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Organic World

How to Keep Your Family from Getting Sick This Cold & Flu Season

It’s that time of year again, the wonderful holiday season which unfortunately means the dreaded cold and flu seasonflu season. It’s the time of year when the weather is starting to cool and we are spending more of our time indoors and because of the back-to-back holidays it’s also the time of year when sweets like Halloween candy, Christmas cookies and caramel pumpkin lattes etc. are in full force. Most people don’t know that all those sweets (sugar) really take a toll on our immune systems which makes fighting illness more and more difficult.

With the following tips for boosting your immune system not only will it help protect you and your family against the cold and flu season, you can take control of your health and trim your time spent feeling under the weather during the holidays.

Immune Boosting Tips For Cold & Flu Season:

Eating Healthy

Sounds like a given right? Truth is many of us don’t know what it means to eat healthy. When it comes to boosting our immune system the best thing you can do is ditch the processed foods. Processed foods are packed with all kinds of sugars which impair our immunity. When building your immune system whole foods (foods with 1 ingredient) are going to be your best bet.

Sleep

When it comes to your immunity system, sleep is extremely important. When we are sleeping our immune system really kicks into gear and helps us recover more quickly from illness and much more. Need help on getting a good night’s rest? Visit my sleep solutions post for some tips.

Exercise

While colder weather may trigger an urge to curl up in a blanket with a cup of tea, moving your body and exercise will actually boost its immune function. In a 2006 study, researchers at the University of Washington enrolled 115 women in either a weekly 45-minute stretching session or 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. After 12 months, the exercisers had developed significantly fewer colds than the stretchers did. Don’t let the word exercise intimidate you. A brisk walk with the family for 20-30 minutes will do your body good!

Supplements

I love supplements. Good quality, properly sourced supplements can be very beneficial to our health and to help boost our immune system. Ideally we strive to get all the nutrients we need through an optimal diet, but sometimes we just can’t get all of one nutrient with the food we eat, and need to make up the difference in supplement form. The best supplements that I like to take during flu season are:

  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil – Contains Vitamins A and D, which are both necessary for many aspects of health, Immunity being a big one. While we can get Vitamin D from sunlight, Vitamin A can be harder to consume or absorb and fermented cod liver oil is an excellent source.
  • Probiotics - 70-80% of our immunity resides in our gut which makes probiotics very important for a healthy immune system. Probiotics help populate our gut with all that good bacteria (flora) which will help fighting sickness. Probiotics are especially important to take if you have ever been on antibiotics because while antibiotics can be useful in some cases they also destroy not only the bad bacteria, but the good bacteria as well.
  • ZincIs great for the immune system and can prevent a cold or flu virus from reproducing and can even help relieve respiratory symptoms. Adults should consume 50-75 mg a day when sick in capsule or lozenge. Those who avoid meat could be at risk for deficiency the recommended daily intake (RDI) is 15mg/day.

More Immune Boosting Tips

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is known to boost the immune system. It has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It is high in lauric acid and is thought to dissolve the lipid coating around some viruses and make them more susceptible to attack by the immune system. If sick, aim for 5-6 tablespoons per day in food or melted and stirred into hot tea.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry increases the production non-inflammatory infection-fighting cytokines as much as 10 fold. Elder berries are known to be effective against eight strains of influenza. This suggests that elder be superior to vaccines in preventing flu, because flu vaccines are only effective against known strains of flu, whereas the virus is continually mutating to new strains. I make elderberry syrup all year round but I especially like to make sure I have it one hand from September – April.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Is wonderful at helping the body to alkalize. When our body is alkalized it helps kill bacteria and virus. Yes, it tastes awful, but if you add 1 tablespoon to an 8oz glass of water and add a little raw honey, it’s actually pretty tasty!

More resources for cold/flu season:

How do you plan on keeping your family healthy during this cold and flu season? 

Tips for Eating Healthy During Pregnancy

Thinking about having a baby? Expecting a baby? Just had a baby? Eating healthy in all of those stages is critically important. Whatever stage you fall into, you have come to the right place. Today I’m giving you some easy to follow tips that you can implement at any stage of your pregnancy.

eating healthy

By File photo, Canwest News Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

14 Eating Healthy Tips During Pregnancy

1. Eat for Two?

Nope, don’t fall into that trap. Yes of course you need to bump up your food intake a little but you definitely don’t need to be eating two of every meal.

