Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tips for an Eek-O Friendly Halloween

A green Halloween? Yes, it can be done.  As you’ve probably figured out from walking into any store this October, Halloween has become a bit of a nightmare for the environment.  These days anything short of an entire yard transformed into a lit-up plastic graveyard or petro-chemical-based spider hatchery has come to be considered un-festive.

And here’s a spooky Halloween fact: Last year alone more than 40 million kids went trick-or-treating. All that adds up to a huge amount of consumerism and waste with ghoulish impacts on our environment and wild lands.

That said, I love Halloween and I sure don't want to be the neighborhood curmudgeon who shuts herself in and turns off the lights on Halloween night. So I think I'll balance my guilt by having myself a green Halloween. I invite you to join me in any way you can.

Here are ten ideas for making your own green Halloween:

1. Green Halloween Costumes: Leave the toxic Halloween costumes on the rack: Halloween costumes are supposed to be fun-scary, not scary-scary. Yet, store-bought costumes are often made up of nonrecyclable petro-chemical based plastic and synthetic fibers. Those Halloween costumes can include one of the scariest plastics--polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a soft plastic and known carcinogen that releases harmful toxins in its creation and breakdown. Avoid these toxic Halloween costumes and go for a green Halloween costume made of natural fabrics and materials.

2. Know what's in your Halloween face paint: In their 2009 Pretty Scary report, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics sent ten kid's make-up sets to a lab and found that all ten contained lead, which can lead to neurological damages in children, as well as nickel, cobalt and chromium. Six out of ten contained cobalt and/or chromium at levels far exceeding safety standards. These metals are not listed on product labels. Look for organic, non-toxic face paints that comply with standards set by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics or try these homemade recipes for your green Halloween face paint:
3. Concoct your own fake blood: Similar to face paint, fake blood can contain stuff that's not so nice to mother nature. Try making your own fake blood from natural products.

4. Shop the ultimate green Halloween markets: Last year alone 41.2 million kids went trick-or-treating, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s a lot of Halloween costumes, not to mention the packaging they come in. Decrease the waste and have some fun sorting through costume selections at local thrift shops. These places have clearly beefed up their Halloween selections over the years, offering an inspiring selection of used costumes and period pieces these days.

5. Hold a green Halloween costume swap: Arrange a Halloween costume swap at your school, church or community center, or do it in your neighborhood.

6. Select not-so-scary Trick-or-treat bags: Avoid the ubiquitous bright orange plastic jack-o-lanterns that have no chance at ever breaking down in a landfill. Instead use reusable shopping bags, canvas totes or the ole pillowcase trick. A funky thriftshop handbag can add a fun twist to a green Halloween costume as well.

7. Choose green Halloween treats with less packaging: Decrease candy packgaging waste by buying in bulk and selecting Halloween candy that uses the least packaging. Candies that come in individual boxes have a chance at getting recycled, whereas those that come in plastic don’t. Other waste-less ideas include pencils made from recycled money, small coins or recyclable items that will find a useful place in a kid's life--as opposed to a home at the bottom of the garbage bin.  One of our staff members reports of a neighbor who hands out books every year. Not a bad idea if you live in a neighborhood with light Halloween traffic.

8. Give organic Halloween candy: Yes, it's a bit pricier but certainly less scarier for the environment. Organic means less environmental damage during production and transportion, as well as healthier ingredients:
  • Endangered species chocolate gives ten percent of net profits to fund endangered species and conservation products. 
  • Yummy Earth certified organic sells individually wrapped lollipops that can be purchased at Wholefoods, Toys R Us, Vitamin Cottage, Sprouts and others.
 9. Green up your Halloween Pumpkins: Buy organic. Save seeds for roasting with a little oil and light salt. Save the pulp for pies, muffins, soup and other recipes. Yum! Compost your pumpkins so they don’t add to the landfill where they will produce methane gas, a dangerous greenhouse gas.

10. Make your own green Halloween decorations. Halloween is the second biggest decorating holiday of the year, and so many of the decorations being peddled are made of non-recyclable plastics. If you do buy new items, at least choose durable non-petroleum based items that will last for many years. Otherwise, make a dent in the waste by creating your own homemade decorations with recycled household items.

A few green Halloween decorating ideas:

  • Giant Spider: Use black trash bags for a giant tarantula (stuff with garden leaves--or newspapers but be sure to recycle the newspapers and trash bags when you’re done). How to here.
  • Ghosts: Stuff old bed sheets with leaves or newspaper, tie with a string to form a head and hang  from trees.
  • Spiderwebs: Make with shredded black pantyhose or cotton balls, instead of the sythetic messy ones from the store. If you're extra crafty, and want a dramatic look, weave a web of yarn near your entryway. Just select organic cotton or other eco-friendly yarns: Yarn web instructions.
  • Eco-friendly Halloween craft ideas
  • Halloween craft ideas from recycled items: To make these extra eco-friendly, choose non-toxic paints with low or no VOCs and other kid and earth friendly craft supplies.
  • Plastic pumpkin makeovers: If you’ve already got plastic Halloween trick-or-treat pumpkins from yesteryear, the ones the kids have outgrown, but that are too faded or cracked to donate, don’t throw them away. Those pumpkins can be given new life. Just be sure to use non-toxic eco-friendly paint and second-hand props for these ideas Check out these ideas.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Natural Moisturizers for Winter Skin Care

Keep your skin glowing through the dry winter days. Try these natural moisturizers for winter skin care.

Plant-derived oils and naturally sourced fats and ingredients are better for your skin and body than chemical preservatives and stabilizers. Along with the rest of nature, our skin changes as the seasons turn. With winter comes low humidity, which strips skin of its natural moisture, leaving it dry and more susceptible to damage. To protect your skin from the cold, turn to natural moisturizers with healing natural ingredients.

