Tag Archives: food

Fair Trade

What Is Fair Trade Certified?

Organic Natural Green Living

 

 

 

 

What is Fair Trade Certified?

Just the other day I was in my local organic grocery store, taking up space in the coffee/tea aisle, trying to figure out which coffee I was going to purchase.  I had read October was Fair Trade Month, so instead of grabbing my usual ground, I decided to read some labels. I saw the Fair Trade USA label several times.

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade USA  (image by Wikipedia)

First of all, an entire section of tea was distracting me.  Pumpkin Spice tea?  Apple Cider tea?   No, coffee.  I needed to focus on the coffee.  There was not as much coffee as there was tea, but the tea section was definitely more shiny and sparkly.  All those boxes and canisters with pretty pictures of flowers and herbs with stunning colors…the bags of coffee weren’t as lavishly decorated, but many of the brands I was staring at had Fair Trade labels on them.  Initially I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention, I am more than aware of green-washing and to be honest, third-party certification doesn’t sell me, any more than products calling themselves “natural” when a quick glance at the ingredient list says otherwise.  Or using that pretty, soft sage-green color to lead us to believe that product is natural and healthy.

What Is Fair Trade Certified

What Is Fair Trade Certified

“The Fair Trade Certified label helps you make choices, with the confidence that your product is socially and environmentally sustainable. While best known for coffee, Fair Trade Certified has grown to encompass many products, from tea to chocolate to body care to wine. Choose Fair Trade products to vote with your dollars and make Every Purchase Matter.”

Click through for a full list of Fair Trade Certified Products.

I digress.  This isn’t about design, this is about the choice I was about to make regarding my coffee:  did I want to take home a pound of coffee that was tended to and harvested by workers who were no better than slaves, who worked insane hours for little money in return, who didn’t have the resources for medical care and education, on a land that was heavily fertilized by toxins and clear cut of trees to make room for some coffee plants?  Who suffered day in and day out so I could have a cup of coffee?

See, these things matter to me.  I don’t want the pleasure I get from a delicious cup of coffee hampered by the fact the bean came from a farm which took the place of a forest.  The thought of someone suffering hardships so I can have a cup of coffee doesn’t sit well.  It is not an idea that is difficult to imagine, one only has to look at our own history before the Civil War  to realize what the fair trade marketing concept is trying to accomplish.  In the USA, slavery was made illegal with the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment.  Other countries are not so lucky, there are still workers out there, harvesting ingredients for items we use every day and not getting paid for their work, they live in horrible conditions, they are exposed to toxins and pesticides, the list goes on.  We cannot lose our humanity in the food we consume.

Visit Fair Trade USA for updates and events, as well as their list of Fair Trade Licensed Partners and check out and share this video that does a nice job of explaining the benefits of Fair Trade Certified products.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7K4G5-ydhS0]

 

The Fair Trade Coffee I found?  Caffe Umbria’s Terra Sana Blend.

 

 

 

 

Community Supported Agriculture

Organic Natural Green Living

 

A Closer Look at Community Supported Agriculture

Today nearly everyone is looking for new ways to eat better.  Between busy schedules, fast food restaurants, and junk food at the checkout, there are endless temptations to eat badly.

How about a temptation to eat better?  My favorite is Community Supported Agriculture.

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA for short, is an arrangement between subscribers (also called members) and a local farm.  The members join for a season and make a monetary payment in exchange for a share of the harvest.  Typically you receive a weekly box, delivered locally, often to another member’s garage.  CSA members share in the risks and benefits of the harvest.  This means that in a good year there may be additional bundles of corn while in a bad year, corn may be absent–but there may be extra cauliflower.

Your Community Supported Agriculture Dollars at Work

Community Supported Agriculture

Rare Earth Farm ~ Belgium, WI

 

CSA’s typically offer good value for your food dollar and the foods are often grown without chemical pesticides.  By “eating local” you help the local economy, support family farms, and reduce the impact of packaging and shipping cross country.   And you get some really fresh, amazing food.

