organic

Traveling? Eat Out Guilt Free!

I want to share with you my anytime top tips for surviving restaurant pit stops and getaways so that you can feel your best!  So many of us have dietary restrictions on some level so thinking about the following suggestions will help you feel prepared and in charge of your diet while traveling.  If you have a suggestion that's not listed, please add it for others in the comments below!  

Tip #1: Plan ahead - Research your route and the towns/cities in which you are traveling through and make note of healthy options such as restaurants, natural health food stores, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc.  You can easily pick up a lunch or dinner at one of the stores I mentioned instead of relying on a restaurant.  I’ve even found cafe´s and locally owned coffee shops to carry gluten-free, sugar-free, whole-foods options, but I needed to call ahead or go online to do the research first as it is not always apparent from a roadside sign. 

Tip #2: Call ahead - If you are staying at a hotel that has an inclusive restaurant, call the concierge desk to make sure they give the staff a heads up that you are staying with them and that you have dietary restrictions.  If a menu is not posted online, ask about your specific concerns.  Most restaurants are used to accommodating food allergies and sensitivities so don’t think you’re asking them something they haven’t been asked before. 

Tip #3: Ask to Read Labels - As I stated before, restaurants are becoming more and more accommodating to food allergies, so they are sensitive to those requesting certain food preferences.  Having said that, don’t be afraid to ask them to bring a label out to you so you can read the ingredients in something you are about to order.  I do this ALL the time because my son has reactions to artificial food coloring, additives and preservatives.  Also, most restaurant foods will contain hidden sugars, MSGs, processed soy and hidden wheat so it’s worth a few minutes of questioning.

Tip #4: Avoid Trans Fats - 

  • Ask that your meat and/or vegetables be cooked in butter or olive oil to avoid highly inflammatory and often trans fat based vegetable or canola oils.  If you have a dairy sensitivity, ask for olive oil preparation.
  • Sub out fried sides (french fries) with steamed vegetables or rice side dishes as a healthier alternative. 

Tip #5: Pack your own sweetener - Carry your sweetener with you or ask for honey.  I will carry a few packets of Stevia in my bag so I don’t have to even consider using the white sugar or even the raw sugars at most establishments.  And don’t even think about grabbing an artificial sweetener.  Opt for the real raw or white sugar instead if you’re not prepared with your own.  

Tip #6: Scrutinize your "healthy" salad - Ask for olive oil and vinegar and pass on the in-house made dressings, unless you ask for a list of ingredients.  This is a great place to avoid sugars and extra calories. Also, ask them to hold the croutons and extra cheese on top.  You can ask them if they can sub in some walnuts or almonds instead.

Tip #7: Hold the Bread - Many restaurants are holding their bread baskets now unless otherwise requested.  You can also let them know upon being seated that you would like your bread basket to be held.  This is crucial if you have a gluten intolerance on any level as your body will start the inflammation process and you will probably end your meal feeling bloated and uncomfortable.

Tip #8: Know your meat - Only order meat that is organic and/or grass-fed to avoid feed-lot quality meat, which has been pumped full of hormones, additives, and toxins.  If you don’t have any options there, then order fish, as long as its not farmed salmon, which are loaded with antibiotics, corn and soy products and other toxic chemicals.  

Tip #9: Water is key - Drink a glass of water BEFORE you head out to the restaurant (or about 20 minutes before eating) and then limit water consumption during your meal.  I know this sounds counter intuitive, but many people are not digesting their foods properly and an overload of water to the stomach while eating will raise the pH of its acids and not allow it to do its job as effectively had the acids not been diluted.  This will also curb your appetite and keep you from overindulging.

Tip 10: Take a digestive enzyme -  I like Digestive Enzymes Ultra by Pure Encapsulation.  You will see this enzyme listed under the supplements category on my Amazon storefront. This enzyme will help you break down and digest your food more easily,  which is very helpful while eating at any restaurant to help you avoid gas, bloating and other digestive upset from either eating too much or from eating some funky ingredients that you weren’t counting on.  Like my packets of Stevia, I carry this with me at all times to avoid feeling uncomfortable. 

Have you already tried some of these ideas?  How have they worked for you?  