Four Homemade Moisturizers

Moisturizing Basics for Winter Skin Care

When choosing a commercial moisturizer, your first consideration should be your skin type. For oily skin, use a light moisturizer; for normal to oily skin, use a moisturizing lotion; and for dry skin, use a moisturizing cream.

Next, analyze a product’s ingredient list: Nearly every moisturizer contains some combination of emollients, humectants, emulsifiers, “active ingredients” and penetration enhancers.

Emollients, such as phospholipids and lecithin, soften, heal and hydrate. Plant oils such as olive, castor, jojoba and coconut make great emollients because they mimic the soothing oils our own skin produces.

Humectants attract moisture to the skin. Look for moisturizers made with glycerin and sorbitol derived from natural sources. (To find out if the ingredients are from natural sources, consult the ingredients list or peruse the company’s website.)

Emulsifiers are used to keep the ingredients in a moisturizer from separating. Lanolin is an excellent natural emulsifier. Similar to the natural oil in human skin, lanolin, commonly called wool fat, is a fatty substance naturally produced in sheepskin. It coats wool, acting as a protective agent against cold and dampness, and is extracted from shorn wool by centrifugal separators. This cream, which can be found at any health-food store, is typically used in moisturizers as a water-absorbing emulsifier.

A product’s “active ingredients” are usually responsible for providing its advertised effects, such as soothing, treating blemishes or preventing signs of aging. For example, zinc oxide is a natural active ingredient that protects against sun damage. Be careful when choosing skin products purported to remove wrinkles, blemishes or dark spots: These often contain harsh chemicals. To find out more about natural active ingredients, see “The Best Active Ingredients in Moisturizers” further in this article.

Penetration enhancers help a product’s active ingredients absorb into the skin. Look for moisturizers with natural penetration enhancers such as essential oils (menthol or chamomile are common), vegetable squalene, linoleic acid and oleic acid rather than synthetic penetration enhancers such as propylene glycol and tetrasodium EDTA.

Avoid poor-quality ingredients such as mineral oils, harsh chemicals, and artificial colors and fragrances. Harsh chemicals such as parabens, formaldehyde and propylene glycol are often used to give moisturizers a longer shelf life and help them absorb into the skin, but they can have side effects ranging from skin irritation to potential reproductive disorders. You can find effective, safe natural moisturizers or make your own simple, inexpensive moisturizer using this Homemade Moisturizer Recipe. For more information on ingredients in personal-care products to avoid and extensive listings of safer options, read Come Clean: Natural Alternatives to Chemical-Laden Personal-Care Products.

5 Moisturizer Ingredients to Avoid

  • Formaldehyde: A human carcinogen; watch for ingredients dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol or bronopol
  • Fragrance: Usually contains phthalates, linked to hormone disruption, possible birth defects, infertility and breast cancer
  • Parabens: May cause reproductive disorders and has been detected in breast cancer tissue; watch for any ingredient ending in -paraben
  • Propylene glycol: May cause hives, allergic reactions and other skin irritation in concentrations as low as 2 percent; synonyms include PPG, 1,2-dihydroxypropane, 2-hydroxypropanol, methylethyl glycol, 1,2-propanediol, and propane-1,2-diol
  • Retinyl palmitate and retinol (vitamin A): Rich in antioxidants and anti-aging properties; may also speed up the development of cancerous skin tumors when exposed to the sun; excessive amounts may be toxic to a developing fetus if pregnant women are exposed

The Best Active Ingredients in Moisturizers

  • Anti-aging: Boswellia serrata, CoQ10
  • Antibacterial and antifungal: Tea tree oil
  • Anti-irritants: Comfrey leaf and root, Aloe vera, licorice root, marshmallow root, chamomile, white willow bark, vitamin C
  • Soothing: Aloe vera, licorice root, green tea, chamomile extract
  • Sun protection: Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide

Top 5 Best Organic Foods for Weight Loss

Many Americans struggle with maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Many of them have even tried multiple diets and lifestyle changes only to become frustrated with their weight and give up. Eating certain organic foods can actually help you lose weight.

Here are some organic foods that can help with weight loss and dieting.

Free-Range Eggs: Eggs often get a bad reputation because many people fear the cholesterol is too high. Thanks for recent research, eggs actually are a great way to start your day, especially if the eggs are free-range eggs. Eating eggs instead of a bagel in the morning leads to fewer calories consumed throughout the next 36 hours according to a recent study. With free-range eggs, more good fats like omega-3 fatty acids are consumed. Omega-3 fatty acids may help fight heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Organic Apples: Eating an apple every day really can help you lose weight. That's because those who ate an apple before a pasta meal consumed less than those who chose another snack, according to a study. Also the antioxidants in apples may also prevent a condition called metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is what many overweight Americans suffer for -- it gives them that "apple-looking" shape in their belly. So, eat apples to prevent looking like an apple in your belly.

Blueberries: Thanks to the antioxidants and rich in fiber content, blueberries are a great choice for a morning or afternoon snack.

Yogurt: Dieticians typically recommend yogurt to those on a diet because of its benefits. There are good carbs, protein and fats in a serving of yogurt. Thanks to yogurt dieters often find themselves satisfied and not craving snacks after eating it.

Green Tea: Even though it's not a food, green tea is a great option for refreshment. Even if you don't change your diet at all, studies have shown that green tea drinkers still lose more weight than people who don't drink it. There's also the natural energy that green tea gives you and this helps with a faster metabolism.

Other Helpers: Almonds are a great snack that can reduce hunger and it may even reduce the risk of heart disease. Try adding almonds to your daily snack or quick lunch. Also, try adding more beans and lentils to your diet.
[via Latin Post]

10 Trends Shifting The Way Products Are Being Made

New Hope 360 sat down with market watchers Liz Sloane, Steve French and Doug Kalman, and toured the show floor at SupplySide West in Las Vegas in October, and came away with new insights into consumer demands that savvy companies can use to help direct their new product development efforts.

