home.health.love

A balanced and easy approach to healthy living.


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The Best Water Bottle…& Free Giveaway!

For me, finding the right water bottle is like finding the right car–it’s a life-changing decision! I carry my water bottle around with me everywhere I go, even around my own house, because it’s a spill-proof way to keep water nearby. H20 is crucial to proper body function and feeling thirsty means that the body is already dehydrated. (I also get headaches when I’m dehydrated, so drinking often is the difference between a good day and a terrible one!) I find that when I am constantly sipping I don’t need to worry about measuring my water intake to ensure I get my “eight glasses” for the day–so it’s one less thing to worry about.

I took me years of trying different brands and water bottles to find the right match, and I finally had my “AHA” moment when I stumbled upon ZULU One-Touch bottles at Target. Here’s my review and why I them love them so much.

NOTE: this is an unbiased review and I am not getting paid or otherwise rewarded to write it. I just happen to love this water bottle and wanted to share it with my readers, because, like I said, it changed my life!

  1. The bottle (and spout) are made of GLASS: I ditched plastic bottles years ago when there were concerns about BPA, and, more recently, concerns that chemical substitutes for BPA may also be dangerous. I tried stainless steel, but I didn’t like the metallic taste, and I also like to “see” my water–I drink it more often when I can see it, perhaps because it looks so clean and pure. Glass is safe, doesn’t leach or leave a residue, and doesn’t change the taste of water, so it’s my material of choice for drink and food storage. Zulu’s glass is “Certified BPA, Pthalates, PVC and lead free.” And you drink directly from the glass bottle rather than a plastic spout (as with many other water bottles), which is also important to some people.Zulu Atlas Beverage Bottle - Teal ( 20 oz )
  2. DURABILITY: almost all glass water bottles on the market are covered in silicone sleeves that prevent that from shattering when dropped. Of course, these sleeves are not 100% foolproof–if you drop a bottle with a certain amount of force (or throw it, as happened during one of my kids’ outbursts) it breaks. My Zulu bottles–my family has been through a few, so we’ve owned a bunch over the years–withstand a bunch of drops. This may be a result of their “extra thick” glass and “extra thick silicone bottom.” I found the Lifefactory and Ello water bottles to shatter more quickly–I did not do an official test, but this was my experience over repeated use. Zulu’s lids/spouts are more durable, as well. My Ello’s flip lid started to come apart within a week of use. Zulu’s lids are very sturdy.
  3. Virtually SPILL-PROOF: Though Zulu bottles come with the different tops, my favorite lid–the One-Touch–has the ability to “lock” closed, so it won’t pop open in your bag (as happened to me many times!). This locking function is so smart and I don’t know why other brands haven’t copied it yet!
  4. The One-Touch top is SUPER FUNCTIONAL: I need to be able to open the bottle with one hand, so I can drink water while I am driving or holding a kid (or anything else). You just squeeze the large “button” on the top and it flips open. Ello has a similar top–but it doesn’t lock to prevent spills and it breaks easily (see #2 above). There’s also a loop attached to the lid, which I use to hang on my stroller hooks.
  5. GREAT PRICE: Ranging $12.99-14.99 (depending on the lid type), they are cheaper than many other options on the market. Find them at Target stores and target.com (they’re much more expensive on Amazon!).
  6. They LOOK GOOD: They come in a range of cool colors.

Try them our and let me know what you think! You can read more about the bottles on Zulu’s site.

FREE GIVEAWAY TO TWO LUCKY READERS!

I contacted Zulu and they offered to do a FREE GIVEAWAY! Two readers will get a free Zulu water bottle in their choice of color and with their choice of top. See my Facebook page for details! Giveaway period ends on 3/20/15 @ 11:59pm.


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How to Avoid Arsenic in Gluten-Free Foods

Arsenic

In my previous post, I discussed Consumer Reports’ studies that have found “worrisome levels” of arsenic in rice products, including many baby foods and almost all gluten-free foods. Given these findings, it may be best to limit rice intake as much as reasonably possible. It’s hard to find rice-free baby and GF foods, so I’ve compiled this helpful list with a bunch of rice-free alternatives for every meal!

1. Breakfast Foods: Almost every GF cereal contains rice. Luckily, there are some non-rice alternatives, like plain corn flakes (I buy Whole Foods’ 365 brand) and some other corn-based cereals (make sure to read the ingredients list). I also like Udi’s Gluten-free Granola. For a hot breakfast, try oatmeal, like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Steal Cut Oats. You can also use corn grits (polenta) to make a hot cereal (add nuts and fruit for a super delicious treat, like in this recipe), or cut it into squares and serve with butter and honey, yum. I haven’t found any GF waffles without rice. But, you can make homemade waffles and pancakes using buckwheat, coconut, and other flours, including Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour, which doesn’t have any rice in it! I recently made these amazing oven pancakes using the Bob’s mix.