 

 

Homemade Chicken Stock

Homemade Chicken Stock

I roast a chicken every week for my family and I reserve the carcass to make a savory, nourishing stock that can be used immediately or preserved for months to come.  Enjoy!

Homemade Dried Italian Herb Mix

I know a lot of people who successfully grow herb gardens all summer long, but how about harnessing all of that homegrown goodness for use during the winter months?  In my most recent YouTube video I take you step by step through the process of harvesting, drying and storing your own dried Italian herb mix from your homegrown herbs. 

I also wanted to make it easy for you to gather supplies for making your own so I've linked some resources from Amazon for you below:

Would you like to see a specific health & wellness demo on video?  Let me know below in the comments!  Until next time, Be Well.

Spicy Salsa Verde

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Tomatillos are such a fun plant.  They are easy to grow, easy to pick, fun to husk, beautiful to look at and they make a great salsa.  We picked a good share at the farm Saturday morning and made fresh salsa verde that afternoon.

Here is a picture of them on the plant and after being husked:

tomatillo Collage

 

I couldn't find the recipe I used last year to make salsa verde so I threw something basic together with food I had on hand.  

Ingredient List

Roughly 4 cups tomatillos

2 jalapeños 

4 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)

1 large onion (quartered and unpeeled)

Roughly 1/2 cup cilantro

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper (to taste)

Directions

1. Husk and rinse tomatillos and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet along with the jalapeños, unpeeled garlic cloves and unpeeled onion.  Place the baking sheet on the top rack of your oven and broil on high (about 500 degrees) for about 15 minutes.  Turn sheet and flip ingredients once through the broiling cycle so that everything is cooked and charred evenly. 

Here is a before and after picture.  You can see some seeds in the second shot because the tomatillos will burst and sizzle under the heat.  As you can see, you don't want to char them heavily.  Just enough to give them a roasted flavor.

before and after Collage

 

2. After the items on the baking sheet have cooled, peel the garlic, onion and jalapeños and place them along with all the tomatillos into a food processor.  You do not have to do anything to the tomatillos.  Just place them in your processor as is.  If you have never roasted a jalapeño, the darkened skin should just peel off.  You may have to work a little at the rest of the skin that was not directly charred, but try to get as much off as you can.

cilantro Collage

Add the cilantro, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to the food processor as well.

3.  Blend!  Add more olive oil as necessary to gain the consistency you desire.  *A note of caution here!  In my humble opinion of all things spicy, this definitely has a kick.  It's tasty, but if you don't want something that hot then just add one jalapeño (and make sure you remove ALL the seeds).  However, if you're a crazy person and think I'm a total wimp for barely handling two jalapeños, then I dare you to add some crushed chili pepper flakes to the mix!

There you go!

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We enjoyed this yummy garden creation with some organic tortilla chips, tomatoes and avocados.  It made for a spicy, light and delicious Saturday night!  Enjoy!

Until next time, Be Well.

Healthy Road Trip Fuel

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  Ok, tell me if this sounds familiar…

 

You’re driving along peacefully when one (or all) of the following things happen:

 

1) You realize you have 8 miles of gas left in your tank and need to stop ASAP.  You find a Sheetz and while you fill up on gas, you also fill up on Doritos and soda.  You’ve been driving hard and you deserve it, right?

 

2) You’re feeling a little like a zombie so you stop at the next service plaza to refresh yourself.  You pick up a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut and a tall caramel macchiato from Starbucks.  You’re feeling great again and ready to go!

 

3) Your toddler just informed you that if you don’t pull over NOW he’s going to pee in his car seat.  You take the next exit to take care of business and get him some oreos and fruit punch to reward him for not turning your car into a Seinfeld episode.

 

4) You start to crave something sweet & salty and start praying for a 7-11 to reveal itself.

 

5) You see a McDonald’s and totally justify your stop because you never eat there regularly anyway.  That Big Mac tastes sooo good going down and the fries and milkshake are just icing on the cake.  You start to think once in a while isn’t so bad afterall!

