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Archive for Healthy Choices
March 3rd, 2015
A person is more likely to die from heart disease than cancer, but cancer is closing in quickly and could take the lead.
According to a recent New York Times article, the most encouraging gains in the war against cancer come from taking steps to prevent this disease. We all know that not all cancers are preventable, but through some simple lifestyle changes we can sometimes lower our risk.
The home is an easy place to begin since there are several possible cancer-causing substances that might be lurking under your very own roof.
Non-Stick Pots and Pans (Teflon)
Many homes are filled with nonstick pots and pans, which are loved for their ease and convenience when it comes to cooking and cleaning. Nonstick finishes have come under fire in recent years due to the toxic fumes emitted when the cookware is exposed to high heat. Most nonstick pots and pans are metal pans (such as aluminum pans) coated with a chemicals from the Perfluorinated chemical or Perfluorochemicals (PFC) family. Studies in humans found that workers with exposure to PFOA have higher risks of bladder and kidney cancers. Another study showed that PFCs have been linked to infertility in women.
Bottom Line: Ditch the Teflon.
Candles come in varying scents, colors, shapes and sizes. If you’re not careful about your candle purchase they could add nasty pollutants to your indoor air. Most of the candles on the market are made with paraffin wax, derived from petroleum, and scented with synthetic fragrances, also derived from petroleum. In a study by the American Chemical Society the researchers found that the petroleum based candles emitted varying levels of cancer-causing toluene and benzene, as well as other hydrocarbon chemicals called alkanes and alkenes, which are components of gasoline and can irritate respiratory tracts and trigger asthma.
Bottom Line: Time to replace those petroleum based candles with a safer alternative.
For many years BPA has been on the minds of parents, consumers and public health advocates. I’ve been following the BPA issue closely and devoted much of my writing to this topic. I was even interviewed by ABC World News about the FDA’s decision not to ban BPA. There have been some wonderful victories surrounding BPA. The good news is that many companies are starting to listen and BPA is transitioning out. The bad or unsettling news is that even though a product is considered BPA-free the replacement could still be releasing high levels of other chemicals that mimic estrogen.
Bottom Line: Just say not to plastic as much as you can.
According to the National Cancer Institute “Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas that seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air.” People who inhale high levels of radon are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Believe it our not radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. Radon can enter your home through cracks in floors, walls, or foundations, and collect indoors.
Bottom Line: Test your home for radon.
Household Cleaners and Cosmetics
There could be cancer-causing chemicals in your household cleaner and cosmetics. Seems crazy, right? Unfortunately our system is broken both of these industries are highly unregulated. This leaves it wide open for these toxins to land in our products. Remember Tide and 1,4 dioxane (a known carcinogen)?
Bottom Line: Become an avid label reader and find products that contain simple ingredients and avoid products that contain long chemical ingredients that you can’t pronounce (*update see comments for additional information). Best bet-make some of your own personal care and cleaning products at home.
Much of the furniture in our home is filled with flame retardants. It’s no secret flame retardants have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other serious health problems. The market place seems to be shifting as more and more retailers decide not to use toxic flame retardants, but as consumers we still need to be cautious.
Bottom Line: Let your dollars do the talking and seek out furniture retailers and manufacturers that commit to carrying furniture without toxic flame retardants.
How do you prevent cancer-causing chemicals from entering your home?
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photo credit: The House, Lately via photopin (license)
October 28th, 2014
We all know how confusing and time consuming it can be at the supermarket when we’re on a quest to find healthy, non-toxic food for our families. Going aisle to aisle reading labels and deciphering ingredients is an ongoing challenge for many of us.
Well get ready-there’s some exciting news on the food front!
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released Food Scores: Rate Your Plate, an easy-to-use food database and mobile app that will rate over 80,000 foods from about 1,500 brands in a simple, searchable, online format.
