Friday, February 27, 2009

Fabulous News!

I have been waiting for this... Hope Egan's Cookbook based on the book What The Bible Says About Healthy Living is now available! If you are are new to cooking healthy foods... or if you have been doing it for a while and seem to be in a rut with the same recipes over and over... THIS is your cookbook! I'm really looking forward to trying out these recipes. I'll be sure to share with you which are simple and easy for busy moms to use.

Natural Sweeteners 101

Sugar Cane, Malaysia by Harold Taylor
Sugar Cane, Malaysia

I have received a number of questions recently about Natural Sweeteners. Which are beneficial? Which might be dangerous? How do we interpret all of the conflicting information about our choices? Since the inception of this blog, I have been planning to write a series of posts about Natural Sweeteners. Given the steady stream of questions on this topic, I think now is a good time to start!

In the next few posts, I will write some specifics pertaining to several sweetener options, both natural and artificial. Before I do so, I would like to start with the bigger picture. Isn't it always better to step back and really sum things up before we zero in on the details?

I've blogged about What The Bible Says About Healthy Living before. This book was the start of a long health journey for me. It changed my entire health paradigm. In the book, Dr. Rex Russell presents three principles to use in evaluating the diet fads and new-fangled foods that arise almost daily. These principles have proven quite useful for me as no book I've found has been able to cover all the options available. Even if one is able to cover the plethora of products at the time of writing, by the time of publication, several more products make their way into the market. We need solid criteria to decide which products we will buy and which we'll leave on the shelf. That is exactly what Dr. Russell did!

So, let's apply his principles to sugar, sugar substitutes and other Natural Sweetener alternatives. By the way, these are my simple paraphrases of his principles.

1. Eat What God Made. We have been given sweet things to enjoy. "My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste." Proverbs 24:13. Sweetness is a gift! But, just as with synthetic vitamins, artificial preservatives and hydrogenated oils, we encounter problems when we create our own "foods."

2. Eat it as close to the way God made it as possible. Natural foods are truly amazing. I've said this before, but science is still discovering components of raw foods that can not be duplicated in a laboratory. These phytonutrients, trace minerals, enzymes (and things not yet discovered) may be small components of the food itself, but they do irreplaceable work. When we refine or process a natural food, we take away valuable components that were included for a reason. So, for sweeteners, we need to question the manufacturing processes. We need to ask things like: How much was the raw material changed? How high was it heated? Were there molecular restructurings? (I know that last one sounded way scientific, but some sweeteners are totally rearranged!)

3. Eat everything in moderation. Too much sugar, natural or otherwise, is not good for us. Even low-glycemic sweeteners affect our blood sugar levels to some degree. Natural Sweeteners in moderation can be a beneficial part of our diet. But, since we want to keep our blood sugar steady throughout the day, we need to choose sweeteners wisely and eat them sparingly.

I've just scratched the surface here. Stay tuned for Natural Sweeteners 102!

I'd love to know if any of you have read What the Bible Says About Healthy Living. If you have, comment to let me know what you thought of it. Or, if you haven't, comment to share what health books have been eye-opening for you!
Photo Credit:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Make Pita Chips!

We love Pita Chips! Really, these will disappear FAST in our house. Buying prepared Pita Chips at the store can be costly. Prepared chips can also contain added preservatives, MSG or unhealthy fats. Isn't this is the case with most prepackaged foods? Don't despair! You can make them healthier and cheaper at home. And making Pita Chips happens to be really simple. If you love recipes that your children can do solo, this is one of them!

To make Pita Chips, first cut a bag of pitas into chip-size pieces. We use whole wheat pitas that have no added sugar or preservatives. You could even make your own if you're feeling ambitious. Place the pieces back in the bag.

Drizzle the pieces with 2-3 Tablespoons of EVOO (that's extra virgin olive oil), and sprinkle generously with AE's Seasoning Salt (scroll down this link for the how-to).

Hold the top of the bag closed and shake vigorously until all the chip pieces are coated with EVOO and seasoning salt. All of my children love this part. Here Rainbow is taking her turn.
Bake at 350 degrees until the chips reach your desired crispiness. I guess they are technically supposed to be totally crispy, but we like a few soft spots.

We slice some apples and carrots and make a meal out of pita chips... a really cheap meal considering that I can find the pitas on sale for $1 a bag. (Rule of thumb: buy all you can and keep them in the freezer!) Or, if you're having company, they make a delicious appetizer with hummus.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One Strategy for Beating the Winter Blues

Do you ever get the winter blues? The bleakness of winter sometimes brings down my spirits. When it is so blustery outside, I don't get out for that much needed outdoor air and sunshine. And, even when it's warm enough, I miss seeing green.

I've found something simple that works for me. Having indoor plants throughout the house brings the green inside. They add cheer to my winter days. Not only is "seeing green" good for my winter blues, houseplants filter our indoor air. They help keep our homes healthy.

