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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!

3 Healthy Dessert Recipes You Can Make At Home

Yes! You CAN have dessert!!  Despite whichever weight loss or healthy living resolutions you’ve made for yourself this New Years, you should never feel as though you’re depriving yourself. Sometimes that feeling alone can lead to unwanted binge eating or giving up on a healthy diet altogether.  It’s time to get out of that mind set and realize that it is OKAY to have a little dessert, especially if it’s healthy dessert! A healthy dessert is not going to make you feel depressed after eating it, or make your kids bounce off the wall.  Been there, done that.  It’s time to start avoiding the cookie and candy aisles, and take making healthy desserts into your own hands.  When you make your own healthy desserts you know exactly what ingredients are in them.  And knowing what’s in your desserts is such a better feeling than eating highly processed sweets like high fructose corn syrups, enriched flours and trans fats!

The healthy desserts I am going to list for you are some that I have come up with on my own and some recipes that I love from various websites.  All of which I or my family has personally loved.  I also like to keep sugar out of my house. I mostly use Stevia, Raw local honey and Maple syrup, as sweeteners in our home.

You can modify all of these healthy dessert recipes to meet you and your family’s needs.  We are gluten free in my home so I always swap my recipes with an organic gluten free flour, so please feel free to change things up and make it your own!

Healthy Dessert Recipes

Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies

healthy-desserts-quinoa-cookies

Ingredients:

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients except the last two with mixer until blended then stir in coconut and chocolate chips. Drop by tbsp. on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake 20 min. Cool completely before storing!

When I made them they tasted like macaroons and my kids loved them for breakfast!

2 Ingredient Ice-cream

healthy-desserts-2-ingredients-ice-cream

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 medium frozen bananas (peeled, break into chunks)
  • 1/4 cup of nut butter

Take your frozen bananas and throw them in your Vitamix, blender or food processor.  Scoop in the nut butter of your choice, I’ve used peanut butter and almond butter and they both tasted great!   If you have a Vita-Mix, it takes less than a minute to make, just remember to press the mixture down with your tamper.  And that’s all it takes!   My kids beg me for this “ice-cream” and I just love it.  Sometimes I throw in some cacao powder for a chocolate version.

Double Chocolate “Cupcakes”

healthy-desserts-double-chocolate-cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used homemade coconut milk for this recipe)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted (ghee is also wonderful with these)
  • 1/4 cup raw honey (I used 2 tablespoons raw honey and 1/4 tsp stevia)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients then add in wet ingredients, mix well. Add in a few dark chocolate chips or carbo chips if desired. Pour into a greased cupcake pan (or use liners) and fill 2/3′s full (will make about 7 regular cupcakes) then in the oven at 350 for around 20 minutes. Top with frosting for cupcakes or my kids had them with coconut oil and almond butter for breakfast.

My favorite healthy dessert recipe links:

  1. Chocolate Covered Katie – I just adore her site. I have made countless recipes from her and they all have been wonderful.  The recipes are vegan, but you can make them fit your needs.  Trust me you will LOVE them!
  2. Healthy Homemade Chocolate – This is my go-to chocolate recipe. I changed mine up a bit. I use stevia as my sweetener, but my kids prefer the honey. I also use raw cacao powder for some that extra super food boost.
  3. Nourishing Traditions “Macaroons“- Have you read the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (one of my hero’s)? If you haven’t you are missing out.  This recipe is wonderful, love that I can have macaroons, without that overly sweet taste.
  4. Mint Chocolate Chip Kefir Ice-Cream – Who ever thought of a probiotic ice cream?!  I’m all for an ice cream rich in natural whole food ingredients and one that is going to be easy on the tummy!
  5. Glazed Chocolate Donut Holes – Hands down these are my kids absolute favorite right now. They are so happy that mom found a healthy donut for them!
  6. Almond Joy Chocolate Chunk Cookies – I wrote this blog a while back, but this is still a family favorite!

I hope now you feel better knowing that you can still have dessert, just with a little touch of healthy, can’t go wrong with that!   What are your favorite healthy desserts?

