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Teach your kids to eat healthy foods, part 2

Teach your kids to eat healthy foods, part 2

Last month I joined forces with Karen Orlich, CEO of k.o. kidz, a green-living and organic lifestyle company, to compile some of the best tips (mom and kid tested!) to help you empower your kids to engage in healthy eating. Our tips included “encourage and reinforce” and “hosting ‘Lazy Suzan’ dinners”  This month we’re at it again with even more tips!

Tip # 3: Have some fun at the grocery store with Grocery Store Games!

Getting our kids to eat healthy foods can feel like a chore, and so can grocery shopping! Yet it’s important we do both, so why not combine the two and make your next trip to the market both fun for the kids and an outing you can feel good about as a parent?

Yes, we know, it’s not always easy to keep your child calm in a crowded grocery store. But then again, it’s important to not disengage them from the process completely…kids need to learn about food!

So, rather than placing your child in the cart and handing him/her a box of cookies to snack on while you hurry through the store, think about the grocery store as a learning environment full of COLORS, PLANTS and READING materials! (It’s also a great place to learn manners when interacting with store employees!) It’s with this point of view you can challenge your child to engage in foods and learn about what’s healthy and what’s not. Try these games out the next time you’re at the store:

Search for the Colors of the Rainbow: Bring a picture of a rainbow to the store and ask your child to find fruits or vegetables for two or three (or all!) colors of the rainbow. With this game, teach your children that a healthy diet is a colorful diet. The more colors, the better!Organic Produce

Count the Ingredients: As Michael Pollan reminds us, when we shop for packaged foods, it’s important to choose options with minimal ingredients (he suggests 5 ingredients or less). For kids who can count or are learning, ask them to count the ingredient labels on food packages. If there are more than 5, ask them to put it back and then explain why. (As your kids learn  to read, you can also challenge them to search for unhealthy ingredients like “sugar”, “high fructose corn syrup” or “trans fat”).

Tip #4: Make the ‘Common’ Foods Healthy

This is a great way to transition your kids to healthier eating.  It’s helpful (and fun!) to include them in the food preparation while also teaching them what ‘healthy’ really means.

Gluten Free PizzaPersonal Pizzas: Pizzas can be made from 100% whole wheat (always check the label for ‘whole’ wheat) sandwich rounds or tortillas (for a gluten-free version, check out Amy’s GF sandwich rounds or use 100% corn tortillas) with grilled onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc.  Or, simply bake (we use our toaster oven) the veggies on the bread with tomato sauce.  Olive oil with fresh basil and/or oregano is a delicious alternative to tomato sauce and herbs can be cut from a plant grown in your kitchen or garden.

Hot Dogs: The all American classic!  Unfortunately, traditional hot dogs are loaded with sodium and fat.  Try Applegate Organic Turkey hot dogs, rated #1 turkey dog by Health magazine.  Avoid the salt and high fructose corn syrup, store-bought versions and have the kid help make homemade ketchup (and relish!) with these easy, 15 minute or less recipes from Wellness Mama and Eating Well.

Macaroni & Cheese: The ultimate comfort food for all ages.  Have you looked at the chemical additives and preservatives in that powdered cheese pack?  We know – you’re busy and don’t have time to make your own cheese sauce.  Au contraire!

Start with GF organic brown rice pasta (for gluten-free version) or whole wheat macaroni (yes, your kids will eat it!). Grab a block of fresh organic cheese, cut into thin slices, and add to cooked, drained, warm macaroni (or any small pasta noodle) in pot.  Add light coating of olive oil and mix well with pasta.  Broccoli (or other veggies) can also be added to the pasta for flavor and an added health kick.  We stand the broccoli up to make ‘trees’ and ‘stumps’ in the macaroni ‘field’.  It’s ok to let kids play with their food once in a while if it helps get them to eat it, right?!

Dessert: Every kid wants DESSERT!  So choose tasty alternatives like:

Greek yogurt (double the protein of regular) with fresh fruit, applesauce, baked apple with cinnamon and raisins (core apple, fill with cinnamon and raisins, add 2-3 tablespoons of water to microwave-safe bowl, and ‘bake’ in the microwave until soft), or fruit smoothies (easy to mix in veggies and the kids won’t even know it).  Try one of these recipes from delish.comGF Dessert

We also discovered several websites with recipes for homemade fruit and nut bars (similar to Larabars, which are great GF treat!)  These are a great substitute for brownies and cookies!  An extensive recipe list can be found here.  Delicious and nutritious!  Yum!!

Do you have any tips to share? Like these suggestions? Would love to hear from you! Send me a tweet or post to my Facebook page!


