Thursday, September 29, 2011

Understanding Organic Food Labels

I was walking around the local grocery store picking up some odds and ends and I stopped at the applesauce - one of Ellery's favorites. I got looking at the organic applesauce verse the natural applesauce, primarily because the natural one was on sale. But I immediately start thinking "buy the organic - apples are on the dirty dozen list", but at the same time I am thinking, "seriously what is the difference between made with organic, organic, natural, etc." All of these labels have marketing written all over it. And trust me, I spent 10 years marketing, so I get it. Well, I did a little digging around and found out some interesting information on this topic. Here is the short of the long of it.

"Organic" - Products must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients and will carry the USDA seal on the package "Made With Organic Ingredients" - Products consist of at least 70% organic ingredients and must follow the USDA production standards. The USDA label can not be used on the packaging.

"Some Organic" - Any products that have 70% or less organic products, can not use the word organic in their packing, but they can call out the organic ingredients used on the ingredient list

To me this is hands down the most confusing. Packages that state "Natural", "100% Natural, and "All Natural Ingredients" is actually misleading because it isn't unregulated by the USDA unless it is meat or poultry according to the Food Marketing Institute.

The term "Natural" applies broadly to foods that are minimally processed and free of synthetic preservatives; artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and other artificial additives; hydrogenated oils; stabilizers; and emulsifiers. Most food labeled natural are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and heath codes that apply to all foods. So the term natural is loosely used.

Even though the USDA regulates the term "natural" with meat that only means the meat doesn't contain artificial ingredients or added color and is minimally processed - it has nothing to do with how the animal was raised. Minimally processed means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed"). Animals can be given hormones and antibiotics, except poultry - FDA regulates that one, and still claim "Natural" on the label. So if you can't find organic meats, look for labels that say "raised without the use of hormones and antibiotics"

All in all, "Natural" really doesn't mean much more than the product doesn't have added preservatives and isn't regulated. If you want to know for sure you are buying natural food, stick with products that have the USDA seal of approval on it - or look very closely at the ingredient label!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Babies That Read - Hype or Hoopla?

Have you heard of the program "Your Baby Can Read"? One of my best friends told me about this when my daughter was two months old. I thought, sure why not, I will give the program a whirl. I watched the infomercials and YouTube videos of babies reading and remember thinking "really?". So, I bought the program and started Ellery on it when she was three months old.  She watched one video for about a month, two times a day, with a total of five videos in seven months. At ten months old, she could recognize the words and point to the correct word.

The videos taught her basic words like: Hi - Car - Animals - Pets, and classic children's songs like the Itsy Bitsy Spider and Row Row Row Your Boat. Then before Ellery went to bed, we  read her favorite children's books (and still do) along and one of her program's book which reviewed the words from the video. If anything she seemed to really like it, but can you call this reading?

The Today show did an investigative report on this in November 2010 and the top University's all agree this isn't reading, but rather memorization. You are shown the same words over and over again and before you know they are recognizing the words and even "reading" them. This is exactly what my daughter did and by twelve to thirteen months when her vocabulary really kicked in she was actually "reading" the words to us.

I do have to agree with the Universities. This is memorization rather than reading because there is no phonics involved. But, I do think the program helped Ellery accelerate her learning and understanding of concepts faster.  I can't prove that since this might just be who she is, with or without  my help or any program. But, I do know she can tell you almost every part of the body (taught to her by the program), count up to ten (that's me), and talk mini sentences "Come On", "Down Please" "Just a minute" (my short phrases around the house)- by 14 months.

Only time will tell if this program will prove to be a valuable reading foundation for the future until then we continue to read her favorite children's books everyday because she loves them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"The" Reference Book To Help Parents Raise Naturally Healthy Kids - A Must Buy!!

How many of you have had a sick baby? Or better yet a sick baby along with sick older siblings and you too? Not much fun, I know! Now, I can't tell you how raise your kids in a germ-free bubble, but I can share with you an amazing resource I found that teaches you how to keep kids healthy before they get sick and what to do naturally if your child does get sick. This is especially important now that school is back in session and our little ones are back to sharing germs!!

So about six months ago, I stumbled upon a book that changed the way I cared for Ellery when she got sick. Now mind you, she is only 14 months old and I have always been reluctant to use homeopathic remedies on her because I wasn't sure what her reaction would be, so I trusted my MD. And, as much as I love my MD, he eventually just gave her antibiotics, after antibiotics and I needed that to change. I am not an MD by any stretch but from what I have read and researched your body can create an immunity to antibiotics if taken regularly and your body suppresses the illness making you more susceptible to get sick again. That is what happened to us, for five months straight. Every month around the same time Ellery got a cold and without fail it turned into an ear infection - like clockwork, amazing!