January Specials at shopOrganic

Each month shopOrganic offers a different selection of sale items so that you can save a little money on the path of making better choices.  These specials also give you an opportunity to try some new products that you might have overlooked before. We’ve highlighted some of these great products below, including some products that are great for the upcoming holiday season. Be sure to head up to shopOrganic.com’s Sale section to see all of the January specials at shopOrganic.

january specials at shoporganic

January Specials at shopOrganic

Amy’s Kitchen
NEW Candy Bars 10% Off

Amy’s has really hit the mark with their new candy bars.  Their simple names: Crispy, Crunchy, Chewy and Creamy do not do justice to what’s inside the wrapper.  Crispy has rice crisps with almonds wrapped in caramel and chocolate – it is reminiscent of a 100 Grand bar.   The Crunchy is English toffee with almonds wrapped in chocolate – think Heath Bar.  Creamy is soft nougat with caramel and chocolate – think Milky Way.  Chewy is caramel and pecans covered in chocolate – honestly I can’t think of a bar that its like, this one is in a class of its own.  Click HERE to try this January special now.

Andalou
Select products 10% Off

Andalou Naturals is the first body care company to obtain Non-GMO Verified certification.  Andalou infuses the best of nature and knowledge into mindful and effective products that are good for people and the planet.  Their products are made with fruit stem cells which renews skin at the cellular level, blending nature and knowledge for visible  results. Click HERE to try this January special now.

Choice Organic Tea
All varieties 10% Off

These organic and fair trade teas will warm you up on a chilly Fall day.  Choice Organics commitment to fair trade practices will make you feel as warm inside as their tea will.  Click HERE to try this November special today.

Color Garden
All varieties 10% Off

We’re very excited about this brand new product – a food coloring made with only natural ingredients like beet, carrot and red cabbage.  Great for making cake and cupcake frosting without chemical food dyes.  Try them all HERE.

Explore Asian
All varieties 10% Off
Explore Asian’s unusual pastas are made from black beand, mung beans and soybeans.  With high protein and low carbs, its a healthy pasta alternative that cooks up al dente every time.  Click HERE to try them now.

Equal Exchange
Organic Baking Cocoa & Hot Cocoa Mix 10% Off
Warm up your winter nights with organic, fair trade hot cocoa from Equal Exchange; a perfectly sweetened treat.  Or enhance your baked goods with their organic fair trade baking cocoa.  Either way you’re supporting fair wages for the small scale cocoa growers of the CONACADO cooperative.  Try them HERE.

From The Fields
Organic Granola, Muesli & Cereal 10% Off

Made with simple ingredients, slow roasted to perfection, From The Fields’ products are a great way to start the day.  With no added oil and no wheat, they are available in small sizes as well as bulk sizes, try some today.   Click HERE to try them all.

Gimme Seaweed Snacks
All varieties 10% Off
These crunchy, healthy and tasty sea vegetable snacks satisfy that need for a crunchy snack with minimal calories and great seaweed nutrition.  Try them in single serve and larger sizes.  Try them all HERE.

Giovanni Facial Cleansing Towelettes
All varieties 10% Off
Treat yourself to a facial on the go. Giovanni’s refreshing facial cleansing towelettes cleanse, tone and hydrate in one refreshing step.   Ultra soft to comfortably remove makeup. Won’t clog pores or leave an oily residue.  Try them all HERE.

Good Boy Organics
BOPS & Organicasaurus Cheese Puffs 10% Off
BOPS (Baked Organic Potato Snacks) are the first line of certified organic baked potato chips on the market.  In classic flavors like sour cream and onion, bbq, and cheddar cheese, they make a great alternative for conventional chips.  They also have an organic version of a cheese puff called Organicasaurus; they’re shaped like little dinosaurs so they’re really kid friendly and fun. Try them all HERE.

Koyo Foods
Ramen Noodles 10% Off  
Made with organic heirloom wheat noodles, these isn’t your typical ramen.  The base for a healthy meal, these are great on their own or with added vegetables and protein.   Click HERE to try them now.

One Degree Organics
Organic Sprouted Grain Cereals 10% Off
Using only organic foods grown using natural veganic methods, One Degree is able to track all of their extraordinary grains all the way back to the field for true transparency. By sprouting the grains, One Degree’s products are more digestible and higher in nutrients. Try them all HERE.

