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Archive for Healthy Living

September 18th, 2014

Why Agave is Worse Than High Fructose Corn Syrup

Groovy Green Livin Agave Nectar

For those of you still using agave as a sugar substitute, I have some bad news. But before I break the news to you, I have a confession: I still use agave. It’s in my ketchup and probably a few other places in my kitchen. I fell for the hype, and I know I’m not alone.

No more. It’s time to ditch it. Once the ketchup’s gone agave is no longer welcome in my kitchen. Here’s why.

What is Agave?

Agave nectar (aka agave syrup) comes from the Blue Agaves that grow in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico. The plants are large, prickly and look like a cactus. The same plant is used to make tequila.

Why We Should Avoid Agave

Most agave nectar or syrup found in the US is actually a highly processed and refined sweetener made from the root of the agave plant. Actually, it turns out that agave is processed in a very similar way to high fructose corn syrup, and has a higher fructose content than any other common sweetener, even more than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Many who once stood behind agave as a sugar substitute are now saying something very different.

Dr. Andrew Weil says:

I’ve stopped using agave myself and no longer recommend it as a healthy sweetener. The reason agave ranks relatively low on the glycemic index is because it has a high content of fructose. Fructose does not readily raise blood sugar (glucose) levels because the body doesn’t metabolize it well. New research suggests that excessive fructose consumption deranges liver function and promotes obesity. The less fructose you consume, the better.

As it turns out, agave has a higher fructose content than any other common sweetener, more even than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

Agave is made through a chemically intensive process, including the use of genetically modified enzymes. It’s basically high-fructose corn syrup (or worse!) disguised as a health food.

What Should We Use Instead of Agave?

There are a few natural sweeteners that are on my ‘A’ list.

Raw Honey

Honey is at the top of my sweetener list. If honey isn’t for you, check out my top three natural sweeteners HERE.

It’s important to remember that sugar is sugar. It can be disguised in may ways on a food label, but it’s all sugar. Sugar is hiding everywhere: cane sugar, beet sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, glucose, agave. There are over 50 names for sugar.

What’s your go-to sweetener?

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

Photo credit: Kelly Sue via photopin cc

September 16th, 2014

Sports Drinks and the Message We’re Sending Our Kids

Groovy Green Livin sports drinks

Back to school means back to sports for many families across the country.

Along with sports comes sports drinks. With bright and enticing colors, they’ve become the go-to drink for players of every sport.

Who can blame a budding athlete? Sports drinks are marketed as a way for athletes to” re-fuel” during a game or competition.  They “provide fuel, fluid and nutrients before, during and after activity.”

Even if your child doesn’t play a team sport there’s no shortage of sports drinks. You’ll find them at birthday parties and in lunch and snack bags.

A fantastic marketing campaign has led us to believe that those sports drinks are nutritious as well as delicious. But the ingredient list on most sports drinks is far from healthy.

There’s a small amount of good news for fans of sports drinks 

After a big dose of consumer pressure, Gatorade removed the controversial brominated vegetable oil (BVO)-patented as a flame retardant that’s been banned in Europe and Japan- from all of its sports drinks. Yes, there was a flame retardant in Gatorade not too long ago.

Also, sports drinks are caffeine free, unlike energy drinks which are loaded with caffeine.

Unfortunately, there’s not much more good news for sports drinks.

What’s really in sports drinks?

Sports drinks are touted as healthy and nutritious, but their ingredient list tells a different story.

Here’s a sample ingredient list from a big sports drink company:

WATER, ISOMALTULOSE, SUGAR,DEXTROSE, MALTODEXTRIN, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, XANTHAN GUM,SALT, SODIUM CITRATE,MONOPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, YELLOW 5, NIACINAMIDE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, YELLOW 6,PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6)

Remember the rule: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat (or drink) it.

After water the first 4 ingredients are sugar! Sugar is sugar, regardless of its name.

  • Isomaltulose=sugar
  • Sugar=sugar
  • Dextrose=sugar
  • Maltodextrin=sugar

And when asked why there are artificial colors (Yellow 5 & 6) in their products, they responded with this:

The colors in Gatorade provide visual appeal and help reinforce the flavor perception. They are also useful in helping our customers to quickly locate their favorite flavors as well as helping stock clerks group the flavors correctly on the store shelf. The colors used in Gatorade are certified by the FDA for use in beverages and reviewed for safety to the consumer.”

Pretty lame excuses for adding artificial coloring.

Why are doctors and nutritionists recommending sports drinks? 