The "Free-From" Movement Marches On

The “free-from” movement has legs. What was once fat-free or sugar-free has grown to a movement of exclusion diets against unhealthy food ingredients. Lactose. Nuts. Soy. Meat. Market watcher Liz Sloane, at the SupplySide West trade show in Las Vegas Oct. 7, said free-from sales are pegged at $2.6 billion in the U.S. alone (gluten-free comprises 62 percent of that, with the millennials market making up the largest demographic segment), growing at 14 percent a year. What’s more, almost one-third of all consumers have tried some specialized diet or eating approach in the last year, she said.

How Big is Gluten-Free Really?

On gluten-free, Sloane said market estimates regarding the size of the market are all over the map, from Euromonitor pegging it at $486 million in 2013, and Nielsen saying it’s a $23 billion market. Regardless of the raw numbers, both Nielsen and Mintel (which says it’s a middle-ground $10.6 billion market) peg growth at about 16 percent a year. “But half of consumers who bought a gluten-free food or beverage did not know it was gluten-free,” said Sloane. “How do we really assess how big it is and how many people really intend on buying these products? It’s one of the most frustrating markets I’ve ever seen.” That frustration has birthed bearishness, and Sloane said the market is due for a flattening.

Will GMO Labeling Win at the Ballot Box?

In the last year, Gallup and other survey firms have inquired about the GMO issue. They found that about half of all consumers are aware of it. “And they want it labeled,” said Sloane. “Moms are instrumental in driving this.” The number of consumers indicating they would be less likely to purchase a food product if it was labeled that it contained GMOs rose from 63 percent in 2012 to 69 percent in 2013, said French, and almost one-third of consumers say they would stop buying a brand if they learned it has GMOs. That translates to significant volume declines for manufacturers – which is the big reason most mainstream brands oppose labeling. Voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on GMO labeling in the states of Colorado and Oregon come Nov. 4. It remains to be seen whether the alleged consumer desire to label it will change to don’t label it after all after consumers face the barrage of biotech-supported ads telling them their food prices will go up and their local farmers will suffer. We’ll get back to you on that after election day.

Organic = Best of the Best

The flip side of GMOs is organic. Look at it this way: GMOs represent the worst ingredient out there. Organics represent the best. So companies that label that they are GMO-free are essentially saying we don’t have the worst. But organics by definition contain no GMOs, and there is also a passel of other regulations around it vouchsafing the integrity of the entire production process around organic beyond just avoid the worst. According to 2014 unpublished data from the Hartman Group, about three-quarters of all consumers use organic, a number that is unchanged from the year prior. “Millennials and their parents have really upped their interest,” said Sloane. “Every organic category is up – dairy, breads, meats, snacks, condiments – with the exception of beverages, which is only stable at 7 percent growth.”

Transparency & Traceability

The four previous slides represent ethics that are all based on amped consumer sensitivity toward all things that are in the products they consume. In a word, transparency. “It used to be consumers accepted what was in a product. Now they want to know about what’s inside,” said Steve French, managing partner and owner of market watcher Natural Marketing Institute. “They want to know what’s inside, whether your particular product is safe and effective, and where it’s from. You get into the issue of GMOs.” Across generations, nearly seven in 10 consumers are reading labels. “This notion of transparency lends itself to the clean-label trend, which is a macro shift across many industries. Marketing loves this. R&D hates it.”

At the core of this transparency of ingredients trend is clean, minimally processed, with the finished ingredient name one that are easily read and more or less understood. What are consumers checking most? French broke it down to negative and positive items. Atop the negative list are calories, sugar, sodium and total fat. The second tier bad guys are trans fat, saturated fat, high fructose corn syrup. Only after eliminating the negative to consumers then look to the positive: fiber, protein, whole grains, vitamins, omega-3s, protein, probiotics, superfruits. The fastest-growing concerns are the big eight allergens: wheat, soy, shellfish, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, milk.

It’s also broken down by age bracket, with boomers and matures looking at the content of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sweetener type, carbohydrates, trans fats and saturated fats, while the millennials tend to look for organic ingredients, vitamins and protein. “The closer you can get to Mother Nature, the better,” concluded French.

ADHD - Can Supplements Help?

Mothers are also driving the continued concern about their children’s mental and intellectual development and concentration in schools. We’re talking ADHD here - can supplements help? So they’re looking at both the negative and positive in ingredients. “Moms are making a strong effort to have no artificial flavors or colors (in what they buy for their children),” said Sloane. “They’re also looking for supplements like DHA to help with symptoms.”

For years, mothers (and others) have been looking for supplemental solutions to their children’s ADHD issues. While no silver bullet currently exists, research carries on. It has succeeded in identifying various lipids as well as botanicals that can help with a range of cognitive issues – not solving them but potentially ameliorating certain symptoms.

Millennials (Finally) Dig Healthy Ingredients

The big news in healthy ingredients is millennials. That age group, born between roughly 1980 and 2000, seems to be finally coming around to the natural products industry. “Five years ago I would have said millennials have not adopted health and wellness. We’ve just started to see this,” said French.
  • Protein: Two of every five consumers are increasing the amount of protein in their diet, whether it’s to help increase energy, maintain muscle mass and strength or to help them manage their weight. “Consumers understand the benefits,” said French. “Consumers don’t buy the ingredient – protein – but the benefit, which is three-fold: energy, muscle, weight.”
  • Omega-3s: Sure, an estimated 12 million consumers left the category in the last two years – the misguided concern about prostate health and questions about cardio veracity wiped out large swaths of the over-50 male, and young women stopped hearing the drumbeat about omega-3 benefits. But is it a stall, or are we primed for a rebuild? The national rollout of a PR campaign extolling the “always a good idea” benefits of omega-3s begins in 2015, and we expect to see momentum moving back toward consumers re-embracing the many different forms of omega-3 DHA and EPA.
  • Probiotics: The market continues to grow. It was an estimated $28 billion global market in 2011, said French, and estimated to grow at 6.8% CAGR to an estimated $45 billion by 2018. While regulatory bodies to date have strived to keep claims only to digestive health, the tsunami of research on other areas of health and wellness will work to expand official approvals – contingent on science (read: dosage) related to specific strains aligning with marketing on finished products.