Organic India
Organic Tulsi Tea 10% off 
In India, the herb Tulsi, also called holy basil, has been widely known for its health promoting and medicinal value for thousands of years. Commonly called sacred or holy basil, it is a principal herb of Ayurveda, the ancient traditional holistic health system of India. Holy basil is known as “The Incomparable One”, “The Mother Medicine of Nature”, and “The Queen of Herbs”.  Try them all HERE!


Take advantage of these great sale items and more throughout January at shopOrganic.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2014: Eating Healthy

I have never been all that good at making New Year’s resolutions and sticking with them.  In my younger years I always new-years-resolutions-2014-eating-healthyseemed to fail at them, then again when I look back at the resolutions I made when I was in my teens and 20′s, most of them were weight loss based and very unrealistic. If I didn’t see results after two weeks, I’d be done.  Now that I’m in my mid 30′s my outlook on what resolutions to make and how to keep them is much different. To this day I don’t know many people who have ever really stuck or actually completed their New Year’s resolutions.  If you have then I sincerely applaud you!  What I find works best for me is creating smaller goals throughout the year. Goals that are realistic for me, and writing them down is key (did you know that people who write down there goals are 90% more likely to stick to them? It’s true).  So get your pen and paper out and start a small list of attainable goals.

New Year’s goals and resolutions for eating healthy this year!

1. Give Your Pantry a Makeover

Go through your pantry, cupboards and refrigerator and throw out anything with the following words (these are additives, chemicals and preservatives to stay away from):

  • Partially hydrogenated (usually will be some sort of oil, all are bad trans fats)
  • Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame K, and neotame, among others, found in diet sodas, and sugar free snacks
  • Food dyes, Red 3 has caused cancer in lab rats, and Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 may contain cancer-causing contaminants, I would stay away from all to be safe.
  • Watch out the word ‘enrichment’. That means niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid, and iron are added after these and other key nutrients are stripped out in the first place during the refining process.
  • Monosodium Glutamate is an additive. It is not a nutrient, vitamin or a mineral and has no health benefits.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) causes insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, weight gain and not to mention it is manufactured from genetically modified corn
  • Soy although it’s often lauded as a healthy, cholesterol-free, cheap, low-fat protein alternative to meat, soy is not a health food. Any foods that list soy in any form as an ingredient should be avoided. Like the above, most of the U.S. soy is genetically modified.

2. Drink More Water

Did you know that on average we need to be drinking half of our body weight in water each day? That means if a person weighs 150 lbs they should be drinking 75 ounces of water a day.  Don’t let that overwhelm you, start small: drink a glass or two more water then work up to it. This allows for proper hydration your body needs and helps with eliminating toxins.

3. Get that sugar out

Sugar has no nutritional value and it feeds every fungus, parasite, yeast, virus etc. in our body; it helps them grow and in turn weakens our immunity.  A good swap for sugar is Stevia.  Start small, try a little in your tea or coffee in the morning.

4. Start a Food Journal

To some this may seem like a daunting task. Try it. It works. It really helps you see what you are eating on a daily basis. Also it helps track and narrows down issues you may have with food (food sensitivities, allergies, mood swings etc). When you notice patterns you can eliminate the food you think might be the culprit and see if those symptoms disappear.

5. Buy more Organic food

The more organic and local you eat, the less pesticides, toxins you will ingest. Also eating organic is a good way to keep you away from GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms).

6. Be adventurous

On your plate I mean.  Yes, this year try new foods! Eat the rainbow. If all you eat is Iceberg lettuce in your salads try a new green.  Arugula is a wonderful green that has a slightly peppery taste.  You like raisins?  Try a handful of Goji berries, they might surprise you and they are packed full of nutrients.  Eating a variety of foods ensures we meet all of our nutritional requirements, and aren’t missing any essential vitamins and minerals by eating the same things every day.  So have some fun, try a new fruit or vegetable every week.

7. Slow Down

Take your time to eat. So many of us eat on the go these days. What you need to commit to doing, at least once a day, just ONE meal, is to slow down. Take your time to eat and for heaven’s sake SIT DOWN, none of this standing up to eat business.  Also make sure to chew your food, this is so important in order to digest our food properly and it will help with many digestive disorders.

