Archive for Back-to-School

August 28th, 2013

5 Foods to Boost Back-to-School Brain Power

Groovy Green Livin Brain PowerIn need of a little extra brain power to prepare you for back-to-school?

We have a few days to go before summer vacation comes to a screeching halt so I’m in the process of savoring every last minute with my kids (with some minutes definitely better than others). I have to confess that over the summer we sometime strayed from healthy options, but we did our best. Now that a routine is back in sight it’s time to add a few foods bursting with brain power to the weekly menu.

Blueberries

Groovy Green Livin Brain

Not only are blueberries delicious, but there’s research which suggests that the flavonoids in blueberries make them a top contender for improving brain power. Flavonoids may improve memory, learning and general cognitive function, including reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability. Blueberries may also provide protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Broccoli

Groovy Green Livin Brain

Broccoli is one of those foods my kids will eat without any complaints. This superfood is not only chock full of needed nutrients, but it also boasts a large amount of vitamin K  which helps enhance cognitive function and improve brain power.

Lentils

Groovy Green Livin Brain

Lentils show up often in meals at our house since they are so simple to prepare- no soaking necessary. This legume is brimming with folate, a B vitamin shown to help boost brain power. Folate also plays a role in decreasing levels of amino acids that can impair brain functioning.

Fish

Groovy Green Livin Brain

Fish generally ends up on our dinner table once or twice a week. Salmon is a family favorite with other types of fish being hit or miss. Many types of fish, including salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to improve mental alertness.  Omega-3’s are considered ‘good’ fats and are linked to improved memory and brain function. They also can reduce the risk of degenerative mental diseases such as dementia.

Water

Groovy Green Livin Brain

Turns out those 8 recommended glasses of water are truly needed. Our brain depends on proper hydration to function at its best. Years of research have found that when we’re thirsty or dehydrated, we have trouble staying focused. Dehydration can impair short-term memory function and long-term memory.

What’s your favorite brain food?

photo credits: maira.gall via photopin cc,  Darwin Bell via photopin cc , Dey via photopin BrownGuacamole via photopin , RLHyde via photopin ccMadison Guy via photopin cc

July 29th, 2013

Giveaway: Lunchbox Love Heads Back-to-School

Groovy Green Livin Lunch Box Love

Lunchbox Love Mom Panel

Right before I jumped on a plane to BlogHer in Chicago (photos and a recap or two coming soon!) I received some fantastic news- I was selected to be a member of  the Lunchbox Love Mom Panel! Woo hoo say you….but what does that mean? Well, I’m joining forces with an AMAZING team of ten smart and influential women to spread the word about a new and innovative product: Lunchbox Love – The Original Lunch Box Notes.

Groovy Green Livin Lunchbox Love

What is Lunchbox Love?

I’m a sap, what can I say? My kids are 9, 11 and 12 and they usually make their own school lunch. That’s not why I’m a sap. I’m a sap because once in a while I throw a little love note into their lunch box. Mornings are generally hectic so it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but I think about writing a note (that counts, right?).

Groovy Green Livin Lunchbox Love
Lunchbox Love makes it so simple. Each 12 pack of cards are pre-printed with all sorts of sayings. For example “Keep up the effort in school, You’re doing a great job!” and “Be strong.” for the younger crowd. When your child flips the card over they’ll find an interesting piece of trivia or a joke to share with friends at the lunch table. There are also two blank cards in the pack which you can use for personalized notes to your kids.

Lunchbox Love gives back

The company was founded by two life-long friends and moms, Judi Willard and Mary Fuller, who know that there is scientific evidence that shows positive thoughts and words have a positive affect on our mental and physical health. Their philosophy is that positive words can change someone’s day, a life, and eventually the world. I happen to agree.

The company is also donating a portion of their proceeds to help feed children around the world.