2. Stay Hydrated

Water is the best choice during pregnancy. Did you know that water accounts for 75% of your baby’s water weight at birth? Lack of water can lead to dehydration, dehydration equals stress and when mom’s body is in stress so is baby. So stay hydrated. Aim for 1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water minimum, if you can drink more, go for it. For example a mother who weighs 150lbs would need to drink 75oz of water. Another good bonus is that staying hydrated also helps alleviate morning sickness.

3. Nitrates & Listeria

Packaged lunch meats are high in a preservative called sodium nitrate. Some specialists are of the opinion that sodium nitrates can lead to difficult complications during pregnancy. This is because the body turns nitrates into potential carcinogens. Another issue with cold cuts is that they may contain lots of the Listeria bacteria. Listeria can grow in refrigerated temperatures. This bacterium causes an ailment called Listeriosis which can cause problems during pregnancy such as miscarriage, premature delivery, infections or even death of the new born baby.

4. Good Fats

Don’t be scared of eating good fats. Fats are absolutely necessary for absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K which are vital for baby’s brain and organ development.  Coconut oil, butter, eggs, olive oil, quality red meats, and nuts are good choices for eating healthy fats.

5. Bad Fats

The human body does not have the capability to digest refined oils and trans-fats.  Consuming trans-fats can alter the composition of your breast milk and lowers the overall fat content.

Stay away from oils like: margarine, shortening, vegetable oils including canola oil, all hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils, and soybean oil.

6. Say Goodbye to Processed Foods

Unfortunately we are already passing toxins to our baby through the air we breathe and even chemicals we put on our skin (lotions, creams, shampoo etc.) the last thing we need to do is overload our system with unnecessary chemicals from the food we eat, which also offer little to no nutrition.

7. Fiber is your Friend

Eating healthy with a high fiber-diet includes eating properly prepared whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Fiber is important to keep the intestines moving to ensure good bowel function and elimination.  This also helps to avoid constipation, a common problem during pregnancy.

8. No Sugar

Avoid or greatly limit sugar intake in your diet and stick to natural sugars like maple syrup or raw honey in little quantity.  Bacteria, viruses, parasites all thrive off sugar.  Avoid aspartame1, sucralose2 and other artificial sugars, which are all chemical based.

9. Grab and Go

Always have healthy food snacks that are ready to go. When you get home from shopping, wash your produce right away and chop it up, store it in the fridge for easy access when you need a quick grab and go snack!  I liked to chop up carrots, celery, and my sweet husband would always cut me up a whole watermelon and keep it in the fridge when I wanted something for my “sweet tooth”.

10. Big Fish

Accumulate mercury in their bodies, which is transferred to you and your baby. Mercury causes damage to a baby’s nervous system. Stay away from swordfish, marlin, and shark. Limit tuna consumption too.  When choosing fish at the market always look for wild caught fish.

11. Organic

Eat as much organic or locally as you can.  If you can’t buy all of your produce organic, use the Environmental Working Group (EWG) ‘Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen‘ as a reference for which fruits and veggies you definitely should buy organic.

12. No Booze for You

Alcohol is not a bright idea while pregnant. It is linked to various health issues you want to avoid such as premature delivery, low birth weight, birth defects, and mental retardation. A little sip here and there is probably fine, but again, why take a risk?

13. Shop the Perimeter

The best tip when you go shopping is to shop the perimeter of the store, this is usually where all the good stuff is; your meats, poultry, seafood, produce, dairy. It’s when you get into the middle of the store and get lost in all those aisles with packaged and processed foods. This is where you really need to pay attention to the labels, read the ingredients.  Look for items that have less than 5 ingredients (more is NOT better).  Ingredients to avoid are:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Dyes, food colorings (red #40, yellow #5, red # 3 etc.)
  • Hydrogenated / partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats)
  • Artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, saccharin)
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • BHA & BHT
  • Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite (cured meats)
  • Potassium bromate  (found in commercial breads)

14. Double the Protein

When we are pregnant we need nearly twice as much protein. The average intake of protein is around 45grams; 75-80 grams is needed daily during pregnancy.  3oz of chicken breast is around 20-30grams of protein, so don’t worry it’s not that hard to get your protein in.  Here are some other great sources of protein.