These are two of my favorite plants. The first is a ficus tree I bought as a wee twig. As you can see, even though this is SO NOT a professional photo, it is flourishing nicely in my entryway.

The second is a philodendron that my husband brought to me as a cutting from a friend's plant. After keeping the cutting in a glass with water for a few weeks, I put it in this little pot. Now the leaves meander along the backsplash of my kitchen, where I can always use a bit of cheer.

Keeping houseplants really isn't difficult, even if you think you have a black thumb. Just choose the easiest ones to care for. You might want to start with a palm or a peace lily. I have both of these too. Aside from watering and the occasional repotting, they are very low maintenance.

I know it's almost spring and we will all be enjoying vast expanses of green outside. But, if you are affected by winter blues, you may want to go ahead and start putting some green inside your home... you know, storing up for next winter ;)

Read more Works For Me Wednesday tips at

How to Select a B Complex Supplement

I mentioned last week that B Complex aids our bodies in dealing with stress. And what woman doesn't have stress! I'd like to take that post a step further, without being an information firehose :)
B Complex is also a critical component in nerve function and communication, hormonal balance, metabolism, learning and memory, the production of red blood cells and antibodies, and in regulating sleep mechanisms. This is a very brief list; I'm just scratching the surface here. This particular group of vitamins is pretty important for our functionality!

And, just by way of note, the absorption of B Vitamins is inhibited by antibiotics, caffeine and birth control pills.

So, let's say you decide your body might benefit from a B Complex supplement. How would you go about choosing one out of the many? Previously, I thought the more expensive a supplement is, the better it must be. I was wrong. In nature, B vitamins are always found in balance with one another. This doesn't mean exactly equal amounts of each of the individual B vitamins are present. Rather, the array of B vitamins is found in very similar proportions all throughout nature. The RDA is based on these amounts.

Here's where I'm going with this thought... let's say you read the label and see that there is 6,333% RDA of your Niacin and Riboflavin. Then, as you scan down, you see about 50% RDA of Folic Acid and about 10% RDA of Biotin. This is not a balanced supplement. Why is that bad? Well, your body can mimic B Vitamin deficiency as it struggles to absorb all the overload. You want a supplement that contains about 100% of each of the 8 vitamins in the B Complex.

You also want to read the label to check the amount of Biotin. Biotin is the most expensive of the B vitamins, yet it is very pivotal in the utilization of the rest. If you don't have enough Biotin, you can't really use the other Bs, no matter how many you give yourself. Unfortunately, many brands skimp on the Biotin so they can produce a more cost-effective supplement. Don't purchase a B Complex unless it contains 100% RDA of Biotin.

Why do I mention all of this? Well, as I've talked with women from all walks of life, I'm coming to the conclusion that the vast majority are experiencing several symptoms attributable to lack of adequate B Complex. Maybe our need for it has increased as our multi-tasking and stress levels have increased. Maybe the diminishing quality of our diet has left us deficient. Maybe prescription drugs have hindered our B Complex absorption. Maybe there is another reason that I haven't yet considered. I am not a medical professional and I don't go around diagnosing my friends... but, if another mom benefits even half as much as I did from the addition of the right B Complex Supplement, then this post was worth my time and yours.

This is the B Complex I take. Some days I can tell I need it more than others :) It meets all the criteria I've mentioned in this post, plus my standards for purity. And it's from a company that I approve of, as I mentioned here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sunday Night Meals

When I was growing up, my parents always fed us popcorn for supper on Sunday nights. There may have been several reasons for our family practice. But, I really only remember one. I remember my parents saying it was good for us to not be full -- that millions of people around the world would go to bed feeling hungry.

Sometime in the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I adopted this practice as well. We made just popcorn for a few years, but with pregnancies and such, we added a smoothie to the menu. For the last six or seven years, we have had popcorn and smoothie on Sunday nights.

It is certainly nice to have a night free of cooking and clean up. And, this simple meal really helps the weekly budget. But more than that, we are teaching our children a concept that is often missed here in America. We don't have to be full.

I don't know if this practice would fit your family. I share it because I can see how it has benefited my children. We all do well with a weekly reminder that we eat to live rather than live to eat.

