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Packing your lunch? Find out what’s really in your brown bag

Packing your lunch? Find out what’s really in your brown bag

Unhealthy Foods

Unhealthy Foods

We all want to do our bodies good, especially at lunchtime when we’re hungry for energy to get us through the rest of the day! Packing your lunch is a great way to avoid unhealthy fast food, or if you’re packing it for your kids, a sure way to help them bypass the not-so-healthy cafeteria food at school. But are the lunches you’re packing like most typical American brown bag lunches? If so, they’re probably  loaded with foods that come from packages and contain unwanted “mystery” ingredients like additives, preservatives, added sugar, artificial colors and flavors.

Here’s a list of foods we commonly pack in our brown bags or kids’ lunch boxes. Take a read to learn about the unhealthy ingredients they contain. Then, check out my blog post, “How to upgrade your brown bag lunch with healthier foods.”Unhealthy Foods

Unhealthy Foods

Unhealthy Foods

Multigrain Crackers

“Multigrain” foods: Don’t be fooled by promises of whole grains in crackers, breads and cereals. Most of these packaged foods are made from FLOUR and therefore are NOT whole. This can be confusing, but what it boils down to is this: once a grain is ground into a powdery flour substance IT NO LONGER EQUALS A WHOLE GRAIN, which means the nutritional benefits have diminished.

Read what Dr. Andrew Weil has to say about true whole grains and why it’s best to opt for these instead of       packaged and processed versions.

 

low calorie cookies Processed sweets: There’s nothing healthy about added sugar, and packaged desserts – cookies, cupcakes, candy – are loaded with it! Nabisco 100 calorie Chips Ahoy cookies, for example, contain multiple sweeteners on top of enriched flour and artificial flavors. If you’re looking for something sweet, ditch the packaged versions and make some homemade treats instead. Though still not the healthiest choice, at least you’ll know what’s in your own cookies and cakes, and  you’ll be keeping yourself from ingredients that aren’t really food in the first place (like artificial colors, highly processed flours, etc.)

lowfat yogurt

 

Sugary yogurts: Be advised – while yogurt naturally contains sugar from lactose, most flavored varieties contain added sugar, especially those labeled “light”.

 

P B & JSandwiches: Yes, sandwiches are tasty, but our favorites like PB & J or turkey and cheese are usually packed with added sugar, enriched flour and preservatives. Typical ingredients like peanut butter and jelly contain multiple added sweeteners like sugar, molasses and high fructose corn syrup. Sliced deli meats aren’t usually just meat – in fact, most contain added sugar, anti-caking agents and preservatives. And don’t be fooled by the health promises of bread! Just like other multigrain products (see above), bread is not a healthy source of whole grains despite what the message on the packaged might say.

Looking to rid your diet of unhealthy foods like these? Not sure how to get started? Contact me to schedule an introductory health coaching session and we’ll create your next steps!

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Back to School, Just for Moms: Packing Your Eco-Beauty “Lunchbox”

Back to School, Just for Moms: Packing Your Eco-Beauty “Lunchbox”

Back to School, Just for Moms: Packing Your Eco-Beauty “Lunchbox”

by Guest Author Jenny Duranski, Chief Beauty Officer, Noktivo Non-Toxic Spa and Beauty Boutique

It’s that time of year again when the sounds of bells either leave you reaching for a tissue or wanting to start a flash mob to Lady Gaga’s “Applause” in the parking lot. But no matter which way you go, Back to School also means getting back into a daily routine, and getting back to caring for YOU. Even with the limited time in the morning you have between preparing school lunches, picking outfits and making sure teeth are brushed, these eco-beauty tips require minimal effort and time so you can be out the door feeling and looking refreshed. Lunchbox-sized just for you, now that deserves a round of applause!

What to pack:
1. Mascara – Nothing makes your eyes look more alive like a little mascara. It widens the eye and automatically brightens the shape so even if you are running on four hours of sleep, you certainly won’t look like it. Apply two coats; first take the wand and coat the back of the lashes. This will darken the color and evenly coat them. Then apply the second coat to the front lashes. Lightly sweep the bottom lash line and voila, 3 minutes. Done! We recommend CALM Skincare Cinnamon Thyme Mascara in Black, $14.

2. Citrus Lotion or Body Oil – Citrus essential oils such as Lemon, Lime, Orange or Grapefruit have long been known for their energizing attributes. Applying just a little aromatherapy in the morning works like a charm to awaken our senses and stimulate blood flow to help us get going. Using a citrus infused body oil or lotion is perfect for the I-have-no-time-for-beauty mornings, as the aromatherapy works to energize and the oils hydrate to leave skin soft, supple and glowing. Try One Organics Daily Body Serum in Neroli, $39.

