Food Makeover

Does your pantry look like this?

(And I’m not talking about crowded or unorganized, but the foods in it.)

And maybe your doctor, or your friend, or your nutritionist, or your conscience has recently told you that you need to change over to healthier eating. But maybe you are overwhelmed?

If so, take heart.

My pantry looked similar to this a few years ago, and I have made significant changes to the pantry and our diet, even as a busy mom with a limited budget. Remember the CleanGreenStart Approach:

  • Start because every change to a healthier product is a step in the right direction
  • Read labels, including ingredients and processing info for food
  • Replace the most toxic products immediately as your budget will allow, but commit to change over the rest as you use up/repurchase them

In the coming weeks (months?) I’ll be adding tips on switching out foods in the “Standard American Diet” (the SAD diet) for healthier choices. And we’ll come back and take a look at this all-too-familiar looking pantry for inspiration.

(This is not my pantry. . . and the owner will remain anonymous. The cute baskets are a great idea, don’t you think? Maybe I’ll “cute up” my pantry a bit and show you what it looks like sans Cheese Nips, etc.)

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?

Healthy Habit Challenge, February 2010

One of my goals in 2010  is to make healthy living a habit, one step at a time. Join me as I post Healthy Habit Challenges each month this year in the following categories: Household Chemical Avoidance, Diet, Body Care, and Environment.

Included in italics are ways to take it to the next level, if you’ve already made a clean green start.

  • Household Chemical Avoidance: Remove the most dangerous plasticware from your kitchen; water bottles should be either glass or stainless inside. Learn which plastics are less of a concern, and how to treat them properly in my article Plastics: the Numbers Game.
    Next level: begin to collect better containers for food storage, such as glass. Canning jars are easily obtained, and fit well on pantry shelves and in the fridge.
  • Diet: Boost your immune system, heal your gut, and build your blood and bones with homemade bone broth. Read about my easy crock pot method for poultry and beef stocks in Bone Broth: Body Builder and related articles. Then treat your family with steaming bowls of French Onion Soup.
    Next level: research a local source for grass-fed beef; you will probably need to get in touch directly with the farmer, and coordinate the splitting of a half or quarter beef with several friends. The webite localharvest.org is a great place to search for a local farm, or contact your local chapter of the Weston A Price Foundation.
  • Body Care: Replace your deodorant with a non-toxic version. Read all my product reviews, and why this is one of the most important products for you to replace in Deodorant: Love-Hate Relationship.
    Next level: replace shower soap with a natural bar, check to see if your razor has a “lotion strip” with questionable ingredients, and suggest a better deodorant for your spouse. You can check ingredient lists against chemicals to avoid listed in my Consumer Wallet Guides (print, clip, and keep in your wallet for easy reference).
  • Environment: Rethink “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” in the article Thinking Like Grandma. Then make kitchen recycling a habit by Creating a Recycle Center like I did this month.
    Next level: in addition to recycling rather than throwing away, think of ways to Reduce and Reuse in your home. Leave a comment on the Thinking Like Grandma article with your ideas!

What I’m Working on Consistency In:

  • all of last month’s habits! (still need to locate a houseplant; I guess it’s best I didn’t get one before leaving town for 2.5 weeks!)
  • need to look through all my plastics again, and then organize my over-abundance of glass jars
  • replenishing my freezer-supply of bone broth
  • using my new recycle bin

Plastics, the Numbers Game

Plastics are really convenient, especially in the kitchen. However, there has recently been a lot of question about how safe it is for them to be in contact with so much of our food. The nation of Canada recently banned the use of PVC in baby bottles/cups, making it the first nation to officially acknowledge the growing body of evidence that shows plastics are making their way into our bodies.

Human hormones are nearly all manufactured (in our bodies) using fats, so it should come as no surprise that the addition of synthetic oils, such as plastic residues, can interfere with normal hormone processes. We would be wise to avoid these toxins much as possible.

Plastics of all types seem to leach into foods more when they are heated, subjected to harsh cleaning agents, and left in contact with wet or oily foods for extended periods. Some  safer ways to use plastics:

  • Never microwave. Ever.
  • Don’t place in the dishwasher, rather hand wash with warm water and mild dish soap.
  • Limit exposure to wet and greasy foods. Remember, plastic is made from oil (petroleum), so food grease becomes like a solvent for it, with the residue entering the food. Refrigerate/freeze wet or greasy foods in glass containers, rather than plastic bags.
  • When using plastic wrap over a dish, don’t allow the wrap to touch the food inside.
  • If you can “smell” plastic, you are actually smelling it off-gas. Avoid using actively off-gassing plastic with food, even dry foods.
  • Don’t store drinking water in a plastic bottle. Choose stainless steel or glass for your sports bottle.

Best Choices for Food Storage

The safest material for food storage is glass. Virtually non-leaching, it has stood the test of time. Fortunately, it is readily available, and inexpensive. Canning jars are an easy, flexible solution for pantry, fridge, or freezer. There are also several lines of glass products made specifically for food storage, some with snapping plastic lids (choose from the “safer” list on the lids, and avoid letting the food touch the lid).

Purchasing food canned in glass jars, rather than tin cans, is the best choice when available. Although tin is not considered toxic to humans (it’s a trace mineral we actually need in small amounts), most people in developed countries have elevated levels of this mineral, likely from tin cans. Of even greater concerns is the plastics used to line/seal tin cans; whether they are on the “safer” or “to avoid” lists below, it is likely that there was heat involved in the processing and the food has absorbed some amount of plastic.

