Healthy Habit #1

Good news! The best and most important thing you can do for your health is what you are doing right now: reading.

Of course, don’t limit yourself to my blog. Read health articles online and in magazines, read headlines and bylines, read cookbooks and warning labels. There are lots of opinions out there, so of course you won’t agree with everybody. But you will begin to formulate a philosophy of healthy living. Most of all, read the fine print on everything that you buy. Check out my post on How to Read an Ingredient Label.

Reading the list of ingredients is important even for things you never thought about having ingredients, like baby wipes. You definitely want to know what going into and onto you and your loved ones. Since our skin is our largest organ…and since it is an absorbing organ, what is ON us, is IN us. So choose carefully what you expose yourself to.

And keep on reading. It’s good for you.

Good news for the eco-conscious: more consumer demand = more choices

It seems that everywhere you look these days natural and organic products are cropping up. Coupons, promos, and advertisements -from such traditionally non-natural companies like Clorox- inform us that not only is there a demand for these types of products, but everyone wants part of the market share.

Green is now far more than a color. Organic is the new little black dress.

Of course, with so many newcomers to the game, the rules can get a little fuzzy. A lotion promising “95% organic ingredients” may still have paraben preservatives, and an all-purpose cleanser labeled “earth friendly” may mean little more than that it was produced in a plant that had low energy bulbs hanging overhead.

Now, more than ever before, consumers must be savvy.

But the good news is that there are now so many options for healthier products in so many consumer lines, whether body care, food, cleansers, food and water containers, toys and baby products, even home furnishings. And more options mean a competitive market that responds to consumer demand.

So do your research. And enjoy your growing choices.

EWG Resources

Here’s a site you’ll want to be familiar with: ewg.org. That stands for Environmental Working Group, which is a consumer education and advocacy organization. And importantly, they have invested heavily to create databases for checking on toxicity.

ewg

Those databases include:

I’m particularly excited about the guide to household cleaners because…well, I’m not a scientist. I had no previous way of knowing whether my goods were what they claimed. And guess what? Some of my “green” labeled products came up with FAILING ratings. What? Yeah. Charlie’s Soap products, which were sitting in my cabinet when I found the database and began searching.

Charlies

Not all the databases are perfect (being updated often, but not perfect), and of course some of the opinions are subject to your health philosophy (like saturated fat in raw organic cheese being flagged as unhealthful; you probably know I’m a butter-fat advocate, in moderation).

But if you’ve been frustrated by the lack of ingredients on your cleaning products, or the lack of your own knowledge on how to interpret the ingredients which are listed on your personal care products, these sites are for you!

Oh, there are some Apps too…check your app store for EWG. The privately created ThinkDirty app is nifty too…barcode scans your personal care items!

Have you used any of these databases? Have you had ingredient revelations?

Not All Honey Is Created Equal

Opening our 4 gallon bucket of raw, local apple blossom honey is an event each September. We all stand around the bucket, waiting for the first whiffs of flowery sweetness. It’s creamy. I spoon it into jars to avoid using a pickaxe later after it hardens.

This year we bought 2 four gallon buckets, and we are nearing the end.

I had read about honey being diluted with corn syrup, so I did a little searching. Looks like that’s not the worst of it; much commercial, highly filtered honey may be imported illegally to the US from China or India and carry chemicals and heavy metals.

Read this link to see the importance of leaving the pollen in the honey; it can be tracked as true honey.

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/

I will continue to purchase local raw honey in 4 gallon buckets, and supplement with Mesquite honey from Trader Joes. And no more using honey packets at restaurants.

Summer Weather [plants and chickens]

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It’s gorgeous northwest summer weather here: 82 with a gentle breeze. The kind of weather we slog through 6 months of wet for. To celebrate, I let the kids run through sprinklers while I planted seeds in the garden.

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This is the garden bed my wonderful husband built me last year. He was tired of beating back the sod each year. A few weeks ago he spent about 20 minutes digging chicken manure into it, and it was all ready for me to plant. Which I did today with heritage seeds from Heirlooms Evermore (Azure Standard), which come in delightfully simple packages.