Lunchbox Love for tweens and teens

My kids are officially tweens and I still want to give them “I love you” notes. I’m perfecting my embarrassing mom skills. Lunchbox Love gets it and created a pack of cards specifically for the tween/teens in your life. These cards are printed with more sophisticated feel good notes with inspirational quotes on the back. My favorite is “Sometimes parents make mistakes too. I’m sorry.” 

Your chance to try Lunchbox Love notes

Since back-to-school is just around the corner for many of us Lunchbox Love Notes will be a fun addition to your child’s lunch box this year. Here’s your chance to win a 4 pack (12 cards each) of Lunchbox Love Notes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

photo credit: ryry9379 via photopin cc

July 12th, 2013

Non-Toxic Backpacks for Elementary School Kids

Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpacks

Non-toxic Backpacks for Elementary School Kids

After putting together a Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack Guide I realized that kids over the age of 3 or 4 probably won’t want to be seen in any of those backpacks. The leap from preschool to elementary school is big and with it comes new styles and tastes. A cute little pig on your back probably won’t cut it for most kindergartners.

When my boys started elementary school I did a lot of research to find a safe backpack.

No Vinyl, No PVC, No Phthalates, No Lead

If you’ve been following along here for a while you know that a study by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice’s(CHEJ) found children’s vinyl “back‐to‐school” supplies (including backpacks) contained elevated levels of phthalates, hazardous chemicals that have been banned in toys, yet remain widespread in vinyl back‐to‐school supplies.

Phthalates are hazardous at low levels of exposure, disrupt hormones in our bodies, and have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Not something you want in your child’s backpack!

Vinyl backpacks could also contain high levels of lead, which can wipe off onto children’s hands and ultimately end up in the child’s mouth.

Bottom Line: Don’t buy vinyl backpacks!

Here are a few non-toxic backpack options for kids in elementary school.

THE NORTH FACE Jester Daypack Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpack

This is our families backpack of choice at the moment. My two youngest, while in elementary school have used this pack. It’s the perfect size and has a lot of different compartments for storage. The backpack comes in quite a few bright colors and a few plaid choices. I was assured by The North Face that “All our daypacks are PVC, lead and phthalate free. All our products meet global restricted substance requirements.” These are probably best for kids on the older side of elementary school.

Price: $55.00

Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpackGarnet Hill Backpack for Ages 7 and Up 

My son started kindergarten with a blue Garnet Hill backpack. That pack lasted for a few years and he loved it. Their backpacks come in a variety of snazzy designs and all are certified PVC free. I was assured verbally that all of their children’s products pass all mandatory CPSIA testing-although I couldn’t find this information anywhere on their site. CPSIA testing lowers the amount of lead that can be in children’s products.

Price: $45

ecogear Earth Series Glacier Backpack in pink or grayGroovy Green Livin non-toxic backpack

This company makes their backpacks with planet-friendly organic cotton, PVC-free materials, recycled plastics and toxic-free dyes and components. This backpack is a perfect size for elementary school students.

Price: $25.00

Beatrix New York Big Kid Backpack (Ages 5-10) Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpack

If you want to stick with a cute backpack for a few more years then this is your bag! The packs are designed for ages 5 to 10 and are PVC, lead, phthalate & BPA free.

Price: $51.00

SoYoung Junior Backpack & Lunch Bag

I lGroovy Green Livin non-toxic backpackove the look of this backpack. Designed with the grade-schooler in mind, this backpack has adjustable straps which allow the backpack to be carried by a 6 year old, but mom and dad can borrow it too. It comes with a fully insulated collapsible lunch bag. SoYoung’s backpacks are PVC, phthalate and lead free. Take a look at the Grey Rocket Backpack, Grey Robot Backpack and the Pink Fawn Backpack too!

Price: $50-$75 (with lunch bag)

Do you have a favorite non-toxic backpack for an elementary school child?

Disclosure:  I received no monetary compensation and all opinions expressed are my own. This post may contain affiliate links for which I will earn compensation if you make a purchase. Thank you for supporting Groovy Green Livin! I’m disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Photo credit © Monkey Business #11889842

July 10th, 2013

Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack Guide

Groovy Green Livin non-toxic preschool backpack

Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack Guide

Our summer just began a few short weeks ago so I’m really not willing to admit that it’s almost back-to-school time. But I know that it’s a reality for many who kick off the school year in August. So time to address the inevitable.