 

Sound about right?  Five to eight years ago this was totally me (except for the oreos and fruit punch part).  I’ve never been one to drink soda, but I would have never considered passing up a syrupy cream-topped starbucks special on the road.  For some reason I felt like I was allowed to let myself break the rules a bit when I was driving long distances because I had convinced myself I didn’t have any other option (boy, was I wrong!).  Thirty minutes post Starbucks/Pizza Hut/fries or whatever other nasty binge I would consume, I would always end up with stomach pains, cramps, and feelings of nausea.  Not a great combination when driving!  And a huge signal that my body was rejecting what I had just put in it!   In general, I have always tried to maintain some sort of healthy eating regimen, but I made poor eating decisions on the road because I wasn’t prepared properly and these excuses would then transfer into the entire trip being sabotaged by weak, impulse decisions.  I would return home feeling gross and in major need of a detox.  Things have changed a lot in my world and I would never go back to this type of bad road trip behavior!

So recently, we packed up our little family of three and headed east to one of our favorite beach towns for the week.  We had a long drive ahead of us and a full week of relaxing and snacking in store.  I went prepared with an arsenal of healthy snack alternatives so that we were not tempted by the flashy packaging of the processed foods at service plazas and gas stations (however, if you’re in a desperate situation, grab a banana, a bag of nuts, coconut water and/or bottled water and get OUT).  I also went prepared with a list of health conscious restaurants and directions to my favorite organic market (for morning juices or smoothies) to use once we got there so that we weren’t stuck eating hours old MSG filled excuses for pizza on the boardwalk.

My list of snack foods contain foods found at Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market and my local natural foods store.  These stores are really easy for me to get to, which was something I really needed the few days leading up to vacay departure.  I’ve read a few blogs that list some amazing road trip fuel, but I wasn’t impressed with the fact that I would have needed to order everything online and I just wasn’t prepared for that.  SO I stayed simple and local.  I really hope my list is able to give you some great, practical ideas for your next road trip adventure!

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1) Electrolyte Enhanced Water - Great for the hot beach when you need to replenish electrolytes quickly from sweating.  This is a much healthier alternative than drinking a sports drink filled with sugar!

2) Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water - They use a high-pressured manufacturing system to rid the water of bacteria before bottling, not heat, so there are more beneficial nutrients staying in the drink.  Great source of antioxidants, loaded with minerals, and naturally uplifting.  I won’t travel without it!

3) 100% Pineapple Juice - Made from whole fresh fruit, not from concentrate.  I found this in a small sized 4-pack in Trader Joe’s which is the perfect travelling size.  My son would drink this all day long if I let him.  There is a crazy amount of Vitamin C in this drink, helps aid digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties.  I also love it in smoothies!

4) Lemon & Mint - I took these to put in my water every day for their detoxing power and because they are an amazing pick me up for that afternoon dip.

5) Sliced veggies, apples, bananas, avocados, grapes - All things that are delicious, easy to transport and good for you!  Numerous times on our vacation we were the ones having an apple or banana while everyone else around us was eating a slice of pizza or an ice cream cone.  Choosing to eat this way gave us the sugar everyone craves while on vacation in a naturally occurring way, but it also gave us high amounts of fiber and complex carbs so that we had energy that lasted for hours!

6) Bob’s Red Mill Muesli - I would mix this with yogurt or milk for a mid-morning snack or lunch.  Loads of good stuff in here - whole grain rolled oats, wheat, rye, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), barley, dates, raisins, sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts.  Another great source of food for high energy!

7) Chia Seeds - Fiber, Omega 3, Protein.  I put these on almost everything I eat.

8) Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips along with my homemade canned salsa from last tomato season - Yes, I transported a glass mason jar, but it was worth it!  My husband is seriously addicted to this stuff and it makes an awesome lunch when heading to a restaurant is just not appealing anymore.

9) Pink Himalayan Salt - I may start carrying this stuff around with me in my purse.  First of all, it’s pretty.  Second, it contains 84 trace elements and iron from the Himalayan Mts. in Pakistan and is touted as the purest form of salt in the world.  That white table salt?  All minerals are stripped, it’s treated with chemicals, it throws off your body’s pH making it extremely acidic, it has been heated and then treated with bleach.  What’s the point in using white table salt when there is such a better option available?  Oh, it’s sooo delicious, too.