3. Dry Shampoo – Managing the morning Back to School rush is no small feat, and let’s be honest, more than not, shower time just doesn’t fit in the schedule. But now with the greatest beauty invention since the flat iron (if you ask me), busy moms can rejoice in a solution to tame that bed head! Dry Shampoo. Sprinkle a little bit into the palm of your hand and rub into the top and sides of the scalp. The main ingredients will absorb excess oil, essential oils will give it the “clean” smell and some formulations even help combat dryness, breakage and itching. We love Fat and the Moon Lavender & Cocoa Dry Shampoo, $14.

For more eco-beauty tips like these and information on products, please visit noktivo.com/blog.

About the author: Jenny Duranski, Chief Beauty Officer of Noktivo Non-Toxic Spa & Beauty Boutique, has been working in the beauty industry for almost 15 years and thoroughly enjoys sharing her green beauty knowledge and passion with her clients. 

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Simple Weekday Quiche (Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)

Simple Weekday Quiche (Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)

This quiche is an easy recipe for any busy mom! Make it on a Sunday evening to have on hand for breakfasts during the upcoming week…the entire family will thank you!

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup non-dairy milk (almond, rice)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large bunch kale, finely chopped
  • ½ sweet yellow onion
  • 1 pepper (yellow, red or green), diced
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, diced
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 gluten-free/dairy-free unbaked pie crust

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350. As the oven is warming, heat oil on stovetop in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add diced onions, diced pepper and chopped kale and sauté for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Remove from the stove. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Next, add diced sundried tomatoes and sautéed ingredients. Stir together well and pour all contents into unbaked pie crust. Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Looking to incorporate more healthy recipes like this into your  food routine? Not sure how to get started? Contact me to schedule an introductory health coaching session and we’ll create your next steps!

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Let’s all agree that French fries aren’t vegetables

Let’s all agree that French fries aren’t vegetables

Google Facts _Fast FoodGoogle tweeted the “Google Fact” below this past weekend and it certainly grabbed my attention. As delicious as French fries can taste, never have I associated them  with the category  “vegetable”. This fact left me sad and confused!

Google Fast Food - French Fries

When I think of vegetables, I think of foods that nourish our bodies and exhibit the beautiful colors of nature. You can just tell by looking at them that they are GOOD for you! They also require little to no preparation before eating.

French fries, on the other hand, are a significantly modified version of potatoes that require added oil, a fryer and other unnecessary ingredients, so to classify them as a “vegetable” is BEYOND a stretch. And let’s face it, there is nothing beautiful or colorful about French fries, which is a not-so-subtle hint to us all that there’s nothing healthy about them either!

And yet, according to the USDA, french fries are indeed classified as such in this country, including in our nation’s public schools where they are deemed equivalent to 1/4 cup of vegetable.  You can see for yourself on this USDA Foods Fact Sheet for Schools & Nutrition Institutions.

This all reminded me of a great video featuring Michael Pollan. He talks about the difference between “real food” and what he calls “edible food like substances.”  I highly recommend you check it out for a little healthy-eating inspiration. His message is simple and is a nice reminder that healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Enjoy!

Michael Pollan

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Gluten-free & lovin’ It! Why my life is better (and yours will be too) without gluten

Gluten-free & lovin’ It! Why my life is better (and yours will be too) without gluten

As a health coach, I help clients get rid of gluten. But we never talk about it as a “sacrifice” or “giving something up.” So please repeat after me:

“It’s not about what I can’t eat.  It’s about what I can eat! And my options are endless!”

I know…sounds cheesy, right? But go ahead, say it out loud (you know you want to!). Then check out this list of naturally gluten-free foods, which proves that your options on a gluten-free diet really are endless. (And note that my list doesn’t even begin to cover all the foods in the world that are naturally gluten-free!)

If you’re reading this, you or a family member probably is gluten-free or at least considering it. And if you’re like most GF people, it’s because you’re looking to improve your health.

You’re not alone! The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness says 21 million Americans have gluten-related disorders. Or, if you’re one of the lucky ones, you don’t have a medical condition, but still find the diet appealing because you’ve gotten wind of how great it’s made others feel. Just recently, the New York Times published the article “Gluten-Free Eating Appears to Be Here to Stay” which features a top New York chef who has even embraced it in his Italian restaurant.

But back to “sacrifice.” You know from your own experience that going gluten-free sounds like giving up something you really, really love to eat. That’s how it made me feel in the beginning. And it’s true, at first, a life without gluten seems like a tremendous loss. For starters, who doesn’t love baguettes and homemade pasta?!

But who enjoys feeling sick?! If, like me, you’ve struggled with issues like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or eczema, or even received a definitive diagnosis of Celiac Disease, you’re the first to trade those awful symptoms for your beloved bread or beer.