8. Eat more sustainably

I’m not saying become a farmer and live off the land (though I think I would love that!) just make a few easy changes to your usual food-shopping and eating routines. Aim for local and seasonal foods, and start shopping at your local farmers’ market. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, the food is fresher because it doesn’t have to travel as far and you’re also supporting your community’s economy.

9. Plant a Garden

The garden you plant doesn’t have to be a big one. Start small, even an herb garden in your kitchen would be wonderful. Get your kids involved. Nothing could be better than teaching your child about sustainable food.

10. Meal Plan

Meal planning is important especially when health challenges are involved.  Start planning out your meals a week or a month in advanced, this will help you to only buy and use what you need and help you to save money.

11. Move that Body

Thought I’d forget this one huh?!  It’s true a healthy lifestyle includes moving your body.  There are too many benefits of exercise to list. Just remember exercise normalizes many functions in our body, a few being: hormone and thyroid levels, helps plaque from building in our arteries, and helps stimulate the liver (which performs more than 3000 functions). Those are only some of the benefits of adding exercise to your lifestyle.  One of the greatest advantages of moving your body is how much better it makes you feel in every way!   If exercise is new to you, start with a 15 minute walk 3 times a week then work up to 30 minutes!!

If you’re having trouble coming up with your own New Year’s goals or resolutions then please feel free to choose from the ones I’ve listed.  Pick the ones the work for you and DO YOUR BEST to reach them.  You will find that putting these healthy eating habits into practice will not only benefit your health, it will help you get to your desired weight naturally (if weight loss is a resolution or goal for you).  Remember true weight loss is something you cannot achieve with a magic pill.  True weight loss is slow, but you are more likely to stick with it and keep it off.

How to Buy Safe Canned Seafood

Like me, I’m sure you have heard at some point in your lifetime about how to buy safe canned seafood (Tuna, Salmon, how-to-buy-safe-canned-seafoodetc.)  It seems like there is always a new study coming out saying something different about whether canned seafood is safe or not. So which is it, good or bad?  Honestly, I say BOTH.  For me I really think it depends on a few things:

  1. Where was it caught?
  2. Do the cans have BPA?
  3. And what are the ingredients?

Where was the fish in the canned seafood caught?

On the canned seafood cans always look for the words “Wild Caught”, this will insure you that the fish was not farm raised and fed grains and or given dye (mostly found in canned salmon).  My advice is to stay away from commercial brands like Starkist and Chicken of the Sea, both of these brands claim to be wild-caught but they use additives in their canned seafood.

Do the cans the canned seafood comes in contain BPA?

BPA is a chemical used in the manufacturing of some vinyl can liners, including those found in some canned seafood. Researchers classify BPA as an “endocrine disruptor” because it has the ability to disrupt activities in the body’s endocrine (hormonal) system which is linked to a wide array of ailments such as ADHD and heart disease. We’ve only seen a few studies that actually measured BPA in canned seafood, and the results were mixed. Some of the studies showed contamination of the seafood with BPA, and some did not.

What are the ingredients in the canned seafood?

Safe canned seafood should only have 2-3 ingredients including: fish, water and maybe some salt. If it lists more than three ingredients then I’d be weary. If it says vegetable broth (which usually contains soybeans) or Pyrophosphate (a common food grade additive used in a variety of products from chicken nuggets to toothpaste) then I would steer clear from those.

If you look out for those few things on your can, you should be able to select safer options for canned seafood.  For me, I love a good can of tuna or salmon. I eat it at least once a week in a salad or when making salmon cakes! Remember that seafood has some very valuable fatty acids (Omega 3′s) with are essential for our body they give a good source of energy, they are the building blocks for every cell membrane in our body  and are necessary for healthy liver function, just to name a few benefits.  Now you can feel better knowing that you are doing your body a favor by eating fish…even canned seafood!

Here are some trusted canned seafood brands:

Henry & Lisa
Crown Prince
Sea Fare Pacific
Cole’s

What brand of canned seafood is your favorite and how do you like to enjoy it?  