Not so very long ago, the only people looking for a boost in sports performance were serious athletes and bodybuilders. But that’s all changed now as performance has turned on office slobs and energy has become mainstream. “The whole notion of energy has transformed over the last decade,” said French. “Just one huge example is the energy shot in the convenience store. Now when you ask consumers what they’re most concerned about as they age, it’s energy. Energy to do the things I want to do.”

Fitness & The Female Market

Sports nutrition is a $5 billion annual consumer spend. Which sounds like a rich opportunity, until you consider the “fitness nutrition” world. This comprises such non-Olympic sports as using weight machines, stretching, fishing, biking, running, walking, treadmill. Heck, it even includes bowling and billiards. In fact, a person engaged in so-called fitness nutrition even has an official definition – if you are “active” for at least 151 days a year. These people – pretty much everyone this side of couch potatoes – represents a $70 billion/year market. Yeah, baby! Fitness aficionados want protein. They eat nutrition bars – and women consume more than 15 million nutrition bars every year, compared to 12.4 million men. Talk about a major opportunity to start developing nutrition products geared especially for women! Doug Kalman, Ph.D., research director at Miami Research Associates, likes a branded ingredient called KoAct – a unique combination of calcium and collagen that, research shows, increases bone mineral density in a way that is superior to either alone. “To me this makes KoAct an unbelievable ingredient that is not known enough in the market,” said Kalman. “Fifty-five percent of the bar market is females. I see a great opportunity there, not only using protein but with bone-building health.”

Custom Supplement Formats

The biggest increase in supplements intake between 2009 and 2013 is among younger consumers, said French, who have discovered that they have to take care of themselves. “They have actually increased their pill intake by one full type of product. It went from half of millennials who had taken a supplement in the last 30 days. Now it’s almost seven in 10. That’s a huge increase.”

 Of note, these younger consumers want their supplements available in forms other than pills. Polls showed that in 2009, about 30 percent of millennials wanted supplements available in a form other than pills. By 2013, that had risen to fully 50 percent. Related, when asked if they would like it available in “liquid capsules,” what was 26 percent in 2009 grew to 46 percent by 2013. That spells opportunity for marketers and manufacturers looking to target this large demographic group. One lesson here is that one size doesn’t fit all. “Don’t think you can develop a product relevant for the entire population,” said French.

Friday, October 24, 2014

10 Ways to Celebrate Food Day

Food Day, held each year on October 24, is dedicated to raising awareness about the impact our diets have on our health, the environment, and the people who produce our food. Want to join in the fun?

Here are ten ideas for making the most of this national celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.

1. Make a real meal. It doesn’t actually take that much longer to put a “real” meal on the table, rather than some concoction that’s frozen, over-processed, and not even particularly tasty. Need recipes for quick and easy suppers? Here you go.

2. Host a potluck supper. Like the idea of real food but hate to cook? Invite friends and family over for a potluck. Someone else can bring the appetizers, main dish, side dish and dessert. You supply the atmosphere, the location, and the drinks. Easy peasy!

3. Eat at a restaurant that offers local, organic food.
More and more restaurants and fast food chains are choosing quality as well as convenience, by sourcing their ingredients from local farmers who have committed to growing their food sustainably. Here’s a list of some of the best.

4. Shop at a farmer’s market.
Is there any better place to find locally grown, organic food? Plus, when you shop at a farmers market you’re putting money back into your local economy and helping to protect land from urban sprawl.

5. Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enables you to buy a share in the food a farmer produces. You’ll enjoy an abundance of fruits and vegetables you love, but probably be introduced to some delicious new varieties, as well. Kohlrabi, anyone?

6. Go meatless for a day, a week, or…?
Some people don’t like the idea of “becoming” vegetarian, but what about going meatless one day a week? Here are some delicious vegetarian recipes that will give meatless new meaning.

7. Convene a community forum. You can make big changes happen by involving friends, neighbors, elected officials and policy makers in the conversation. You’ll find ideas here to help you get a community forum off the ground.

8. Watch a movie. Check out the Food Day organization’s Film Screening Guide. You’ll find reviews of compelling films about food and agriculture, plus suggestions on how to organize a film screening for friends, neighbors, elected officials and policy makers.

9. Eat everything in your refrigerator.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consumers waste almost 30% of the food they buy. How? It gets “lost” in a cupboard. No one remembers to eat the leftovers and they rot. We simply buy too much. On Food Day, take stock of the food you already have. Eat what’s there before you buy more. If you’re putting food in the freezer, label it and date it so you know what it is and when you put it away.

10. Tell 5 friends about Food Day. The success of Food Day lies in people participating in it. Tell your friends and neighbors about it, and mention it on your social networks. Post pictures of the meals you make on Pinterest and Instagram, and share recipes on Facebook and Twitter. Make Food Day so much fun this year that you can’t wait until October 24 rolls around again next year.
[via Care2]

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Beyond Pumpkin: 10 Other Fall Foods to Eat Right Now

Pumpkin gets all of the love when it comes to fall food, but fall flavors go way beyond that beautiful orange squash. Find these fall foods at your farmers market!

Don’t get me wrong. I love pumpkin and pumpkin spice. But you can’t live on pumpkin alone, as much as we all may want to.

Fall is such a bountiful season, and there are tons of delicious, seasonal fall foods that I could have listed below. The foods on this list are in season right now, and they’re some of my favorites to pile onto my plate. Cheers!