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Hopefully in a few months we’ll be dining on green beans, radishes, carrots, watermelon, pumpkin, cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, and enjoying sunflowers and nasturtiums.

After planting, hosing down a toddler, and putting two babies in bed for naps, I went over to the farm where I buy duck eggs each week to collect my five chickens from Tina’s refrigerator. (My husband now works from home, and agreed to listen for cries from the sleeping babies while I was out. I told you he is wonderful.)

Five chickens, over five lbs each, but she only charged me on 25 lbs. Livers, hearts, feet, and heads (for making stock…we don’t really eat that stuff) on the side, no charge. $2.50/lb, which is the price for organic birds at Trader Joes, but those birds aren’t free range. So I think this was a very good value, and I get to support my local farmer/friend in keeping our food supply local.

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On my way home, I stopped off at Rusty Glamour (formerly Uncovered Ruby) to buy some plants for $2 each. Awesome price! I chose coral bells and sedum, and resisted the urge to get plants I’m not familiar with. Better to stick with some I know I like and I think will thrive on neglect. 🙂

While packing my chickens into the freezer at home, I realized what a great local food/flowers day I had. Garden, chickens, eggs, flower plants. I love that local buying has become so normal for me.

Day Two [Diet Makeover pt. 9]

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It’s day two. I get up just after 7 and find Brother and Sister sitting at the kitchen counter, staring blankly at bowls of sliced apples their dad got for them. Oh boy, it’s day two, the hardest day.

Mr. Dad says Sister threw up a little already this morning, but there wasn’t food in it (sorry for TMI!), so he thinks the diet is already making some effect…detox? Way to go on the positive outlook, Mr. Dad!

After three fried eggs and some juice, Mr. Dad leaves for work. The kids are still staring blankly at their apples, but my eight year old is up by now and turns on the cartoons, so they stumble into the den to watch with her. Just for the record; I don’t let my kids watch movies till noon at home (or at all on schooldays) but it’s vacation with cousins, and it’s actually an excellent distraction from food cravings. OK, done justifying my mommy morals.

When scrambled eggs were ready, I called the kids back to the kitchen, but Brother didn’t come. Found him laying on the couch, mumbling. I carried him back to his eggs but he was so tired, no amount of coaxing would get him to put a bite in his mouth. I knew he was really hungry, even if he couldn’t feel it, so I stuck a slab of butter in his mouth and told him to suck on it. After a bit he took himself back to bed and sawed logs until almost noon.

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Breakfast:
Eggs, scrambled or fried in butter
Apples, ripe bananas, mandarins as desired, or as snacks until lunch

Lunch:
Chicken veggie bone broth soup, from last night
Chicken salad on greens with balsamic and pecans, same as Day One, for adults
Peanut butter and apple slices, afternoon snack sent with Mr. Dad

Brother and sister hated having soup again, the moms enjoyed it, and baby Mac sucked it up (literally). My kids (8 and 18 months are the ones I have with me this week) gobbled it up, which is proof to me that children’s tastes can change to include savory flavors as well as sweet; it was not too long ago that my kids were kicking and screaming over soup, too.

Mrs. Mom did a great job on holding the line on no snacks if you didn’t eat your soup; Sister had earned her snacks (fruit, raisins, almonds) by mid-afternoon. Brother only ate about half his soup, so was REALLY ready for dinner.

We had quite a bit of drama all day, begging for toast, cereal, gummy vitamins, tortillas, candy (Mrs.Mom: “Really? We don’t eat candy!”). All these cravings for the exact wrong foods are confirming evidence that we’re onto something here. At one point Brother was upset about not being given bread, “not even one little crumb of bread? You’re so mean!” Oh, the drama.

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Dinner:
Fajita filling, done all day in the crockpot, over salad greens, topped with Creme Fraiche made yesterday, and guacamole
Note: if you make this, use finely shredded green cabbage tossed with chopped cilantro and lots of lime juice as the base rather than lettuce. The crunch makes it so yummy with this meal. We did not do this as Mrs. Mom was worried about grassiness in breast milk.