The emails are already pouring in with back-to-school product pitches and questions from readers.

One question that keeps coming up is ‘how to find a non-toxic backpack for kids?’

I’ve decided to break this question into a few different parts since the age of your child will determine what type of backpack they’ll use. I’m focusing on your toddler and preschool age kids in this post and I’ll be back again with choices for elementary school kids. Stay tuned!

What to avoid in a preschool backpack

No Vinyl, No PVC, No Phthalates, No Lead

If you’ve been following along here for a while you know that a study by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice’s(CHEJ) found children’s vinyl “back‐to‐school” supplies (including backpacks) contained elevated levels of phthalates, hazardous chemicals that have been banned in toys, yet remain widespread in vinyl back‐to‐school supplies.

Phthalates are hazardous at low levels of exposure, disrupt hormones in our bodies, and have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Not something you want in your child’s backpack!

Vinyl backpacks could also contain high levels of lead, which can wipe off onto children’s hands and ultimately end up in the child’s mouth.

Bottom Line: Don’t buy vinyl backpacks!

Here are a few non-toxic preschool backpack suggestions

Groovy Green Livin Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack
Green Sprouts Safari Friends Backpack These adorable backpacks are PVC and BPA free. There are four designs to choose from, a yellow lion, blue hippo, red monkey and green alligator.  So cute and perfect for a toddler or someone just entering preschool.

Price: $17.00

Groovy Green Livin Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack
Crocodile Creek Pocket Backpack I really love these backpacks. There are so many great designs to choose from and they’re the perfect size for younger children. Their backpacks are made of high-quality polyester and are BPA-free, PVC-free and phthalate-free.

Price: $27.00

Beatrix New York Little Kid Backpack Groovy Green Livin Non-Toxic Preschool BackpackAnother awesome line of pint-sized backpacks! Each preschool backpack is embroidered with a forest creature. The packs are designed for ages 2 to 5 and are PVC free, lead free, phthalate free & BPA free.

Price: $42.00

Groovy Green Livin Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack
Dabbawalla Backpacks These sweet little backpacks are sized and designed for preschoolers, with adjustable straps and a sturdy handle. They’re made from Eco-sponge neoprene, a durable fabric that is limestone -based. It has been tested in an independent lab and exceeds CPSIA standards for safety and is free of lead, PVC, BPA and Phthalates.

Price: $38.00

EcoZoo Kid’s Backpack Groovy Green Livin Non-Toxic Preschool BackpackYour preschooler won’t want to put this bag down. Made out of natural cotton this backpack comes in the shape of a puppy, panda, pig and more. It’s made from natural cotton and the company uses toxic free dyes to color the material. They’re BPA and Phthalate-free.

Price: $25.00

Do you have a favorite non-toxic backpack for a toddler or preschooler?

Photo credit: © BestPhotoStudio #2588431

Disclosure:  I received no monetary compensation and all opinions expressed are my own. This post may contain affiliate links for which I will earn compensation if you make a purchase. Thank you for supporting Groovy Green Livin! I’m disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

May 1st, 2013

Why We Walked to School

Groovy Green Livin walked to school

We walked to school today. To some of you that may not sound like a big deal. Walking or biking to school may be a part of your daily routine. But for us it’s not a regular occurrence. Today was walk or bike to school day in our community, a day where the big yellow bus didn’t take our kids to school.

Way back when someone had the not-so-brilliant idea to create little pockets of housing around town without sidewalks. We happen to live in an area where there are sidewalks, but once you reach the tip of the neighborhood you’re dumped onto a main thoroughfare without sidewalks and without a safe way to school. Big bummer.

So today we joined together with a few neighbors and met up with kids from all over to walk and bike to school together.

My oldest decided to bike to school. I walked to school with my younger two.