10 Fall Foods in Season Now

1. Arugula – Arugula gets a lot of love as a spring green, but you can also often find it at local markets in early fall. Pair bitter arugula with a bright lemon vinaigrette or try it on a sandwich in place of lettuce.

2. Eggplant – Eggplant's subtle and distinctive combination of textures and flavors - smooth, fleshy, creamy, smoky - make it a versatile and beguiling component of many great dishes. Try it in any of these vegan and vegetarian eggplant recipes.

3. Grapes – Grapes are in season now all over the U.S. and will stay in season until about December. See what types of grapes are available at your local market. You can eat them as-is, of course, or use them to make delicious food art.

4. Cabbage – Cabbage is the humblest of the uber healthy cruciferous vegetables. It’s affordable, healthy, and in season right this second! If you’re sick of slaw, try making your own fermented sauerkraut. It’s good on sandwiches, stirred into a bowl of stew, or on top of grain bowls.

5. Pecans – Snatch up those seasonal pecans now! Pecans are lovely stirred into oatmeal or baked in a pie, but you can also use them in recipes like these homemade chocolate energy bars.

6. Carrots – Pumpkins aren’t the only orange fall foods that deserve your attention. Early fall is peak carrot season. If you need a little carrot inspiration, try shredding them into a pan-full of carrot muffins.

7. Brussels Sprouts – People tend to love or hate these tiny cabbages, and I fall squarely onto the love end of the spectrum. Try roasting them up with olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar at 425F for about 45 minutes. Stir every 10-15  minutes until they’re soft and a little bit brown.

8. Potatoes – White potatoes don’t get a lot of attention, but I am a big potato fan. They’re filling, affordable, and surprisingly healthy. Bake ‘em, mash ‘em, or cook ‘em into fritters. If you want to replace the egg in that fritter recipe, just whisk 1 tablespoon flax meal into 3 tablespoons of water, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Boom! Flax egg.

9. Turnips – As root veggies go, turnips don’t get the limelight too often, but I love them. If you’re sick of using turnips in soups and stews, try using them in place of radishes in this recipe. I have done it, and it was amazing.

10. Leeks – Adding sauteed leeks to any recipe somehow makes it instantly special. Leeks are one of those fall foods that seem expensive, but don’t have to be. A little goes a long way, so just grab one or two leeks instead of a whole, pricey bunch. If you need a little bit of help including seasonal leeks in your cooking, try one of these leek recipes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

5 Crazy New Reasons Organic Produce Is Really Worth Your Money (and How to Afford It!)

In the quest for a healthier body and a longer life, U.S. consumers are filling their grocery carts with more organic produce than ever, and that number continues to climb every single year. While that’s a great thing for those that can and choose to do so, conventional produce still accounts for a majority of produce sold here in the United States, especially among those who believe organic is too expensive, or who aren’t fully aware of the benefits that come from eating organic foods.

Not all things are 100% necessary to buy organic, such as paper goods and clothing. Even food and beverages labeled certified non-GMO are safer than traditional, conventional foods, even if they aren’t certified organic. However, one area you definitely want to go organic when you can is the produce department. When you’re a vegan, you can luckily avoid having to worry about buying organic meat, poultry, milk, eggs, and dairy (since you may know that organic labeling doesn’t negate the cruelty animals on organic farms go through.) You’ll also save more money by not buying animal products, which will leave you more funds to spend on healthy, organic plant-based items.

Everyone knows that organic foods are beneficial to our  health and the planet,  but do you know exactly why? Here are five reasons to make the switch today:

1. Allergies

Did you know that allergies can arise from consuming non-organic produce? Many people find this is also the case with genetically modified foods. Foods that are directly sprayed with chemicals or that are chemically altered in any way may lead to allergic reactions that can be hard to trace back to your diet. Many people may suspect they have a food allergy, when it could be a chemical in the food instead. The immune system sees chemicals as invaders and sets off an allergic reaction as a result. Buy all organic produce for one week and see how you feel. Be sure to also buy organic pre-packaged foods when you can as well.

2. Gut Microbiome

Pesticides and herbicides contain chemicals that can kill off your beneficial gut bacteria. Low levels of beneficial gut bacteria have been linked to depression, weight gain, diabetes, and yeast overgrowth. Pesticides, antibiotics, and other chemicals sprayed on foods have been shown to change the way the brain and gut work due to the depletion of good gut bacteria. Over time, low gut bacteria and consistent intake of pesticides and chemicals can also lead to leaky gut syndrome, which can cause severe digestive upset and harm.

3. Diabetes

Many chemicals and pesticides have also been linked to poor insulin function, which can cause type 2 diabetes or even mild blood sugar sensitivities. Since everything you eat enters the bloodstream, putting chemicals in your veins doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you want your hormones such as insulin and leptin that affect your blood sugar, to work their best for you and your health.

4. Animal Safety

One of the most overlooked benefits of buying organic foods is how it actually benefits the animals on farms where organic produce is grown. It’s commonly known that eating organic foods benefits the environment and may help prevent global warming, however, eating organic foods also ensure that animals on these farms or who live nearby these farms aren’t being exposed to harmful pesticides, chemicals, fertilizers, and herbicides.

5. Obesity

It sounds a bit far-fetched to think that you could gain weight from eating conventional produce like celery and bananas, but don’t shake your head at the thought of the idea just yet. The chemicals in non-organic produce and other conventional foods has been shown to create a toxic state within the cells and slow down the metabolism as a result. Considering that our immune system has to work harder to fight off such toxins, it only makes sense that our metabolisms would also slow down.

I know a conventional head of lettuce or shiny red apple might seem harmless enough, but don’t let their appeal fool you. Many are coated with sprays to make them more appealing to consumers, but they actually taste worse than their organic, fresh counterparts. Always go for organic, because if you wouldn’t spray chemicals like Round-up on foods yourself, why would you pay for someone else to?