After dinner:
Grape jello if desired

After such a hard day food wise, it was a huge relief that the kids loved the fajita bowls and relished dipping their salad leaves in the Creme Fraiche and guacamole. Fun, and so yummy for everyone!

Task list:
Cook and serve above meals
Move completed yogurt to fridge
Start crockpot in morning with dinner fajitas
In evening, bake double batch of banana muffins for breakfast tomorrow (almond flour)
Strain kefir and refrigerate and store kefir grains or start new batch

Economical Natural Meat

Here’s a great way to buy natural meat for less; shop for natural holiday meats the day after the holiday. Yes, while others are camping out to snag electronic door busters, I secretly plot my haul of naturally raised, cage free turkeys. Oh the excitement.

Actually, my mom scouted out and bought the turkeys for me on Black Friday, as I was in bed with a new baby (lucky me) and mom was visiting to take care of my other sweeties so I could stay in bed (lucky everyone else). I have to confess that I don’t exactly remember what she paid per pound (baby amnesia) but I’m thinking it was $.79 per pound for Albertsons wild brand. This fantastic price almost has me liking Albertsons. Almost.

At any rate, my little boys loved the crispy, salt and herb crusted skin. You can see them here peeking over the turkey… Mmm, finger liking good!

Turkeys have a LOT of meat. I just roasted this one, then boned the meat and froze it again to become soups or casseroles.

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Organic Diet Step 2: Dairy

Not everyone can tolerate dairy products, but for those who can, it is a rich source of minerals, protein, and healthy saturated fats IF sourced from healthy animals. Some people groups in Africa thrive on a diet made up nearly entirely of raw milk from their herds.

Clean Starts

  • Change from conventional milk to organic milk. Skim, 1% and 2% milks have thickeners added to them; opt out by choosing whole milk. Homogenization has been linked to arterial plaque; opt out by choosing unhomogenized. Your choice to skim the cream for your coffee, or shake the whole jug before pouring. Raw milk (unpasteurized) from pastured (grassfed) animals is the BEST milk, as it is richest in minerals, enzymes and probiotics. Dungeness Valley Creamery supplies this delicious cow milk to WA state; if you prefer goat milk, search for a local source.
  • Change from conventional yogurt, cottage cheese, and kefir, to organic products, or make your own from raw/organic/pastured milk.
  • Change from conventional butter, sour cream, and cream to organic butter, sour cream, and cream. Conventional butter was listed on a recent “top ten most toxic foods” list, which is not surprising since so many of todays petrochemical toxins settle in the fats of animals. Yet organic butters and cream have been highly revered by healthy indigenous people groups for their health giving properties.
  • Change from conventional cheese to raw, organic cheese, if you can find it (see notes about raw milk below).
  • Change from “soy dairy” products (soy milk, soy protein) to almond, hemp, hazelnut, or rice milks (hemp having the best nutrition, and it’s delicious) if cow/goat dairy is not tolerated. Organic coconut oil can be used in place of butter for those with a dairy allergy. See note below on why I avoid soy.
  • If lactose intolerance is the reason you avoid dairy products, try culturing your own yogurt from organic milk. When you use a 24 hours process to culture the yogurt (or kefir if desired), nearly no lactose is present at the end of the process. Making yogurt and kefir is not difficult; find directions here. The long culturing process yields a very sour “European” flavor, which can be sweetened if you desire with jams, maple syrup, or honey. I have found that fresh goat milk loses its “goaty” aftertaste when cultured this long. The same process for 24 hour yogurt can be done with whipping cream for amazingly delicious Creme Fraiche.

Some people find that they can tolerate goat and sheep milk products if cow products bother them. Others find that raw milk (unpasturized) is tolerated as it has all the enzymes and probiotics intact to aid in digestion. In addition, high heat pasteurization appears to damage the protein molecule in milk. (The stable saturated fats in cream/butter seem to hold up better to heat than the protein in the milk, making pasteurized butter/cream still a great choice.)