Safer Plastic Choices:

Select safe plastics that use polyethylene (#1, #2, and #4) and polypropylene (#5), which require the use of less toxic additives. They also are non-chlorinated. Where do you find these numbers? Turn the item over and look for the symbol.

Plastics to Avoid:

Avoid choosing products that use polyvinyl chloride (#3), polystyrene (#6), and polycarbonate (#7) which often are found in baby bottles or sippy cups.

What to do with these unsafe plastics? If the containers are useful for storage elsewhere (garden shed, etc.) consider reuse, otherwise recycle before they can be accidentally returned to use in the kitchen (baby cups).

Healthy Habit Challenge, January 2010

A fresh start is always so motivating. That must be why so many people make New Years Resolutions. One of my resolutions is to make healthy living a habit, one step at a time. Join me as I post Healthy Habit Challenges each month this year in the following categories: Household Chemical Avoidance, Diet, Body Care, and Environment.

Included in italics are ways to take it to the next level, if you’ve already made a clean green start.

Healthy Habit Challenge, January 2010

  • Household Chemical Avoidance: Switch out a bathroom cleanser for a non-toxic alternative. Read my post Bathroom Product Change-Out.
    Next level: update your whole bathroom cleaning regime. Read my post How to get a Really Clean Bathroom and my series on Washing the Bathroom.
  • Diet: Get off to a good start each morning by making breakfast nutritionally sound. Read my post Breakfast: Off to a Great Start.
    Next level: focus on the quality of the foods you buy and prepare. Is your oatmeal organic,  your eggs free range (organic if available), your protein powder low temp whey or hemp, your bread sprouted, your honey raw? Do you soak your oatmeal, can you make your own kefir from raw milk, do you put butter on your oat meal?
  • Body Care: Choose hand and body lotion wisely. Read my post Body Lotion: Quench without Consequenses.
    Next level: go through your entire lotion cabinet and pull the ones with risky ingredients. Include all sunscreens and face lotions in your detective work. (Face skin care will be discussed in a future article.)
  • Environment: Improve your personal environment by letting some fresh air into your home. Read my post Indoor Air Quality: Home Smog.
    Next level: in addition to the open-window habit, tackle the other suggestions in the article: clean up your chemicals, install a CO2 detector, clean up problematic mold spots, leave your shoes at the door and wet-mop the floors weekly, and grow house plants.

What I’m Working on Consistency In:

  • presoaking, and putting butter on, my children’s oatmeal, and having sausage for them
  • making my own kefir from raw milk (only pasteurized milk kefir is commercially available . . . this is what we’ve been using until now. Great start, but I know I can do better.)
  • opening all three bedroom windows briefly each morning
  • adding some live plants to my home (I gave up 7 years ago after killing two for lack of sun . . . now I’m ready to attempt it again, and this time I’m armed with a kitchen windowsill. To all my local friends: does anyone have a prolific indoor plant they are wanting to divide and give to me?) 🙂

Bathroom Product Change-Out

This month, make it your goal to change over at least one of your bathroom chemicals to a non-toxic cleanser. This can be as easy as putting a “green” spray in your cart at the grocery store, or as resourceful as making your own.

When shopping for a pre-made cleaner, look for one with safe ingredients – and you’ll need to look up that product at the ewg database to kno. Although cleaning products labeled nontoxic, bio-based, chlorine-free, organic, phosphate-free, natural fragrance, and/or biodegradable sound great, they still may have nasty chemicals lurking in them.

Which product to begin with? I suggest changing the one you spray most often (and therefore are inhaling most). For me, this is my all-purpose spray. I used to be the Lysol Queen . . . no longer; now I clean with vinegar water or with fresh smelling All Purpose Cleaner from BioKleen. Read my series on How To Get a Really Clean Bathroom.

Alternately, you could assess which is your most toxic chemical by looking for Danger, or Caution warnings on the bottle. Of course, over time you’ll want to replace all your chemicals with non-toxic products, but if you replace just one spray cleaner or bottle marked Danger, you’re off to a great start!

What to do with the discarded cleanser? Contact the hotline of your waste management company; most have drop-off locations available for household toxic waste. Don’t be tempted to huck it in the trash or dump it in the toilet; both could cause toxic leaching into your drinking water for years to come.

Step 1: Preclean Toilet

As the dirtiest part of the bathroom, the toilet should take first consideration on a precleaning. Your goal is to wipe up any gunk, hair, and yuk that you can SEE, before you come back and WASH the toilet in a few minutes. As you wipe, keep folding the paper towel to use an unsoiled area of the towel, discarding the towel when fully soiled.

  • Using the vinegar spray and paper towel, start with the top of the tank and the top of the lid (this is mostly dusting).
  • Move to spraying and wiping the area behind and around the lid bolts.
  • Then spray and wipe all around the outside of bowl including where it is bolted to the floor and the immediate floor around it.
  • Open the lid and spray and wipe the seat, under the seat, and top of bowl.
  • Lastly, spray into the toilet bowl all the surfaces not under the water, and wipe away any gunk you can see.
  • Throw the soiled paper towel(s) into the trash and flush the toilet.
  • Prepare for washing the toilet by sprinkling the toilet lip and inside of bowl with baking soda.

Go to Step 2: Preclean Vanity.