Feed your body organic, plant-based foods. Want to know how to afford them? Here are some great tips!

1. Buy What’s on Sale

This allows you to rotate what you buy each week and it helps you get in a variety of nutrition. Many stores will cycle when certain organic items go on sale. For example, some rotate the same sale items every four weeks, while some are up to six weeks. Start to pay attention to when items go on sale and you’ll know what to buy when. Or, you can always get friendly with your produce guy (which I highly suggest) and just ask him yourself. Then ask when new trucks are delivered and be sure to get to the store the day the new sale starts and fresh items are delivered. There’s no need to visit multiple stores, but doing so will also give you more exposure to sales.

2. Compare the Cost

Most of the time, organic produce is only a dollar or so more than conventional items. If you can’t afford to buy everything organic, buy what organic foods you can (especially those off the Dirty Dozen list) and eat more of those instead of paying to eat foods filled with chemicals.

Plus, many supermarkets label conventional produce just under the next dollar up in price to make consumers assume they’re much cheaper than organic. For example: conventional apples may be labeled $3.98 per bag or bushel, while organic apples may be $5.28 per bag or bushel. Consumers automatically see the number 3 in the price $3.98 and assume it’s almost $2.00 cheaper, when really, the price difference is only right over $1.25. See what I mean? Don’t let conventional prices fool you! You’re much better paying for a high-quality organic apple free of pesticides and toxins than saving under $2.00 for a bag of less tasty, chemically-treated ones.

3. Shop in Season

It’s also smart to shop in season so you can avoid paying high premiums for items that have to be imported from other countries. Plus, seasonal foods taste fresher, and your body will appreciate you eating in alignment with nature.

4. Don’t Fear Frozen

If you can’t afford organic, fresh spinach, berries, etc., then go with organic frozen items. They might not be as tasty, but frozen foods are possibly just as nutritious (if not fresher) than non-frozen items since they’re frozen at peak harvest. They also last longer, which means you won’t be throwing anything away. Learn how to freeze your own bounty.

5. Re-evaluate Your Priorities

When I started seeing the benefits in my own health from eating organic, plant-based foods, I made sacrifices in other areas of my life so I could afford to do so. Did I really need those magazine subscriptions every month? Was that new shirt each week really more important than feeding my body clean, natural foods? See where you can spare $10.00-$20.00 or so per week, and then spend that money on organic produce versus opting for conventional items.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mushroom 101: How to Choose, Prep and Cook Mushrooms

Mushrooms are in season right now and are such a great way to add local produce into your weekly menu.  From mild flavored white button mushrooms to portobello's earthy flavor, there is a mushroom that can be added to most any style of cooking.  The following is a rundown of how to select, prep, and cook these amazing members of the fungus family.

Common Cooking Mushrooms

Beech mushrooms are petite with either all-white or light-brown caps. They have a crunchy texture that offers a delicately mild flavor that is both sweet and deliciously nutty.
  • How To Use Them: Cook beech mushrooms whole or slice them into sauces to compliment chicken or fish dishes. They also taste great with vegetables and in stir-fry. Add to soups, stews or sauces as a last ingredient to maintain crisp texture.
Button mushrooms, or white button mushrooms, are the most popular mushroom because they are the most inexpensive and the most widely available. They have a fairly mild taste and blend well with almost anything, although they don’t offer the more intense and dramatic flavor of other varieties.
  • How To Use Them: White button mushrooms can be sautéed or cooked in any way, or enjoyed raw in salads. Try them sliced and sautéed on pizza, or in pasta, quesadillas or cheeseburgers.
Crimini mushrooms, also known as baby ‘bellas or browns, are similar in appearance to white button mushrooms, but have a light-tan to rich-brown cap and a firmer texture. Criminis have a deeper, earthier flavor than white buttons.
  • How To Use Them: Criminis They can be sautéed, broiled, microwaved or cooked in almost any way. Their hearty, full-bodied taste makes them an excellent addition to beef, wild game and vegetable dishes.
Enoki mushrooms have tiny, button-shaped caps and long, spindly stems. They are milder in taste and crunchy. Before using, trim roots at cluster base. Separate stems before serving.
  • How To Use Them: Try enokis raw in salads and sandwiches. Or use them as an ingredient in soups, such as a stock made with soy sauce and tofu.
Maitake mushrooms are also called “Hen of the Woods.” They have a distinctive aroma and a rich, woodsy taste. To prepare maitakes, sauté lightly in butter or oil.
  • How To Use Them: Maitakes add a richer taste in any recipe calling for mushrooms. They can be a main dish ingredient or used in side dishes and soups. 
Oyster mushrooms can be gray, pale yellow or even blue. They have a velvety texture and a very delicate flavor. To bring out their flavor, sauté with butter and onions.
  • How To Use Them: Try oyster mushrooms over linguine, with sliced steak and with red peppers sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese.
Portabella mushrooms have a deep, meat-like texture and flavor. Portabellas can be grilled, broiled or roasted and served as appetizers, entrées or side dishes.
  • How To Use Them: The hearty taste and texture of portabellas make them a flavorful vegetarian alternative; they can be grilled and served as “burgers” on toasted buns.
Shiitake mushrooms have a meaty texture and are rich and woodsy when cooked.
  • How To Use Them: Shiitakes add a meaty flavor and texture to stir-fry, pastas, soups, entrées and sides.

How to Choose

Choose mushrooms with a firm, unblemished skin.  Reject any that are damp, soggy or withered.  Mushrooms should have an earthy, but pleasant scent.  If you are not going to use the mushrooms immediately, buy whole instead of sliced, to lengthen their freshness in the refrigerator. Mushrooms are a food that should be bought organic, when possible, as the skin is being eaten. Modern mushroom farming often uses synthetic chemicals to increase production.

To Prep Most Mushroom Varieties

Use a damp paper towel to wipe the mushroom clean.  Trim the end of the stem off, or break it off completely.  Unused stems can be used in making homemade beef or vegetable broth, to enhance the flavor.