On a side note: we also have a Frugal Dinner night on Wednesdays. This meal consists of beans, rice or cornmeal in some very simple arrangement. Including the leftovers, this meal usually costs around three dollars for our family of six. We're saving money that can be spent wisely elsewhere, but we are also teaching our children that not every meal has to be totally scrumptious and filling.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

7 Things Odd and Interesting About Me

I usually skip out on the "Tag! You're It..." posts. My main reason is that I want to stick to my topic. This time around, I'm going to tackle the tag. It's Saturday, right! However, I am only going to list out things that pertain to health. Thanks for the tag, Bethany!
  1. I used to eat ice cream with my dad every night at 8:00. I mean every night. Talk about a hard habit to break! I guess it's been hard for him too. We both still have raging sweet tooths (or would that be sweet teeth?).
  2. I buy a lot of my food in bulk, which saves money in the long run. These large purchases at irregular times wreak havoc on a budget though. To solve this, we have a reduced grocery budget and a bulk food budget.
  3. I love avocados. I can remember my mom fixing avocado sandwiches on brown bread for me as a girl. She always peppered them, which is how I love them now.
  4. I am very bad at remembering to drink water. I think I'm missing the thirst mechanism.
  5. I can't stand the smell of raw eggs. Most people can't even think of how raw eggs smell. Even though I don't like the smell, I still make eggs for my kids and husband... and omelets for guests!
  6. We spent a few years as vegans. After noticing some health issues arise, we started to add in some high-quality meats. We still don't eat meat every day. And when we do, it is a grass-fed, organic variety.
  7. I simply can not follow a recipe. No matter how hard I try, I just can't do what the writing says. There's always something I tweak. That's why every recipe posted on this blog is my own variation... and I can't even follow my own recipes! Cooking is always an adventure in our house.

I am supposed to tag three more people. I am compelled to tag bloggers I know personally. So, Tonya, Noel and Jonesey... I can't wait to hear your seven things!

Friday, February 20, 2009

"Totally Terrific" Granola Cookies, according to Spiderman

These Granola Cookies are a great sweet treat for your little ones. While they do have some natural sugar in them, their sweetness is balanced by protein from nuts, seeds and eggs; and by complex carbohydrates from whole grains. My kids love them because they taste good. I love them because they aren't a waste of a snack... they contain real nourishment.

This ingredient photo wouldn't make the cut for any magazine spread. I included it because you'll see that all my nuts, seeds and dried fruits have been purchased in bulk and divided into ziplocs. If you know that you will frequently use an item, such as almonds or sunflower seeds, it is a big money saver to buy in bulk. In this photo, Witzy is tearing apple rings into bits.

So, here's the recipe:
  • 1 c. softened butter (or 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup applesauce)
  • 1 1/2 c. natural sweetener (I used sucanat)
  • 2 eggs, preferably from hens that roam free
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (if your nuts are salted, you may consider omitting this extra salt)
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened dried coconut
  • 2 1/2 c. oats
  • 1 1/2 c. dried fruit bits (we had dates and apples today; you could use cranberries, apricots, raisins, and the list goes on...)
  • 1 1/2 c. nuts and seeds (we used almonds, cashew bits, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds today)
Cream the butter/applesauce with the sweetener. Beat in the eggs, one by one. Add in the vanilla. Then add in the flour, baking soda and salt. Up to this point, this is a fairly straightforward cookie recipe, but you'll have a pastier dough. This keeps the cookies from getting too dry when you add in the rest of the ingredients. Stir in the coconut and oats. Then mix in the fruit, nuts and seeds.

Drop by tablespoons on cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 12 or so minutes. You'll notice all the help I have in this photo. Some say "many hands make light work." Some say "too many cooks spoil the soup." I say "the more the merrier!"

First note: I highly recommend doubling this recipe. Cookies freeze well and this will save you some time when your kids hanker for cookies in the future.

Second note: You could add in chocolate chips. Of course, that adds in some more sugar. But, they do nicely in the recipe... I know because we've tried it that way too!

Coming soon: How to Choose a B Complex Supplement and Natural Sweeteners 101... so stay tuned!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

STRESS... and a health quiz

The Scream by Edvard Munch
The Scream

This may never happen in your home. You may not have four children, but don't all women have at least four things competing for their attention at a time? I think our demanding lifestyle is universal.

Picture this with me: You are in the middle of cleaning up a large mess from breakfast and meal prep for the day. Four children are supposed to be brushing their teeth and getting started with school. One can't find her toothbrush. It might be in the book basket where she left it last night. Since she is just a baby she can't very sweetly ask for help. She hollars for anyone who will hear. The second brushes his teeth in five seconds flat and somehow has roped his sister on the way to get his math book. He hollars in excitement because of the prize he's caught. The third can't brush her teeth because she's been roped. She doesn't want anyone to keep her from obeying mommy. More hollaring. The fourth is so happy to be alive she bounces out of the bathroom and whaps her head on the door frame. More hollaring. So, we've got a desperate hollar, a cowboy triumph hollar, an I'm-Offended hollar and a truly-in-pain hollar. What does mom do?

If it was your house, what would you do? Can anyone really address all four hollars AT THE SAME MOMENT IN TIME??? Even if I don't know what your reaction would be, I can tell you what is happening inside your body. Stress is mounting. As your body elevates blood pressure, pulse rate and certain endocrine activities in preparation for what is to come, it also suppresses the peripheral body systems like your immune system and digestive system. This is an oversimplification; I don't think everyone wants to read all the specifics right now. Suffice it to say that your body is reved up.