I’m somewhat baffled by this one. Many seem to be taking the position that these sports drinks are replenishing your body with necessary nutrients after a workout. While I do understand the need to replenish your body with necessary nutrients, I’m just not convinced sports drinks provide the best way. They are filled with loads of sugar, artificial coloring, plus a long list of other ingredients that are difficult to pronounce. These sports drinks are adding unnecessary calories to our children’s diets-adding to the obesity epidemic.

Clearly this isn’t real food….or drink.

Maybe it’s time to focus on sending our kids a better message?

Why aren’t we, as a society and as parents, suggesting that our children drink water. Gasp. Yes, water. So simple, low calorie and just one pronounceable ingredient.

What are your thoughts on sports drinks? Do your kids drink them? No judgment, would just love to get the conversation going.

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via photopin cc

September 12th, 2014

Air Purifier Review: Alen BreatheSmart FIT50

Groovy Green Livin Alen BreatheSmart FIT50 HEPA Air Purifier

With winter almost knocking on our door I can’t help but think about how all the windows and doors in my home will soon be sealed tightly to keep the cool air out and the warm air in. Along with the cool temps and sealed up homes comes a big concern: indoor air pollution.

We generally think of air pollution as an outdoor problem, but our indoor air can be polluted too. Indoor air pollution can come from many different sources including tobacco products, oil, gas, coal and wood, building materials, couches, carpets, cleaning products and more.

How you can improve your indoor air quality: BreatheSmart FIT50

If you’re looking for a simple way to improve your indoor air quality, try adding a few indoor house plants.

Another easy way to remove contaminants from the air is to use an air purifier.  I’ve tried several air purifiers over the years and have never found one that made much of a difference- until now.

I was sent a BreatheSmart FIT50 made by the Alen Corporation for review. When the box showed up I was a bit surprised by the size of the unit (it’s W16.75″ x H22.25″ x D10″), but once it was out of the box its sleek look won me over.

Groovy Green Livin Alen BreatheSmart FIT50 HEPA Air Purifier

The BreatheSmart FIT50 HEPA Air Purifier just launched over the summer and I’m pretty impressed with what it has to offer.

  • Covers up to 800 sq. ft. on high
  • Is extremely quite when running
  • Has 4 fan speeds and an timer that can be set
  • A filter change indicator light-no more trying to remember when you need to change the filter!
  • A HEPA filter that captures dust, allergens and other pollutants

This air purifier has two features that really make it stand out from other air purifiers I’ve tried out. One of my favorite features is the ability to change the look of the front panel-there are several color designer panels to choose from.

Our entire family agreed that the coolest feature is the colored light around the power button.

Groovy Green Livin Alen BreatheSmart FIT50 HEPA Air Purifier

There are three different light colors and each has a meaning:

  • Blue: Low quantity of airborne particles detected
  • Yellow: Moderate quantity of airborne particles detected
  • Red: Significant quantity of airborne particles detected

When we first began using the air purifier the light was consistently red. I tried moving the unit around to different rooms in the house and all came up red!

After using the BreatheSmart FIT50 for a few weeks I’ve noticed a big difference in the air quality. The light has switched from red to yellow. Phew! This time of year my fall allergies kick in big time and I’m not sneezing as much as in past years.

Bottom Line on the BreatheSmart FIT50 Air Purifier

Overall I really like this air purifier. It’s a bit larger than units I’ve used in the past, but it’s extremely quiet when running. The air quality in the house seems to have improved-there is less sneezing and the indicator light changed color, indicating less airborne particles. The true test is yet to come once our house is closed up for winter. The air purifier is on the pricier side, coming in at $499.00.

Do you use an air purifier?

Disclosure: I did receive an Alen BreatheSmart Fit50 for review. I was neither paid for your review, nor am I employed by Alen Corporation. All opinions are my own.

September 9th, 2014

The Truth About Candy Sold in America

Groovy Green Livin Candy

 

Wondering why the candy in America might seem just a bit brighter in color than it’s sweet cousin in Europe? The answer might surprise you.  Many candy companies in the US use artificial food coloring for the candy they sell and distribute in the United States, but that same candy sold in Europe gets its coloring from natural sources.

I have to admit, peanut M&M’s are my weakness. Especially frozen. But after looking at the long list of artificial food dyes in those delicious candies I’m ready to take my indulgence elsewhere: COLORING (INCLUDES BLUE 1 LAKE, RED 40, YELLOW 6, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1, RED 40 LAKE, BLUE 2 LAKE, YELLOW 6 LAKE, YELLOW 5 LAKE, BLUE 2).