There are dozens and dozens of ways to cook mushrooms (many are good for eating raw as well).  Here are simple instructions for grilling any of the larger varieties of mushrooms:  Brush cleaned mushrooms with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place on heated grill or grill pan and cook until tender (about 12 minutes), turning often.  For portobello, grill cap down for 10-15 minutes on a hot grill or grill pan. Turn over for the last 2 minutes of cooking.

[via The Nibble]

Best Herbs and Supplements for Stress Relief [Infographic]

Tired of living in the age of anxiety? Try one of these gentle, non-addictive remedies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

15 Delicious Recipes That Prove Pumpkin Is King of Fall

When it comes to favorite fall ingredients, pumpkin may very well be king. Double homage if it's tucked into a bowl of chili, and triple the points if it is slipped into some buttery dessert. No-knead pumpkin rolls and pumpkin muffins with eggnog will make your kitchen smell like fall and fuel your autumn spirit.

Here are 15 recipes that prove pumpkin is the best – a great way to enjoy the chilly weather for dinner, breakfast and dessert.

Pumpkin is one of those things that just keeps giving this time of year: You can transform their cheery orange faces into Jack o'lanterns, use the flesh of the pumpkin for recipes, and even toast the seeds for a delicious snack. Whatever your preference, you're bound to see a whole bunch of pumpkin at your grocery store this time of year.

Shopping for Pumpkin & Pumpkin Puree

Remember when shopping for pumpkin, make sure you choose the right kind for baking and cooking.

While some recipes ask for whole pumpkin, many recipes (especially pumpkin desserts) will call for pumpkin puree. This is something you could buy at a store, but it's also easy to make at home.

Pumpkin Muffins with Eggnog Cream Cheese Swirl

Recipes with Whole Pumpkin

Baked Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal

Breakfast and Dinner Recipes with Pumpkin Puree

Gluten-Free and Vegan Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin Puree Desserts

 [via The Kitchn]

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Farmers' Markets Are Good for Communities…Right?

Vegetables at the Dane County Farmers' Market. Photo courtesy of Bill Lubing.
Farmers’ markets practically glow with wholesome virtue: Shop here, they promise, and you can help build a sustainable, healthy food system!

But without the data to buttress those claims, it’s hard to know whether farmers’ markets are actually meeting those goals or how they can adapt to better meet their communities’ needs. Alfonso Morales, a professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wants to help change that.

Fueled by an increasing interest in local food, the number of farmers’ markets in the United States has more than doubled in the last decade. This rise in popularity has been accompanied by the implicit assumption that farmers’ markets are more sustainable than their fluorescent-lit, big-box counterparts. Their environmental advantages, advocates say, are clear. Food is transported shorter distances, which results in lower fossil fuel consumption. Farmers’ markets offer more diverse crops grown by more eco-friendly methods. Broaden the definition of sustainability to include social, health, and economic factors, and you’ll encounter claims that farmers’ markets promote healthy eating and a pedestrian culture, bring fresh produce to undeserved neighborhoods, foster entrepreneurship and a diversified agricultural economy, and create a social space that builds a sense of community.

Most people assume that farmers' markets help encourage sustainable agriculture. Morales' new project could help measure that effect.

Farmers’ markets might very well be doing all these things, Morales says, but we don’t know, and he admits that right now there isn’t even a consensus on how to evaluate these “sustainable” activities. “But even so, we have to make a way forward. And the way we make a way forward is though measurement.”

Those measurements are relatively easy for major supermarket chains, which have the staff and the budgets for exhaustive market research. Analyzing research data enables big retailers to respond to changing demographics and consumer preferences, ensuring that they stay relevant to the communities they serve. Farmers’ markets typically don’t have those resources. That’s where Morales’ project comes in.

Morales and his partners at the Farmers Market Coalition are working with managers at nine farmers’ markets around the country to ask, “What is it that’s relevant to them and their community?” They’ll help market managers figure out what data they need and how to collect and present it. Some of the data will help address all those assumptions about the environmental benefits of farmers’ markets, such as the average number of miles the food actually travels, the number of organically farmed acres represented at the market, and how diversified the market’s farms are. Other data will speak to a market’s impact on its community by looking at the number of small businesses started through the farmers’ market, whether it attracts foot traffic to nearby shops, and the number of vendors who are minorities or women. All this data collection will help reveal how each farmers’ market is affecting its community — and how it could be doing better.

Bill Lubing, the manager of the Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison, agrees that good data is essential when making decisions about how to move a market forward. “There are a lot of people with a lot of ideas,” he said, but a shortage of ways to evaluate those ideas. “More data is always better.” For example, because he ran the market’s newsletter for years before becoming manager, Lubing knows that links to recipes are very popular. Surmising that customers are sometimes stumped by the produce at the market (how do you tackle an entire stalk of Brussels sprouts?), he’s published a series of basic instructional videos, as well as more recipes. They’ve been a hit.

Morales argues that good data can do more than improve decision making. It can also help market managers advocate for the market with local business and government. For example, if a market wants permission to open a new branch in a public park in an underserved neighborhood, data showing the amount of produce purchased with SNAP benefits can help persuade the city that it’s a worthwhile use of space.

Morales, who worked as a market vendor in Chicago while doing research for his dissertation, believes that professors like him have an opportunity “to really engage with the community directly, and to try to empower people.”

Shopping at a farmers' market gives consumers a closer connection to their food–which is becoming increasingly popular. Photo courtesy of Bill Lubing.

The project’s immediate focus is local: to help individual managers make decisions that work in their particular communities. But if the project takes off (and it looks like it’s going to — dozens of markets beyond the original nine have asked to participate) it could generate enough data to start to draw conclusions about the roles of farmers’ markets in the United States as a whole. That’s exactly the kind of large-scale data needed to evaluate whether farmers’ markets are really helping create a more sustainable food system.

