’ lunches. I like to make these gluten free cookies, but make them half the size for my kids’ lunches. I would much rather have them get full on the “good stuff” rather than the sweets.  Here are some fun store bought options:
  2. Hugga Bear cookies
  3. Annie’s cookies
  4. Dark chocolate bars (a square or two will do)
  5. Newman’s Own Cookies
  6. Laughing Giraffe treats
  7. Beverages – My kids have a thermos and they always get spring water, and they do not complain about it.  They know the importance of drinking water.  I’m a NO JUICE momma, so I strongly suggest you buy your kids a thermos and give them good ol’ water too.  Sugar even in organic juices is hard on their little systems and they can actually be dehydrating for them. Water is best!

I could go on and on, but I think I will stop here. I hope this helps give you some new ideas about your kids’ lunches and how to make them a bit healthier and fun. Remember, mix and match, get creative, adjust what you need to fit your personal lifestyle and the sky’s the limit!   What is your kids’ favorite homemade lunch?  What are some kids lunch ideas you’ve come up with?

20 Uses For Apple Cider Vinegar

Awhile back I wrote about the many benefits of apple cider vinegar.  Today I’m going to give you a list of actual ways to use this wonderful stuff! Just remember the most important thing is that your apple cider vinegar is raw, organic and unfiltered and unpasteurized, this will assure you are getting the best quality. Bragg’s apple cider vinegar is my go-to brand.

apple_cider_vinegar

Photo credit: WebMD

Cleaning with Apple Cider Vinegar

1. Clean Counters and Surfaces

Use undiluted apple cider vinegar, right from the bottle, on counter-tops and other surfaces in your kitchen. This will disinfect them and leave them smelling super fresh and apple scented.

2. All-purpose Cleaner

Add 1/2 c apple cider vinegar to 1 c of water to a 16oz spray bottle. This is great for cleaning countertops, windows and even mirrors.

3. Floor Cleaner

1 part apple cider vinegar to 1 part water in a spray bottle will clean your kitchen floors. Spray on hard surfaces and wipe off with a rag or mop.

4. Produce Bath

To clean your produce of all those chemicals fill up your sink with water and pour about 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. Add your produce and let sit 5-10 minutes. This is clean your produce and rid them of nasty pesticides.

5. Dishwasher

Pour a little in your dishwasher. This helps remove soap scum and will make your dishwasher last longer. It also has a nice smell when you open it up. Kind of a faint apple scent.

6. Wooden Furniture

Dusting your wood furniture, all you need to do is make a 50 x 50 mix of water and apple cider vinegar and add it to a mist bottle. Any wooden furniture you polish with this mixture will look great!

7. No Chemicals Drain-O

Use an apple cider vinegar, baking soda and salt mix to clean and deodorize partially blocked drains. Mix 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of baking soda into a bowl and pour down the drain. Next, pour in 1/2 a cup of vinegar. The apple cider vinegar and baking soda will react with each other giving off harmless carbon dioxide gas. After 2-3 hours flush with water.

8. Fruit Fly Killer

I don’t know about you, but I dread when those pesky fruit flies make their appearance during the summertime, always hovering over the fruit in our house. Using apple cider vinegar is by far my favorite remedy (and most effective one I have tried) to get rid of them. Put half a cup of apple cider vinegar in a glass jar. Place Saran Wrap over the top of a jar and put a rubber band/tape around it to make it tight. Take a toothpick and poke several holes in the saran wrap. Place in the area you’re having the problem.

Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Beauty & Personal use

9. Tummy Help

Prevent and aid in healthy digestion. Take 1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water (add a little stevia or honey to taste) and drink 15-30 minutes before meals.  You can also do this after eating if you forgot to take it before ;)

10. Bye-Bye Bad Breath

Due to its wonderful acidic properties, apple cider vinegar makes a wonderful remedy for bad breath or halitosis. Simply add 1/2 tablespoon of ACV into a cup of water and gargle the mixture in your mouth for 10 seconds at a time until the cup is empty.

11. Yeast Be-Gone

Apple cider vinegar is a very effective in treating yeast infections. Add 1 and a half cups of ACV into a bathtub filled with warm water, and then soak in it for about 20 minutes. This should be done once a day for the first 3 days of the infection.

12. Freshen Mouth

Gargle with apple cider vinegar in the mornings. The vinegar helps remove stains, whiten teeth, and kill bacteria in your mouth and gums. Brush as usual after you gargle.

13. Shampoo/De-tangler

Apple cider vinegar can be used as a rinse for your hair after shampooing, helps to detangle and will boost your hair’s body and shine. Fill an old bottle with 1/2 a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a cup of cold water. Pour the solution through your hair after shampooing several times a week for better results.  I also put 1 tablespoon of ACV into a small spray bottle of water to use as a natural detangled.

14. Soothes Sunburns

Add a cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath, and soak for 10 minutes to eliminate discomfort from sunburn. You can also apply directly to lightly sunburned skin using a cotton ball using part ACV part water.

15. Toner

For a natural skin toner which helps acne and firming up the skin. Mix equal parts of ACV and water and store in the refrigerator. After shower use a cotton ball and apply like you would any facial toner.   Don’t be alarmed that vinegar smell disappears quickly… If you want you can add a few drops of essential oil to the toner to give it a better smell.  Just stay away from citrus oils on the skin.

16. Relaxing Bath

Have sore or aching muscles?  Soothe in a relaxing bath by mixing 1-2 cups of ACV in your bathwater.  Add some peppermint or lavender oil for a nice pleasant scent. I like to take a bath after snowboarding or playing softball. Really helps soothes the muscles and very relaxing too!

Apple Cider Vinegar and a Healthier You

17. Combat Sore Throat

Feel a sore throat coming on. Gargle apple cider vinegar right when you feel that little tickle sneaking up.  I would do this 3x a day until symptoms disappear.

18. No More Warts

Apple cider vinegar is also a natural way to remove warts. For warts, soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar, then fasten the cotton ball over the wart with a Band-Aid overnight. The skin may swell some as it reacts with the solution. However, the wart will fall off. Once it falls off, the treatment should be continued for a few more days, to make sure the wart doesn’t return.

19. Weight loss

Helps aid in weight loss. Apple Cider Vinegar helps to break down fats so that your body can use them rather than store them. For this reason, many diets include ACV in the regimen. For daily weight management, add about 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 16 ounces of water. This concoction can be sipped throughout the day. My husband lost around 10 pounds in a 6 month period by adding this to his daily routine. He started out with 1 tsp and worked himself up to 2 tsp.

20. Lower Blood Pressure

Some studies suggest that the acetic acid in Apple Cider Vinegar may help lower blood pressure. ACV may help increase production of the blood vessel relaxing compound nitric oxide. It may also help inhibit enzymes that cause the blood vessels to constrict. For blood pressure lowering effects, take 2-6 TBSP a day in water is the usual recommendation.

* Apple cider vinegar should always be diluted when using internally or topically to the skin (especially with individuals and children with sensitive skin).

How do you incorporate apple cider vinegar into your daily routine?  Please share any of your favorite ACV uses!

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