12 Healthy Oils (fats) You Should Be Eating

Unfortunately fats/oils have gotten a bad rap over the past sixty years.   The low-fat/no-fat approach was first promotedhealthy-oils in the 1950’s by nutrition researcher Nathan Pritikin. Initially, Pritikin advocated a no-fat diet, high in un-refined carbohydrates, but after long-term research he realized  that a no-fat diet led to many physiological imbalances including fatigue, mood disorders like depression, nutrient and mineral deficiencies, weight issues and more.  Realizing that fat (fatty acids) were necessary for balanced health, Pritikin began promoting that a low-fat diet, including modest amounts of vegetable fats (from nuts and seeds), was actually more healthful than the no-fat diet approach. Hence, the low-fat diet was born and this dangerously flawed theory is still a core dietary recommendation among dieticians, clinical nutritionists, and doctors.

So throw that myth out the door, that fat makes you fat and is unhealthy for you!  The fact is that the human body NEEDS fat.  Why you ask?  Here are some excellent reasons:

How fats/oils of all kinds benefit our body:

  • Fats and oils satisfy our appetites
  • Fats and oils aid in healthy hormone balance in our body
  • Fats and oils are the main fuel for the muscles which includes the heart muscle.
  • Optimal liver and gallbladder function
  • Fats and oils help to nourish every cell in our bodies
  • Fats and oils allow us to heal quickly and effectively
  • Fats and oils are better source of energy. They are a long burning fuel unlike sugars/carbs which are fast burning.
  • Fats and oils promote healthy cholesterol levels.

Now after having said all that, which fats and oils do we use?!   Well this is where you have to be careful and really read your labels. There is a difference between good fats and bad fats.   When you are looking for good fats always look for the words: Cold Pressed, UN-refined (emphasizing the UN), Expeller Pressed, Organic and Extra Virgin.  Bad (Rancid) fats will say this:  Hydrogenated, Partially Hydrogenated, refined and they might trick you and say Cold PROCESSED (instead of Cold PRESSED) see that little trick they do there!  Dirty isn’t it!    Remember it’s very important to stay away from these oils, the human body CANNOT and does NOT have the capability to digest these rancid, refined oils.   So here is a list of the GOOD oils you should be using:

Top 12 Oils and Fats to use:

Saturated Fats

Best for cooking at higher temperatures and do not turn rancid easily, ideal for baking and sautéing

1. Ghee (Clarified butter) has a 500 smoke point making it my preferred oil/fat for cooking and baking and here is how to make it yourself.

2. Coconut oil, which has a smoke of about 350 degrees and one of my favorite oils.

3. Palm Kernel Oil (made from the kernels of palm fruit, and similar to coconut oil)

4. Lard and other animal fats from healthy sources

Monounsaturated Fats

Lower heat point, good for light sautéing, simmering and stir-frying.

5. Olive Oil (unfiltered is best, should be golden yellow/green in color and cloudy.)

6. Almond Oil

7. Avocado Oil

8. Sesame Oil

Polyunsaturated Fats

Easily damaged by light, heat and turn rancid easily, not used for cooking and should always be stored in dark containers in the refrigerator.

* UNSAFE FOR ANY KIND OF HEAT EXPOSURE! DO NOT USE FOR COOKING!   Use these oils instead as a supplement form or to make in a dressing.

9. Flax Seed Oil

10. Fish Oil

11. Grapeseed oil

12. Hemp Seed oil

Having a good balance of the above fats is key! If you eat a healthy combination of these oils then you will have a good balance of Essential Fatty Acids in your body!!

Oils/Fats that are UNSAFE in any circumstances:

Canola Oil and Cottonseed Oil

Both are HIGHLY processed oil. Don’t let the canola fool you ….listen to how it’s pronounced CON-ola.   Canola is the oil of the industry, and it is the oil they are currently using in the prepared foods at Whole Foods Markets across the country.  It has no place in our digestive track.  Cottonseed oil is one of the most genetically modified, pesticide- laden crops in America.  Stay away from it at all costs, if you eat Crisco…throw it out, cottonseed oil is one of the main ingredients!  So, did I stun you today?!  I hope right now that you are going through you kitchen looking for those bad oils and throwing them out!  If you stick to the list above then you will be okay!