One of the surprising advantages of joining a CSA is that it is a commitment.  With one burst of resolve you sign up–and are in it for the season.  Since you have already paid for a weekly box of vegetables, you are more likely to eat them.  And let’s be honest, if you have a bad week at work, you are going to need something more motivating that a simple commitment to eat better.  Sounds challenging, but  the (really fresh) produce is so beautiful, it feels like you are getting a weekly present.

Community Supported Agriculture

Home Canned CSA Produce

 

Beyond the food itself, joining a CSA may offer additional benefits.   Often there is a newsletter with healthy recipe suggestions and connections to other providers like grass fed beef producers.  There may also be farm events like canning classes or member parties, where your kids can see a real, live chicken.  I’ve had a great time and gotten delicious recipes at my CSAs annual harvest party.

Most CSAs are getting ready for the new season and signing up members now.  If you are serious about eating better, this is one of the best commitments you can make.  To find one near you, check out the Local Harvest website.

Let Us Know About Your Experiences with Community Supported Agriculture!

The Eatery: Restaurant Review

It’s Sunday night in NYC. We had been going nonstop for 4.5 days. I’m talking 4 hours of sleep a night NONSTOP.

We were sitting in Jyl’s of Mom It Forward room with Rachel and Breanne – Today’s Mama – who were devastated after missing their flight. Thank you JFK and the Dominican Parade. And we were hungry.

Jyl called down to the concierge to get restaurant suggestions. We said the restaurant had to be close to the hotel – The Hilton –  and we wanted some good comfort food, please.

The restaurant we were sent to was The Eatery. We happily chatted as we walked the 5 or 6 block to our dinning destination, on arrival we were relieved to find there was no wait. Our server patiently revisited our table a few times before we decided what to order.  You know… we all had to check in with whrrl, foursquare and foodspotting before we could even look at the menu.  Yeah… we’re that cool.

Contemporary Comfort Food

BTW – the atmosphere in the restaurant was perfect – right down to the “pringle shaped” light sconces that lined the wall.  Very contemporary and chic without being cold and unwelcoming.

I had been eyeballing the White Cheddar Meatloaf with Beer Batter Onion Rings until Jyl got word that they had the best Mac N Cheese in NYC, that was all I needed to push me over the edge.  Now I haven’t eaten every other mac n cheese in the city, but their “Mac and Jack” was up there.  Especially when you bite into the yummy crusty dark brown edge – which I almost neglected to do.  Heaven.

Mack And Jack

Jyl ordered the hummus – Diva note: served with whole wheat pita!  Then we shared an Organic Baby Spinach Salad with goat cheese, beats, and pickled pear.  Yum.  Jyl swears it was the best salad she’s ever eaten in her life.  I was excited that it was organic, green and would soak up some of the saturated fat from my calorie laden choice.

Jyl's Favorite Salad - Ever

Rachel ordered the Edamame – which we all ate.  They were fresh and salted just right.  Followed by the Eggless Chicken Ceasar salad – which she enjoyed in between bites of my Mack and Jack.

The one dish that fell a little flat seemed to be the Pan Seared Sea Scallop served with Asparagus Risotto & Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette.  To be fair, I didn’t try the Scallop, but did take a bite of the risotto, which just felt like it was missing something… when the others swirled it in the vinaigrette it improved the story for them… not so much for this diva.

Stuffed we skipped desert and rolled ourselves back to the hotel, where we left Jyl to run off with her husband.  Rachel and Breanne moved in with me for the night – we had a great slumber party and I’m happy to report they made their plane the next day!

I’m so glad to have spent this time with these amazing women, it was definitely a highlight.  The food was great, the conversation better and my favorite part was all the hands flying back and forth across the table – stealing nibbles… I mean bites –  and truly “sharing” our meal with one another.

This evening was the perfect closing meal for an unbelievable New York City whirlwind!