  • Grass feed beef, lamb, bison
  • Pastured chicken/turkey
  • Pastured eggs
  • Nuts, seeds,  and legumes
  • Organic Dairy (milk, full fat yogurt, cheese)

If these tips seem overwhelming. Don’t worry you don’t have to add them all at once, but if you do, right on! Start by adding one or two tips, then build on that. Just by reading this you made a good first step to creating a healthy lifestyle for you and your baby!

 

1 – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/16/aspartame-diet-soda.aspx

2 – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/18/sucralose-side-effects.aspx

Organic Snacks for Halloween Parties

October is my favorite month out of the year, but I can’t lie, these past few years when Halloween rolls around, I get a little anxious about all the candy, and I have a hard time deciding what to hand out to trick-or-treaters, or what kind of organic snacks to bring to Halloween parties.organic snacks I don’t want to be known as that friend or neighbor that hands out the “weird” stuff to trick-or-treaters like dried fruit or apples. But I also cringe at the thought of knowingly giving kids candy that’s loaded with GMO’s, sugar and artificial ingredients. In the past I would usually cave and end up buying the fun-size bags of popular candy brands – but not these last few years!  Thanks to these organic and natural brands, Halloween just got a little healthier. Trick or treat!

7 Organic Snacks for Halloween Parties

Throwing a party this Halloween? No problem. Head over to Pinterest to visit our Healthy Halloween board to get some great ideas from organic snacks recipes to decorations and much more! Below I’ve posted a few healthier, organic snacks that both kids and adults will love and you can feel better about serving.  And for trick or treat candy that you can feel good about, click HERE.

18 Rabbits

Makes these great organic granola junior bars for kids, which come in some pretty fun flavors like Chocolate Banana, Cranberry Apricot, Mango Strawberry, and Chocolate Cherry. For us adults they have big kid bars with yummy flavors such as, Date Pecan Coconut, Fig Cranberry Hazelnut, and Cherry Chocolate Almond.

Glenny’s Marshmallow Treats

Who doesn’t love a yummy marshmallow treat?! Now you can even feel better that these are organic and also this is a wonderful treat for people who are gluten free.

Popcorn

Can’t have a party without popcorn. Choose from microwavable, pre-popped or pop your own varieties. If you pop your own, try coconut oil for a little extra flavor.

Clif  Kids

They have the choice of organic Z-Bars which are baked whole energy grain bars, which are low-fat, made with whole oats and contains 12 essential vitamins and minerals kids need every day. You can also try the organic Twisted Fruit, it is real fruit twisted into a fun rope shape that’s easy to slip into a backpack, lunchbox or take anywhere kids are on the move.

Jackson’s Honest

These are by far my favorite potato chip. They are kettle fried with coconut oil. Can’t get any better than that. These will for sure be a hit at any party!

Surf Sweets

Made with organic fruit juice and sweeteners and free of corn syrup and GMOs, these organic gummy candies are bursting with flavor.

Pur Gum

GMO and aspartame-free. It’s vegetarian-approved. It’s naturally colored, flavored, and sweetened and tastes super fresh! Great parting treat to give to guests when they leave a party.  They’re also great for giving out to trick or treaters if you get the blister packs and cut individual pieces of gum to give out.

What’s your favorite organic snacks for Halloween? What do you pass out to trick-or-treaters?

7 Health Benefits of Eating Organic Cinnamon

There is no better way to kick off the fall season then by talking about one of fall’s most loved spices… organic cinnamon!  Mmm I can smell those pumpkin pies baking already! Cinnamon is one of those spices that most of us have in our kitchen cupboards, but many of us may not be aware of the many health benefits it there are in organic cinnamon.

organic cinnamonWhy organic? Well because it ensures you it has not been irradiated, which means being exposed to ionized radiation for a period of time (which may lead to decreased amounts of vitamin C and carotenoids). Irradiated foods contain more free radicals (free radicals make our bodies more prone to chronic diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes). And, irradiation plants emit ozone into the environment. Pretty good reasons to buy organic cinnamon I’d say!