This scoring system factors in not only nutrition, but also ingredients of concern, such as food additives, and contaminants. It also estimates the degree to which foods have been processed.
EWG’s Food Scores is hoping to guide people to greener, healthier, and cleaner food choices. Users can find an overall score, from 1 (best) to 10 (worst), for every product in the food database.EWG’s product profiles include highly detailed information on how each food stacks up in terms of nutritional content and whether they contain questionable additives, such as nitrites or potassium bromate, or harmful contaminants, such as arsenic and mercury, and which foods have the lowest and highest processing concerns. They also identify meat and dairy products that are likely produced with antibiotics and hormones and highlight the fruits and vegetables that are likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.
The food database also has a unique, interactive function that allows users to customize each product’s Nutrition Facts panel by their age, gender, and life stage, including pregnancy. Users can also limit their searches to find only certified organic, GMO-free, or gluten-free foods.
EWG also released its first full analysis of the more than 80,000 foods in the database. It represents a snapshot of products that carry a barcode in a typical grocery store, from bagged spinach to yogurt to tortilla chips. Overall, EWG found that only about 18 percent of products scored best (1-3.5), 57 percent scored in the middle range (4-7), and 25 percent scored worst (8-10).
While we know that Americans are eating too much sugar, EWG’s analysis shows how truly ubiquitous added sugar is across supermarket shelves. Nearly 60 percent of the foods in EWG’s database contain at least one form of added sugar, and in some food categories added sugar is shockingly pervasive. For example, EWG found that 92 percent of granola and trail mix bars in the database contain added sugars. In some cases, almost a third of the bar’s weight is sugar.
Other food categories with surprisingly high percentages of added sugar include stuffing mixes (100 percent), stuffing (96 percent), deli meats (74-98 percent, depending on type), salad dressings (86 percent), peanut and other nut butters (68 percent), and crackers (63 percent).
“We developed EWG’s Food Scores in recognition of two trends,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s president and cofounder. “First, Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about excessive amounts of sugar, salt, fat and other unhealthy ingredients in supermarket food. Second, they no longer trust big food companies or popular brands to put health before profits, not even the health of our kids. With EWG’s Food Scores, shoppers can quickly see what food companies are really putting into their food.”
EWG’s Food Scores is built on data gathered by LabelINSIGHT®, an independent product label database and analysis platform, which provides details on packaged foods that carry a barcode.
EWG’s Food Scores is available as a free mobile app for iPhone users. Click here to download the app. With the app, consumers are able to scan barcodes of products with their smartphones to get rating information while they are grocery shopping. They are able to compare a product’s score to that of similar products, right at their fingertips, and find comparable products with better scores.
“Whether they’re making a shopping list or using a smartphone to scan items in the store, EWG’s Food Scores will empower people to shop for healthier products and reward the companies that make them,” added Cook. “We feel confident that this tool will drive the marketplace towards greener, simpler and healthier products, just as hundreds of millions of product searches in EWG’s Skin Deep database have changed the market for cosmetics and personal care products.”
A big thank you to EWG for working hard on this much needed information. Food Scores: Rate Your Plate, will be a fantastic guide that we can use while shopping for our families. But remember, it’s only a guide. We still need to continue educating ourselves so we can make informed decisions at the market. We need to keep pressing for full transparency from food manufacturers when it comes to GMOs. This database is a great start, but we still have a long way to go.
Have you tried the app? Can’t wait to hear what you think.
photo credit: Brother O’Mara via photopin cc
March 20th, 2014
My morning routine needs a makeover. The past few mornings have been rough. Thanks to Daylight Saving Time we have sprung ahead into very dark mornings. The combination of cold temps and darkness make for a very active snooze button. I just don’t want to get out of bed.
How you begin your morning often sets the pace and tone for the rest of the day. Over the years I’ve found it extremely important to add a few simple healthy habits to my morning routine to help start the day off on the right foot.