2. Bread: Sadly, I have yet to find a packaged GF bread that doesn’t contain rice, but you can make your own, and there are lots of recipes out there like this one or this one. If you do no have celiac and you can tolerate spelt, then whole spelt bread is an option for you–I buy it at Whole Foods and the health food aisle of my local supermarket.

Spelt3. Pasta: The good new is that there are many new pasta varieties sprouting up with no rice, but you have to read the ingredients carefully. Even when the packages advertises corn, buckwheat, or quinoa as a main ingredient, rice is usually the first or second item on the ingredients list. But I’ve read a bunch of labels and here are some great options:

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In photo: Eden Organics 100% Buckwheat Soba Noodle; Tolerant Organic Red Lentil Penne; Ancient Harvest Quinoa pasta (contains corn); Explore Asian Black Bean Spaghetti and Edamame Fettucini; Miracle Noodle Spinach Shirtataki Pasta. Each of these brands has different styles and flavors of pasta, so there is a lot to explore! SUPER SAVINGS: the Explore Asian Black Bean Spaghetti can be found in Costco in a money-saving 2lbs box!

4. Mains and Side dishes: Quinoa is an obvious choice, and switch up the colors–white, red, black–to get a variety of flavors. Polenta, which you can buy ready-made logs in supermarkets or in corn-grit form, is another alternative. I like to buy the logs, and slice them to make mini polenta pizzas (cover with sauce and cheese) or I dice them and saute them with sun dried tomatoes and garlic–yum! You can also make buckwheat as a side dish–saute with some garlic and spices, and I love all sorts of squashes as a starchy side dish that doesn’t include rice or pasta–think spaghetti pasta (just saute in some olive and garlic or add marinara) or butternut squash.

Polenta

5. Infant cereals and snacks: Babies don’t need to start their solids-eating career with cereals. Of course, you can buy the non-rice varieties, but even better: skip the cereals and go straight to avocados, bananas, and sweet potatoes. Dr. Sears and many pediatricians support these soft, nutritious foods as great first solids for kids, and skip the cereal altogether! When it comes to snacks, like puffs, biscuits, crackers and other baby treats, so many are made with rice that it’s best to limit these altogether. One crunchy non-rice option is these coconut-based treats (they have yogurt-based ones, too).

6. Rice cakes: The best substitute are these awesome Real Foods Corn Thins–they’re crispy and satisfying, you may even like these better than the rice version!

Product Details

I hope this gets you off to an arsenic-free start! I’d love to hear about your favorite rice-free GF foods in the comments section.


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Why You and Your Kids Should Eat Less Rice

riso bianco chicco lungo

Back in 2013, I wrote a post on the relatively high levels of arsenic found in rice. Consumer Reports had just published a study that found “worrisome levels” of this carcinogenic toxin in rice products, including many baby foods. I was shocked to learn that many foods contain a higher quantity of arsenic than is legally permitted in drinking water. Children are disproportionately vulnerable to exposure–because of their low body weight, a particular quantity of arsenic impacts them much more than it would an adult. Gluten-avoiders, too, are at risk, since so many gluten-free products contain rice.

Though state and federal agencies regulate the amount of arsenic in water, there are no set limits for foods. According to Consumer Reports, the FDA claims that an “ongoing assessment of arsenic in rice remains a priority for the agency.”

Consumer Reports has now issued an updated report based on data (provided by the FDA) concerning the inorganic arsenic content of 656 processed rice-containing products. The great thing about this new report: it contains a point system that can help you determine how many servings of rice and rice products are safe to consume on a weekly basis. Even better, the recommendations are made separately for children and adults.

Below are the “New Rice Rules,” which assign a point value to different rice-based foods. Consumer Reports recommends no more than 7 points per week, and the “risk analysis is based on weight, so a serving of any food will give children more points than adults.” I highly recommend reading the entire updated report here, and watching their brief video summarizing the issues.