10) MaraNatha’s Organic NO STIR Peanut Butter - We traveled with one jar creamy and one jar crunchy : )  This is by far the best organic p.b. I have ever had! Nice source of wholesome protein and fiber and my son devours it.  Bonus.

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11) Pamela’s Figgies and Jammies Gluten-Free Cookies - Made with real figs and contains nothing artificial.  I love these and they put traditional fig newton’s to shame with their taste and quality of ingredients - and they’re gluten-free!

12) Trader Joe’s Apple and Mango Fruit Bar - Vegan and RAW and only two ingredients : )

13) L‘A’RABARS - These energy bars are my favorite.  They are gluten-free and only contain a few tasty ingredients.  They are also grain-free, non-GMO, soy-free, dairy-free & kosher!

14) Travel size pouches of RAW Organic Green Superfood - When I can’t get a fresh juice or smoothie I mix these pouches with water as a great alternative.  They contain organically grown greens and sprouts, which pumps your body full of that liquid gold chlorophyll.  I will also have these on hand at home for busy mornings when I need to be out the door quickly.

15) Nick’s Grass-Fed Beef and Turkey Snack Sticks - No nitrites added, no added antibiotics or MSG.  This is surprising, but I’d have to say I like the beef better than the turkey!  This is from their website: Grass-fed beef kicks corn-fed cows… in the COB!

  • Low saturated fat — like snacking on chicken or fish
  • High levels of “good fat” omega-3’s — hey, if you’re gonna eat fat… make it the good stuff!
  • High doses of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) — really hard to say and spell, but it kicks cancer where the sun don’t shine
  • 100% free-range bliss — our cows enjoy “outdoor recess” all day… everyday!
  • Eco-friendly? — Sure, our cows produce a bit of natural methane… but our tractors stay in the barn!

Love. It.

16) Nuts! - Walnuts, Pistachios & Almonds - Absolutely love getting in good fats, even if it’s just one handful at a time.  Walnuts have the highest amounts of omega-3 fats than any other nut and they help with brain growth and functioning (they kinda even look like a brain).  Pistachios are a family favorite and are awesome immune system boosters.  Almonds are so good for the heart and versatile - love almond milk and almond butter, too!

17) Raisins, Prunes, Dates & Figs - Seriously these dried fruits are like candy in our house.  They are so easy to pack and transport and they have countless health benefits.  However, I don’t ever buy these conventional because grapes, plums, dates and figs are sprayed heavily with pesticides and once the drying process has occurred, the chemicals become even more concentrated within the fruit.  I always buy these organic.  Also, some people will veer away from these foods (and if you have blood sugar issues then you probably should) because they are nature’s little sugar packets, but that’s honestly why I love them.  If I’m going to eat sweets, it might as well have a nutritional benefit to it and these dried fruits are a.ma.zing (did I say that already?)!  I also use dates as a sweetener in baking or when making raw desserts because refined sugar does not have a place in my kitchen!

18) My little tin of Matcha Tea from Teavana - If you’ve not tried Matcha Tea yet, you need to.  This tea has been used as a part of Japanese culture since the 12th century and we’re just now catching on to its amazing taste and health benefits.  Instead of drinking the tea where the leaves have been strained, matcha involves drinking the entire leaf that has been ground into an extremely fine, green powder.  This drink is loaded with Vitamin C, potassium, iron and fiber and is wonderfully relaxing.

19) Suzie’s Organic Saltines and Whole Grain THIN Cakes (made of corn, quinoa and sesame) - Ok, Suzie’s line is generally awesome all around, but I chose to pack things that we could spread p.b or mashed avocado on.  My favorite thing about the saltines is that they make them with extra virgin olive oil.  If this doesn’t excite you, it should!  Check out the list of ingredients from the popular Nabisco saltine cracker box:

Ingredients. Enriched Flour (WheatFlour,Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid),Soybean Oil, Salt, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Malted Barley Flour, Baking Soda, Vegetable Monoglycerides (Emulsifier). Nutrition Facts.

