Friday, July 30, 2010

Lunch update - test week completed

The test week of primal lunches for the children has gone better than I expected.  Most days the children ate most of their lunch and seemed to enjoy it.  Today Hannah did not eat all of her lunch.  She just wasn't hungry after her snack at Vacation Bible Church this morning.  I served turkey rollups, carrot sticks, and nectarines.  We are officially out of 'test' mode but will continue to eat healthy primal lunches the majority of the time.

I did not post a lunch update yesterday because we were out of town attending a funeral.  The kids made memories visiting with a great-grandmother regardless of what type of food was served.

The Story of Cosmetics

Check out this video.    It does a great job explaining the chemicals in cosmetics.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Paleo lasagna

I created this dish one night when I was craving lasagna.  My family likes it better than "regular" lasagna. Both kids gobble it up. 

1 lb. ground buffalo (you can substitute any ground or diced meat)
1 onion, chopped
olive oil
5  medium zucchini, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
italian seasoning
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1.5 cups mozzarella cheese

1.  Brown the buffalo with the chopped onion.
2.  In another pan, heat the olive oil and garlic.  Sauté the zucchini and carrots until they are tender.
3. In a separate pot, combine the tomatoes and the italian seasoning. Heat until bubbly.
4.  Spread some of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an oven-proof baking dish.
5.  Alternate layers of ingredients (veggies, buffalo, dollops of ricotta cheese, sauce) in any fashion you like.
6. Top with the mozzarella cheese.
7. Cover and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Remove the cover and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lunch update - day 3

Today the kids didn't seem very hungry.  In retrospect I should have just served a nibble tray to last them through the afternoon.  I made turkey burgers (without the bun of course), carrot sticks, and berries.  Ben ate all of his burger and Hannah ate a few bites of burger and a few strawberries.    I'm going to save their plates and they can finish their lunch for snack later.

Farmer's market finds

We found such amazing deals at the farmer's market this week!  Paul and I had talked about freezing some summer produce if we found any great deals but were not prepared for the large amount of fruits and veggies we found.  We bought over 70 lbs of fruits and vegetables!

Tomatoes were $10 for a 25 lb. box.

Peaches were $25 for a 25 lb. box.

Bell peppers were $5 for a box that weighed in at 17lbs.  That is about 40 bell peppers!

This 67 lbs of yumminess was destined for our freezer.  We also bought sweet potatoes, nectarines, onions, grape tomatoes, and zucchini to eat this week.  We had a hard time getting it all to the van!  We had to make multiple trips with the stroller loaded down.

Once we got home I got right to work processing the food.  The bell peppers were very easy.  I just washed and dried them, diced and sliced, flash froze, and put into freezer bags.  I diced and sliced them so I have options when cooking. The diced peppers can go in casseroles and omelettes while the sliced peppers will be perfect for stir fries.

The peaches were pretty easy too.  I wanted peaches in every form possible so I decided to freeze some and dehydrate some.  First I washed and peeled the fruit.  Then I removed the pit (buying freestone peaches makes this easier) and started slicing.  Sliced peaches were dipped in orange juice and laid on a baking sheet to freeze. The o.j. helps retain the "normal" peach color.  I also pureed some peaches and froze in ice cube trays to add to iced tea.  Finally, I pulled out the dehydrator.  I diced the peaches and laid them on the trays.  I also put a bit of leftover pureed peaches on a tray to make peach fruit rollups.

The tomatoes were a bit more time consuming.  I washed them and peeled them.  To peel them, cut a little 'x' on the bottom and drop into boiling water for 1 minute and then plunge into ice water to halt the cooking process.  Then you can rub the peel off with your hands.  I decided to make some a lot of tomato sauce.  I didn't really follow a recipe, just winged it.  Hopefully it comes out okay.  Has anyone ever made sauce from fresh tomatoes?  It takes a long time to simmer - like 4-5 hours!