Natural First Finger Foods for Infants

When it comes to babies first foods, Gerber is not your only option.  There are many simple choices available.  Look for foods that have as little processing as possible.  The closer it is to it’s original form – the better it is for your baby.
General Mills Cheerios has become is the standard go to first food.  It’s in diaper bags around the country and while it’s fine – I know there are even better options out there.
Whenever possible – Buy Organic.
We are talking about our babies – their systems are just starting to develop and whenever possible avoid exposing your baby to possible pesticides and select organics for your baby.
During the finger food stage of feeding your little one my favorites are (Organic):
Puffed Wheat
Puffed Kamut (related to wheat) – larger and easier for little hands to grasp
Puffed Brown Rice
Puffed Corn
Brown Rice Cakes – Unsalted
* Don’t forget the fruits and vegetables.  You can cook and chop into small pieces any vegetable or non soft fruit that you might feed them at meal time.
With baby food – making your own is inexpensive and easier than you think, but you’ll be able to purchase many ready made options at Whole Foods.
For on the go snacks and a treat in our house my kids like freeze dried fruit:
Trader Joe’s carries a variety, bananas, mango, lychee.
Brother’s All Natural Fuji Apple Crisps – these are freeze dried apples with no additives or preservatives.  They are not organic, but I haven’t found this product yet from an organic source.
I hope  you found  some ideas that might work for you!
Look for coming post on making your own organic baby foods!
This advice is not to be used in place of the advice from your pediatrician!  Be sure to consult with your ped regarding how to proceed with your babies first foods!

Mercury – Why Avoid It?

Why should we be concerned about mercury exposure?

It may seem like an odd question… We keep seeing it in the news, hearing it in our doctor’s offices, but one day I stopped and asked myself, why is it important to avoid mercury?  I did some research and this was the best explanation I came up with:

The nervous system is very sensitive to all forms of mercury.  Methylmercury and metallic mercury vapors are more harmful than other forms, because more mercury in these forms reaches the brain.

Exposure to high levels of metallic, inorganic, or organic mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. Effects on brain functioning may result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems.

From the ATSDR – Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry:
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts46.html#bookmark05

And the EWG says this:
Mercury can damage the neurological development of fetuses and infants. Recent studies have suggested that mercury may also pose a health risk for adults, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

More Vegetables Please? Getting Your Kids to Eat Vegetables


It's All In How You Dice It


Do you dream that your children – or in my case husband – will ask this question at the dinner table?

You’re not alone – It’s just a dream in my home too! Do you know that ideally we would consume 9 – 1/2 cup servings of fruits and vegetables a day and should have no less than 5! Some of my friends seem mystified by how many vegetables my children eat, so I’m giving away my secret.

Many people are familiar with hiding puree’s in your food. I do use this technique, but need it less and less as my children eat their vegetables without me having to hide them.

My secret is diced mixed vegetables. Every week I dice up a giant dish full of mixed vegetables – this mix typically contains onions, red pepper, green pepper, zucchini, and celery. Sometimes I will add grated carrot or diced yellow squash. Really you can add almost anything.

Once you have this mix – add it to everything you cook that week at the end of 5-7 days cook up whatever is left and put it in the freezer for use on a day when you are out of the fresh mix.

We use this mix to up the veggie count in spaghetti sauce (1/2 vegetable and 1/2 meat), shepherd’s pie, tuna noodle casseroles and other comfort foods. I put it in mac & cheese, quesidilla, enchilladas, burritos, rice pilaf, soups, ready made spaghetti sauces (my kids never met a noodle they didn’t love!) and eggs. Basically if I’m cooking – there are mixed vegetables going in.

Once the mixed vegetables are in, I also add chopped frozen spinach to most dishes and other vegetables that are part of the dish. For example, in our home peas are part of shepherd’s pie and tuna casserole.

It’s also a good idea to add flax meal to any dish that will hide it’s dark color, 1-2 tablespoons in the sauce. A tablespoon in the pancakes or french toast egg mix. You won’t taste it, but you will amp up the nutritional value.

So there you have it. You are hiding vegetables, but they still know they are there.

Some of you may find your eaters pick around the vegetables (I’m OK with this, they can’t get them all) and in my experience they will eventually give up with most dishes. My daughter used to pick around the vegetables in spaghetti sauce and after enough nights of “you can’t have more noodles until you eat the sauce”… the sauce is now eaten with the noodles.

We just need to be more persistent and consistent than they are.



All Diced Up


Fruits and Vegetables May Be Taking a Bath In Toxic Chemical

It keeps getting scarier to eat!

It seems more and more important that we stay informed, get involved, buy local produce whenever possible from the farmers and wash, wash, wash what you buy from the market!