Hmmm… see anything you don’t like?  How about that high fructose corn syrup?  Don’t be fooled by the “enriched” flour part, either.  Basically the company has taken all the vitamins, minerals and fiber that the plant originally contained and processed it and then tried to put some of it back in again at the end.  This is a very common practice that fools consumers into believing that they just got a nutritional bargain.  Hardly.  If I’m going to eat a cracker, I’d much rather the ingredients go something like this:

INGREDIENTS: ORGANIC WHEAT FLOUR, ORGANIC EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, SALT, ORGANIC BARLEY MALT SYRUP, SODIUM BICARBONATE, YEAST.

If you can’t find these in a store near you, check out the website that carries them.  It’s an education in itself! http://www.goodgroceries.com

20) Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts - Hemp hearts are raw shelled hemp seeds.  They provide you with omegas, protein and fiber and have a great flavor.  I sprinkle these babies on everything, right along with my chia seeds!

21) Tiny But Mighty popcorn - This ancient heirloom popcorn was originally shared by the Native Americans with a pioneer family who kept it for generations and it has finally come to market through a very conscious company.  Unlike other popcorn (or corn in general), this brand is verified NON-GMO and the kernels are much smaller than the traditional popcorn we are used to.  I also LOVE it because it’s virtually hull-less, which means it doesn’t get stuck in your teeth, it’s easier to digest and it tastes much better.  I popped the kernels in my air-popper, added some melted vegan organic Earth Balance and some Himalayan Salt and put them in some of our reuseable gallon sized bags.  Awesome road trip food.

22) Panda All Natural Licorice - Licorice is a weakness for me and I love that Panda has four delicious flavors to choose from!  One reason I love this brand is because they don’t used refined sugar.  They sweeten their chews with brown molasses syrup, which provides its own little banquet of nutrients.  YUM!

23)*Splurge!* Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Tahitian Vanilla Caramels - ouch.  I’m not perfect!  These aren’t horrible, BUT they do contain sugar that I probably could have gone without.  Next time I will have to be sure to take them out of my cart after they so intentionally jumped in!

I know.  I took a TON of snacks with us, but I’m happy I did because we were never lacking and feeling like we needed to compromise our health when we were hungry.  I also want to mention that many of these foods are staples in our home, but many of them are not.  I usually don’t stock the figgies, the Tahitian Vanilla Caramels or the licorice because they aren’t necessary.  However, I have found that if we allow ourselves a little cheat once in a while it actually keeps our daily healthy lifestyle on track and that’s what really matters.  Look into some of these amazing products and let me know if you have any suggestions for my next road trip (which is coming up in two weeks!)

Until next time, Be Well.

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Did Somebody Say GIVEAWAY?!!

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karma naturals giveaway Remember when you read my blog post a week or so ago about the oh so pretty chemical laden polish your putting on your nails?  If you missed it, you can read it here. Well one of the "3 Free" brands I highly recommended in my post sent me some free samples for YOU! This is your chance to win some awesome organic products for your nails.  Both products together retail for $22 and you have a chance to win them for FREE!  I have for you their Soybean Oil & Lavender Nail Polish Remover that is completely non-toxic along with a great shade of pink, called Skimpy Bikini, that will be perfect for you all summer long.  The polish is of course made without the harmful chemicals toluene, formaldehyde and DBP.  I can't wait to send this out to a lucky winner! Here are the details for entering:

Hop on over to my Facebook Page (found to the right in the sidebar or HERE):

1) Like/Follow my Page

2)Publicly SHARE the Karma Naturals GIVEAWAY POST on your own timeline

3)Leave a comment telling me your favorite summer activity in the comments section on the post.

Once I have seen that you have done all three you will be automatically entered into the Karma Naturals Giveaway Contest!  I will be selecting a winner with the very sophisticated system of "Pulling Name Out of Hat" : ) on Friday, May 23rd @ 10am.

Don't miss out!

Until next time, Be Well.

It's finally flip-flop season! Find out if your nail polish is doing you more harm than good!