Worried about contamination? Studies which purposefully introduced pathogenic bacteria into raw milk (still “living” with enzymes, probiotics, and immune factors) show that the milk protects itself by destroying pathogenic bacteria. Conversely, pasturized (“dead”) milk no longer carries this protection; hundreds are made sick on pasturized milk annually in the US. Once milk is cultured (into cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.) this risk is lowered by the competing bacteria of the culture. Certified Raw dairies undergo far stricter testing of products than conventional dairies.

Buying Tips

Trader Joes has the best prices around (by far) for a full range of organic dairy products. I buy butter, cream, sour cream, and cottage cheese there. They also have a stunning selection of cheeses, most at fabulous prices. I sometimes buy the Grassfed Cheddar (New Zealand), and sometimes the Raw Cheddar. We also love the Cotswold cheese from England (which is neither organic, or raw, but you can taste the richness of the milk which makes me confident the cows are grazing grass). The Shredded Parmesan cheese (in a bag) is a raw cheese (and high in absorbable calcium); and excellent choice.

I make my own kefir from Dungeness Valley raw milk, which we drink on occasion as well, when I’m not making it into pudding, ice cream, etc.

Goat milk is best fresh (for flavor), so I don’t really recommend buying it from Trader Joes, although if that is your only option (say for a toddler who can’t tolerate cow milk) I would certainly recommend it over any “milk substitute”. Best to find a local dairy for raw milk (as I have), or if you are inclined, buy a goat as a pet which actually contributes to the family table!

If you have to use dairy substitutes, hemp milk is cheaper when you buy a case through a co-op; this option may be available at your health food store. You can make your own rice milk really cheap (and pretty easy) using this Rice Milk Recipe.

The Why

Conventional dairy products in the US come from “factory farmed” cows, which may or may not ever see a pasture, but most certainly dine on soy and corn based feed laced with pesticides, antibiotics, and by-products from slaughter houses. In some states, farms are allowed to inject the cows with growth hormones with cause them to produce more milk, which wears out the cow and results in fewer productive years (but at heavier production) before going to the slaughterhouse herself. (This is not allowed in OR or WA.) Since the food she receives (grain based) is such a poor diet for her, she is likely to be sick often, and treated with antibiotics. You can bet that all the toxins going into her make their way into her milk, and the butter, cheese, yogurt, and other products made from it.

Conventional soy is one of the most pesticide laden crops in the US, and even organic soy can hardly boast a health claim as soy is an endocrine disruptor (mimics estrogen in the body). There are tons of “studies” done to show the “health benefits” of soy. Guess who pays for these studies, and their publicity? The Soy Industry. Lesser known studies link soy formulas to early puberty in girls, delayed or decreased fertility in boys, and doubling of diabetes risk for all children. I avoid it like the plague (except fermented soy products used in traditionally small amounts, such as Tamari).

Is Organic Certification Necessary?

Although USDA Organic certification brings with it peace of mind for the consumer, there is a cost to the farmer (passed on to the consumer) for this rubber stamp. You may be able to find a local dairy which can demonstrate to you the health and humane treatment of their animals, and quality of their product so that you don’t need the label to feel good about using their products. Especially important is to inquire about the feed of their animals; even a cow fed 100% organic grain but kept in the feedlot will not be as healthy as the cow allowed to graze on green grasses.

Organic Diet Step 1: Oils and Fats

When making a clean green start in your diet, the most important place to start (in regards to your health) is with the oils/fats you consume.