Did you know that the reving up takes extra nutrients? Yep. Sure does. Especially B Complex. The B vitamins are water soluble and are consumed quickly when the body responds to stress. You can respond peaceably. You can respond in frustration. But your body is still reving up. And your body will totally consume a day's supply of B Complex in about fifteen minutes of extreme stress. Without B Complex, your body will have difficulty regaining it's normal function again. Thus, chronically stressed people can experience heart palpitations, fatigue similar to anemia, chronic infections and heart disease.

Remember, this is a former Walking-B-Vitamin-Deficiency speaking here. If you haven't yet, you can read my story here. I could write forever about the wonders of B Complex. And soon I will write about how to read labels and chose the best B Complex supplement. But, I can't let this one post become an e-book. So...

Let's take a Health Quiz!
Remember, this is not a medical diagnosis. This is simply a fun way to look at how a B Vitamin Deficiency presents itself. Once again, I am not a medical practitioner : )

Score yourself on each of these symptoms associated with B Vitamins. Give yourself a 0 if you never experience the symptom; a 1 if you experience it seldom; a 2 if you experience it regularly; and a 3 if you experience it often. Ready?

___I can never get enough sleep! Even when I sleep 8 hours, I am still fatigued.
___I crave sweets.
___I rely on caffeine.
___I experience headaches.
___I face a lot of daily stress.
___I experience PMS.
___Apart from my monthly cycle, I experience mood swings and am easily irritated.
___I have a rapid heartbeat and/or experience heart palpitations.
___I have ridges in my nails.
___I have skin problems and/or experience hair loss.

Like I said, B Complex deficiency can present itself in an abundance of different ways. I simply picked ten of the forty or so symptoms people have associated with Bs. These symptoms are commonly alleviated by the addition of a B Complex supplement.

Total up your score:
0-7 You're doing great! Give thanks!
8-15 You show some symptoms of B Vitamin Deficiency. Since this is a super-simplified quiz, you may want to do a bit more reading to see if you display other symptoms.
16-24 Hmmm. Sounds probable that you could benefit from extra B Complex.

25-30 Symptoms are signals that our bodies are experiencing distress. Definitely look further into this topic. Feel free to email me for sources that might be beneficial.

Photo Credit:


I am about to convert my RSS feed to feedburner. As soon as I get that set, I will be publishing a post called "STRESS... and a health quiz". If subscribe to my blog and you do not see the new post in your reader, would you please resubscribe to my RSS feed? I don't know if feedburner will loose people in the transition... just want to make sure no one disappears : )

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sneaking Vegetables; Tips for Finicky Eaters


Five a day. That's the minimum. How many of us moms get five veggies and fruits into our children's diets each day? Or how many of us moms even eat five a day? It's tough. But vegetables are Nature's Bounty... full of oh-so-much more than just vitamins and minerals. Vegetables contain health-giving properties that are just now being discovered. This kind of stuff doesn't fit on the "Nutrition Facts" label!

Did you know that organic vegetables have 30-90% more nutrients than conventional vegetables? For moms with finicky eaters, this is a very important fact. By purchasing organic vegetables, we are getting a lot more nutrients for our money... and for our effort, considering how difficult it can be to get children to eat their greens.

So, what works for me? There are several books published within the last year that describe in detail how to fool your kids into eating their veggies. There is some merit in that. But what happens when the child grows up? Isn't it important to train their tastes to eat (maybe enjoy!) vegetables? Don't we want them to choose vegetables on their own? That's where my WFMW tip comes in...

I slip tiny bits of vegetables into my children's favorite meals. Chili and Spaghetti Sauce work particularly well. The rule of thumb is: the more picky the eater, the smaller you'll have to dice and the less you'll add in at first. BUT, here is an often missed key: you want to increase both the size you chop the veggies AND the amount added in. The goal is to raise a child who will tolerate (maybe enjoy!) vegetables.

We all have our favorites. Even I don't like all vegetables. But I do love fresh food. And I'd like my children to learn that appreciation for goodness too. Does your child love vegetables? Prepare the ones he prefers as side dishes... and sneak the ones you want him to learn to like into other foods. Just don't forget to gradually increase!

Tonight we had whole wheat pasta with a vegetable spaghetti sauce. I added bits of onion, mushroom, zucchini, red bell pepper, garlic and swiss chard. That may be a little over the top for your kids right now. So start small. And work your way up to an easy five-a-day!

For more works-for-me Wednesday tips visit
Photo Credit:

Have Asthma?

I've blogged several times about the hazards of household cleaning chemicals. This topic is always fresh on my mind for two reasons. First, I face a constant barrage of news articles publicizing the growing knowledge that our new-fangled chemicals pose long term health threats. Second, I clean my home regularly... I am one of those who follows a cleaning schedule. In my frequent cleaning episodes, I am consistently thankful that I have found safe cleaning products.