It is a little crazy how happy this freezer full of summer yumminess makes me!  I just love saving time and money while feeding my family healthy meals.  A little time in the kitchen now will save me a lot of time later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lunch update - day 2

We had another fantastic lunch today!  I served scrambled eggs, bacon, strawberries, and grape tomatoes.  The kids ate everything except the tomatoes.  I'll take as success.

Children and Food Coloring

Artificial food coloring and I do not get along.  Or rather, Hannah and artificial food coloring do not get along.  If she eats something with food dye it only takes a few hours before she starts bouncing off the walls, fidgeting constantly, and talking back.  This is not normal behavior for Hannah. 

Hannah isn't the only child that reacts this way to artificial food coloring.  Research has been conducted since the 70's that shows that food dyes cause hyperactivity, allergic reactions, and cancer.  Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are the three most widely used dyes.  According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest they are also carcinogens.  The FDA even admits that Red 3 is a carcinogen.  I guess they just don't care.  Or are afraid of the food manufacturers.  Either way, it is still legal.

Last week Britain began requiring warning labels on foods containing food coloring, much the way that cigarette's require labelling in the United States.  The label states "May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children".  Companies do not want to place the warning label on their products so they are changing their recipes.  For example, a McDonald's strawberry sundae sold in America contains red food coloring.  In Britain the sundae is colored with actual strawberries.

If American companies can manufacture foods without food coloring for other countries why are they still selling inferior products here?

15 million pounds of food colorings are added to products every single year.  Dyes do not add any nutritional value or improve food safety.  Their sole purpose is marketting. 

I really try to keep artificial food colorings out of my house.  Hannah can't tolerate them and, honestly, they aren't worth the potential health risks.  The problem is when we are out and about.  We were at a party this past weekend and Hannah was offered a yogurt.  All the other kids were eating this dye-filled yogurt and Hannah really wanted one.  I let Hannah eat it because I didn't want her to feel excluded but I really struggled with the decision.  We all paid the price the next day when Hannah could not control herself.  I hope that at some point she makes the connection between certain foods and that out of control feeling.  The FDA needs to ban food coloring so that NO child is exposed to these horrible chemicals.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lunch update - day 1

Today for lunch we had mini-meatballs, slices of mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce for dipping, and fresh peaches.  Hannah and Ben gobbled it up!  Yay!

I think today's success was due to:
1)  Hannah spent all morning at Vacation Church School and was definitely hungry when she got home.
2)  I gave the kids toothpicks to eat their mini-meatballs.  I guess that makes it a bit more fun.

This lunch took longer to prepare than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but it was worth it.  I made the sauce last night and put some in the freezer for future use.  The mini-meatballs were made while Hannah was at church and just heated up when we got home.  Peaches are apparently Hannah's favorite fruit this week so I expect to be serving them a lot in the near future.

Hopefully tomorrow's lunch will be a hit too!

Lunchtime changes

Last week during a dinner of turkey burgers and sweet potato fries Hannah asked if I would make that for her every night.  I saw my opportunity and replied that I would be happy to make it for her everyday for lunch if she would give up the daily pb&j.

This is a huge step for Hannah.  Hannah LOVES bread and pasta.  I think her idea of a perfect day is toast for breakfast, pb&j for lunch, and macaroni and cheese for dinner.  Obviously this is not my idea of a perfect day.  I'm so happy that she is becoming more open to the possibility of no (or at least limited) bread/pasta.

I plan to make pretty much any paleo meal she wants this week for lunch.  She has already requested turkey burgers so that will definitely be on the menu at least once.  I am also planning mini meatballs, tuna, eggs & bacon.  I'll let Hannah have a good bit of control over the lunch menu so hopefully she will eat!

This week I will post twice a day.  The morning will be a "regular" post on exciting topics such as food colorings and marketing to children.  The evening post will be an update to our new lunch situation.

Wish us luck!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Question of the week

How do your kids help in the kitchen?

