Get Your Kids To Drink More Water

Trying to get your kids to drink more water? Me too. I can tell they haven’t been drinking enough when they are spending more “personal time” in the bathroom trying to do their business. Also without enough water, they seem to be crankier, tireder, and their skin is more dull. (Or maybe that was me…)

Anyway, here’s what I do to coax a little more liquid consumption:

Make herbal tea with raw honey.
Tea party? Sign them up! Even the boys like a treat in a cup. We do caffeine-free varieties like Chamomile or Peppermint. Here is one of my favorite blends:

 

Take water on the go in a toxin-free container.
Like the 50/50 stainless steal cups. We love these, and they keep the beverage cold (or hot) ALL DAY LONG.

Use ingestable essential oils to flavor water.
My favorites: spearmint, lemon, grapefruit, Citrus Fresh. Order individually or with membership here. I recommend membership for the savings and perks, and I offer a private wellness mentoring group for those who order with me.

Make a slushy drink.
The crushed ice is water, afterall! Our favorite recipe:
2 cups crushed ice, from our freezer crushed-ice feature
2 cups filtered water
Juice of 5 fresh limes
1/4-1/2 cup honey
3-4 drops Lime Vitality essential oil
handful spearmint leaves (optional)
Blend well in blender, serve immediately.

At home, designate toxin-free water cups for each child.
Label with a marker and keep near the water supply. Some of our favorite cups: handled jars and stainless steel.

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.

How to Test Your Olive Oil

So the word on the street is that our olive oil may be fake, or rather cut with cheaper (and unhealthy) oils like canola, corn, or worse.

How to know if yours is?

Put it in the refrigerator.

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If it turns solid at this lower temperature, that means it is indeed an oil with saturated and unsaturated fats; the signature of olive oil.

You can see my olive oil above; after two days of refrigeration, it was pretty solid. Of course, it’s impossible to pour in this state, so don’t *keep* it in the fridge. 🙂

What brand did I buy? Trader Joes Organic Spanish EVOO, a great deal at $6.99 for 17oz.

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(I know…this sounds like an add straight from the TJ’s Frequent Flyer. Fortunately for you, these are my honest opinions. Unfortunately for me, I’m not getting paid to rave about their products.)

12 Easy [Painful and Expensive] Steps to an Organic Diet!

OK, so the title of this post is a joke. Of course going completely organic (from a conventional diet) isn’t going to be easy. Yeah, painful and expensive might be more like it.

And overwhelming. I remembered wondering Where do I start? So to make it easi-er for you, I have put together a list of what to change first in your pantry and diet, as well as some tips on what to look for when you shop and where to get good prices.

What to Change First In Your Pantry

  1. Oils and Fats
  2. Dairy
  3. Eggs
  4. Meats and Fish
  5. Water and Beverages
  6. Flours and Grains
  7. Fruit
  8. Vegetables
  9. Sweeteners
  10. Nuts and Legumes
  11. Salt and Spices
  12. Vinegars and Condiments

I realize that some people may reorder these priorities, particularly the first 4, as they are all so important. But I’m fairly comfortable listing them in this order; I’ll explain as we dive into the details.

1

In each of these categories, the first principle is to eat only what is food. This may seem obvious, until we realize that non-foods are added to many items in the forms of:

  • MSG
  • fake sweeteners
  • synthetic food colorings
  • hydrogenated fats
  • hydrolyzed proteins
  • propylene glycol (antifreeze)
  • and probably anything you can’t pronounce

An easy way to begin changing from products with these additives is to begin your weekly marketing at a “health food” type store, such as Whole Foods or Trader Joes (my favorite), since they generally carry products made with only food. Wow, what a concept.

2

The second principle is to focus on what you consume the most of, and what is most toxic. That’s where these 12 steps really come into play.

3

The third principle is to begin the switch to whole and properly prepared rather than refined. We hear the term “whole” a lot in relation to food, but not enough emphasis is placed upon proper preparation, which can either enhance or destroy the nutritional value of the food.

I’ll be posting this introduction post in as a page at the top of the page, and then link on each category as I write so you can refer back at your leisure.

Ready, Set, Organize!