Did this list surprise you or have you been cooking and using these healthy oils all along? 

Buying Produce: The Organic Shopping Guide

We’ve put quite a few organic shopping guides together so that our customers can better navigate their way through thebuying-produce-organic-shopping-guide best organic foods and products.  One thing a lot people are wondering about specifically is buying produce.  What produce should you buy organically?  What produce is it okay for you to buy conventionally?  And where are the best places for buying produce that’s organic?

In our recent post Saving Money on Organic Foods: 10 Great Tips, Krissy briefly mentioned a couple of lists you may already be familiar with: the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.  The “dirty dozen” refers to produce you should always buy organically. The reason these foods should be bought organically is because they have skins that we eat, and the skin is what’s exposed to pesticides and chemicals during the growing process.  The clean fifteen refers to produce that is okay to buy conventionally because the skin is not eaten therefore you’re not directly ingesting foods sprayed with chemicals.  In case you haven’t heard of these two lists, here they are:

The Dirty Dozen

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry tomatoes
  4. Cucumber
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot peppers
  7. Nectarines (imported)
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet bell peppers

The Clean Fifteen

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocado
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Corn
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangoes
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas
  13. Pineapples
  14. Sweet peas (frozen)
  15. Sweet potatoes

Buying Produce Locally

Buying produce locally is not only good for the environment and local economy, but if you buy from a local farmers’ market or farm you can ask the farmer yourself about how they grew the produce.  Local foods are also usually less expensive than foods that have been shipped from one part of the country to another.

Buying Produce Seasonally

Organic frozen produce is often cheaper than fresh produce especially if it’s out of season when you buy it, but was in season when it was frozen.  You can also buy organic produce in bulk when it’s in season, freeze it, and use it when it’s out of season.

Growing Organic Produce

Start your own organic garden and start growing your favorite fruits and vegetables.  Not only will you save money on buying produce at the store, but you’ll know exactly what’s in the produce you’re serving to your family because you grew it yourself.  Buying organic garden seeds ensures that you’re not planting any GMO’s.

Other Tips & Tricks for Buying Produce:

  • Separate bananas once you get them home so that they age slower.
  • Avoid washing leafy greens or fruits until right before they’re ready to be eaten, this way they’ll last longer.
  • Repurpose leftovers and food waste.   There are so many things you can do with organic vegetables besides adding them to a meal.  Also you can use your own food waste to help fertilize your own organic garden.

Do you have any tips or tricks to buying produce that is organic and inexpensive?  Share them in the comments!

Saving Money on Organic Foods: 10 Great Tips

Something I hear a lot is, “I would buy organic foods and products if they weren’t so expensive!”  This statement makessaving-money-on-organic-foods-tips me want to roll my eyes… and then roll them again. Really?  Too expensive?  I don’t think it’s more expensive than future medical costs you will incur if you continue to eat processed junk that can barely be called, “food”!  And while it’s probably obvious that this argument drives me up a wall, I have to remind myself that for a lot of people saving money on organic foods, and saving money in general, isn’t just a preference but it’s a necessity.  Not everyone has the luxury of buying all organic (I sure don’t), and some just don’t know where to start. This is where my heart gets soft, because I didn’t know either.  If someone would have informed me when I was younger I would have really appreciated that, not only knowing what foods I should be eating, but how to make an organic diet a sustainable one.  And so I’ve put together a few tips that I hope will make saving money on organic foods a little easier for you, and make your shopping trips more enjoyable.

Saving Money on Organic Foods

1. Did you know that you don’t have to buy all organic produce? There are some fruits and veggies that have less pesticides, making it okay to buy non-organic if you are in a pinch.  With my family of five, this has come in very handy.  Here is a good list to give you an idea of what you should buy organic and what is okay to buy conventional.  You’ll notice the fruit and veggies for which we eat the skin, we should always buy organic and most of the produce that has skin typically not for ingesting or have low pesticide ratings are okay to buy conventionally. Here are examples:

Produce that should be purchased organically:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Grapes
  • Hot peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Collards & kale
  • Summer squash & zucchini

Produce that is safe to purchase conventionally:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Papayas
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Sweet potatoes

2. The next best thing for saving money on organic foods is to buy locally. Some farmers cannot afford to have their farm be organic certified, so in the stores these will be labeled: “Locally Grown” or from local farmers.  Go to farmers markets and buy straight from the farmers where you can ask them questions on how they grow their food.