Here are my thoughts on one interesting article that crossed my desk yesterday:

The article described a 12-week study published in the in the January issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Researchers determined that women with asthma exhibited a higher number of respiratory tract symptoms when exposed to commercial cleaning products. In case this is the first time you've heard about the associated risks of cleaning products, consider this a red flag for women who struggle with asthma and use toxic spray cleaning products.

Dr. Jonathon A. Bernstein, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and colleagues found that "women in both groups exhibited increased upper and lower respiratory tract symptoms in response to cleaning agents rated mild in toxicity, suggesting a subtle but potentially clinically relevant health effect of long-term, low-level chemical exposures."

Translation: You don't have to have asthma to experience respiratory symptoms when you clean with a toxic cleaning product. Even products rated mild in toxicity still affect your lungs and airways. However, if you have asthma, you are more likely to experience greater symptoms. As an extension, we must take into account long-term, cumulative effects of toxic chemicals in addition to the respiratory effects we notice as we are using them.

I like to read scientific articles. You may or may not... but does a review of a health-pertinent article help you out? Comment to let me know if you'd like more posts like this.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Note On Ingredients... and Label Reading Encouragement

Are you all enjoying the "What's Cooking" information box on my sidebar? I hope it gives you menu ideas that break the cycle of monotony in which we all get stuck sometimes. And I hope it gives you fresh, simple ways of presenting healthy foods to your children. And, I guess it could be an encouragement to you too... that you don't have to do everything perfectly.

You'll notice that sometimes I make note of a specific ingredient while other times I just write the ingredient's name... like, for example, "Natural Peanut Butter" versus just "peanut butter." Let me explain my reasoning:

If there is a substantial health difference between the specific ingredient that I make note of and its more popular counterpart, I point it out. It's good to recognize the difference and shop accordingly. For example, Natural Peanut Butter is significantly more healthful than jif or skippy. You'll want to read labels here and make sure your peanut butter contains no hydrogenated oils or added sugars. Another example is jam. I usually specify "fruit-sweetened" jam because it is significantly more healthy when you omit the refined sugars. Final example, although I could list out twenty (stopping myself from fire-hosing), I usually specify "Non-GMO" Corn. Since corn is one of the four most genetically-modified foods, it is important to buy Organic or Non-GMO Corn.

Hmmm. This post could read a little dry. It's definitely not as exciting as Tickle drinking from Spiderman's bed-head-water-sprayer earlier. (She was hilariously cute with water dripping of her forehead and chin.) I would leave out these particulars, but I think some of you may want to know why I single out certain ingredients. I just don't want to omit helpful information. If you wonder why I use a certain ingredient, please ask... chances are, there are other inquiring minds that want to know.

So here's the bottom line... the take home tidbit for the day. You want to read labels. You might just be surprised at what chemical-preservatives, food colorings, refined sugars or altered-fats are lurking around. When I first started reading labels, my shopping trips took a bit more time. But, after you "know your products" you'll zip through the store really quickly... and you'll be able to keep a watch out for sales on "your products."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Warm Chicken Salad and Sweet Potato Fries

I am not a professional food photographer. Let's just say that last night's dinner tasted a whole lot better than this photo shows. AND it was so nutrient-dense... our bodies are thanking us : )

Warm Chicken Salad with Sweet Potato Fries

**This meal is a tasty option for readers on a low-carb diet. ** This was also a really quick meal, so keep it in mind for nights when you have less than 30 minutes.**

I first thought about serving the chicken salad on a bed of greens, but I ended up cooking them all together in one pot. This was mostly for convenience, but it turned out very nicely. If you wanted to cook them separately, it would make a more sophisticated presentation. It's up to you.

This recipe uses the meat from half of a pastured chicken. My frequent readers will know that I cook a crock pot chicken on most Mondays. That way, I have the meat for two or three meals during the week. If you are using meat from a whole chicken, double the following ingredients:

  • Shredded Chicken
  • One Medium Onion
  • 2-3 Carrots
  • A Red Bell Pepper would be very nice, but I only have the produce from my box
  • Three Cloves of Garlic
  • One Bunch of Greens
  • One Lemon
  • Sliced Almonds
  • Salt, Pepper

Start by dicing the onion and carrots. Saute' them in a few tablespoons of EVOO (that's extra virgin olive oil). When they begin to soften, add in three minced garlic cloves. Wash and chop one bunch of greens. I used collards, but you could also use spinach, kale or chard. Add the chopped greens to the same pot; reduce the heat and cook until the greens are barely done. You don't want to cook the life out of them!

Once the veggies are done, stir in your reserved meat. Add about 1/2 cup of sliced almonds. Squeeze the juice of one lemon. Add 1/2 tsp. of black pepper and salt to taste. Voila! This "salad" had a very unique but full flavor.