I remember the day I was talking with my healthcare practitioner, glumly listing all the stuff I couldn’t eat, and he said to me, “Why not look at it from a different point of view? Focus on what you can eat.” From that day on, I did exactly as he advised, and my relationship with food changed forever.

Before, I was an unhealthy vegetarian eating a diet full of processed foods, fake meats, and gluten-containing grains. On that great day I began to open myself up to a world of variety and flavor! Today I’m a fearless eater and I’m more open to trying new foods than I ever imagined I could be. My food life is simply grand, and it all started when I committed to a gluten-free diet and adopted my personal mantra, “It’s about what I can eat!”

What made adopting this mantra possible? A commitment to what really matters – my health. Not only did I have to reprogram my attitude toward food, but also ask myself the question “Why does my health matter?” and now I want you to do the same.

Your answer to this question will be a personal one, and undoubtedly linked to what matters to you in your own life. This could be your children, your spouse, your pet, your work…again, it’s personal. And when you have figured it out, you’ll find it much easier to prioritize your health, which includes a gluten-free diet.

Having trouble making the connection? Think about your life with gluten and without gluten. The former works against your health, while the latter works in favor. And when you don’t have your health, you can’t live your life to the fullest.

For example – going gluten-free helped me regain energy and healthy digestion, and diminished my joint pain. But for me personally, these health benefits meant so much more – I literally gained my life back. I could go to work without the fear of falling asleep at my desk or in a meeting (gluten made me extremely tired). I could enjoy dinner with friends and family and not worry that my stomach would become upset (I suffered from severe IBS for nearly 15 years).

Best of all, my husband and I began enjoying the outdoors with vacations out west. Before going gluten-free, I had agonizing knee pain and a lack of energy, which limited my interest in an active lifestyle. Today, outdoor activities like biking, hiking (and even surfing!) are mainstays in all of our travels. Last year alone we traveled to Hawaii, Nevada and Arizona.

My clients have also experienced positive life changes after adopting their new mantras. Take my client Kate, for instance. Going gluten-free meant relief from excruciating eczema that she’d been suffering from for years. Once off the gluten, not only did her skin begin to improve, but she also started down a path of paying attention to the foods she put into her body with the goal of eating for her health. Today she is at her ideal weight, frequently working out and a member of a soccer league. To her, a Celiac diagnosis and a gluten-free diet helped her create the active and healthy lifestyle she’d always dreamed about.

What I’m getting at here is that going gluten-free can literally give someone his or her life back. It did for me and it has done the same for many of my clients. And for someone with Celiac Disease or a non-Celiac gluten-sensitivity, there is so much to gain with a gluten-free lifestyle.

So, if you’ve convinced yourself that a gluten-free lifestyle is too hard, or not worth the pain, or something to feel bad about, think again. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Why does my health matter?” This will lead you down a more positive path, and empower you to embrace a gluten-free lifestyle. What’s more, you’ll be taking control of your health and in turn, your life.

Enjoy your gluten-free life – it’s going to be AMAZING!

 Need support going or staying gluten-free? Check out my Gluten-Free Coaching program.

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It’s National Junk Food Day, but let’s celebrate our health instead

It’s National Junk Food Day, but let’s celebrate our health instead

These days, there’s a holiday for everything, and today is no exception – it’s National Junk Food Day. Though, sadly enough, if we look at the standard American diet (“SAD”), we might assume that every day is National Junk Food Day in this country. In fact, according to Dr. Mark Hyman, the average American consumes approximately 150 pounds of sugar and high fructose corn syrup each year.

The other night as my husband and I wandered the aisles of our local grocery store, I noticed that the ice cream aisle is now longer than the frozen vegetable aisle! In fact, I could find every imaginable variety of ice cream  – from vanilla to chocolate swirl – and yet I couldn’t find one single bag of frozen organic broccoli for the black bean burgers I was planning to make for dinner. And as I looked for a can of white beans, I was left with only one option, which contained preservatives. (Have you heard the popular jingle, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream”?  Well, the scene at the grocery store definitely left me feeling like I wanted to SCREAM!)

Detoxing from junk food isn’t easy. It takes time, commitment and a personal realization of why your health really matters to you. Though I’m a health coach today, I was once an unhealthy vegetarian, and it took time for me to embrace the truth about food, which is: you really are what you eat. I didn’t eat terribly all the time, but I carried daily  junk food habits that continuosly let my body down – cereal for breakfast that contained refined grains and sugar, sugary lattes on the way to the office and caffeinated soft drinks as pick-me-ups in the afternoon, to name just a few. I went years being tired and suffering from join pain, irritable bowel syndrome and migraine headaches. And yet, it took years for me to make a connection between my habits and these health issues.