You won’t find those color additives in European M&M’s.

Why are companies selling safer candy in Europe than they are in the US?

According to Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of The Center for Science in the Public Interest:

“There’s been evidence for almost 40 years that food dyes trigger hyperactivity or inattention in children. About six years ago, the British government sponsored studies that found exactly that, so they urged food companies in Britain to replace synthetic dyes with natural colorings or no added colorings, and many British companies switched over. And then the European Union passed a law requiring that any food that contained the dyes used in those two British studies would have to put a warning notice on, warning consumers that the dyes might trigger hyperactivity. And so with the threat of a warning label, it’s really hard to find these synthetic dyes.”

Here’s what a warning label in Europe would say:  “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” We have no such warning label in the US.

What’s shocking to me is that these companies are clearly able to remove dangerous artificial food dyes from their products and have done so in other countries, yet they’re not willing to remove them from products sold in America. What does this say about how they value the lives of American children?

The FDA isn’t helping either. They continue to take the position that more research is needed before they make any decisions about artificial food dyes.

What you can do

  • READ LABELS: In America all food labels must spell out which artificial food dyes are used in a product. If you see ingredients such as Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1 (or any other color with a number after it) steer clear. Read your labels very carefully so you can make an educated decision about the food you buy. 
  • SUPPORT COMPANIES that don’t use artificial food dye. Let your dollars do the talking!
  • SIGN THIS PETITION on Change.org asking Mars, the maker of M&M’s candies, to stop coloring its products with petroleum-based artificial food dyes.

How do you feel about companies selling products in America with harmful ingredients that they’ve voluntarily removed in other countries? 

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

photo credit: SlipStreamJC via photopin cc

September 5th, 2014

Writing for The Huffington Post and Other Groovy Green Updates

Groovy Green Livin Huffington Post

This week The Huffington Post in partnership with NRG launched a new section called Generation Change. This launch is very exciting for many reasons, but one that is super exciting.

Writing for The Huffington Post

My BIG news: I’m going to be writing for this new section of The Huffington Post! My first post went live this week: How Climate Change Could Affect Your Breakfast. I’m thrilled to be a part of this exciting and important addition to an already fabulous publication.

This new HuffPo section is dedicated to creating awareness of and fostering a conversation around climate change and clean energy with the goal of preserving our planet. It will explore everything from clean technology options for homes and businesses to breakthroughs in climate legislation and the latest developments at the forefront of renewable energy.

Through a mix of news articles, slideshows and instructive content about sustainability, along with opinion pieces from thought leaders on the topics of climate and energy policy, Generation Change will be a prime resource for educating readers about the realities of global warming and the importance and impact of our individual choices, as well as those of society as a whole.
I would love for you to check it out and comment if you feel up to it. Better yet, if you’re on social media please give it a share!

Here’s a Tweet for you:

Featured on everydayhero

I’m also honored to be featured on everydayhero, a company that helps people give back to causes they are passionate about. everydayhero, it is an online platform that helps people fundraise for any cause they choose. The platform is integrated with MapMyFitness, VolunteerMatch, Facebook and Twitter, so that people can see how everything they do (fun for charity, volunteer at the SPCA, share their stories on social) contribute to and count towards giving to a cause. All this information is calculated into your Giving Footprint that grows with your activities over time.

Stay tuned for more from me on The Huffington Post.

And while you’re waiting have a fabulous weekend! Any big plans?

~Lori

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

photo credit: IllinoisLibrary via photopin cc

September 4th, 2014

Mudderella Boston: A Mud Run Gone Wrong

Groovy Green Livin Mudderella Mud Run

Back in March a friend convinced me to sign up for Mudderella Boston. It was a hard sell, but I decided to give it a try.

A Mudderella race is a 5-7 mile, muddy obstacle course. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

I’ve been hearing for years about Tough Mudders and this seemed like a simple way to ease myself  into a mud race.

I registered,  joined a team and trained. My annual triathlon was placed on hold and Mudderella was going to be my big race this year.

The race is scheduled for this Saturday and I won’t be there for a very good reason.

Then the emails from Mudderella started showing up in my inbox. One after another.

Mudderella changed the location of the run 4 times!

I was willing to travel to all the locations until the final email arrived.

Eight days before the run,  Mudderella let participants know that the race venue had been changed, yet again, to Westbrook, Maine. This new spot is about 2 hours and 15 minutes from my home. And it’s in Maine, not Boston.