Please post a comment telling how your children help you get dinner (or food in general) on the table.  All ideas welcome!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cloth diapers

When Benjamin was about 5 months old we decided to do diapers the old fashioned way.  We stopped buying Pampers and started stocking up on prefolds and pocket diapers.  I admit that we were not excited about the change.  At all.  We did it purely for Benjamin's health and comfort.  For the previous few months (a.k.a. the majority of his life) he had a horrible case of diaper rash that wouldn't clear up.  We tried over the counter rash creams.  We tried medication for athlete's foot (recommended by his pediatrician).  We even spent almost $300 on a prescription diaper rash cream!  Nothing worked.  I felt so sorry for him. 

When the crazy expensive rash cream didn't work I knew we needed a different plan of attack.  We couldn't merely treat the rash, we had to remove the source of irritation.  In this case, the diapers.

Some people are able to use elimination communication to avoid using diapers but I had serious doubts about my ability to pull that off.  The next best thing was to use cloth diapers.  I am lucky enough to have a good friend who is a cloth diaper expert (she cloth diapered all three of her kids!).  She and I talked at legnth about what type of cloth diapers would be right for us.  I decided to primarily use prefolds and covers with the occasional pocket diaper.  I placed my order with and anxiously waited for my delivery.  I was so ready to get rid of Ben's diaper rash!  As soon as my diapers arrived and were prepped my friend came back to show me how to use them.  We literally sat around the dining room table putting cloth diapers on all of our stuffed animals.

The next morning Ben started sporting his adorable new diapers.  Within 48 hours he was rash free - without the use of any cream!  At that point I was sold.  Cloth diapers were a miracle treatment for him!  I quickly worked a cloth diaper routine into my laundry schedule.

Ben is wearing a blue BumGenius 3.0 diaper in this photo.

Over the past year and a half I have observed many benefits of cloth diapering.  I am never truly OUT of diapers.  Worst case scenario I do a load of laundry and we have fresh diapers again.  I have not used a single dose of rash cream or baby powder and Ben has remained rash free.  Cloth diapers have a somewhat large cost upfront but you don't have to continually buy them like disposables.  Long term they save a ton of money!  We have only spent about $400 on diapers total! Cloth diapers have a generous size range so we have only had to buy a few larger covers to make the existing prefolds fit.  As great as those benefits are, we are beginning to experience what might be the best benefit of all.  Early (by today's standards) potty training!  From about 20 months old Ben has been very interested in potty training.  He remains dry about 75% of the time now which I think is fantastic since he is barely 24 months old!  I am happy to let Ben take the lead on potty training.  He is given the choice of underwear or diapers and usually chooses underwear.  At some point every day he switches to the most natural of all choices - naked.

Cloth diapering has been a great experience for us.  I am happy that I was able to find a chemical free solution to chronic diaper rash.  All in all it wasn't really any more time consuming or difficult that using disposable diapers.

Safe sunscreen?

Imagine for a moment you are taking your family on a beach vacation.  You run out to Target to stock up on essentials for your trip, including sunscreen.  Here are your choices:

      1.  Banana Boat Baby Max SPF 100 $13 - labels says pediatrician-tested,  safe as water, and bares the Skin Cancer Foundation  seal of recommendation
     2.   Hawiian Tropic Baby Creme SPF 60 $10 - label says pediatrician-tested,  made with natural island botanicals, and bares the Skin Cancer Foundation seal of recommendation
     3.  California Baby No Fragrance SPF 30 $21 - label says provides chemical free broad spectrum sun protection
    4.   Aveeno Baby SPF 55 $7- label says UVA/UVB protection  and fragrance free

Which do you put in your cart?

Did you choose Hawiian Tropic Baby Creme??  It seems like a good choice.  After all, what can be bad about having a high SPF, being pediatrician-tested and made with natural ingredients.  It is even recommended by the SCF.

Or did you choose Banana Boat Baby Max?  I have seen a bunch of those bottles at the pool so it seems like a popular choice.

Unfortunately both of those choices contain hazardous chemicals that could put your child's health at risk.  In fact, the only safe choice among those listed is the California Baby sunscreen. 