Groovy Green Livin Bike walked to school

Why walk or bike to school?

  • It’s fun. And that it was. I had a chance to walk and talk with my kids and others for a mile walk. Usually we’re rushing around trying to get out in the morning so this was a great way to start the day.
  • We used our feet instead of a car or bus. When families decide to lace up their sneakers or strap on their bike helmets to get to school  instead of riding in a car or bus, they help reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted.
  • In 2009, 203,000 children ages 15 and younger were injured in motor vehicles crashes; 15,000 of those injured were pedestrians (NHTSA, 2011). Teaching children how to look both ways and walk or bike with caution was a big component of the walk. We had our own police escort with flashing lights. Very fancy.

We clearly weren’t the only ones who decided to walk or bike to school today.

Groovy Green Livin Walked to School

Why we should ride or walk to school more often

A Danish study this past year looked at nearly 20,000 Danish kids between the ages of 5 and 19. It found that kids who cycled or walked to school, rather than traveling by car or public transportation, performed measurably better on tasks demanding concentration, such as solving puzzles, and that the effects lasted for up to four hours after they got to school.

And then there’s the benefit of physical fitness. Being active before sitting in a classroom all day is priceless. Learning to incorporate fitness into your daily routine is a precious life skill.

We are active as a family, but I’m determined to make walking or biking to school happen more often. Logistically it’s not that easy, but it’s doable and it’s a necessity.

Do you or your kids walk or bike every day?

In honor of  not-so Wordless Wednesday I’ve linked up with Better in Bulk, Dagmar’s MomsenseLive and Love Out Loud, Project Alicia,  From PDX with Love and I Thought I Knew Mama.

October 2nd, 2012

Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas with Udi’s

Groovy Green Livin Udi's gluten free food

Packing a lunchbox can be a challenging task for anyone, especially when your lunch needs to be gluten-free.  Usually this time of year my kids start to ask for new lunch choices and complain that their school lunch box selections are boring. As a parent it’s a constant struggle to find healthy foods that your children will eat and enjoy.  When a food allergy, gluten intolerance or celiac disease is added to the mix the task of finding nutritious foods can feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to.

Udi’s Gluten Free sent me a sampling of their gluten free products to help inspire creativity for gluten free delicious lunch choices. We are not a gluten free family, but we do incorporate gluten free products into our diet. We have plenty of people in our lives that are gluten free so I always try to have safe products around.

Tackling Back-to-School Gluten-Free

I thought I would share a few ways we have tried out Udi’s gluten-free products in our lunch boxes since  going back-to-school.

Udi’s Millet-Chia Bread

After reading a lot about the health benefits of chia seeds I finally added them to my diet-and I love them. I was very excited to see that Udi’s has a Millet-Chia Bread. We used it this week to make my son’s famous lox sandwich, which he takes to school most days. I find most gluten-free breads to be very dry. Udi’s wasn’t as dry as others I’ve tried, but it was still a little to dry for my kids. They liked the White Sandwhich Bread better than the Millet-Chia Bread.

Groovy green livin millet chia bread

Gluten-Free Granola Mix

Some form of granola makes it into our lunch boxes a few days of the week. My kids love granola and they add all sorts of mix-ins to it to make it unique. Some days it’s raisins and other days it’s cereal. Udi’s has an Au Naturel Granola that’s gluten-free and worked perfectly for the mix-ins. My kids love to use Kids Konserve Stainless Steel Mini Food Containers to pack a trail mix in their lunch.

Groovy Green Livin Udi's Au naturel Granola

Veggie and Fruit Combos

We love using our LunchBots stainless steel containers for lunch side dishes. Some of the LunchBots come with dividers so it’s easy to incorporate two snacks into one container. Here are a few of our favorites:

Raspberries and Glutino gluten-free pretzels

Groovy Green Livin Glutino Pretzels

Organic carrots (unpeeled), celery and Glutino pretzels

Groovy Green Livin carrots celery and pretzels

Dessert

Not every lunch comes with a dessert, but once in a while a cookie or special treat makes its way into our lunch box. Udi’s Snickerdoodle and Chocolate Chip cookies are a great gluten-free alternative.