As an aside, these are things that work for me and they might not work for you. It’s extremely important to figure out what morning routine fits into your life and own it. If you don’t, it won’t last.
Here are 5 of my favorites to add to my morning routine:
- Floss. Did you know that flossing your teeth can extend your life and improve your gum health-yes it can! Brushing your teeth without flossing is like cleaning 70% of your body. Everyone should be flossing-if you have teeth you should floss. Make sure you’re using floss without petroleum and Teflon. HERE are a few safe alternatives.
- Sunscreen. There’s no question, the best form of sun protection is to stay out of the sun (although a little outdoor time is recommended for much needed Vitamin D). It’s not realistic to stay out of the sun or cover-up 24/7 so we need to turn to sunscreen for some additional protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Find a safe, non-toxic sunscreen (don’t use a spray) and apply it every morning before you head outside.
- Exercise. Working out in the morning jump starts your metabolism and gives you an energy boost that will many times last throughout the day. I’ve been exercising in the morning for years and it works. Once it becomes part of your morning routine you won’t want to give it up. Remember to find a form of exercise that you love so you can stick with it.
- Screen-Free. I have to admit that most mornings I’m drawn to my phone to check emails and catch up on the latest news. But that can all wait. Take an hour or so for yourself before diving in.
- Breakfast. We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and there’s a very good reason: a healthy meal in the morning can balance your mood and help you handle what the day has in store for you. HERE are a few of my favorite foods to eat before my run or visit to the gym.
What are your favorite healthy habits in the morning?
photo credit: H is for Home via photopin cc
March 4th, 2014
Every lunchbox needs to have a snack or two.
This time of year my kids start to complain about their lunchbox snack selections. They’re getting bored bringing in the same thing every day.
I’m always curious to hear what others are tacking in for a snack. I’ve found that taking my kids to the grocery store with me is always helpful. When they’re part of the snack selection process they’re more likely to chose healthy snacks that they will eat.
Before the complaining becomes too loud and out of control I thought I would share a few healthy snack options that will hopefully work in your children’s lunchboxes.
Grape and Pineapple Skewers. This is so simple and fun to make. It’s also easy to swap out the grapes and pineapple for different types of fruit. I would suggest using fruit that will hold together on the stick. Also, pack the snack in a stainless steel container such as a Klean Kanteen Food Canister (affiliate link–>Klean Kanteen Food Canister 16 OZ) or a LunchBots Canister (affiliate link–>LunchBots Stainless Steel Food Container) to prevent leakage and crushed fruit.
Almond Date Balls. These are so simple to make with only 5 ingredients. Have your kids help out too. They’ll be excited to show off their hard work to their friends. Recipe is HERE.
No Bake Granola Bars. Micaela from Mindful Momma has a great recipe for Go Bars in her book, Practically Green (affiliate link–>Practically Green: Your Guide to Ecofriendly Decision-Making). These are an easy homemade, no-bake granola bar that make a perfect lunchbox snack. Also try this Homemade Chocolate LaraBar Recipe from EcoKaren.
Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups. My kids still love to unroll the entire fruit roll-up and eat the entire thing in about 5 seconds flat. I love this recipe for homemade fruit roll-ups. Such a simple way to add a little fruit to your child’s diet. There’s no processed sugar added, no artificial colors and they taste delicious!
Granola. There is a great recipe in the novel, Julia’s Child (affiliate link–>Julia’s Child). The author, Sarah, explains her reason for making her own granola: I find that many commercial granolas have a lot more sugar than I’d like, and they also tend to taste stale. This recipe makes a big batch, but at our house it only lasts a few days. Enjoy! Sarah also wrote The Ski House Cookbook: Warm Winter Dishes for Cold Weather Fun.
Please share your favorite healthy lunchbox snack! I can always use a little inspiration.