Many of todays sunscreens contain harmful chemicals such as oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, polyethylene, benzyl alcohol, BHT, parabens, and fragranceOxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor.  Endocrine disruptors are basically synthetic hormones that can wreck havoc on an endocrine system.  Retinyl palmitate is a synthetic version of vitamin A.  Sounds good right?  Not so fast.  It is shown to cause skin cancer (yep, the very thing you thought you were avoiding by smearing on sunscreen).  Polyethylene is a form of plastic that is known to cause allergies and irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs.  Benzyl alcohol and BHT are neurotoxins.  Neurotoxins are toxins that specifically affect cells in the nervous system.  They are also found in chemical warfare.  Parabens are endocrine disruptors as well.  They are also found in breast cancer tumors.  Fragrance is a source of many allergies.  The American Contact Dermitis Society voted fragrance "llergen of the Year" in 2007.

Does this sound like stuff you want to rub on your or your child's (or even your worst enemy's) skin? 

Currently the FDA does not regulate sunscreen products so consumers need to be incredibly vigilant about the products they buy.  Fortunately we live in the information age and can find out just about anything online.  I encourage all of you to check out (the Environmental Working Group) and see what is lurking in your current sunscreen.  Label reading is crucial if you want a safe product.

What should you avoid?
 - the chemicals listed above (oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, polyethylene, benzyl alcohol, BHT, parabens, and fragarance)
 - SPF 50+  =  Claims of more than 50 can not be substantiated
 - Skin Cancer Foundation seal of recommendation = To get approval the sunscreen manufacturers must show an SPF of 15+ and donate $10,000.  Manufacturers essentially buy this seal
 - sprays or powders = There is a risk of inhaling these sunscreens.  This is especially harmful if the spray contains some of the listed allergens and irritants

What should you look for in a sunscreen?
 - Broad spectrum UVA and UVB coverage
 - Zinc
 - Titanium

According to the EWG some of the best sunscreens are:
Alba Botanica Mineral, Blue Lizard Australian, California Baby, Jason Sunbrellas, and Johnson & Johnson baby.  These are all available on

Personally, I want to make sure my family gets enough vitamin D so we do not wear sunscreen 100% of the time we are outdoors.  I rarely follow the recommendation to apply sunscreen 20  minutes before sun exposure.  I wait until we have been outside for a few minutes and then apply it.  I feel confident that we are getting a decent amount of vitamin D before the sunscreen is effective.  I do not want to risk sun burn or damage so after 30 minutes or so we cover up.  The kids put on their sun shirts (if they are not already wearing them), put on wide brimmed hats and sunglasses, and go indoors if necessary.  It seems to work.  Hannah and Ben have never had a sunburn.

If you want more information check out Dr Mercola's website. Dr. Mercola has a video discussing the sunscreen and vitamin D dance.  He also talks about what to avoid/look for in a sunscreen.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Snacks on the go

My house is a goldfish free zone.  We do not feed our children those little nuggets of flour, salt, and food coloring.  Really, we rarely serve any crackers or cereal for snacks (we actually use cereal as target practice during potty training).  They offer no nutritional benefit.  They just fill up hungry tummies.

Instead, Hannah and Ben snack on fruit, veggies, and dairy.  Admittedly, they eat more fruit and dairy than vegetables but we are getting there.  At  first I thought snacks would be hard to manage on a paleo diet.  I need to be able to feed the children snack while we run errands or play with friends.  I mistakenly thought I would need to rely on packaged snacks for convenience.

Boy was I wrong.  Fruit is just about the easiest thing to throw in my purse or pool bag!  Most fruits require no preparation, no refrigeration, and are fairly mess-free.  Bananas come in their own packaging.  Apples stay fresh for a long time.  Grapes keep little fingers occupied (and off the grocery shelves).  Toss in a stainless steel water bottle and we can be gone for hours.  A quick swipe with  a baby wipe to remove any stickiness and we are back in business.