The Short Version:

Fruits and vegetables are packed on pallets for shipping, turns out the industry is moving towards using more plastic pallets, turns out a bunch of these pallets contain Deca a chemical linked to Cancer, Brain and Reproductive Disorders in animal studies.


Wooden Pallets


What is Deca?
Deca is a Flame Retardant that is added to plastics to prevent them from catching fire at high heats.

Question:  How does the Deca get from the pallets onto our fruits and vegetables?
In preparation for shipping produce is hydro-cooled. Stacks of pallets containing produce are submerged in supercooled water, or have water dripped on top. The water is then recycled, raising the concentration of Deca in the water and increasing the likelihood of contamination.

General Mills, Borders Melon Company, PepsiCo, Cott, Okray Family Farmsand Martoni Farm are currently using plastic pallets. While Dole Foods and Kraft Foods are considering making the switch.

By the way, over 40% of the deca used globally is used in the US!

As a result of public health concerns officials in Maine and Washington State have restricted the use of Deca and 10 other states are proposing bans this year.

Canadian and European officials have banned the use of Deca in electronics. It seems clear that Deca should come nowhere near our food supply and yet, at the moment, it is much too close for my comfort.

This is summarized from an EWG report on another potential contamination of our food supply. Click to read their full report.

Image courtesy of Wahig.

Use Less Plastic in Your Home: Diva Guide





With plastics plastered all over the news I am working harder than ever to reduce plastic use in our home.

I thought I’d share some techniques that work for me in our home.

Use glass containers for food storage:
My favorite way to store leftover foods in my fridge is the 6 Cup Rectangular Pyrex dishes with blue lids – we have 8-10 of these and I love this system.

  • Leftovers always look good.
  • They are the perfect size, not to big, not too small.
  • They stack nicely – so things look organized.
  • They are clear so you can see what is inside them and you are more likely to remember what you have and finish it off.
  • They can go in the freezer, oven or microwave.
  • They can go from fridge to table for casual dinner service.

Insied the Diva Refridgerator

Additionally
  • We use a round pyrex 10 cup bowl (with lid) to keep ready made salad in our fridge. The salad stays fresh for much longer in this bowl. Prepare your salad – leaving out anything mushy (in our house that’s tomatoes). I’ll often chop a few days of extra salad fixin’s, throw them in the bowl. The next day or two, all I have to do is add more (organic)mixed greens – Salad is done.
  • I have a stack of 8-10 custard cups (a few with lids too). These are great for reheating small servings of food – they were perfect for warming baby food too.
Reduce plastics at your point of purchase:

When shopping, make glass packaging a criteria – you’ve been there. You’re at the store, you’ve studied the label. You are trying to figure out which product is the best choice – all things being equal – pick glass.

For example – not too long ago I was trying to decide between Ralph’s Brand and French’s Brand Worcestershire Sauce -the only 2 brands of Worcestershire I’ve found without HFCS (this is really my life). They still had a few unknown ingredients – but they seemed to be relatively equal. One in glass, one in plastic. I chose the French’s – it was in glass.

There are now many products that I routinely purchase in glass, Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, dressing, tomato sauce and such. Some things may be prohibitive to your budget (for most families I’m guessing Milk), but if you look you’ll find you have a choice more than you realize.

Re-Use the Glass:

I’m gearing up to start making my own beans (to avoid the can), so I’m saving all these glass jars and lids. Soon I will have enough to get cooking – in the meantime they fill in as food storage when I’m out of pyrex.

I keep the salad dressing bottles, they are good for storing homemade fruit or berry pancakes syrups & I have visions of making salad dressing… one day soon. Help me Martha!

There you have it. A few simple ways we are using less plastic in our home.

What’s working for you?

Vapour Organic Siren Lipstick: Diva Review

Vapour Beauty is a New Mexico based company that joined forces with renowned make-up artist Erik Sakas.  They created a line of organic beauty products that is made using food grade organic ingredients.

Vapours shares many of the values that we embrace here at PND.  Acknowledging that as our largest organ; care should be taken with what we put on our skin.  Topically applied products will be absorbed into our bodies!  Adding toxins and chemicals will unduly burden our system, contributing to illness and disease.