Disclosure: Please know that if you make a purchase using a link on this page, I may earn a commission and I am very grateful for your support of this site. Thank you. (Read all the fine print here.)
photo credit: mcdarius via photopin cc>
June 14th, 2012
Fitness Routine Disrupted
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you probably know that exercise is a big part of my life. It really kicked in when I started law school many moons ago. During a school vacation week I traveled with my family to Israel. My brothers and sister were always (and still are) in fabulous shape. We decided to climb Masada-an historical mountain in Israel. Off went my sister and brothers and I fell behind, needing to stop periodically to rest. After a few comments in semi-jest from my family, I knew that the time had come to get in shape.
I joined a gym in Boston and made exercise a part of my daily routine. I did my first road race with my husband and a few close friends to celebrate my thirtieth birthday. I don’t always have a goal in mind when it comes to fitness, and I don’t always need one, but I continue to incorporate it into my life. I mix it up with a little yoga, running, cycling and going to the gym. I ramped it up a few years ago and trained for my first sprint triathlon in honor of a little boy in our town who lost his life to cancer. It’s been four years and the triathlon has become an annual event.
When summer comes my consistent, daily work-out isn’t as consistent and it makes me crazy. I’ve tried over the years to find ways to work fitness in and been relatively successful, but there’s room for improvement.
The amount I exercise had been pretty consistent over the years and my eating habits are in relatively good shape, with an occasional splurge or indulgence. My weight really doesn’t fluctuate that much and hasn’t in many years. BUT I’m starting to notice that my metabolism has changed and I do need to pay closer attention to what goes in-the quantity of food I’m eating- or it could end up landing in the wrong spot. So I need some motivation to stay where I am.
Go Green Get Fit Challenge
This summer I’m joining a group of 25+ remarkable green bloggers in the Eco Mom Alliance’s Go Green Get Fit Challenge presented by Healthy Home Magazine. We are joining forces and on June 18, 2012 we will launch our 12 week health and wellness series where we will all share our ups and downs throughout the challenge. We will be working together to offer information, inspiration, and motivation for each other and-you guessed it-I’m hoping that you’ll join me too.
My Fitness Goals
- Pick up my pace in the swim portion of the triathlon. I also panic just before the start ‘gun’ goes off. Anyone want to train me? I’ve been swimming all of my life and feel pretty comfortable in the water. But I’m not fast.
- Cycle as fast as my husband. My legs aren’t as long, but I think I can do it. Especially since he doesn’t think I can.
- Find a consistent time to exercise over the summer or be accepting of the amount of time I find to keep in shape.
Will you join me? Pretty please.
What are your fitness goals this summer?
[Photo used under Creative Commons from Team Traveller/Flickr]
May 10th, 2012
Welcome to Green Questions, Groovy Answers-your opportunity to get your pressing green questions answered each week.
This week’s question comes from a Twitter fan, Ashley (@AEB624) in Boston. Thanks Ashley!
Are there any eco-friendly alternatives to using plastic wrap?
Plastic wrap has been around for generations, preserving leftovers and keeping food from becoming stale. Unfortunately, our convenient, handy plastic wrap is made from a form of plastic called low-density polyethylene (LDPE). After we use plastic wrap it ends up in our overflowing landfills and takes forever to decompose.
If you’re looking for a simple way to green up your kitchen- swapping out your plastic wrap for a more environmentally friendly option is an easy change. There are quite a few plastic wrap alternatives out there. Take a look at these non-toxic plastic wrap replacements:
Glass food storage containers
Glass containers (with tops that seals well) works well for storing leftovers. In our fridge it’s very important to have a see through container since the leftover situation can sometimes get out of hand.
Glass storage canning jars
Don’t reach for the plastic wrap – put your soups, stews and other foods in a glass storage jar. They are air tight and reusable and a great way to preserve your food.
Abeego Flats are made from hemp and cotton fabric and comes in a few different sizes. The warmth of your hands combined with pressure causes the flat to form tightly around the item to be stored. The best part: hand wash your flat in cold, soapy water and air dry.