Some Benefits of Organic Cinnamon:

  1. May help treat Type 2 Diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and increasing the amount of insulin production in the body. Research shows that cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, lowering blood sugar after eating.
  2. It’s a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Has been shown to stop medication resistant yeast infections and also has been effective against three strains of Candida albicans fungus. Not only that, cinnamon is by far the best remedy for stomach bugs and food poisoning like E.Coli, which sickens more than 100,000 people each year.
  3. Cinnamon may actually prevent the spread and growth of cancer cells1. Cancer cells abnormally take up glucose, ignoring regular metabolic signals. Cinnamon may play a role in reestablishing the proper signals and keeping sugar levels under control so cancer cells cannot grow as quickly or spread as far.
  4. So much more than a spice, cinnamon is rich in manganese, iron, calcium, and fiber too. By adding it to any recipe, you are increasing your minerals and it is one of the top seven anti-oxidants in the world, which reduce the formation of “free radicals” that cause cancer and also increase aging.
  5. Cinnamon has been found to be an effective natural remedy for eliminate headache and migraine relief.
  6. In traditional Chinese medicine, cinnamon has been used for digestion upset like: gas, nausea and diarrhea and helps relieve symptoms of IBS. It is also believed to improve the body’s ability to digest fruit, milk and other dairy products.
  7. Just smelling cinnamon or chewing cinnamon gum is enough to boost brain activity, according to another study. In fact, test scores were higher, and memory, visual recognition, and motor speed were greatly enhanced in individuals who took a whiff of cinnamon, compared with individuals who smelled jasmine, peppermint, or no fragrance at all. If you put an oil diffuser in your car and add cinnamon oil, studies2 have shown to improve alertness behind the wheel.

Organic Cinnamon – Uses and Tips:

  • Mix cinnamon oil with hydrogen peroxide and spray your cutting board and kitchen sink to clean, especially after you have cut meats. Spray it in your refrigerator. It’s safe and natural.
  • Cinnamon is a well known warming agent making it great for massage. Combined with a carrier oil it is highly effective in relaxing and relieving muscle pain. Some put a few drops in their bath to relax and to sooth tired and aching muscles.
  • Half a teaspoon in a cup of tea with lemon juice and honey when colds or flu strike.
  • In tincture recipes to increase absorption of the herbs and for flavor.
  • A dash or two of cinnamon added to soups such as lentil or black bean may add an exotic flavor, plus provide the warming goodness may bring relief to those feeling under the weather.
  • Cinnamon oil in a diffuser.
  • Add one to two teaspoons of ground cinnamon to your coffee before brewing. It gives the coffee a nice cinnamon flavor and is an easy way to incorporate cinnamon into your diet.
  • Sprinkle or add into your favorite baked goods like, muffins, spice cakes and pies.
  • Add to your oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast.
  • Use in homemade elderberry syrup to protect against the flu.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19000754
2. http://www.wju.edu/about/adm_news_story.asp?iNewsID=1882&strBack=/about/adm_news_archive.asp

What are your favorite ways to use organic cinnamon?

General Mills Buys Annie’s Homegrown; shopOrganic Offers Alternatives

If you haven’t heard the buzz yet, General Mills has purchased Annie’s Homegrown/Annie’s Naturals.  While they promise that their ingredients won’t change and their commitment to using non-gmo ingredients is as strong as ever, they have allied themselves on the pro GMO side by default.annie's

General Mills may be looking to take advantage of the increase in sales of organic products, but savvy organic consumers are turning away from Annie’s, now that they have been purchased.

With a commitment to not carry any brands whose parent company donates to oppose GMO labeling, shopOrganic will no longer be selling Annie’s Homegrown or Annie’s Naturals products.  We are moving out the remainder of the inventory that we already purchased pre-aquisition and that will be it for our relationship with Annie’s.  We believe in putting our money where our mouth is and we believe that consumers have the power to shape our economy.  Let’s shape it toward organic producers who still believe in the spirit of organic.