3. Get rid of the junk!  Buying fewer processed foods means less of your budget going towards junk and frees that money up for buying organic whole foods!

4. Next spring start your own organic garden.  My family did this and it helped lower the cost on produce for a good 6 months.  Plant the vegetables that you buy the most to help costs even more.  Plus it’s so rewarding to eat food that you grew in your back yard.

5. Buy in bulk. When you buy in bulk the upfront cost will be more, but you get more for your money and you will not have to buy those items for awhile.  This option is especially good for the items you use the most in your home like grains, nuts, seeds, flours, spices, beans and even household supplies. You can find a whole bunch of organic items to buy in bulk online.

6. Develop a meal plan.  I find that making a weekly or monthly meal plan helps in saving money on organic foods.  When you develop a meal plan you can make your shopping list very easy and you’ll know exactly what you have to buy and what ingredients you need to buy organic.  This helps on costs because you aren’t just buying things you might need, or might make and that helps not buying things that’ll just go to waste.

7. When you go to your grocery store, co-op or health food store look for the produce that is marked down because they are bruised or overly ripe. This is a good time to stock up. I like it when I get a ton of bananas and apples. I freeze the bananas and make applesauce and apple butter!

8. Go straight to the farm.  Usually when you go straight to the source you can get produce cheaper than the grocery stores and sometimes even a better deal than the farmers markets! You can check the web site Local Harvest for the markets that are in your area.

9. Buy organic foods that are in season. Out of season foods can cost more because of shipping costs, as well as the demand versus the availability of the item. Buying foods that are in season saves on the transport energy, and lowers the cost of the food.

10. Shop for organic foods and products online.  If you are in an area where you cannot get good organic food, and so saving money on organic foods isn’t the primary issue, shop online! It’s nice when you can have items delivered straight to your house and most places have deals for saving money on organic foods.

Have these tips helped you?  What tips can you share for saving money on organic foods?

December Specials at shopOrganic

Each month shopOrganic offers a different selection of sale items so that you can save a little money on the path of making better choices.  These specials also give you an opportunity to try some new products that you might have overlooked before. We’ve highlighted some of these great products below, including some products that are great for the upcoming holiday season. Be sure to head up to shopOrganic.com’s Sale section to see all of the December specials at shopOrganic.

december specials

December Specials at shopOrganic

Artisana
Coconut Oil 10% Off

Artisana’s organic coconut oil is carefully created in small batches to ensure the highest quality.  Their products are always raw, always organic, and always delicious.   Click HERE to try this December special now.

Better Than Bouillon
All products 10% Off

Just in time for the holiday season we’ve got Better Than Bouillon on sale.  Great for soups, stews, gravies and other holiday recipes.  Add some concentrated flavor to your favorite dishes.  Click HERE to try them now.

Choice Organic Tea
All varieties 10% Off

These organic and fair trade teas will warm you up on a chilly Fall day.  Choice Organics commitment to fair trade practices will make you feel as warm inside as their tea will.  Click HERE to try this November special today.

Color Garden
All varieties 10% Off

We’re very excited about this brand new product – a food coloring made with only natural ingredients like beet, carrot and red cabbage.  Great for making cake and cupcake frosting without chemical food dyes.  Try them all HERE.

Dr. Kracker
All varieties 10% Off
Inspired by the traditional crispbreads of Europe, Dr. Kracker flatbread crackers are made with a blend of whole grains and seeds, mixed carefully into a yeast-raised dough and artisan baked to perfection. Every bite of every Dr. Kracker flatbread is full of texture, flavor and heartiness.  Great on their own or topped with your favorite foods, from dips to salads, nut butters and jam.   Click HERE to try them now.