They recently sent me a sample of their Siren Lipstick to review.

With a Diva Total of 14.8 out of 15 points this product is: Divaliscious!

Lipstick made with Food Grade Ingredients!

Click here for review criteria:

8 Points for Skin Deep Low Hazard Rating of 1 – Excellent!
It should be noted that PND input the product ingredients and one item was not found in their database.

2 Points for being Organic – 95% organic content

2 Points for effectiveness – I was concerned that it wouldn’t have very good staying power and while it may not rival those in the extended wear lipstick category it’s certainly surprised me.  It nicely made it through lunch with the girls.  I also enjoyed the conditioning properties in the lipstick.  These days most lipsticks feel very drying on my skin, but the Siren felt hydrating.

1 Point for Texture – The texture of their lipstick was really nice, not sticky or heavy.

1 Point for Fragrance –  The fragrance is delicate and just a little fruity.

.4 Points for Packaging Appearance – Their lipstick comes in a tube and twirls out, much like chapstick.  Part of me missed the conventional twirl out of a more traditional lipstick.  However, when Lil’ Diva got her hands on the tube and I was able to “save” the tube by compacting all the lipstick back together again, I was VERY grateful!

.4 Points for Packaging Sustainability – Vapour uses wind power for all of their manufacturing.  Packaging is either recyclable or made from recycled materials.  We’d love to see all packaging made from post consumer materials, but they’ve made some great choices and hopefully will strive toward that goal.

Overall:

Vapour delivers a high quality organic lipstick using food grade ingredients.  This is fantastic because we wear it on our lips which means we’ll likely be ingesting a little of it!

Siren lipstick is available in 5 colors, desire, hint, knockout, ravish and tempt and retails for $19.

Ready to try Vapor for yourself… find it on www.ShopNBC.com and www.VapourBeauty.com.

Healthy Food For Children: Sell It in Your Home!

The major food manufacturer’s have been marketing food to kids forever.

It may take a little extra effort, but the fact is we can have greater success if we steal a few techniques from the marketing pros. Studies have shown that children will choose a “branded” banana over a plain one.  It’s all in how you sell it!

Serving sizes

Children don’t have a great sense proportion and portion sizes. As parents we can use this to our advantage.
tutorial4 wWhen serving treats, placing them on a small plate, will make the treat seem bigger and they will think they have a bigger piece.

When serving healthier choices giving them a larger serving may work in your favor. Serving a sizable stack of green beans and having them eat four or five might get them to eat more than if you only give them only four or five beans to start out with.

These same principles work with beverages.

Typically you will want your children to drink a good amount of water – serving it in a large glass – say 12oz. They won’t finish it all, but if they drink half of it it’s still a nice quantity. My two each have a stainless steel water bottle they drink from throughout the day and I refill it as needed.

Juice is a special treat in our home, but if you are a juice family serving the juice in a smaller tall glass they will feel like they’ve had more than a shorter fat glass, when in fact the actual oz will be fewer.

Serving veggies you can get payoff for being creative. In our home I’ve found that food often goes over better if I give it a fun name:

Sweet Potato Circles
Cucumber Spears or Cucumber Squares
Dragon Tails – Asparagus
Frog Feet – Broccoli Stems
Broccoli – Magic Forest

Almond Butter

Almond Butter has more nutrients and healthier oils than peanut butter. It’s also allowed in many schools that don’t allow peanuts. My children like both and it’s nice to have the options for variety. In our home the children can choose between the two, but if they choose almond butter then they can have it with fruit juice sweetened raspberry preserves. So almond butter is often the winner. Getting your child to eat alternatives like this is usually a matter of introducing it to them early.

Inspiration!

In searching for fun ways to entice children to eat more fruits and vegetables and to fuel my creative juices (it’s hard not to get stuck in a rut!) I found Sheri, a mom from New York who does amazing things with her lunchboxes.  She sends  her 3 children to lunch with stunning Bento Boxes.

Little Diva drooled over Sheri’s amazing pictures, she wanted to try everything!

Bento Boxes are s a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine.

Sheri has agreed to share her ideas here at PND and I hope that our readers are inspired her work. Let her ideas inspire you and reach  out of your own comfort zone to create better health for your family.