I know that many families rely on Annie’s products to feed their kids foods that are familiar, that are fun and that they like to eat.  We’d like to suggest some alternatives for you to choose from.

If you like Annie’s Mac and Cheese:

If you like Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies & Pretzels:

If you like Annie’s Fruit Snacks:

If you like Annie’s Salad Dressing:

If you like Annie’s Gluten Free Cookies:

If you like Annie’s BBQ or Worcestershire Sauce:

If you like Annie’s Granola Bars:

If you like Annie’s Ketchup & Mustard:

7 Benefits of Feeding Your Family Organic Food

I get many questions about the importance of organic foods. People ask if it is really that big of a deal, and some sadly don’t even know what organic means! And so, here’s a quick reminder of what organic means:organic food

Organic (or-gan-ic): Food produced without the use of artificial or chemically formulated substances.

That’s it. Plain and simple. Eat organic and consume less toxic chemicals! A few years ago, I made organic brownies to bring to a social function and a gentleman asked me what my treat was, I told him they were dark chocolate organic brownies…and he immediately said that he doesn’t eat “that stuff”. I said, “What do you mean? Organic just means that no chemicals were used.” This man had no clue what organic meant. It’s so sad, and I know there are many others out there like him.

Seven benefits of eating and feeding your family organic foods:

1. Less toxic load.

We get enough toxic load from the air we breathe (think car exhaust, secondhand smoke, chlorine in our water, etc.).  The last thing we need to do is eat our chemicals. Choosing organic can lessen your toxic load by two-thirds; that’s pretty significant to me, and a much better for your family. A note for babies: The advantages of organic foods might be highest for babies because of the amount of food they eat relative to body size. The average baby is born with around 200 toxins and carcinogens in their body. By the time kids reach their 2nd year, most have passed the lethal limit for the toxins. By feeding your child organic food, they will have about one-sixth the amount of carcinogens in their blood. Thus you will decrease the chances of illnesses significantly. Therefore, especially for infants and children an organic food diet is incredibly important.

2. You know where it comes from.

Food is considered organic if it comes from a farming system that avoids man made fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics and growth regulators. Instead, most organic farmers rely on basic crop rotation, using animal and plant manures, and hand weeding to grow their products. That benefits us because the foods contain no hydrogenated fats, artificial colors or flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives.

3. Avoid GMO’s.

More recently, an increase in production of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) and the lack of labeling of these foods is causing many of us to choose organic. The impact of GMO foods and our health is still being studied, but the results so far do not look good. Rat studies show depressed immune systems, reproductive dysfunction, cancer, allergies, toxicity and more. In one 2005 study, conducted at the Russian Academy of Sciences, a 55% death rate of rat pups born to rats fed a GMO soy diet was discovered, compared to a 9% death rate of rat pups born to rats fed a non-GMO soy diet. Nearly 70% of all processed foods contain GMO ingredients, so choosing organic is the only guarantee that our food is free of GMO’s.

4. Tastes Better.

Yes! Have you ever ate an organic strawberry vs. a conventionally grown strawberry, or even an organic pastured egg vs. a conventional egg? The taste is so different. You will find that organic fruits usually always tastes sweeter and vegetables will taste bolder in flavor. It’s hard to go back to conventional once you have tasted organic. I think this is also true for how organic food looks. Organic foods just look more vibrant and healthy in size, shape and color!

5. Nutritional punch.

Antioxidants are important nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables and have been shown to impart multiple health benefits, including the prevention of many cancers and helps to slow our aging process. Some studies show that organic foods may have more antioxidants compared to commercial varieties. A 2012 study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture discovered higher antioxidants, including vitamin C, in organic broccoli compared to conventional.

6. Organic meats or meats produced by local farmers are healthier.

As for organic meats and poultry, to be considered organic, animals cannot be fed animal byproducts (which reduces the risk of mad cow disease) and antibiotics additives that means that organic diary and meat products do not contain these residues. Repeated exposure to low doses of antibiotic residues can disrupt the normal flora of the human gut, reducing the number of healthful bacteria and leaving humans more vulnerable to harmful bacteria and illness, because remember 70-80% of our immunity is in our gut. Also organic fed animals are given more space to move around and access to the outdoors, which help to keep the animals healthy.