Not quite feasible when you have other life commitments to drop everything and spend an unexpected day in Maine.

What was originally marketed as a Boston Mudderella is now a Maine mud run. Not what I had signed up for.

Mudderella stepped up to the plate and decided to help their loyal runners out by offering the following:

  • All parking will be free. 

Why was there a parking fee in the first place?

  • On-site spectator ticket purchases will be only $10. We normally charge $20 for on-site spectators, but we will continue to honor the online price of $10 for any spectators who want to come to the event.

That’s right-if you’re watching a family member run in the mud you have to pay $10!

And best of all (insert sarcasm):

  • You can transfer to a future Mudderella event in 2014 or 2015 for free. If you are really unable to make it to Mudderella Boston this year because of the change in location, you can get a free transfer to any future Mudderella event.

No refunds people! We had no choice but to transfer our $96.00 entry fee to another Mudderella race. Just what I want to do after losing complete confidence in this organization.

I’m not the only one who’s angry. There’s an entire Facebook Page dedicated to this- Mudderella Boston: We Want a Refund.

But from every loss there is a gain.

This weekend I won’t be joining the Mudderella gang in Maine. Instead I will be running a 5k close to home in support of an incredible organization.

Groovy Green Livin Mudderella Mud Run

ME STRONG is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting the friends, families and individuals battling cancer. The organization was formed in the fall of 2011 when a  group of four friends organized a 5k in honor of their close friend Linda Ryan. The summer of 2011, Linda had just completed her first marathon when a few weeks later she was diagnosed with recurring cervical cancer. Today Linda is healthy and is living with no evidence of cancer. Yay Linda!

How would you handle Mudderella’s poor planning? Would you travel the 2 plus hours to the new venue?

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

photo credit: Presidio of Monterey: DLIFLC & USAG via photopin cc

September 2nd, 2014

Waste Free Lunch Gear to Add to Your Lunch Box

Groovy Green Livin Waste Free Lunch Gear

Packing a waste free lunch has become second nature in our home. There aren’t many plastic baggies to choose from- we ditched those a few years ago- and there are plenty of reusable options.

All three boys pack their own waste free lunch with a little guidance from mom and dad. The process isn’t pretty. Food and crumbs are generally everywhere. If you’re able to let this piece go (I still have a hard time with it!) the independant lunch packing process is worth it. Through making their own lunch they are beginning to understand what a green and healthy lunch looks like.

What is a waste free lunch?

Children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school. Think of all the paper napkins, plastic utensils and plastic water bottles that go straight to the landfill!

By using reusable products we can all kick off the school year in an eco-friendly way.

We’ve added a few waste free reusable options to our lunch box options this year. 

1. Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Food Canister

I really love the Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Food Canister. It  comes in two sizes-   16 -Ounce and 8-Ounce and both are perfect for snacks and other lunch box items. The canisters have a screw on stainless steel lid that closes tightly and prevents leaking. These containers are not insulated and will not keep items hot or cold.

2. ONYX 2 Layer Sandwich Box

Another brilliant creation- this Onyx Stainless Steel 2-Layer Large Sandwich Box comes with two stackable layers that close firmly together with a locking system. The top layer is perfect for a sandwich and the bottom, larger layer is perfect for a side item such as grapes, crackers or any other lunch time treat. This system could be used as your lunch box or can be packed in your reusable, waste free lunch bag.

3. EcoLunchBox Blue Water Bento Splash Box

The ECOlunchbox – Blue Water Bento Splash Box is ocean themed with a stainless steel bottom and silicone lid.  The lid is designed to be easy to open for all ages, with tabs on all corners for little fingers to grab and open. This box is the perfect size for grapes, crackers and other lunch-time snacks.

4. LunchBots Duo Stainless Steel Food Container

We love the duo LunchBots and have a few in different colors. Our favorite way to pack up a LunchBots Duo is to put slices of cheese on one side and crackers on the other. LunchBots containers are plastic and BPA-free. One word of caution-don’t pack anything that could leak in this container since it’s not air tight.

What are some of your favorite waste free lunch gear?

If you’re looking for a safe, non-toxic lunch box, HERE are a few of my picks.


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

*Some links in this post are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase. Thanks for your support in this way! I would also like to thank ONYX, Klean Kanteen and ECOLunchBox for samples of their products. All opinions are my own.

 

 

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I continue on my journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I just might stop to make some noise about issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I fight for a safer world for all of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes in your life can lead to a non-toxic, healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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