For the Sweet Potato Fries, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel and slice lengthwise several sweet potatoes. Pour a few tablespoons of EVOO on a cookie sheet. With your hands, stir the sliced sweet potatoes into the EVOO so that they are coated. Sprinkle with AE's seasoning salt* and bake at 425 degrees until starting to crisp and brown.

AE's Seasoning Salt

Most spice combinations sold commercially contain additives that can include MSG. Did you know that MSG has several names and is included under the words "natural flavoring" and "seasoning"? I buy my spices in bulk from the Health Food Store. It is significantly cheaper this way, and they are all MSG-free. Then I make my own seasoning blends. I use AE's Seasoning Salt on pita chips, potatoes, sweet potatoes... and on "garlic bread" too.

In an old spice container mix:

  • 4 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 3 tsp. Chili Powder (you want to buy this from a health food store to avoid the added MSG)
  • 2 tsp. Garlic Powder (read the label to make sure it is simply powdered garlic)
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper

You can adjust the spices to your taste. But it is ever-so-nice to have this preservative- and additive-free spice blend close at hand.

Organic Food Coupons!

I consider myself to be a very frugal person. With the Lord's help, we made it through my husband's grad school with no debt. At the time, we had two children and I was a stay at home mom. We've developed some pretty sparse spending habits. But we still buy high quality food... not necessarily expensive food. We look for ways to purchase nutrient-dense food with as much economy as possible.

I've had a thought wheeling through my head all week after conversing about "investing in health" with a friend on Monday. We were comparing our health to a new car. You see, when we own a new car, we take care of it so that it will run smoothly for miles and miles. We don't want the inconvenience of taking it in to the shop, and we don't want to pay for repair bills. So we change the oil on time, we listen to noises that signal something under the hood needs attention, and, of course, we put gas in it. We would never think of putting water in our car's gas tank... even if it does cost significantly less!

Can you see the analogy? Our health is like that new car. If our bodies are going to perform smoothly for years to come, we need to take care of the maintenance now. We don't ignore the signs and symptoms. Just like with our new car, we pay attention to maintenance so that we can avoid costly major repairs in the future. We need to feed our bodies high quality nutrients! We don't skimp and give our bodies something unfit for fuel just because it is cheaper. Health is an investment!

All that said, over the next weeks I'll try to share some of my tips for eating well on a budget. Here's a simple first installment...

For any of you who shop at health food stores or the natural food sections of your grocery store, you may want to check out this website. You can sign up to receive free coupon booklets in the mail, or you can print coupons directly from their site. All of the coupons are for natural/organic foods. I haven't followed the site for long, but the coupons seem to be updated regularly. So, check back often for new coupons or follow them on twitter to be updated on new postings.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

From a Concerned Greenie

I'm seeing more and more commercials for Clorox Green Works products. They are advertised as 99% natural and biodegradable. Hmmm. Am I the only one concerned here? Do we want to be buying "green" products from a company that produces mega tons of hazardous household chemicals each year? Wouldn't it make more sense to buy green cleaning products from a company known to be environmentally friendly for the entire fifty years of their existence? Or, think about this... Even if the Green Works products were safe for our health and the environment, wouldn't the sheer volume of plastic bottles going to landfills be a bit contradictory? Wouldn't "green clean" include minimal packaging and concentrated products?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An Egg a DAY?

An egg a day keeps ADHD at bay. Really? Well, I've not published any peer-reviewed clinical results. BUT, I do have some day to day experience with a little guy we call Spiderman.

From my observations, if Spiderman eats an egg with his breakfast, he is able to endure the rigors of sitting in a chair for school. If I skip it, thinking it doesn't really matter, you'll hear me saying things like, "Put your feet down and your head up to read." Or "You must do your handwriting without dancing." Or "Focus, please!" ... about eighty times.

What about an egg is beneficial for our littles? Well, first there is protein. Protein is severely lacking in most packaged breakfast foods. Protein stabilizes blood sugar and keeps children's energy levels on an even keel -- rather than in fitful bursts. Protein is also slowly metabolized giving children a longer source of energy.

Eggs contain an abundance of fat-soluble vitamins, especially if you've acquired farm fresh eggs. These are vitamins that help with concentration, eye focus and visual perception. Farm fresh eggs are also rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for the development of the brain and synapses connection. Egg yolks contain cholesterol which aids in mental development as well. Did you know there was all that brain power in an egg?

Another major benefit of the lovely egg is that it contains naturally occurring choline. What's choline good for? Choline is a B vitamin that keeps cholesterol moving through the bloodstream. Useful component. I'm glad God put it there. Choline also aids in memory and learning, which we want to amplify in our littles' lives.