It’s hard to have a clean house if it isn’t (at least somewhat) organized. Being organized really comes down to habits; daily, weekly, seasonally. Here’s my basics:

Daily:

  • sort mail as soon as it comes into the house: recycle all junk, envelopes immediately, sort keepers into To Do, To Call, To File.
  • A place for everything, and everything in it’s place. Try to do a once over at the end of the day to get things back in place.

Weekly:

  • organize time with a schedule, and To Do/To Buy lists.
  • choose a drawer or closet to sort and organize once a week while watching a movie or talking on the phone
  • sort out kids crafts/papers

Seasonally:

  • sort adult and kids clothes, toys, shoes; donate, consign, or give items away to friends who will use them

Saturday morning, I plan to catch up on some home organization:

  • clean up our school cabinet (which is the dining room hutch pictured above. A Mess.)
  • file some paperwork
  • pack up my maternity clothes
  • look through the kids toys to check for broken and unused toys; the two oldest children will be away for the morning working on their AWANA cars, so it’s a good time to clean out without resistance.

Plan: don’t get distracted by details (don’t sit down to look through art work or photos, just file and move on), take donations that day/give aways within the week (keep in the garage so they down migrate back into circulation).

Vegetable Cleanses

[This is the second post in a series. Check out the introduction post on cleansing diets here.]

Now let’s take a look at some specific cleanses. These are all cleanses I have tried, or a close family member has tried, so what I share is just my personal opinion and experience, is not medical advice, and should in no way replace the recommendation of your trusted physician.

Vegetable and/or Fruit only Cleanses, including:

  • Vegetable juicing: using a juicing appliance to extract the juice from vegetables and fruits. A great deal of vegetable nutrients can be consumed in a small amount of juice, however the tendency to use sweet veggies and fruits (i.e. carrots and apples) can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes and exacerbate candida overgrowth.
  • Raw Vegetables: mainly a raw vegetable  cleanse, can include raw juices. Some people eat “raw” as a lifestyle, and often include nuts and raw dairy, which are often avoided for a cleanse. The idea is to benefit from the live enzymes in the raw veggies, which help to break them down. However, raw vegetables can still be difficult to digest in persons without sufficient supply of enzymes for breaking down fiber and other plant carbohydrates.
  • Vegetable soup cleanses: another variation on vegetable cleanses. More vegetables can be consumed than in a raw cleanse, but enzymes are destroyed in cooking. More fiber than a juice cleanse.
  • Grape cleanse: when only grapes and water are eaten. The high sugar content may exacerbate candida or other fungal overgrowth.
  • Seneca Indian 4 day cleanse: a combination of all the above: day 1 raw fruit only but no bananas, day 2 herbal teas with maple syrup only, day 3 vegetables of all kinds: juice, raw or in soup, day 4 rich vegetable broth only.

Unless you are using organic vegetables, you can forget it as a detox. Other than the detox properties of the cleanse (with organic only), vegetable cleanses seem to focus cleansing on the colon. Since this organ stores and then moves waste out of the body, it would seem a logical organ needing a periodic cleaning. A few days to a week has been more than sufficient in my experience, however every body is different. Note that “cleaning out the colon” does not mean that flora imbalances are corrected: if you have overgrowth of Candida (fungal) or harmful bacteria, this kind of cleanse will not correct that (you will likely need a combination of herbal and/or pharmaceutical medicines and probiotic supplements supervised by a doctor, with follow-up testing to confirm efficacy). Vegetable cleanses are excellent for breaking food cravings.

Cleansing and/or detoxing while pregnant and breastfeeding is not recommended, since toxins will be mobilized and could harm a baby in the womb or at the breast. This can be very frustrating for women in the middle of childbearing years, especially when they plan to nurse beyond a year with each baby, and find breastfeeding and pregnancies come back to back. I have been told by a Midwife whom I trust that the only “cleansing diet” she recommends to her moms is a raw vegetable/salads with lemon diet for one week while nursing (not pregnant). However, this should only be done after the milk supply is well established (perhaps after 6 mo. postpartum of full-time nursing). I did try this with my first baby, but had a hard time feeling satiated/getting enough calories, so I gave it up after 2 days.