Regardless of how they stack up environmentally, Morales believes that farmers’ markets offer something that chain supermarkets can’t: a personal connection to a farmer and to food. “A relationship matters to people,” he said. Lubing agrees. Shopping at a farmers’ market “really has an emotional buy-in factor,” where you feel like you’re cheating on your local cheese maker if you grab a block of Cheddar from the grocery store in a pinch. “And people love that, people crave that.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Home Remedies for Headache Treatment

Headaches, including migraines, are extremely common. Because headaches can stem from a variety of causes, some headache sufferers seek treatment on a near-daily basis. Fortunately, there are several home-remedy treatments that can help alleviate migraine pain and other types of headaches.

Lavender Oil

Not only does lavender smell great — it’s also a useful home remedy for headaches and migraine pain. Lavender oil can be either inhaled or applied topically. Two to four drops for every two to three cups of boiling water are recommended when inhaling lavender-oil vapors as a headache treatment. Unlike many medicinal oils, this home remedy can also be safely applied externally without the need to dilute it. Lavender oil should not be taken orally.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint is a soothing home remedy that has been shown to benefit tension headaches. This fresh-smelling oil has vaso-constricting and vaso-dilating properties, which help control blood flow in the body. Headaches and migraine pain are often due to poor blood flow, and peppermint oil helps to open and close the vessels that promote flow. Peppermint home remedies also open up the sinuses so that more oxygen can get into the bloodstream.

Basil Oil

Basil, the strong-scented herb used as a topping for pizzas and pastas, certainly tastes and smells good. And for people in need of a natural headache treatment, the oil derived from basil plants can also be a useful home remedy. Basil works as a muscle relaxant, so it is especially helpful for headaches caused by tension and tight muscles.

Diet Fixes

One of the most useful home remedies for reducing headaches and migraine pain involves making changes to your diet. Certain foods have been shown to affect the frequency and severity of headaches and migraine pain, including dairy; chocolate; peanut butter; certain fruits, such as avocado, banana, and citrus; onions; meats with nitrates, such as bacon and hot dogs; foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG); foods containing tyramine, an amino acid found in red wine; and foods that are fermented or pickled. Keep track of these trigger foods and your reaction to them with a food diary.

DIY Scalp Massage

Do-it-yourself scalp massages can be an effective way to alleviate migraine pain, and they feel great. Researchers in Brazil showed that massaging the greater occipital nerve — the area in the back of the head, at the base of the skull — reduces migraine pain. Massage in general has been identified as a useful home remedy for headaches, especially reflexology (massaging reflex points on the hands and feet).


Feverfew, as its name suggests, is used to treat fever, but it’s most commonly known as an herbal headache treatment. This home remedy became popular in the 1980s, when a landmark study in Great Britain showed that 70 percent of participants had less migraine pain after taking feverfew daily. Since then, more studies have demonstrated feverfew’s benefit in preventing and treating migraine pain. One study showed improvement in migraine pain among people who took daily feverfew in combination with white willow, another herbal home remedy, which contains properties similar to aspirin.


Some headaches are caused by inflammation, which can be reduced by consuming omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed can help provide headache relief because it’s rich in omega-3s. Flaxseed can be used as a home remedy in several forms, including as an oil and ground or whole seeds.


Buckwheat’s usefulness as a home remedy for headaches and migraine pain comes from a flavonoid known as rutin. Flavonoids are phytochemicals, which are found in plants, and have been shown to contain antioxidant properties, which counteract damage to cells. In addition, researchers in Taiwan have demonstrated the effects of flavonoids on inflammation, a common cause of headaches.

Is Apple Cider Good For Weight Loss? And Four More Things You Need to Know

You probably have a bottle of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in your pantry right now. It’s a tasty addition to homemade pickles, marinades, salad dressing, and more - but is it good for you? Many of its supposed benefits are anecdotal, but some experts think that adding a little of this tangy vinegar to your life may have some health benefits.


Have you heard that apple cider vinegar will help you lose weight? There's not much formal research on the topic, but one study did find that people who drank apple cider vinegar daily lost a couple of pounds versus those who didn’t (both groups had a similar diet). The researchers suggest that vinegar may affect certain genes involved in breaking down fats thus improving digestion – which ultimately could lead to weight loss.

Blood Sugar

While apple cider vinegar most likely isn’t the weight loss magic bullet, it does appear to help with blood sugar control. Arizona State University’s Nutrition Program Director, Carol Johnston, PhD has been studying apple cider vinegar for years and believes it can have pronounced affects on blood sugar. Johnston says that the vinegar prevents at least some dietary starches from being digested and thus raising blood sugar.  It’s still advisable to focus on your overall diet if you have or want to prevent blood sugar issues – but adding ACV on salads might help too!


Vinegar is known to help kill pathogens, including bacteria and ACV has traditionally (not confirmed by research) been used for cleaning and disinfecting, treating nail fungus, lice, warts and ear infections. It’s even said that Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used vinegar for wound cleaning over two thousand years ago. Because vinegar is acidic, it has been used as a food preservative, and studies show that it inhibits bacteria from growing in the food and spoiling it.

Great Flavor Enhancer

ACV should be consumed! Use it in your food – from dressings, to dips, apple cider vinegar can be a great flavor addition to many dishes. Try alternating balsamic for apple cider vinegar to change the flavor and add more variety to your diet.  Add a punch to a fish dish with a splash of ACV on top!

Home Cleaning

If you don’t mind the smell, or are sensitive to chemicals try using ACV to clean your home. A mix of 1 part ACV and 9 parts water will clean just about any surface. It’s easiest if transferred to a spray bottle. You can also pour full strength ACV into the toilet, bath, babies tub, etc. and leave overnight.  Some appliances (coffee makers, etc.) can be descaled with ACV as well.