Drew’s
Organic Salad Dressings 10% Off
Produced in small batches infused with authentic regional and ethnic flavors, Drew’s unique salad dressings totally transform salads and reinvent everyday meals. With bold flavors and organic goodness, Drew’s salad dressings’ combination of quality and convenience mean more time at the dinner table with your family. Try all of their dressings HERE.

Earth Friendly
Dishmate 10% Off
A powerful hand dish washing product that is naturally hard on grease but not your skin.  Try a small amount into your sponge for cleaning dishes so you can experience the power of this concentrated formula.  Dishmate is also great for hand washable clothes. Try them all HERE.

Edward & Sons
Organic Croutons 10% 0ff
Made from organic whole grain wheat and select organic seasonings, these croutons complete your organic salads and garnish your organic soups. Lightly Salted Croutons add a subtle toasted flavor to your bowl, while Onion Garlic and Italian Herbs Croutons impart zesty flavor that excite your taste buds and enhance your meal. The Italian Herbs Croutons make a great stuffing!  Try them HERE.

Equal Exchange
Organic Baking Cocoa & Hot Cocoa Mix 10% Off
Warm up your winter nights with organic, fair trade hot cocoa from Equal Exchange; a perfectly sweetened treat.  Or enhance your baked goods with their organic fair trade baking cocoa.  Either way you’re supporting fair wages for the small scale cocoa growers of the CONACADO cooperative.  Try them HERE.

Essential Oxygen+
All products 10% Off
Essential Oxygen Brushing Rinse provides a better way to brush your teeth. It works AND it’s clean. This amazing rinse is part organic toothpaste, part organic mouthwash.  Great for all oral issues including natural teeth whitening, gum pockets and receding gums, tooth sensitivity, bad breath, tartar, canker sores and toxic morning mouth, all without objectionable ingredients.  Their Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide is great for first aid, body & oral care, produce, household surfaces, dishwasher, laundry & stains, plants & garden, and pets.  Try them all HERE.

Farmer’s Market
Canned Organic Vegetable Puree 10% Off

With the holidays just around the corner, its a great time to stock up on canned pumpkin, sweet potato and butternut squash.  Great in casseroles, soups, stews and desserts.  Click HERE to try them all.

Flavorganics
Organic Baking Extracts 10% Off

It’s baking season, the perfect time to stock up on your favorite baking extracts.  Flavorganics extracts bring an extra punch of flavor to your baked goods.  Click HERE to try them all.

Heavenly Organics
Organic Honey 10% Off

These honeys are produced by a coop of organic farms in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and throughout Northern and Central India.  With really unique flavors, these honeys are truly organic; the bees do not come into contact with any chemicals or pesticides.  Click HERE to check out this December special.

Mary’s Gone Crackers
Organic Gluten Free Cookies 10% Off
Made with real food ingredients and low glycemic sweeteners, you can eat these cookies anytime. Mary’s Gone Crackers’ Cookies use coconut palm sugar, a pure, whole-food sugar that is made from the deliciously sweet nectar of the coconut palm tree. They also contain chia seeds, an ancient superfood high in healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Try them all HERE.

Newman’s Own Organics
Organic Cookie-O’s 10% Off
Dunk them, twist them apart, eat them in one bite! No matter how you like to eat Newman Cookie-O’s, you can feel good knowing that they contain no artificial ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup, and no GMO’s.  They’re our favorite O’s!  Try them all HERE.

Nibmor
Organic Fair Trade Chocolate Bars & Drinking Chocolate 10% Off
Nibmor’s chocolate bars and drinking chocolate are organic, fair trade, gluten free and vegan.  With no refined sugars, you can indulge in delicious chocolate without any guilt! Try them all HERE.

OCHO Candy
Full size bars and minis 10% Off  
Made in small batches with great care, OCHO Candy brings back the fun you remember about candy as a kid.  In flavors that will leave your taste buds tantalized, try them in full size bars or mini sizes.   Click HERE to try them now.

One Degree Organics
Organic Sprouted Grains 10% Off
Using only organic foods grown using natural veganic methods, One Degree is able to track all of their extraordinary grains all the way back to the field for true transparency. By sprouting the grains, One Degree’s products are more digestible and higher in nutrients. Try them all HERE.

Take advantage of these great sale items and more throughout December at shopOrganic.

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