If we are going to be at the pool for a few hours I like to bring a snack with a bit more protein and fat.   That is where dairy comes to the rescue.  A cheese stick or yogurt offers a bit of staying power.  If the kids are really playing hard I'll bring a snack with carbs and protein.  Lately Ben's favorite snack is dates stuffed with walnuts.  Hannah prefers plain greek yogurt topped with strawberries and almonds.  Yum!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hunt and gather 2010 style

This is the first summer that we have taken full advantage of our local farmer's market and I love it!  We get a bit of exercise walking around, we find amazing produce, and our kids are starting to realize that fruits and veggies don't magically appear on the grocery store shelves.

Over the past few weeks we have gotten into a routine.  First, we walk to the back of the lot to our favorite farmer.  I'm not sure what the name of the farm is but the produce is always amazing and has the best prices.  The man (the farmer??) selling the veggies is so helpful and knowledgeable.  He has probably 10 different types of tomatoes and he can tell us the differences between the breeds!  Our next  stop is at the peach stand to load up on peaches and nectarines.  The kids eat one right away (tip - bring baby wipes)!  Finally, we stop by the Cibola Farms vendor.  He sells free-range buffalo and pork.  It is not certified organic but the farm follows humane, organic, and sustainable practices.  The ground buffalo is a tad expensive at $6.75/lb but it is worth it.  We usually buy a few pounds a month.  Our kids are the main reason we pay so much for ground buffalo.  We could (and do) buy organic grass fed ground beef for around $5/lb but Hannah and Ben LOVE buffalo.  Ben has actually cried because we were out of buffalo.  

We always find amazing deals.  This past weekend we bought peaches (grown using organic methods but not certified) for $1.68/lb, bell peppers for 3/$1, heirloom tomatoes for $1/lb, and assorted other veggies and fruits. I love the farmer's market because I can buy a better quality product for a better price than at the grocery store.  We are supporting local farms and they are providing great produce at a great price, it is a win-win situation!

Surprisingly, the farmer's market is not completely paleo-friendly.  Most of the vendors sell corn.  There is even a trailer that sells kettle corn.  Corn coated in sugar is definitely a no-no!  There are also a few vendors that sell freshly baked bread and brownies.  I wonder how the bakers are able to get into the farmer's market - there is a big difference between a farm and a bakery!

We are so lucky to have a great farmer's market nearby!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Weekly meal plan

Eating whole foods can definitely take more preparation time than conventional "foods".  However, the best tip I have for that is to plan ahead.  I start the week with a meal plan.  I hate the 5 'o' clock feeling of not knowing what to cook for dinner.  My meal plan only includes dinner and one or two lunches.  Breakfast is usually eggs or leftovers.  I tend to eat the same thing for lunch for days on end because it is easy.  Here is my meal plan for this week:

Monday - turkey and spinach burgers (without buns) with provolone cheese

Tuesday - grilled chicken with tomatillo salsa

Wednesday - oven roasted cherry tomatoes with basil white fish

Thursday - butter chicken

Friday - sautéed shrimp

Saturday - leftovers

Lunch will be fajita chicken and/or chicken salad

I do not typically plan the side dishes. Our side dishes are always fruits and veggies.  I just buy whatever looks the best at the farmers market.

Meal planning is helpful because I know what needs to be done when.  I can plan to make the tomatillo salsa either Monday night or Tuesday morning.  If I have a few extra minutes one day I can slice the peppers and onions for the fajita chicken.  I also avoid having nothing defrosted.

Having a plan of attack is the only way I can make high quality, nutritious, and tasty meals for my family every night.  What helps you get a healthy dinner on the table?

Friday, July 16, 2010


Along our parenting journey we have tried to make choices that instinctively felt right.  One of those choices was to wear Benjamin in a sling.

When Ben was first born he cried.  A lot.  All the time.  He wanted to be held constantly and would make sure everyone knew it.  If he wasn't being snuggled he was crying.  Unfortunately for Ben, he was the second child, so I didn't always have a hand (or two) free to hold him.  I tried to carry him around in a Snugli infant carrier and it would calm him momentarily but he couldn't get comfortable enough to fall asleep and stay asleep.  Frankly, the Snugli wasn't that comfortable  for me either.