There is no doubt: vegetables are good for us. However, I do not advocate vegan or vegetarian diets as healthy: they just haven’t held up to science or to my own experience. And don’t think that only vegetables help us detox; meat protein contains many amino acids not found in veggies . . . amino acids which detox certain kinds of chemicals accumulated or manufactured in our bodies. So (as I state in the intro post on this topic) the best cleanse is a long-term clean balanced diet.

Your body is detoxing every single day, whether you are on a special diet or not! Another way to approach the long-term detox lifestyle is to purposefully include more of the detox powerhouses into your diet:

Foods that enhance liver detox:

  • asparagus
  • grapefruit
  • artichokes
  • all dark leafy greens: kale, spinach, romaine, chard
  • onions
  • garlic
  • olive oil

Foods that enhance kidney detox:

  • cranberry
  • lemon
  • water, water, water (only purified)
  • cucumber

While systematically removing detox blockers from your everyday diet:

  • any kind of heated vegetable oil, such as found in fried chips, baked chips, french fries, box cookies
  • refined sugar
  • conventional dairy

Up next: some fasts and more specific cleanses.

I Hate To Exercise, and Other Good Reasons To Get Moving

photo credit: weightwatchers.com.au

I hate to exercise. At least I used to, before I was able to do it successfully.

For me, success has meant that I was able to fit it in my day, and that it actually made a difference in how I felt, how my body looked, and how I felt about myself. I think these are good goals for exercise.

Success in exercise had never happened for me in my entire life, until this past year. This is one of a few things which has helped me feel better in 2010 than I did for at least the 10 years before it. That’s saying a lot. This non-exerciser/exercise hater/excuse Pro will now choose to exercise every other day because I feel better when I do.

Just by way of review, here are some reasons it’s good to exercise:

  • Good for your heart/oxygenates all your tissues
  • Enhances the immune system/moves lymph fluid
  • Improves mood and digestion
  • Increases energy/helps you sleep better
  • Helps detox processes/sweat is the skin’s method of toxin removal

Of course, these benefits will only be yours if exercise becomes a habit. Part of making habits is just doing it, and part is finding the routine that is going to work for you.

All my past excuses? I’m learning to turn them on their heads by choosing to:

  • embrace the interruption in my day, knowing that I’ll have more energy afterward to accomplish more in less time
  • appreciate a good sweat which is helping me detox through my largest organ (skin) and is an indicator that I’m in fat-burning-mode (and the more days I sweat, the less stink there seems to be . . . indicating a lower toxin level?)
  • be happy about the accomplishment of doing a tough workout

However you exercise, the main thing is that it works for you and that you do it. So find a routine that works, and get moving!

Next post: I’ll tell you about the exercise program that I’ve been doing (read: actually been doing) this past year. I feel like I can really recommend it to others, as it has helped me lose 17.5 inches in the last 8 weeks. . . and that was over the holidays!

[*Gasp* . . . can’t believe I’m blogging about exercise . . .]

A New Year: Make It a Clean Green One

Happy New Year!

Making changes to a clean, green lifestyle can be overwhelming at first. But a few successes arms you with confidence to keep making healthy changes for your family. And a schedule of topics can help you to know you’re covering all your bases.

That’s why I’ve put together a year’s worth of healthy habits for you. It’s on the tab (top of the page) title Healthy Habits Series. Think of each month’s topics as a challenge to make a clean green start, or take it to the next level. During that month, I’ll be writing articles to coincide with the topics, and I’d love to help you in any way I can to succeed in a major overhaul, or in fine-tuning. (Just send me and email! I’d also love to hear how you’re doing in comments sections of each post.)

Lifestyle changes are hard for me; but I’ve found that I can form new habits when I understand how important the change is, and only concentrate on a few things at a time. So we only have a few topics each month But, if you follow along, you can significantly improve the quality of life for yourself and your family in just this year.

Let’s make 2011 our healthiest year yet. Are you ready to make a clean green start?

Cloth Diapering Myths Debunked


My first two children spent all their diaper years in paper diapers, and even though I felt small bursts of guilt when I thought of our contribution to landfills, I didn’t consider cloth diapers an option. I mean, cloth is so yukky and hard to do, right?