I haven’t tried them out, but my friend Alicia over at The Soft Landing wrote a review.
Cloth or towel
A cloth or towels are perfect for fresh produce. I gently wrap my produce from our CSA in a cloth or kitchen towel and place it in the refrigerator. Cloth can also be used over the top of a bowl. Just add a rubber band and your container is virtually airtight. No need for any plastic.
Reusable sandwich and snack bags
Don’t wrap those sandwiches in Saran. Use a reusable sandwich bag to keep those sandwiches fresh on their way to school.
Nothing at all
Could you, would you leave some leftovers on a plate and put them in the fridge without plastic wrap? I’m guessing there are quite a few things that end up covered in plastic wrap that don’t really need to be covered at all. Think twice before wrapping.
Can you think of any other plastic wrap alternatives?
[Photo used under Creative Commons from dvs/Flickr]
Disclosure: There are a few affiliate links in this post. Any purchases made through the links will put a few pennies in my pocket and support this blog. Thanks!
Linked up with Natural Mothers Network
February 27th, 2012
I know I’m not alone on this one-I have a sweet tooth and it kicks in A LOT. There’s a reason behind this love of sweets: they make us feel good. The sweet flavors release serotonin in our brains, which creates a feeling of love and well being. It’s nice to have some validation for my love of sweets.
The number of choices out there for sweetening our food or drinks is overwhelming. Artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup and Sucralose, have deservedly gotten a bad rap over the years. They are known to cause numerous side-effects ranging from headaches to cancer. Research also suggests that they can actually cause overeating among consumers.
Even natural sweeteners can come with their own baggage. Organic brown rice syrup recently made it into the lime light with findings that it contains arsenic. Agave nectar also came under fire when a report from The Weston A. Price Foundation said that it’s as bad for our bodies as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
With all this negative information looming about so many of the popular sweeteners the question often arises: Is there a safe sweetener choice?
Thankfully there is a way to satisfy our sweet tooth and, if eaten in moderation, our health won’t suffer.
Here are my top three natural sweeteners:
Raw, local and organic are the way to go with this natural sweetener. Not only will it sweeten your favorite cookies, it will also help sooth a cough or sore throat. Honey is often touted for having mega vitamins, minerals, and protein, but I’m not convinced the amount is significant unless you eat honey by the car load (which you shouldn’t do).
Careful when you choose your honey-recent testing by Food Safety News found that more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly pure honey. The testing showed that pollen had been filtered out of the honey, thereby stripping the honey of all nutritional value and erasing any way to trace where the honey came from. Your best bet for avoiding honey that’s been filtered is to buy honey directly from bee keepers, farmers’ markets and natural food stores.
Chopped, dried dates are my snack of choice when I’m looking for a sweet fix. Date sugar is made from finely chopped dried dates. It is a natural and non-processed sugar alternative filled with high fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s great for baking, but might not work in your hot or cold tea (it doesn’t dissolve very well).
Maple syrup is one of my favorite natural sweeteners. My kids can’t get enough of the stuff on pancakes and French toast. Maple syrup contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals than honey. The syrup comes directly from the maple tree and is clear when it first comes out. After the tree is tapped the syrup is then boiled to remove the water. The end result is the deep maple syrup color and flavor that most of us are familiar with. Maple syrup is perfect for baking and sweetening your favorite drink.
When buying maple syrup it’s important to read ingredient labels carefully. Many of the syrups on the market have additional sugar and/or are not pure maple syrup. Buy organic whenever you can. Use it sparingly because organic maple syrup can be quite pricey.
Remember all sugar should be eaten in moderation-sugar is sugar and can be hazardous to our healthy in any form.
What do you use to sweeten your food and drinks?
[Photo used under Creative Commons from D. Sharon Pruitt, Robert Neff and Jim Sorbie/Flickr]
This post is part of Your Green Resource over at Green Backs Gal.