7. Help Detox.

Eating organic foods for just five days can rid the body of virtually all pesticide residues. Think you can’t afford it? Look for in-season deals at local farmers’ markets, buy in bulk, buy organic food online and preserve the excess to enjoy during the winter months.

I think the best benefit to eating organic foods is the guilt-free pleasure associated with the whole experience. Isn’t it reassuring to know that, by eating organic, you’re not only helping the environment but you’re feeding your family good, pure food that’s fresh and preservative free?! I think so!

Here’s the bottom line: If you’re trying to reduce pesticides and chemicals in your family’s diet, the best thing is either to buy food labeled “organic,” or ask the grower directly if you are concerned about how they grow their food. Most farmers are more than happy to share with you.

What are some of the benefits your family has received from switching to an organic diet?

Healthy Snacks for Heading Back to School

For most of us parents, the back to school countdown has officially begun. I know I’ve got my own countdown going on. Don’t get me wrong, I love summer time with my kids, but I can’t wait for the familiar daily routine we have when the kids are in school. I do know that with school also comes the after school snacks. If you’re a parent you’ve undoubtedly heard something like this a few… hundred times, “Mom, can I have a snack?”   healthy snacksI hear this every single day right after they walk through the door, after they kick their shoes off and set their backpacks down. It’s like clockwork.  Sometimes I actually have a snack ready for them, other times I’m scrambling around the pantry and refrigerator to figure out what I can make with the options I have.  The one thing I do know: every snack I feed them is a healthy snack.   So what kind of snacks are they?  I will list a bunch of easy ideas for healthy snacks, then maybe you can get creative with your own!

20 Healthy Snacks Ideas:

  1. Almond Joy Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  2. Trail mix (1c soaked nuts, 1/2 c seeds, 1/2 c chopped dried fruit)
  3. Homemade Granola
  4. Homemade popcorn using organic popcorn seeds and coconut oil.
  5. Smoothies
  6. Veggie sticks with dip (try making your own homemade ranch dip)
  7. Nitrate free meat or deli slices rolled up with cheese sticks
  8. Peaches and Cream with cinnamon: sliced or diced fresh peaches, drizzled with milk of choice and cinnamon
  9. Cherry Chocolate Truffles
  10. Organic Greek yogurt sprinkled with choice of toppings (chopped nuts, seeds, fresh or dried fruits)
  11. Frogs on a Log ( the classic celery with nut butters and raisins or dried cranberries on top)
  12. Hard boiled eggs with sea salt
  13. Homemade popsicles 
  14. Leftovers (this is especially true if we made homemade pizza the previous night)
  15. Plantain chips with homemade salsa
  16. Toast  (we are gluten free in my home so sometimes they like gluten free bread toasted , spread with coconut oil or ghee and topped with raw honey or homemade jam
  17. Lettuce boats (yep my daughter likes these for snack…butter lettuce or romaine hearts are good for the “boat”, lay some nitrate free meat in there with a little cheese or an avocado slice)
  18. Homemade Chocolate (and yes, it’s healthy)
  19.  Homemade Fruit roll ups (recipe here)
  20. Cucumber slices with cream cheese

I hope these healthy snack ideas gave you a good back to school start! What are you kids favorite healthy snacks? Heck, what are yours?

Pet Dental Health – Top 5 Tips + Products That Help

As with humans, good dental hygiene in pets is linked directly to good health. While pet dental health has only become a focus of care in the past decade or so, it’s clear that taking care of your pet’s dental needs in a preventive manner is much less costly and far better for your pet’s overall health. With that, let’s look at our top five pet dental health tips and a few products that might make your life as your pet’s dental hygienist a bit easier!pet dental health

It’s often wise to take your pet for a checkup with your vet for a baseline on their tooth and gum health then create a plan for improvement (if needed). Your vet can tell you what to look for in your pet – dental health is partially related for overall health and partly tied to genetics, just like humans. So, get an idea of current status then use these tips to improve your pet’s dental health over time. Our four-legged friends can’t tell us when they have dental problems, so keep an eye out for changes to gum color or tongue, changes in eating habits or appetite. Beyond that, try these tips to keep Fido or Fluffy in great health!