So, what works for me and Spiderman? I boil a dozen eggs on Monday morning, and all week long, we've got the nutritional supplement he needs to keep his energy even and his attention peaked. I give my girls one too... because they benefit from the brain nourishment as well. Real mental acuity food, in a convenient little package.
Read more tips at RocksInMyDryer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thinking Ahead to Valentine's Day

You know I'm all about healthy treats... especially if they are simple. So, I thought I would share our Valentine's tradition. Besides making lovely cards and doing special acts of service for one another, we make Chocolate Covered Strawberries for dessert! Very simple, I know. But isn't it the simple things that give us the most joy?

Each year, we melt a small pan of really nice dark chocolate. The healthy kind, not the kind with fractionated oils. The kids take turns dipping fresh strawberries and laying them on wax paper. We put them out on a special plate after supper. Pure enjoyment.

Is that too simple of a celebration? It is one of our favorites... one that we look forward to every year. That makes it a successful holiday in my book.

I'll post a photo of our results this weekend!

What are Your Health Hurdles?

Our goal is progress. No matter how far we have traveled in our health journey, we continue to make positive changes in our lives. If we're not moving forward, we're moving back, right? But don't worry. We don't have to make life altering changes every day. We just have to keep ourselves and our families moving in the right direction. Slow and steady wins the race.

Inevitably, there will be obstacles that stand in our way. Some of us have picky eaters to contend with. Some of us have very tight monetary constraints to work around. And some of us are working against a lifetime of habits that began before we knew anything about health. My biggest hurdle is the temptation to cut corners. With a very full daily agenda, there are all too many evenings that I fight the urge to scrap the well-thought-out, healthy plan and run for take-out. My strategy for overcoming the obstacle is working ahead. Doing meal prep work for the whole day's meals while I'm making breakfast helps me to stick to the plan. And, making double or triple of everything keeps a stash of freezer goods for use in a cinch.

What are your health hurdles? Okay, it may take a moment to think, but identifying your health hurdles is the first step to overcoming them. The second step is to find a strategy to use against them. So grab that moment to think, that moment that is so hard to carve out of the perpetual activity of the day. And take a moment to post a comment telling your health hurdle. I would like to help you develop strategies for overcoming your obstacles... for your benefit and for the benefit of other readers who face the same hurdles. And, if you already have your strategy in place, comment that too. You never know how your experience will be a blessing to another!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why "Health Begins With Mom?"

I hope that you all had a very nice weekend with your loved ones! I don't know what things are like where you are, but here in GA we've been having totally dreamy weather. Our family spent a huge portion of the weekend outside... and it's a good thing because the sunny weather isn't going to last. Side note: children today get dramatically less Vitamin D than in past centuries because they spend so little time outdoors. Vitamin D is a crucial player in our Immune Response. So, get your kids outside whenever the weather allows!

Besides enjoying my kids' antics outside, this weekend I was also thinking about blogging. I am a very purposeful person. I wrote about my blogging intentions here. But, I don't think I've ever explained my title. Why do I describe this blog by calling it "Health Begins With Mom?"

Have you ever considered what an influential position we are in as nurturers of our family? Even though some men love to create delicious fare in the kitchen... even though some husbands do the grocery shopping... For the most part, it is the woman of the home who makes a meal plan, does the shopping and cooks most of the meals. Food selection and preparation can be considered a chore. It can also be a challenge with budgetary and time constraints. In this blog, I'd like to help you see it as a blessed privilege. And I'd like to give you some useful knowledge, tools and ideas to help you bless your family with health.

We are in a position to build our family up in strength, health and vitality. Especially for our children, we have the opportunity to lay a foundation of health that they will build securely on in future days. This is a privileged position! Health does begin with mom.

Am I saying that we hold the power of life and death? Nope. Am I saying that health should become a household idol? Nope again. But I am saying that as wives and mothers, whether we work in or out of the home, we can give the gift of health to those we love. And, to be cliche', health is a gift that keeps on giving : )

Do you think of your place as wife and mother as a sacred calling? Do you see the unique value of being in this nurturing position? Come along side me and let us set about this calling vigorously!

Thank you Lori, for this wonderful Word Picture.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Morning in Ethiopia -- Dabo Kolo

We do things a little different on Fridays. Monday through Thursday we pretty much stick to our rigorous academic schedule (smile), but on Fridays we take the day for more adventuresome educational explorations. We do science projects, art projects, cooking projects. We read magazines and tons of library books. We listen to Bach and Chopin, very loudly. We watch Moody Science Videos and all sorts of other YouTube performances. And, we do Geography, which is always an adventure.

One Friday, we learned about children in Ethiopia from the Kids of Courage magazine. That was a day never to be forgotten by my littles, for we found their very favorite recipe. Dabo Kolo is a thrill for children to make AND it is healthy! Making Dabo Kolo has become a much anticipated event in our home. I hope your family enjoys it as much as we do!

The ingredients are really simple to put together. First, choose a recipe reader.

Stir together:
2 c. of whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sucanat
and a nice pinch of cayenne (the original recipe called for 1/2 tsp. but that was WAY too much for my kiddoes)

Add: 1/4 c. EVOO (that's extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 c. water

Knead this until it forms a smooth ball. We use our mixer so this is super-simple.