Naples-Nails-Pedicure-Manicure-Natural-Skin-Care-Spa-300x300When springtime and warm weather eventually start to roll around I generally have two things on my mind.  The first being, "I really need to get the garden ready!" and the second, "I really need a pedicure!".  Ok, so maybe I have a lot more on my mind than just veggies and flip flop season, but at some point those two things take a front seat and some serious work gets done.  We aren't talking about gardening today, but we are going to see why you should probably take your favorite shades of OPI (Feelin' Hot-Hot-Hot!, anyone?) and trash them.  Yikes!  What did I just say? I couldn't possibly be serious, right?  Why yes, I am, and I think you might agree... Ok, so let's take a step back -with brightly colored toes, I might add ;) -and let me tell you why I'm picking on the more mainstream nail polishes that we all use or have used before.  Most of them are toxic-laden bottles full of chemicals that have no business on our nails.  They are filled with ingredients that you should be concerned about and should probably be avoiding. What's scary is that there are no government based regulatory safety boards ensuring that the ingredients in our cosmetics are safe.  Any cosmetic product out there that you assume is safe may be doing you more harm than good and you would never know it.  The FDA doesn't have to review cosmetic ingredients before they hit the shelves, including nail polish.  Here is a direct quote from fda.gov stating, "It is the responsibility of cosmetic manufacturers to ensure, before marketing their products, that the products are safe when used as directed in their label or under customary conditions of use."  Basically, the manufacturers, not the FDA, are responsible for the safety of their own products.  These are the same manufacturers who also want you as a consumer.  Cue the red flags, please.  Having said that, do you know what's in your nail polish?  Largely, we are talking about toluene, formaldehyde, and DBP, also known as the "toxic trio".  Let's define these:

Toluene:  helps nail polish go on smoothly and adhere evenly to the nail.  According to the EPA, toluene is a chemical added to gasoline to improve octane ratings, but has also been used in the production of polymers, like nail polish (and nylon and plastic soda bottles...).  Low to moderate levels of toluene inhalation have resulted in dizziness, nausea, headaches, and depression to the more severe exposure which can negatively effect kidney and liver function.  It is also a respiratory tract irritant.  If your nail polish bottle reads No Toluene, you're safe, but if it doesn't you need to assume it's in there.

Formaldehyde or formaldehyde resin: helps nail polish to harden.  First of all, formaldehyde stinks terribly.  Remember that awful smell from advanced biology class when you were staring at a little piggy with scalpel in hand?  Yeah, that one.  Well you're willingly painting yourself with it.  The EPA states that, "Besides the annoyance, it also causes acute eye burning and irritates mucous membranes and the respiratory tract. EPA has determined formaldehyde to be a probable human carcinogen."  And carcinogen = cancer causer.

DBP or dibutyl phthalate: stops nail polish from chipping.  It's no secret that scientists have shown that phthalates are another group of cancer causing toxins, endocrine disruptors and gender-benders (reproductive toxicity).  They are so dangerous that the European Union has completely banned its use, naming it one of the top six harmful chemicals known to humans...

But look on the bright side!  There are some safer options out there.  The safest being wear nothing.  The second safest option would be to find a nail polish that boldly labels themselves as having NO Toluene, NO Formaldehyde and NO DBP, also known as "3 Free".  They may be harder to find in stores, but a quick search on Amazon or Google will find you many.  I have two brands that I love.  Karma Hues @ karmaorganicspa.com has an AMAZING line of organic nail care products.  I have been sporting their "Another Beautiful Day in LA" shade of lavender inspired polish and I love it.  I also tried it out on my fingernails (which I never do in the spring because my hands are always in the dirt) and it lasted longer than any other fingernail polish I have used in recent memory.  I was impressed and I'm dying to try their Soybean Oil & Lavender Nail Polish Remover.  I also like SpaRitual @ sparitual.com for their super fun and dynamic colors.  You can't go wrong with either brand, but I would love to hear if you find another natural line that you love.  More and more manufacturers are catching on to the "3 Free" movement so safer nail polishes will hopefully become more readily available.  I hope I've offered you some insight into a very toxic beauty product that is often overlooked.  Don't feel like throwing out your favorite chemical filled nail polish?  Don't sweat it, but next time you go to purchase one try to make it up to your body by going "3 Free".

Until next time, Be Well.