Top 3 Easiest Grow-It-Yourself Vegetables For Any Size Space – No Yard Needed

Top 3 Easiest Grow-It-Yourself Vegetables For Any Size Space – No Yard Needed

Joy to Wellness welcomes guest blogger Karen Orlich, CEO of k.o. kidz, with tips on how easy Grow-It-Yourself (GIY) veggies can be this season! Not only is gardening easy on your pocket-book, it’s a great way to stock your fridge with delicious and healthy gluten-free foods. 

Kick off your spring with easy Grow-It-Yourself (GIY) vegetable plants!  GIY allows better taste, nutrition, and quality of your food while also providing control of what goes in the soil and on the plants.  With little effort, you can guarantee organic, healthy food for yourself and your family without the costly price tag!

k.o. kidz picked out the easiest and most common vegetables to grow in any space large or small — no yard needed.  Plant these now to enjoy a hearty harvest this summer and fall.  You won’t believe the difference in taste from the store bought varieties!

(Sweet) Potatoes

potatoes sweet-potatoesA startling fact — conventionally grown potatoes are one of the most toxic crops produced; showing 10 times the amount of pesticides vs organic, when tested by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  Why?  Because potatoes are saturated with pesticides and grown so close to the soil surface that they’re routinely exposed to fungicides and pesticides that are absorbed through the thin skin into the meat of the potato.  This means that “simply washing or peeling the potato isn’t enough to get rid of the potentially toxic chemicals”, according to Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene.

All potatoes are remarkably protein rich. The plants are high yield producers and strong performers in poor soil and cool weather.  Home-grown varieties taste much better and come in a rainbow of colors.  The greens of sweet potatoes resemble ivy, outcompete many weeds, and are edible raw or cooked!   So easy to grow in pots or small garden spaces.  Don’t forget one of the most important steps, sweet potatoes must be cured after harvest. This will help them to develop their flavor (they won’t have much immediately after being dug up).  Place the sweet potatoes in an area with a temperature of 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit with 80-90% humidity for 5-10 days.  After this, they should be ready to eat!

All varieties of plants can be ordered on-line too.  We’ve had great success with plants from Streambank Gardens.  All vegetable plants are grown from USDA certified organic seed stock without using synthetic fertilizers and chemicals.


peppersMultiple varieties of peppers including bell and hot peppers have been tested by EWG and are also considered toxic from pesticide residue that is easily absorbed through the pepper’s thin skin.  EWG recommends buying only organic peppers to avoid the toxin intake.  Of course, growing them yourself is even better!  Peppers contain Vitamin C, carotenoids (includes alpha-carotene and beta-carotene for fighting cancer), and antioxidants.

There are dozens of varieties from small Cherry peppers (1.75” in diameter) to large Sweet Bell peppers (4” wide and 7” long) with varying degrees of ‘heat’ to provide many options for home growers.  Chile, Cherry, and Banana peppers can be contained in pots and grown indoors in the winter and moved outside after the final frost.  The variety of bright colors (yellow, red, orange, green, and purple) make a fun addition to any patio or outdoor space too!  These can be planted in easy grow bags to move in and out of sun or inside during the winter.  We love the colorful bags frompepper grow bag Gardener’s Supply Company (reg. $12.95/bag).  These are a great option for those with limited space.  They’re made from a felt-like fabric that lets roots breath so plants won’t suffer from heat build-up, overwatering, or poor aeration.  And, they fold flat for off-season storage.



Home grown tomatoes burst with flavor and are delicious right off the vine after baking in the sun.  An experience you just can’t get in a grocery store!  Widely known for their outstanding antioxidant content, tomatoes are also a good source of Vitamin C, help lower LDL cholesterol and are now linked to bone health.

Smaller plant varieties such as Tiny Tim, Pixie, Small Fry, and Patio can also be grown easily inside.  Inside or out, you’ll need strong supports to keep the tomatoes off the ground to have maximum sun exposure and if outside, avoid pests.

tomato herb topsy turvyYou can’t go wrong with a hanging ‘bag’ planter like the Topsy Turvy from  Clean Air Gardening (reg. $9.99) for easy care (no weeds and fewer pests!) and space savings.  These can hang on a fence to create a vertical wall garden as well as provide privacy on decks and porches.  Be careful not to keep in a shaded spot though as tomato plants require 6+ hours of sunlight each day.  Some varieties are drought resistant but always keep the base of plants mulched to retain water.  They make the perfect addition to those full sun, hot spots in your yard or patio where everything else dries up!



Mariano’s Market is Gluten-Free and Organic-friendly!