In addition to following these guidelines, there are a few ways to further minimize your exposure to arsenic when eating rice:

  • Wash and cook rice in lots of water! Wash and pre-soak rice in water, use extra water when cooking (Consumer Reports recommends 6 cups water per one cup rice), and drain excess water at the end. Unfortunately, this process washes out some of the nutrients from the rice, but it reduces about 30% of the arsenic.
  • Origin matters; Organic does not. Rice grown in CA has the least arsenic; rice from Texas has the most. Try buying imported jasmine and basmati rice from India and Pakistan, as these tend to have lower levels or arsenic. The 2012 Consumer Reports study listed the origins of the rice samples it tested, so you can use this table as a guide when purchasing rice.
  • White rice, thought not as healthy, tends to have less arsenic than brown or wild because arsenic accumulates in the outer layers. These layers are removed when making white rice.

Given these findings, its best to limit rice intake as much as reasonably possible. In my next post, I’ll provide lots of great alternatives to rice and rice products. These are especially relevant for gluten avoiders, since most gluten-free products contain rice.

Stay tuned!


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How to Eat Healthy on a Budget (Part 2)

saving money as a family piggy banks

This is part two in a series on saving money while eating healthy. You can check out Part 1 and the first two tips here.

Money-Saving Tip #3: Avoid Health Food Stores…Shop Discount Stores and your Supermarket

Whole Foods and other health food stores typically offer the highest prices. So, unless there is a good sale, I only go to these stores for special items I can’t find anywhere else. Instead, I take advantage of the increasing number of affordable healthy and organic options that are now available in discount and big box stores.

For instance, when I shop at Target, I get a bunch of organic grocery items that are cheaper than almost anywhere else: pasta sauce (they have many great varieties), pasta (gluten-free and regular), apple sauce snacks for kids, organic spices, fruit leather snacks, Navitas Naturals Hemp Seeds, and frozen wild salmon. Target also offers a limited selection of organic fruits and veggies. If you prefer to buy in bulk, Costco, Sam’s Club, and other big-box stores have great values, too. These stores sell organic mixed greens, spinach, baby carrots, quinoa, eggs, hummus, frozen organic fruit and veggies, and more, all at great prices. Trader Joe’s, if you’re lucky to have one nearby, has some of the best prices around for produce (organic and conventional). I also shop my local supermarket’s organic produce section, and save money by choosing grocery items made by the store brand’s “natural” line.

Amazon offers low prices on some pantry items, but you usually have to buy in large quantities. “Add-on” items can offer a deal on buying one, but I still tend to get the best value by visiting brick and mortar stores.

Money-Saving Tip #4: Shop In-Season

We are used to being able to eat whatever we want, when we want it, but you’ll always save money buying produce when it’s in season—not only are the base prices lower, but these foods often go on sale during their peak growing months. For instance, at my local supermarket and even at Whole Foods, organic berries of all kinds are on sale throughout the summer, so I save $1-2 for each box I buy. Not surprisingly, we eat lots of berries during warm months! In the fall and winter, you can get deals on organic apples, oranges, and bunches of clementines.

Money-Saving Tip #5: Stock Up During Sales

When there are sales at Whole Foods and elsewhere, I buy as much as I can.  (By the way, you can check out Whole Foods’ circular here). If it’s fresh produce, then it’s on the menu for the week. Otherwise, I stock up on sale items and store it in my pantry or freeze for later. Here are some tips on how best to freeze your low-priced goodies:

  • Organic Fruit: cut up and freeze in chunks; use for smoothies, baking, and baby food!
  • Organic Veggies: Frozen veggies are great for baking and roasting. Broccoli, zucchini, peas, and green beans are some examples of veggies that can be frozen and used in tasty stir fries.
  • Organic Herbs: freeze minced herbs in ice-cube trays in olive oil, then pop cubes into the pan when you are ready to cook.
  • Free-range meat and wild fish: divide into family-friendly portion sizes, then freeze portions in air-tight Ziploc freezer bags

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My frozen stock of wild Alaskan salmon. Normally about $18.99/lb, I got these on sale at Whole Foods for $12.99/lb! I divided the fish into dinner-size portions, and voila! Ready to go any time.

Stay tuned for part 3, with more money-saving tips!


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Eating Healthy on a Budget: Easy Ways to Save (Part 1)

Piggy bank on green grass with flowers background

A lot of people tell me they want to eat healthier, but it’s too expensive. I relate. A diet based on whole, natural, and organic foods is pricier than the alternative. Even a recent Harvard study has shown that a healthy diet is more costly than an unhealthy one, though not by that much.

So, how do we buy the most nutritious food without breaking the bank?

Here is the bottom line to eating healthy on a budget: shopping for nutritious food is all about making the right trade-offs. Sometimes it makes sense to splurge, and sometimes it doesn’t. Once you’re aware of the trade-offs, you are empowered to make decisions that are good for your budget and your health.  In this post, we will explore two ways to save money.