1. Healthy Diet

Clean food is key to good dental health. Be sure to feed your pets clean, organic food appropriate for their age and activity levels. Fresh veggies can be great low calorie treats and add to your pet’s nutritional health. My dog loves raw carrots, apples and cucumbers and they sure make her breath sweet.

2. Clean, fresh water

Make sure you provide your pet with clean, fresh water daily. It’s vital to their overall health. Clean water every day (more often if your dog is like mine and drops her filthy tennis ball in the bowl). If you leave your dog outside in a yard at times, ensure there’s water outside as well. Even in winter, the dry weather can dehydrate your pet quickly.

3. Appropriate chew treats

Treats that your dog will chew on help clean teeth and scrape tartar off at the same time. According to the ASPCA,’ chew toys can satisfy your dog’s natural desire to chomp, while making teeth strong. Gnawing on a chew toy can also help massage gums and help keep teeth clean by scraping away soft tartar. Toxin-free rawhide, nylon and rubber chew toys are best. Gnawing also reduces your dog’s overall stress level, prevents boredom and provides an appropriate outlet for the natural need to chew. ‘

4. Do A Sniff Test

Your dog’s breath should smell, well, like a dog (and your cat’s like a cat) – but it shouldn’t be so horrible that it makes you faint. A health dog (or cat)’s mouth shouldn’t stink. A strong, foul odor is a sign of gum disease or an infection, both of which can be harmful if left untreated. Your pet’s gums should be pinkish, not white and not red. Check frequently so you know what ‘normal’ is for your pet then you’ll be able to spot changes and consult with your vet, as needed. Dark spots, bumps and other irregularities should be noted and monitors. Some dogs and cats have speckled interiors, so you should learn what ‘normal’ looks like and ask your vet if you see something new, different or concerning.

5. Brush Your Dog’s Teeth…If You Can

Sometimes it’s easier said than done. If you train your dog from a young age to tolerate your finger (and then a toothbrush) in its mouth, you may be able to brush its teeth. If you adopt an older dog who won’t tolerate it, use chews and treats that have a similar effect. My 10 year old Border Collie (adopted at the tender age of 9…) won’t bite when I brush, but some nights it’s a three-ring circus getting to the brushing. I use chews that are intended to clean her teeth and it’s a good compromise – brush sometimes, chew others.

Looking for products to help with pet dental health?

Castor & Pollux Rawhide Chews

Newman’s Own Organic Dental Dog Bone

Ark Naturals – Breath-Less Brushless Chewable Toothpaste

Ark Naturals – Breath-Less Plaque Zapper

Do you have any tips on pet dental health that have helped you and your fur-family?

Stay Hydrated with Flavored Water Recipes

Its summer time and I know most of us are hot. Hey, I’m in the Northwest and we have been having some pretty good summer weather this season. It’s been wonderful, but hot too, and when it’s hot we perspire more, which means we need to replace the liquid lost more frequently.  So what do you do when you get bored of just drinking plain water to stay hydrated?  Well there are many things out there, but just make sure you stay away from things like soda, energy drinks, caffeinated cold drinks etc. Those are all diuretics and will actually dehydrate you even more.  I’m going to give you a few fun flavored water recipes that will not only keep you hydrated but are also fun to make, taste delicious and good for you too. The sky’s the limit when it comes to ingredients you can use!

Fruits and Herb Flavored Water Recipes and Combinations

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart Mason jar (you can use a 2 quart jar or container if wanting to make larger quantity, just double recipe)
  • 1 cup of fresh fruit (always use organic fruit when possible)
  • If using herbs add a sprig of fresh herbs
  • Ice cubes and spring water
  • sweetener to taste (optional): Stevia or raw honey are good options.

Directions for making Watermelon Basil flavored water:

Step 1: Get all your ingredients and supplies ready

flavored water recipes

Step 2: Add fresh herbs to jar and mash with a wooden spoon (I use the handle) this helps release the flavor

flavored water recipes 2

Step 3: Add fruit to jar, and again mash, mix the fruit to release the juice. The more you mash the more flavor it will have.

flavored water recipes 3

Step 4: Fill the Jar with ice cubes then add water to reach top of jar, add sweetener if using. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight for a stronger flavor.