I quickly decided we needed something else.  That night I found a lucky sling listed on craigslist only two blocks from my house!  I zipped right over and picked it up.  I immediately began carrying Benjamin in the sling.  He loved it!  I guess it made him feel nice and snug and close to me all at the same time.  I wore him ALL day long.  He was literally in the sling any time we were home during the day.   He was often in the sling even when we weren't home.  It was a pretty handy way to discreetly nurse in public.

(Check out the tiny feet sticking out of the sling - too cute!)

Slings come in a variety of styles but the idea is the same - keep your baby close while going on with your life.  Babies  feel secure, confident, and relaxed when they are being carried.  Studies have shown that babies carried for long amounts of time cry 43% less than babies that are not carried.  Slings just make it easier to carry a baby.  I was able to prepare meals (although never around anything that might boil over or splatter), shop, clean, and tend to Hannah while knowing that Ben was perfectly safe and content.

Companies such as Lucky, Peanutshell, and Moby sell such cute slings that it almost appears the babywearing is just a trend.  This couldn't be farther from the truth.  Moms have been wearing their babies since the beginning of time, back before the days of day care centers and play pens.  It is a practical way to keep a child safe, healthy, and happy while tending to the tasks of daily life.

Ben is now two years old and I still wear him in his beloved sling.  It is perfect when he is getting a new tooth, has a boo boo, or is just needing a little extra t.l.c.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


You may be wondering why anyone would want to give up pasta, bread, cake, and other "normal" foods.  Well, honestly, at first I didn't.

Then one night I had a migraine.  This was a pretty common occurrence for me. At least once a week, sometimes twice, I would be in debilitating pain. So much pain that I could barely function and could definitely not take care of the children.  The next morning it hit me.  My mom is allergic to rice, wheat, oats, and corn.  Maybe I'm sensitive to those foods too.  Maybe they are at least partly responsible for my migraines.

I decided to give up grains and see how I felt.  A week went by - no migraines.  Two weeks went by - no migraines!  This amazed me.  I was shocked that it could be this easy.  Why hadn't a doctor suggested this connection any time in the past 26 years?  I couldn't remember the last time I had gone two weeks without being in debilitating pain.

The next week we went to Myrtle Beach for vacation and I found it tough to prepare breakfast and lunch in a hotel room without the use of bread. It was just too convenient to make a sandwich and get back to the pool.  I also wondered if maybe it was just a coincidence that I had been pain-free the previous two weeks. I ate better than I did prepaleo but definitely did not stick to the eating plan.

On the drive home I  had a HORRIBLE migraine.  Trust me - you do not want to be stuck in a minivan with two loud young children during a migraine.  This migraine reinforced the notion that grains were causing my migraines.

Avoiding grains is an easy, drug free way to keep my migraines at bay.  It has been six weeks since that vacation migraine and I have not had a single recurrence!  I do still get "normal" headaches if the kids are being exceptionally boisterous or I don't get enough sleep but that I can handle.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What is paleo parenting?

Paleo parenting is following a natural approach to childrearing.  Like all parents, we want our children to have access to the vitamins and minerals their bodies need to grow without any potentially toxic chemicals. Those chemicals seem to be lurking everywhere these days.

My husband and I follow the paleo eating plan.  We eat lots of yummy meat, veggies, and fruit.  We don't eat any grains - wheat, rice, corn, etc.   We also limit our sugar intake.  This eating plan resembles what paleolithic man would have eaten.  These are the foods people are meant to eat.

Raising our children is the most important thing we will ever do so we are committed to giving them the best start possible.  This blog will follow my family's journey steering the children away from processed grainy foods towards a diet and lifestyle that will help them learn and grow.

A paleo lifestyle is meant to be simple.  At the most basic level it is natural = good, synthetic chemicals = bad.  This applies to everything!  It leads us to choose natural cleaning products, natural health and beauty items, and cloth diapers.

Welcome to paleo parenting!