Money-Saving Tip #1: You Don’t Always Have to Buy Organic

Organic produce and products made from them are better for your health than conventionally grown crops. A recent review of 343 studies found that, on average, organic crops and organic-crop-based foods contained higher concentrations of antioxidants, less cadmium (a toxic chemical found in cigarette smoke), and, unsurprisingly, less pesticide residues than conventionally-grown foods. If money weren’t an issue, I’d suggest buying everything organic.

In real life, that can get pretty pricey. Luckily, there is a wonderful tool that can help you prioritize your organic purchases and determine when it’s ok to save with the cheaper, conventional options. The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen list tells you which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic, while the Clean Fifteen list tells you which produce is least contaminated, so you can buy the conventional version and save money.  These lists are based on scientific analyses of pesticide content in foods and are updated every year or so. To keep track in the grocery store, download the EWG’s free app, “Dirty Dozen,” for your iPhone or Android smartphone.

The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Lists for 2014

Money-Saving Tip #2: Buy Frozen

Frozen fruits and veggies are often cheaper than buying fresh, and, luckily, they may have as much or more nutritional content as the fresh version found in supermarkets. This is because produce chosen for freezing are usually processed at their peak ripeness, a time when they are most nutrient-packed. By contrast, produce destined to be sold fresh are picked before they are fully ripe, which gives them less time to develop a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. (EatingWell has a really great overview of the pros and cons of frozen vs. fresh).

I still try to buy fresh when I can, particularly, local and in-season produce, as these are hands-down the most nutritious options (more on that in my next post). But, frozen can be a great way to cheaply add healthy fruits and veggies to your family’s diet, particularly organic berries and other fruits (which can get pretty pricey), as well as organic broccoli, green beans, and peas. Frozen veggies are amazing in stir-fries and baked dishes, while frozen fruits are perfect for breakfast smoothies the whole family can enjoy.

Frozen wild fish is also cheaper than buying fresh. I buy wild instead of farmed fish because the latter tend to have higher levels of certain toxic chemicals and are sometimes fed antibiotics. In addition, wild fish contain more protein and omega-3 fatty acids. But wild fish can be very expensive. Wild salmon, for instance, can sometimes cost $19/lb. So, unless there’s a good sale on fresh wild fish, I buy it frozen. It’s not only cheaper, but easy to find lots of varieties of frozen fish, including in your local supermarket, Target, Walmart or Costco. By buying frozen, I save 50% or more of what I would spending buying fresh.

Simply Balanced Alaskan Keta Salmon Skinless Fillets 24 oz

Target’s Frozen Wild Salmon Fillets

Stay tuned for my next post, where I will discuss more money-saving tips. How do you save money when buying healthy foods? I’d love to hear your strategies.


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Let your Kids have their Candy and Eat it, too

Cute dog Trick-or-treating

It’s hard to separate Halloween from the experience of trick or treating and collecting loads of candy. That’s why I say: let your kids eat their candy, with some minimal limits. Yes, in my ideal world, my kids would never be exposed to that junk, especially in those quantities, but this is the real world, so I adjust my expectations.

The healthy-living approach I’ve advocated on this blog, is one of balance. I keep my kids as healthy as possible in the house, so that when we indulge, we can go all out and enjoy! Halloween is one of the hardest days on the calendar to wage the good fight against food coloring, refined sugars, corn syrup, GMOs, and all those other lovely ingredients–if I don’t let my kids eat treats, they are going to feel deprived, and feeling deprived is exactly what my healthy-living philosophy is meant to avoid. So on holidays like Halloween–when highly processed and colored chemicals, I mean, food, are central to the celebration, I let my kids enjoy (almost) like everyone else.

But, I do set some boundaries and follow some sneaky strategies to ensuring that when they indulge, they won’t indulge too much:

  • Depending on the time you go trick or treating, make sure to feed your kids a healthy early dinner or filling snack beforehand. If they get full before trick or treating, they are bound to eat less. And, as the parent, you’ll feel better knowing they actually consumed some nutrients before shoving pretend food into their bodies. Be strict about this early dinner/snack: give your kids the healthiest thing they are willing to eat (veggies, anyone?) and tell them, “we’ll only head out once you’ve finished your meal/snack.”
  • Avoid grazing while trick or treating. If your kids are noshing on their goodies while walking from house to house, they’re bound to eat a lot of it, without even realizing or feeling satisfied. When we eat distractedly, our bodies don’t register satisfaction. So tell your kids, “Let’s hold off eating our candy until we get home…and then we will have a candy party!”
  • Once home, have your kids pick out X number of candies to eat that evening. Choose the number that works for you. If it’s 1 or 2, they’re bound to be upset. I’d allow between 3 and 5, which is plenty of candy to eat in one sitting. The point is to let them indulge, but set a limit. The truth is, that many kids will stop eating on their own after that amount, anyway.
  • What to do with the remaining piles of candy? Get it out of the house–out of sight, out of mind–and pander to your kids’ do-gooder instincts (they do have those, right?). Tell your child that it’s important to share their goodies with kids who are less fortunate, and that you will be taking the rest of the candy to kids in hospitals or shelters (or name your favorite kids’ charity). Seriously, if you don’t have time to drop the candy off at a local institution that helps kids, then just bring it to work and share around the office: by taking that crap out of the house, you’re donating to your own charity: mykidshealth.org.
  • If you face too much resistance, let them choose 5 to 10 candies that they are allowed to eat, one per day, over the following weeks as a reward for doing a chore or eating a healthy meal. Let your candy work for you! In my house, special treats are given out freely only on rare occasions. Usually, I use dessert to my advantage by giving it to my kids only after they’ve finished a healthy meal, cleaned up, or completed another task that I want done.

So, there you have it: done and done! Let your kids enjoy their candy within very reasonable limits, no one feels deprived, and you just helped your kids do a good deed. Does life get any better than a win-win for all?

Let me know how it goes!

P.S. By the way, this approach can be followed if your kids collect candy after birthday parties and other holidays, Purim and Easter!


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Make Your Home a Toxin-Free Sanctuary

Do you realize that you have the power to carve out a safe space for your family? A space that is free of toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and other hazardous substances? That space is your home. 

family at homeHere’s why it’s so important:

Wherever we go, we’re constantly being bombarded by toxins, pathogens, and electromagnetic radiation. As a society, we’re only beginning to understand what this means for our health. Studies of specific toxins have shown that repeated exposure can damage our immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, particularly those of children, who are especially vulnerable. We are regularly exposed to over 70,000 newly developed synthetic chemicals that have never been tested and whose potential dangers are unknown.The list of environmental toxins we encounter on a daily basis includes air pollution, lead, formaldehyde, BPA, pesticides, flame retardants, mercury, and much more.

Toxic overload– along with poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles, the overuse of antibiotics, and other factors– may explain why children today have so many allergies, weight problems, neurological deficits, and behavioral challenges. It may explain why, as a generation, they are “compromised.”  Too much of a bad thing can’t be good.

Now, here is the great news:

I once heard Master Herbalist Andrea Candee say, “My home is my sanctuary.” She had been discussing her rationale for not having wi-fi devices in her home. Everywhere else, she explained, her family members are bombarded with electromagnetic radiation. But, at home, they get a break.

Though we can’t protect ourselves from every health threat, our homes are the only places in the world where we have some control over the environment. Just as we think of sanctuaries as a safe haven for endangered animals, so, too, should we think of our homes as our own special, safer, place. In our homes, our bodies can get a break from the deluge of toxins, pathogens, and radiation that strikes us when we are outside. We get the chance to rejuvenate.

This philosophy, “my home is my sanctuary,” guides the decisions I make about the foods we eat, the products we use, and the things we do in our home. It explains why I have a no-shoe policy. It explains why I make every effort to keep out pesticides, heavy metals, phthalates, BPA, formaldehyde, PVC, VOCs, corn syrup, food coloring, and other potentially hazardous foods and substances.

These limits at home enable us to enjoy all sorts of treats and activities that the great world has to offer us. Outside the house, my kids can eat almost anything, they get dirty, and my son crawls around grubby floors in play areas and waiting rooms. We even invoke the “3-second rule” when teething toys or snacks fall on the floor. We get to roam free without worrying too much about germs and other hazards, because having a “sanctuary” means that we’ll have a chance to repair and rest when we go home. And, we are healthy. While my kids get exposed to all sorts of germs and viruses when we go out (which, studies have shown is important in the development of a stronger immune system), they’ve never been hospitalized or taken antibiotics.

The empowering and protective effects of my “sanctuary” matter not only for my kids’ physiological health, but for their spiritual health, as well. It teaches them about balance and the importance of limits. It teaches them that if we are careful a lot of the time, then when we have fun, we can go ALL OUT. (And, by the way, we have a ton of fun at home, too!)

My home is my sanctuary. It’s a safe haven I carve out for myself, my spouse, and my little ones, based on the trade-offs I am most comfortable with. Think about what your trade-off’s are: What’s most important to you? What can you give up? 

Make your home your sanctuary.