Then, as if measuring out things isn't fun enough, comes the thrilling part. Roll the dough into long snakes. With a platic knife (or with fingers), cut (or break) the dough into 1/2 inch long, bite sized pieces. Oh, the kids have a great time with this!

Cook in an ungreased skillet over medium-high heat until light brown on all sides. This is the parent part in our house. After I put a layer of the pieces in the skillet, I let them brown on the bottom. Then I flip and stir them around until they are browned on all sides. I remove them to a plate and start with another layer.

I always recommend multiplying recipes... you know, some for now, some for later. But, with this recipe, you may want to start with just one batch until you get the hang of stirring them in the skillet. Caveat: when you do make two batches, it doesn't mean you'll have some left over. They disappear FAST. Here, the littles are just waiting for the Dabo Kolo to cool:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ten Simple Steps to Reduce Body Burden: Step Ten

The grand finale...

Step number ten in reducing the accumulation of toxins in your body:

10. When buying new stuff for your home, focus on green products, especially mattresses and carpets.

I could put a link list here containing sources for green products. But, Sloan Barnett already compiled them all into a handy dandy appendix in her book. It is quite long... and quite worth the cost of the book. If you are purchasing new things for your home, for a baby's nursery or for your children's rooms, please consider patronizing the businesses in Sloan's book. They'll thank you, Sloan will thank you for purchasing her book... and your body will thank you for choosing something green over something that adds to your body burden.

Now that we have covered ten ideas for reducing your body burden, make sure to mesh a few into your life. It doesn't help just reading about it : ) What things will you change for your future health AND for your children's future health. Comment and let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ten Simple Steps to Reduce Body Burden: Step Nine

Did you know that the EPA ranks indoor air pollution in their top five environmental risks to public health?

Did you know that in our modern culture, the average American spends 90% of a 24 hour day indoors?

Did you know that organic pollutants (like those found in household cleaning products, air fresheners, plastics, carpet and upholstery) are often 2 to 5 times higher inside your home than out?

It's true. We're poisoning ourselves. I don't mean to be that dramatic. But, in looking at how to reduce our Body Burden, we should consider the air we breathe. Here's tip number nine...

9. For cleaner and healthier air, open your windows when the outside temperature is comfortable.

It may be a little cold where you are, but spring is coming. And when it does, let your home "air out!" Our homes are built so air tight these days. We really let the stale, chemical-laden air out.

Here are two more ideas to keep your air clean:

Buy houseplants. Not only do they brighten up your home, they filter your air and provide good,
pure oxygen. The rule of thumb is "the bigger the leaves, the better equipped for filtration a plant is." There are a few exceptions. Check out this website for specific plants to buy.

Consider purchasing an air purifier. You want one that gets particulate matter, microbes AND chemicals out of the air. This is the system we use. And we totally love it. We have noticed a huge difference in our home. I have had people with chronic sinus congestion come over and say, "Wow, I can breathe in your house."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It's Video Day!

This is a must see. I would put this video directly into my blog, but it has a copyright, so you need to follow the link directly to the hosting website. I know, it's a click away... but it is SO worth it. You'll be glad to saw this information on the ramifications of "our clean freak streak."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ten Simple Steps to Reduce Body Burden: Step Eight

Along the same lines as getting rid of plastic storage containers, Step Eight calls for getting rid of plastic water bottles.

8. Make a vow to stop buying bottled water—NOW.

Yes, tap water is full of VOCs, microbes and even heavy metals. Yes, we need to drink purified water. For a long time, the craze has been to get this purer water from soda companies in nice, prepackaged bottles. Seems like a good thing, but evidence is mounting against this solution to the pure water question.

I mentioned in step seven about the toxic chemicals that plastics exude. Well, when water sits in a plastic bottle on the store shelf for an extended time, you can bet that water is full of chemicals leached out of its plastic enclosure. And, these toxins add to our Body Burden. We're looking for simple ways to reduce body burden... and ending our bottled water consumption is simple and easy.

You could do one of two things instead of buying bottled water.

Either you can buy a water filter pitcher to keep in your fridge at all times. Or you can purchase a water filtration system. Both present an up front cost, but both will save money in buying water bottles as the months rolls on. The benefit in purchasing a water filtration system over a pitcher is that you will have enough pure water for cooking as well. (Note on both of these products: Shaklee’s BestWater Pitcher AND MTS 2000 Water Filter were both rated #2 by Consumer Reports.)

We've done a lot of research in selecting our water filtration system. After lots of consideration, this is the water filter our family uses.

Once you've chosen how to purify your tap water, drink out of glasses when you're at home. When you're out, take your water with you in Stainless Steel Bottles.

And, while we're talking about water... have you had a glass today? Drink to your health!