Wrong. But it took two cloth diapering friends to debunk my myths.

Myth 1. Washing Cloth Diapers is a lot of work.

It’s work, but not a lot of work. Like 2-3 small loads a week, and I don’t even fold, I pile. It’s also a little work to keep up a stash of paper diapers, and this is eliminated.

Myth 2. Cloth Diapers are uncomfortable to the baby/ aren’t as healthy as paper.

Maybe vinyl pants are uncomfortable, but not the new laminated or fleece cloth covers (which there are dozens of choices on). Paper diapers do tend to wick away better, keeping baby dry, but then mommies tend to rely on that and not change the paper diapers as often as they should (this was me!) and that paper diaper can heat up. Some people think hot paper diapers are associated in male infertility when those baby boys grow up. Whether or not this is true, I’m just glad to avoid those clear bead things (chemical absorbants) which are use in the paper diapers and the bleach in the paper which is a known carcinogen.

Myth 3. Cloth Diapers are ugly.

Oh, they are so cute, with colors, patterns . . . whatever your flair. What’s ugly is a plastic bag of cartoon printed paper diapers, and later a pile of soiled paper diapers.

Myth 4. Cloth Diapers and hard to put on.

There are several methods of diapering (inserts, all in ones, prefold plus cover, etc.) but each is pretty easy to learn. With the new Snappi fasteners, it’s easy to secure the cloth diaper without pins, and most covers velcro on like a paper diaper.

Myth 5. It’s better to throw away the mess.

A (non-stinking) diaper pail which is dumped into the wash is so much nicer than a trash can of diapers stinking up the garage every week. And, ever thought of all the poop entombed in the landfill forever? That seems like a ecological nightmare.

Myth 6. Paper Diapers are a pretty cheap luxury.

Huggies from Costco was costing us about $40/mo. That’s times 30 months or so (if they potty train early). I think I can get more fun out of $1200 than buying diapers. 🙂

Myth 7. It’s All or Nothin’.

Even doing cloth diapers, I still use paper when we travel. And now on my 2 year old who is potty training (fingers crossed) and keeps the paper one dry a lot (Seventh Generation: no bleach in the paper diapers).

How To Start Cloth Diapers

There may be better ways to start cloth diapers, but I gave myself a challenge to spend about $80 and try it for 2 months. That way, if I hated it I could resell the diapers on diaperswappers.com and still be ahead money-wise.

I started reading some diaper websites, and was amazed at all the options (it can be overwhelming). What I finally settled on is the most simple, cost effective, and easiest method I know.

Cotton prefold from greenmountaindiapers.com because they are extra wide so they fit better. (Started with 12, at the end of my trial added another 12.)

Snappi from babyworks.com for fastening. (Started with 1, got another as a spare.)

Thirsties cover from babyworks.com to cover; reuse all day long unless a blowout. Fits well, few leaks, cute, good price. (Started with 3, but quickly had to buy 3 more so I could get through at least 2 days.)

Read about using Cloth Wipes here.

5 Gallon Bucket with lid which I had on hand; for throwing the soiled/wet diapers in (breastfed baby; but for baby eating food, the poop gets flushed down the toilet first). No solution in the bucket, I just dry bucket. When the bucket is full, I do laundry.

Laundering: dump bucket into washer, rinse bucket with 1 cup white vinegar which I then pour into wash. Rinse cycle on cold with vinegar. Wash cycle on hot with tiny bit of Bioclean soap and scoop Oxyclean. Second rinse in warm, no soap. Line dry the covers, send cloths through drier on hot (or line dry in summer).

That’s it.

It’s doable, cheap, and soft on my baby’s bum. What’s not to love?

Experiment Kitchen: Making Raw Milk Yogurt and Kefir

I feel like my kitchen has become something between a test kitchen and a science lab.

Not that what I’m doing hasn’t been done by thousands, likely millions, of people over centuries; it’s just never been done by me, in  my kitchen, for consumption by my loved ones.

I’m culturing raw milk. Yes, I now have a weekly source for raw cow milk . . . unpasteurized means it hasn’t had the protein damaged by the high heat (researchers now believe that the damaged milk cells left in pasteurized milk are a top reason for allergies to it) plus all the immune boosting enzymes are left alive and intact to boost our immune systems. AND, there is quite a quantity of probiotics in the milk, which has been proven by the easy time I’ve had culturing it.