But that all changed after I bought the book Your Vital Child, A Natural Healing Guide for Caring Parents by Mark and Angela Stengler. After I bought it, Ellery had two more colds. I used some the recommended remedies and both colds remained a cold with NO ear infections. VICTORIOUS!! So if you ask me this is a must buy for any parent and you can snag one at for $2.50 - used of course. I can't help that Ellery picks up germs but I can sure help her body heal when she does. 

Disclaimer: Always consult your homeopathic practitioner or MD before giving your child herbs or medications.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Produce Worth Buying Organic - The Dirty Dozen

Did you know there are certain fruits and veggies grown in heavy pesticides and others not so much? When I first got my hands on the list of heavily treated produce I was bummed because it was all of my family's favorite foods and at the time I wasn't buying it organic. To me produce was produce and I just bought whatever. But that all changed...

So here is the deal; the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research organization, did a study researching the level of pesticides used to raise conventionally grown produce. They found there are 12 foods, known as the Dirty Dozen, grown with the highest level of pesticides - resulting in high exposure for those who ate these fruits and vegetables. They reported that you could cut down on your pesticide exposure by 90% if you ate fruits and veggies using minimal pesticides rather than eating the Dirty Dozen. Did I mention that the Dirty Dozen are hands down my family's favorite produce, so that was not going to happen. So I made the decision to buy these items organically to avoid the "high level" pesticide exposure. But I say that lightly, because I am well aware that even farmers of organic produce are allowed to spray their crops with natural pesticides, but to me a little is better than a lot. Here is the list that changed the way I shopped for produce:

"DIRTY DOZEN" - Buy This Produce Organic!

1. Apples
2. Strawberries
3. Peaches
4. Grapes (imported)
5. Nectarines
6. Blueberries (domestic)
7. Celery
8. Spinach
9. Sweet Bell Peppers
10. Greens (Kale and Collards)
11. Lettuce
12. Potatoes

The EWG also states "Eat your fruits and veggies even if you don't buy it organically;  the benefits outweigh the pesticide exposure."

"CLEAN 15 "  - Buy Non Organic, if you want!
Based on the EWG's research the "Clean 15" are fruits and veggies grown with the least amount of pesticide influence. Here they are:

1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Asparagus
4. Sweet Peas
5. Eggplant
6. Cabbage
7. Sweet Potatoes
8. Mushrooms
9. Pineapples
10. Avocados
11. Mangoes
12. Cantaloupe (domestic)
13. Kiwi
14. Watermelon
15. Grapefruit

No Matter What (Organic or Non-Organic)- Clean Your Fruits and Veggies

Regardless if you buy organic or non organic produce, do yourself a quick favor and clean it. Because no matter what that produce has been picked by someone (hopefully not picking their nose at the same time), boxed, shipped, unpacked, placed on the grocery shelf, and possibly even subjected to abuse from a couple of kids roaming the grocery store living out their dream of being jugglers while their mother shops. So again, give it a wash. We use something that can be purchased at your local health food store: Veggie Wash. It's all natural and removes dirt, soil and wax using organic citrus.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What's Really In Your Care Products - Shampoo, Lotion, ETC.

Here is the nice thing, the FDA requires all food and care product companies to list their ingredients on the outside of the package. But, do you have any idea what they are? Heck, I can't even pronounce some of the ingredients with their 26 letters looking way too Latin for my brain to handle. Does that sound familiar to anyone else? Boy, I hope so, otherwise I am feeling really silly right now.

Well for people who are like me, and have no idea what some or all of the ingredients are in their products, check out The Cosmetic Database. This is an amazing tool that tells you how hazardous (or not) a product is for you and for your children.

This is how it works:
First, The Cosmetic Database ranks the product on an overall score 0-10. The lower the number the better! Then each ingredient is ranked based on the same scale and describes the reason the ingredient has that rating.

For this article purpose, I evaluated Ellery's Aveeno Eczema lotion - which got a FOUR! I am not happy about this at all. When I found out her lotion was a whopping four, I wanted to know why. I clicked on the product and found that there were a handful of "bad" ingredients, ranking as high as six, outweighing the other 10 good ingredients.  The bad ingredients where ranked high because of their toxicity to the body. Here is what the database had to say about a couple of the top "bad" ingredients:

"STEARETH-20 - Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Ecotoxicology, Data gaps, Contamination concerns (ETHYLENE OXIDE, 1,4-DIOXANE), Use restrictions"

"BENZALKONIUM CHLORIDE - Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Use restrictions"

Time to get back to the drawing board and find her another product to use!!

Definitely take a look at this database; it's a great tool! The only downfall is it doesn't list every product available on the market, but it has a lot. Have fun digging around - it's addicting!!