I know many of you reading this find yourself in a similar position with your health. Or if you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t constantly feel the effects of bad foods, the consequences could sneak up on you at any moment. So, I invite you to take a moment each day to check in with your body. Are you tired? Are you in pain? Do you have digestive issues?  If you answered yes to any of these, consider taking it a little further and reflecting on your food. Are you fueling your body with plant-based foods? Or are you loading it up with not-so-whole foods that come in packages and are loaded with sugar, fillers and preservatives?

Wherever you are with your health and food, opt to celebrate National Junk Food Day in an unconventional way…by celebrating YOUR HEALTH. To begin, start with this small step – acknowledge the food-body-health connection. Then, say this out loud (and let it be your daily reminder to re-fuel with whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains).

When I eat well, I feel well. And when I feel well, life is so much better!

Have a happy National Junk Food  Day!

Want to focus on your health? Take the first step and schedule an introductory health coaching session with me!

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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!

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Teach your kids to eat healthy foods, part 1

Teach your kids to eat healthy foods, part 1

Having trouble convincing your kids to eat healthy foods? I joined forces with Karen Orlich, CEO of k.o. kidz, a green-lving 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. There are too many tips to include in just one post! Stay tuned for more tips in the upcoming weeks!

Tip #1: Encourage and Reinforce

One of the most important factors to children eating well is to ‘encourage and reinforce’.

It’s so easy to let our kids be the boss and give in to demands for hot dogs, pizza, and candy. Instead, stay strong to these ‘requests’ and patiently reply, “You are so lucky that I’m giving you ___ (insert healthy option) today. It has protein and vitamin C to make your muscles strong and skin healthy.” Include whatever health benefit you’d like to highlight from the chosen food. Lean meats=muscle mass, vitamin C=healthy skin, calcium=strong bones, etc.

Take advantage of these opportunities to educate your kid(s) on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ to eat healthy. And, always follow your kid’s first bite of that healthy alternative to greasy, salt or sugar infested, processed food with, “Yah! I love ___!! Can I have the next bite? Please, please, PLEASE!” Once your kids are old enough, they’ll eat well just so they won’t have to endure your theatrics.

Tip #2: Invite Susan to dinner….Lazy Susan that is! 

If you want your kids to have interest in healthy eating, you must engage them in healthy eating! So here’s an idea – “Lazy Susan” dinners. The Lazy Susan Dinner requires very little work from the home Chef (YOU!) and encourages kids to engage in mealtime rather than simply letting you be in charge.  The goal here is to keep things simple in the kitchen – no need for fancy recipes – and empower your kids to explore flavors.

On the menu? Nothing but WHOLE foods. You’ll simply need to choose a grain, vegetable and protein, plus 5-6 condiments. From there, your kids will be in charge of adding flavor to their food with the condiments you’ve selected. Not only will they have fun doing so, they’ll learn what flavors they like and don’t like.

Step 1 – Choose your ingredients – grain, protein, vegetable and condiments. Here are some ideas:

Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, kasha, amaranth – all are GF! (check out Dr. Weil’s “Cooking with Whole Grains” for more ideas).
Protein: Chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, tofu, tempeh, salmon, black beans, bison, turkey
Vegetables: spinach, collard greens, kale, carrots, onion, snap peas, broccoli, bok choy, green beans, peppers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus (feel free to choose multiple)

Condiments:

Vinegars – apple cider, rice, balsamic
Sauces – hot sauce, gluten-free tamari soy sauce, tomato sauce
Oils – extra virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil, coconut oil, chili oil

Herbs – cilantro, parsley, mint, basil, thyme

Spices – oregano, tumeric, cumin, curry powder, garlic, ginger, cinnamon
Nuts – pine, brazil, cashews, walnuts, pistachios
Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, ground flax
Other – sea salt, sea vegetables like nori or dulse flakes, mustard, ketchup, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, parmesan cheese, sauerkraut, sliced avocado, fresh minced garlic

Step 2 – Prepare each ingredient. 
For the grain, you may prepare it now, or to save time, make a batch ahead of time and simply reheat for dinner. Proteins and vegetables can easily be prepared in sauté pans. Be sure proteins are cooked through to the required temperature.

Step 3 – Prepare a bowl for each family member (each bowl will have 3 layers)

Layer 1: Grain
Layer 2: Vegetable
Layer 3: Protein

Step 4 – Enjoy dinner with Lazy Susan.
Load up the Lazy Susan with the condiments you chose, and put it at the center of the dinner table. Invite family members – including the kids – to dress up their bowls with whatever condiments they would like. The kids will LOVE both spinning the Lazy Susan around AND the freedom you’ve given them to make choices at dinner time. Encourage them to try all of the condiments by giving them a small bowl for taste-testing.

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!

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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.

Peppers

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.

 

Tomatoes

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!

 

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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

More