I have made yogurt and kefir in the past with pasteurized milk, but it was a bit of an exact science with heating the milk properly, adding just the right amount of starter culture, blending it in, trying(!) to keep it at the right temperature for 12 hours or so (I don’t have a yogurt maker). My results were less than satisfying: the flavor was there, but the texture was always too liquid, and if I left it any longer then I had cheese at the bottom and whey on top.

Well, with raw milk from a pasture fed cow (read: healthy cow with healthy stomach flora = healthy milk with lots of probiotics) yogurt making is as simple as setting the fresh milk on the counter. No joke.

And it worked: the first week I cultured 2 qts of raw milk by placing it, covered, on the counter for 48 hours. However, I wanted to know what would happen if I introduced some of the cultures I had previously used for culturing. So the second week I did 3.5 qts with 4 different cultures.

From left to right: European, Natural Culture, Kefir, Yogourmet

In the first culture (left), I added a heaping Tablespoon of plain European Style yogurt (from Trader Joes). I love this yogurt as a protein snack, and would love to be able to make it from raw milk.

In the second culture, I added nothing, allowing the natural probiotics to be the only culture.

Kefir grains

In the third culture, I added kefir grains I have on hand. These are squishy tapioca-like curds which are actually both yeast and bacteria that can be reused again and again to make kefir. At right is a picture of about half of the grains after I removed them from the finished kefir and rinsed them in filtered water.

In the fourth culture (which was a pint rather than a quart) I added the commercially available Yogourmet yogurt culture. This culture is a powder, sold in boxes with individual packets. I had to use half a packet, as a whole is meant for 1 quart.

Velvet texture of cultured top cream

Of course each culture retained the original natural probiotics which actively culture the milk along with the added culture. I did not heat the milk or warm it at all: it came directly from being refrigerated for 12 hours after coming from the cow. I also did not skim the milk, so the cream rose to the top and was cultured with the milk. You can see the velvety texture of the top cream in the photo at right.

And here are the results (drumroll, please!):

European: more distinct yogurt flavor than the others, texture resembles starter (creamier, and less slippery solid than others) but still some of the slippery curd texture; will try 2 Tbs. starter next week.

Natural Culture: solid slippery curd, with whey separating distinctly (see photo with yellow whey separated), has a slight fermentation “sparkle” on the tongue

Kefir: sourest in flavor, but with a true kefir texture—smooth and thick

Yogourmet: yeasty, fermented flavor with sparkle, yet not too sour with hints of fennel (Hints of fennel? I know . . . this is getting as ridiculous as wine reviews . . . but I tasted them all again, and sure enough, there were hints of fennel.)

My raw dairy shelf

All of these cultures were a success! Now I have plenty of cultured milk products for smoothies and soaking grains all week long. I decided to devote the top shelf of my refrigerator to my raw dairy; gallon of goat milk on the left with its pouring pitcher in front, gallon of cow milk on the right with its pouring pitcher in front, cultured cow milk in quart jars as they fit.

To recap, here is my procedure:

  1. Pour raw milk into freshly clean quart jars (straight from the dishwasher is best, don’t use a dish-towel to dry, as this could introduce a negative bacteria)
  2. Add new culture to milk, if desired. Try 2 Tbs. of a plain live active yogurt, 3-6 kefir grains, or commercial powder to instructions.
  3. Set open jars, covered completely with a clean dish-towel, on counter in an out-of-the-way area, protected from drafts is best. They don’t need to be in the kitchen, but should not be in an area where they could absorb fumes, such as a laundry room (detergent fumes) or garage (gasoline, etc.).
  4. Wait 48 hours. You can check the culture and stir it during this time: this may be beneficial for the kefir to move the grains around.
  5. Straining kefir grains from finished kefir

    When yogurt is finished, cap with the jar lids and return to refrigerator. For kefir, straining will be necessary to remove the grains. This can be done with a funnel fitted with a filter, or with a sieve held over an open funnel. Rinse the grains in filtered water and store in a small jar of filtered water in the refrigerator.