Clean Starts

  • Change from margerine and conventional butter to organic butter or imported grassfed butter (Kerrygold) (conventional butter was listed recently on a list of top ten most toxic foods, yet organic butter has been consumed liberally by some of the healthiest people groups on the planet)
  • Change from hydrogenated oils (crisco, deep frying, or in prepared baked goods) to organic coconut oil, organic palm oil, organic butter, or organic lard/tallow
  • Change from vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil) to olive, coconut, peanut, and sesame oils for low heat sauteeing, or use walnut, olive, avocado, or flaxseed oils for salad dressings (all organic cold pressed)
  • Supplement Cod Liver Oil and Flax Seed Oil for essential fatty acids, and inflammation reducing Omega 3 oils (buy from a company which tests CLO for purity, and keep oils in the refrigerator and use quickly as they become rancid easily)
  • When thinking of oils and fats, remember that most prepared and processed foods have some type of fat in them. Read labels so that you can avoid toxic fats such as hydrogenated oils and vegetables oils heated to high temperatures. Even at cool temperatures, long shelf lives of some prepared foods mean that good fats have gone rancid before you open the box.

Buying Tips

When buying oils, look for glass containers, as plastic leaches into oils/fats at a much higher rate than even into water based foods. Colored glass is best, as light will cause oils to become rancid as well as heat.

Trader Joes has an excellent price on quality/organic butter, and a good price on organic olive oil. I have found the best price on organic olive oil at the Grocery Outlet, although it can be hit and miss.

Tropical Traditions is an excellent source for organic coconut and palm oils, with the best price being a large order to split with friends. In the the Portland are, the Alberta Co-Op is a good place for this quality and price on coconut oil.

The Why

Bad oils are toxic for the body, as they:

  • contain concentrated amounts of pesticides and other toxic and hormone disrupting chemicals
  • contain improper balances/deficiencies of omega fats (good, inflammation reducing fats)
  • have already been damaged molecularly by high heat (or will be if you cook them)
  • soy, corn, and canola oils lead the pack in tons of pesticides and bleaching agents used in production

In contrast, Good Oils are health promoting, as they:

  • Allow us to absorb the important fat soluable vitamins from our food and the sun (vitamins A, D, E, K)
  • Allow us to absorb the minerals in our foods (mineral deficiency is common, with obesity/cravings an indicator of body need)
  • Give a wonderful sense of satiety and slow carbohydrate/sugar absorption which helps to avoid blood sugar spikes and leaves you fuller on less

In recent years, the vegetable oil lobbys have “framed” butter and other natural saturated fats as unhealthy. Don’t believe the propaganda…it is for their profits, not your health. You can get the real story at the Weston A Price foundation.

Finding Local Organic Food

Local farms across the US, as illustrated on localharvest.com

Having a hard time finding local

produce, dairy, and meat?

Try these sites:

www.localharvest.org

www.realmilk.com

www.eatwellguide.org

www.localdirt.com

www.rodaleinstitute.org/farm_locator

www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/farmersmarkets

Once you find a local farm on one of these sites, visit it, and get to know the owners. Ask about their growing practices to see if you ar comfortable with eating the food. Even if they regularly sell at Farmers Markets, you may be able to negotiate a better deal directly at the farm, especially if you offer to pick up your produce at a time during the week which helps out their harvest production, or if you’re willing to take the “ugly” produce.

AND . . . Keep your eyes pealed as you drive through the rural areas of your county. In my area, there are many people with large gardens/small farms who sell their excess at the roadside for several weeks or months of the year. This is truly how I’ve discovered most of my farms. Most of them don’t advertise on the internet for fear of too much traffic.

In the map above, you can see that farms follow population. If you live in Nebraska, you may have a hard time finding a local farm, and you will have to grow your favorite varieties of vegetables yourself if you want them fresh and organic (ready made greenhouses can extend the growing season for colder climates).

Local food is seasonal. You can’t expect to get raspberries from a farm in January (at least not in the Northwest!), and you might not even be able to get chicken eggs at that time of year.

So freeze the produce you can in season, and when it’s not in season and/or you run low, look for large bags of organic frozen veggies at places like Costco and Grocery Outlet. Trader Joes has small bags of frozen veggies for prices that compete with the bulk prices of the warehouses. This is a great way to find organic spinach, green beans, broccoli, corn, and more year round.