Groovy Green Livin Udi's cookies

How do you make your lunch gluten-free? I would love to hear your suggestions.

Disclosure:  Udi’s generously provided me with their products for review. The opinions are my very own. 

September 25th, 2012

5 Snacks to Spice Up Your Lunch Routine

Groovy Green Livin snacks

Usually around October my kids start to complain that their school lunch box selections are boring. The back-to-school thrill has died down and our search for snacks to spice up our lunch routine is on. Then the begging for hot lunch begins. I really don’t get it. Hot lunch at school looks completely unappetizing to me. Quite frankly, I’d rather not eat lunch. Knowing that the complaining and begging is just around the corner (maybe it is for you too?) I thought I’d be proactive and take this opportunity to share a few snacks that may or may not work in your children’s lunch boxes.

Cascadian Farm Organic Ancient Grains Granola

Groovy Green Livin Cascadian Farm granola
My kids love to use Kids Konserve Stainless Steel Mini Food Containers to pack a trail mix in their lunch. We take Cascadian Farms Organic Granola Cereal Ancient Grains and add mix-ins to it (raisins, nuts, other cereals) to make our customized trail mix. The granola has quinoa, spelt and kamut khorasan wheat. It’s an excellent source of fiber and protein.

NatureBox

NatureBox is a monthly subscription service that costs $19.95/month. Each month a variety of beautifully packaged snacks arrives at your doorstep. The snacks are handpicked by NatureBox and abide by their strict quality standards:

  • Groovy Green Livin NatureBoxNo high fructose corn syrup
  • No partially hydrogenated oils
  • No artificial colors or flavors
  • No trans fats

If you’re looking for variety this is a great option. Just so there are no surprises-most of the NatureBox snacks I received did contain some form of sugar-agave, evaporated cane juice, but no HFCS.

Late July Organic Snacks

Groovy Green Livin Late July Organic chipsMy son grabbed the Late July Organic Snacks Sea Salt by the Seashore Multigrain Tortilla Chips when were grocery shopping together a few months ago. Now we’re all hooked.  Every Late July chip flavor is delicious and works extremely well in our lunch boxes. These chips have a lot of good qualities:

  • They’re gluten-free
  • They’re organic
  • You won’t find any GMOs, artificial colors or preservatives or trans fats
  • The company donates 10% of their profits to summer camp scholarships

Honest Tea

Groovy Green Livin Honest Tea
Water in a reusable Klean Kanteen goes into our lunch boxes daily.  An Honest Tea drink would only be included as a special treat.

My kids steer clear of any drinks that are caffeinated and thankfully there are plenty of decaffeinated Honest Tea choices. I was a bit disappointed that all of their decaffeinated drinks contained some form of added sugar. Not ideal for three boys with a lot of energy.

My husband loves the organic Honest Tea selections. This selection of tea doesn’t have any added sugar and come in a glass bottle. Keep in mind that they are caffeinated.

UNREAL Candy

Groovy Green Livin Unreal candyHave you seen this candy? I recently spotted it in Staples and CVS as I was about to checkout. UNREAL is a new type of candy with a mission to “unjunk” the world. UNREAL candies contain no artificial flavors, preservatives or hormones; no GMO’s (genetically modified organisms); no hydrogenated oils; and no corn syrup. Instead, they use real sugar, natural oils, and real milk. They make their candy available only where junk food is available.

Candy never makes it into our lunch boxes-our elementary school prohibits sending in any candy for lunch. However, this type of candy does have a place. If there’s a child reaching for a candy bar at the checkout counter no candy is the best option, but UNREAL candy would be a better option.

What are your favorite snacks to spice up your lunch box?

photo credit: kayepants via photopin cc

Disclosure: I did receive samples from Cascadian Farm, Late July Organics, Honest Tea, NatureBox and UNREAL. The opinions are my very own.

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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