Joy to Wellness Blog

Let this blog be your guide for a healthier and happier life. Check in for delicious and healthy recipes, product reviews and tips to help you be well.

Vegan chipotle bean burgers

Vegan chipotle bean burgers

Chipotle  Bean Burgers (Vegan)

Need a break from meat?  Lighten it up with meat-free options like these vegan chipotle bean burgers. Serve with a side of greens or a homemade sweet potato fries.

This recipe makes 6 patties


  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained
  • 1/2 c broccoli, chopped
  • 1/2 c peas
  • 1/4 c white mushrooms, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce (use gluten-free tamari for GF version)
  • 1 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 c red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 GF quick cook oats
  • 1/4 c whole wheat flour (use almond flour for GF version)
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder (add more for spicier burger)
  • 1-2 tbsp oil, for cooking (coconut or grape seed are good options)


  1. In large mixing bowl, combine beans, broccoli, peas and mushrooms. Mash with potato masher or large spoon
  2. Add soy sauce and vinegar. Mix well.
  3. Next add peppers, walnuts, rice, oats, almond flour and chipotle powder. Mix until you have a mushy consistency.
  4. Form patties. Don’t make them too thick.
  5. Heat oil on medium in large pan on stovetop.
  6. Cook patties until lightly brown on both sides.
  7. Enjoy!

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!


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.


Crispy Baked Chicken Legs

Crispy Baked Chicken Legs

This month I welcome guest author, Tiffany Hinton, whose blog Gluten Free Mom Certified inspires moms everywhere to make delicious and nutritious gluten-free meals for their families. Today, Tiffany shares her most recent kitchen creation – crispy baked chicken legs!

3-4 lbs chicken drumsticks or wings
1 tbs marjoram
2 tbs oregano
1 1/4 tsp smoked salt
1 1/2 tbs garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp dried chipotle ground
1 GF chicken boulin cube, crushed
2 tbs oil

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken in a large bowl, with all the spices, and then drizzle with 2 tbsp oil. Cover chicken completely with paste. Line a baking pan with foil; top with a wire rack. Arrange chicken legs out in a single layer. While the chicken legs are baking, oil will slowly drip to the bottom of the baking pan. Bake chicken legs until cooked through and skin is crispy, about 45-50 minutes. Rotate wings half way through – roughly 20 minutes. Rotate drumsticks and cook additional 30 minutes. Remove and serve with yogurt sauce or African pepper sauce.

About Tiffany Hinton
Tiffany started blogging in June of 2010, while going through treatments for fertility. Like many others, she struggled to talk about her experience, leading to an online journal for sharing emotions and heart. Following the birth of her first child she began to share gluten-free substitutes for her favorite family recipes on her blog, After three children in just three years, gluten free coking has become a necessity. Discovering she was not alone in the challenge to feed a gluten-free family opened the path to writing Gluten Free Mom Certified. She creates and shares recipes each week on her blog to help GF mothers meet the challenge of GF cooking.


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!


Jon Stewart Gets Personal About Celiac Disease – The Shmooze

Jon Stewart Gets Personal About Celiac Disease – The Shmooze

This video features an informative conversation that Jon Stewart recently had with Jennifer Esposito, author of Jennifer’s Way, a book about the health challenges she faced as a person with Celiac Disease. Jon Stewart’s son happens to also suffer from this disease.

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease that is caused by gluten damaging the small intestine. The small intestine is vital for one’s health, as it is responsible for food and nutrient absorption in our bodies. Those with Celiac Disease should not ingest gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and any foods or ingredients derived from these grains. Gluten can also show up in medicines and other products like cosmetics.

What’s great about the interview is Jennifer’s emphasis on her journey to being properly diagnosed, and the struggles she faced along the way when doctors did not believe her symptoms were real. This is the case for so many individuals who unknowingly have Celiac Disease but are suffering from a range of debilitating symptoms like chronic fatigue, bowel disorders, insomnia, depression and more. As Jennifer points out, the search for an accurate medical diagnosis can be long and difficult. Jon Stewart lists a few his son experienced and as Jennifer states, there are approximately 300 associated with the disease.