Mariano’s Market is Gluten-Free and Organic-friendly!

Large mainstream grocery stores can be overwhelming to those of us who need to shop for allgery-friendly products like gluten-free or dairy-free foods. And, if you’re focused on organics, it’s often difficult to find a range of options to keep you satisfied. Today my neighborhood – Ravenswood – celebrated the grand opening of the new Mariano’s, located at Lawrence Ave. and Ravenswood, conveniently located right next to the Ravenswood Metra stop. Being that I fit into all three of the above food categories – gluten-free, dairy-free and organic – and help my clients transform their diets to include healthier foods and allergy-free options, I wanted to check out this new store to see what it has to offer. I especially wanted to see if I could rely on this store for my gluten-free and dairy-free staples.

My verdict?  This store is a great addition to the neighborhood, even for those of us who have special dietary requirements. The proof? See my finds below. And what’s more – the employees were friendly, willing to help and well-informed – all great things for those of us with specific grocery needs.

Here are my top Mariano’s Finds!

Lots of Organic Produce!

Organic Kale

Organic Produce

Organic Produce

A Dedicated Wheat & Gluten-Free Section

GF Grocery

Dairy-Free Yogurt 

Diary Free Yogurt

Almond Milk

Almond Milk

Gluten-Free, Organic and Vegan Food Markers (These are part of Mariano’s Wellness program, Health KeyTM)

Organic Olive Oil

Gluten Free and Vegan Food

 Organic Coffee!

Organic Coffee


Garlic Lover’s Hummus Recipe (Gluten-Free)

This recipe is not your store-bought hummus – it’s much better! When purchasing the ingredients, choose options that are free of preservatives and gluten-free. Pair this gluten-free treat with gluten-free crackers or cut veggies.


3 large garlic cloves, minced. 1/4 tsp reserved for garnishing

Fresh juice of 1 lemon, squeezed

1/4 cup of tahini

1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinse and liquid reserved

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup of reserved liquid from beans (or less if you prefer a thicker hummus)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Optional: 2 tbsp pine nuts for garnishing


  1. Mince the garlic cloves and reserve 1/4 tsp for later use.
  2. Add garlic, tahini and lemon juice to a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds.
  3. Scrape contents from side of processor.
  4. Add the garbanzo beans, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt and reserved liquid to the processor.
  5. Mix on high for 1 minute or until hummus has reached your desired smoothness.
  6. Spoon hummus into a serving bowl. Garnish with olive oil,  1/4 tbsp of minced garlic and pine nuts.

This recipe makes enough to serve 3-4 people as a light appetizer.


Homemade Granola (GF option)

This recipe is a great homemade alternative to store-bought granola or cereal. Top it off with fresh fruit and a splash of milk (almond, hemp, cow’s). It’s a tasty yogurt topper, too, or feel free to eat it plane as a crunchy snack.

4 cups oats (use certified gluten-free oats for GF option)
1/2 c sesame seeds
1/2 c sliced almonds
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/4 c pumpkin seeds
1 c dried fruit (raisins, currants)
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c 100% pure maple syrup
Sprinkle of sea salt


1. Preheat oven to 250° F.
2. Combine all dry ingredients (except sea salt) in large mixing bowl.
3. Pour olive oil and maple syrup and stir well.
4. Spread all contents evenly on a lightly greased cookie sheet (coconut oil is great for this). Sprinkle with sea salt.
5. Place in oven for 90 minutes. Stir granola every 30 minutes.
6. Top with your milk of choice and fresh berries.
7. Enjoy!


Easy substitutes for your Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year again – menu planning at my house is in full force and I’m excited for another gluten-free Thanksgiving. Though the sound of a gluten-free turkey or side dishes may initially leave your guests feeling turned-off, they can rest assured that a gluten-free Turkey-Day won’t mean any less taste on your dinner table, nor will it keep you from serving a classic Thanksgiving feast! It will require some planning on the host’s part, but what Thanksgiving menu doesn’t?

This year, make these items your gluten-free staples to replace  the “regular” versions:

  1. A FRESH Turkey. Avoid turkeys that have broth or stuffing already added. These ingredients are red flags for gluten.
  2. Gluten-Free Gravy. Make your own using the juices from your bird and adding corn or potato starch as a thickener instead of wheat flour.
  3. Gluten-Free Corn Bread. Make a batch of Bob’s Redmill GF cornbread instead of dinner rolls.
  4. Gluten-Free Stuffing. Check out Udi’s recipe!
  5. Gluten-Free Pie Crust. You can make your own or buy it already made. Whole Foods has it in their freezer section and I highly recommend it…very tasty!