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Step 5: When ready to serve, pour into serving glasses, you might want to strain out the drinks that may contain seeds. This will keep about 3 days in the refrigerator.

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Flavor combinations for flavored water recipes are unlimited really.  Here’s a list of some of my favorites, feel free to play with it and make up your own. This is a time to let your creativity flow!  And remember you don’t have to use herbs, you can use just fruit if you wish.

  • Watermelon Basil (like pictured above)
  • Tropical: pineapple, mango, papaya. You can even pour in a little coconut water for that extra tropical boost and more importantly that will give you some beneficial electrolytes
  • Citrus: lemon, lime, and orange- just need a few slices of each
  • Berry Bliss: blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
  • Cucumber Lemon is a classic flavor combo
  • Strawberry Mint
  • Orange and Lavender-I have not tried this combination yet due to a lavender sensitivity but, this was suggested to me by a few friends of mine. If you try this combo I would love to know how you like it. Make sure you strain this one! I might have to try this one with grated fresh ginger in place of the lavender.

Chocolate Mint Flavored Water Recipe

This recipe is so simple.  This one is my kids favorite… really who doesn’t love chocolate!

Ingredients:

  • Mint leaves (as much or as little as you like, depending on your preference)
  • Chocolate flavored Stevia (5-15 drops to taste or depending on size of jar or water bottle)

Instructions:

Fill any jar you wish with spring water and simply add mint leaves and chocolate stevia. Give it a good shake and enjoy.

I hope these recipes help encourage you to drink more water and to stay hydrated the rest of the summer!

What is your favorite way to drink or flavor your water?

Kitchen Tools – the Essential 7

I was in my kitchen the other day cleaning out and organizing my cupboards, and realized that I have so many kitchen tools that I have barely touched in the last five years.  It’s really amazing how your kitchen changes when you begin a healthy lifestyle. I came across an angel food cake pan, cookie cutters, bread machine and many more kitchen gadgets I haven’t used in years. So what do I use most in my kitchen these days?

Here’s a list of seven of my most favorite kitchen tools, gadgets and items that are definitely essential to me and my healthy lifestyle.

  1. Vitamix (a Blendec will work too): The Vitamix has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve had mine going on four years now and I use it at least 2 times a day!  I make everything with my Vitamix, from nut milks, smoothies, ice-cream, soup, even mayonnaise, and much more! I think it’s my favorite item in my whole house!
  2. Chef Knife: I use my chef’s knife for everything in my kitchen, well all the cutting and chopping, that is. It’s my universal knife. I love it. A chef’s knife is usually 8-10 inches long (I like the 8″) and has a slight triangular shape.  Make sure it’s sharp and good quality.
  3. Nut Milk Bag: If you are like me and make your own nut milks then you probably have a nut milk bag. I really find it’s my favorite way to make milk, just blend up your nuts for a few minutes and pour it in the bag and strain. Super easy to use and quick to clean!
  4. Mason Jars:  If you come to my house, you will see these jars ALL over the place. I use them for everything (e.g. canning, freezing broth, drinking glasses, making kombucha, fermenting veggies, storing homemade lotion, salves and balms, and I even use them to make my tinctures). In my home these are a very essential item.
  5. Bamboo cooking utensils: I ditched the plastic years ago, and replaced all the cooking utensils I could with bamboo. Bamboo is much more natural and eco friendly choice, and much more cost effective I might add. Oh, same goes for the cutting board, make sure it’s bamboo too.
  6. Measuring cups/spoons: I like to eyeball a lot of ingredients, but when you bake it, it gets kind of tricky, so it’s better to take the guess out and be precise.
  7. Salad Spinner: I eat salads daily and I love to wash my lettuce and herbs then throw them in the spinner to dry, it’s quick and easy.

I know I could add a few more to this list, but for my kitchen those are the top essential kitchen tools I use mostly on a daily basis! What are your favorite kitchen tools? Could you narrow your list down to just seven?  Try it, it’s hard!

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