It’s great to see a serious and sensible conversation about Celiac Disease  (and gluten in general) being held in the mainstream on a program like the Daily Show. Often the dialogue occurs without caution or sensitivity towards those who suffer from gluten-related disorders. The more conversations we can create like these, the better off the entire gluten-free community will be.

Jon Stewart Gets Personal About Celiac Disease – The Shmooze.



Gluten-Free Labeling in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Mariano’s

Gluten-Free Labeling in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Mariano’s


Whole Foods Market
I recently submitted questions to each of the mainstream grocery stores in my area (north side of Chicago – Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Mariano’s) where I frequently do my grocery shopping to determine what their in-store Gluten-Free labeling really means. As you may or may not know, currently there are no FDA regulations in place that require a food manufacturer to prove a food is really gluten free (i.e., contains less than 20 PPM) even if it is labeled as such. There’s good news though – the FDA passed a new rule in 2013 that will go into place in August 2014 that will make this a requirement. (You can learn more about the labeling law on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness website). In the meantime, we should all know what these stores’ policies are in relation to the foods they label as gluten-free in their stores.

Here’s the question I submitted to each store:

I’m gluten-free (by medical necessity) and I’m curious how your gluten-free labeling works. I’ve noticed some of your packaged foods are labeled with a “gluten-free” sign. As you probably are aware, right now there are no FDA regulations in place that require a food manufacturer to prove a food is really gluten free (i.e., contains less than 20 PPM). The FDA passed a new rule that will go into place in August 2014 that makes this a requirement. Can you tell me if the foods in your stores marked with the signs fit within the “less than 20 PPM” category” (therefore most likely certified by an accredited agency like GIG) or if they just mirror what’s on the label, which wouldn’t necessarily mean it was GF at this point in time.

Here are the responses I received:

Whole Foods Market

From Whole Foods:

Thank you for contacting us about in-store “gluten free” labeling. Our policy is to only make in-store “gluten free” claims via shelf tags, signage, etc. for products that have been reviewed and approved by the Global Quality Standards Team. Our position is that a Gluten Free claim should mean that the gluten level in the product is below 20 ppm, and that any Gluten Free product claims should be substantiated by quality assurance and testing protocols that verify the gluten level.

We also have a store specific Gluten Free Shopping list that is continuously updated and only contains products that have been approved and are available in our store. For your convenience I’ve inserted the link that will take you to the online Halsted Gluten Free Shopping list. If you like we can gladly print out a copy for you the next time you’re in the store.

Please feel free to contact us directly if you have any other questions or concerns

From Trader Joe’s:

Hi Joy,

Thanks for the inquiry. All of our products labeled with the words “Gluten-Free” have been laboratory tested to meet the required 20ppm or less per serving. The “No Gluten Ingredients Used” List is for products that are made WITHOUT gluten, but have not been tested for ppm.

You may call us at 626.599.3817 with any questions you have.

From Mariano’s: Note – I have not received a definitive response from Mariano’s yet but did receive a phone call within 24 hours of my request letting me know they are looking into it. I will update this post when once I receive their response. 



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!


Gluten-Free Lemon Blueberry Chia Seed Pancakes

Gluten-Free Lemon Blueberry Chia Seed Pancakes

My gluten-free lemon blueberry chia seed pancakes are a great weekend treat for your pancake-loving family. In addition to being gluten-free, the batter is dairy and sugar/sweetener-free too. Enjoy!



  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt.
  2. Separate the egg whites into a small bowl, then combine the egg yolks, 3/4 cup coconut milk and olive oil into another bowl.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until they begin to foam, then fold them into the other liquid ingredients and continue whisking until well combined.
  4. Stir in the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until smooth. The batter should be slightly runny. If too thick, add remaining 1/4 c coconut milk.
  5. Stir in berries, chia seeds and lemon zest.
  6. Spoon out 1/4 c measurements of batter and pour onto hot non-stick griddle or pan (medium heat is sufficient). Flip when sides start to brown.
  7. Enjoy with a little pure maple syrup.



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)


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!


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!