Essential Oil Fit for a King!

I love my essential oils. I am by no means an expert on them, but I use them a lot for medicinal purposes, for repelling unwanted pests, and just because they smell so good!  You can therefore imagine my excitement to find out that the oil Mary of Bethany used to anoint Jesus’ feet was spikenard, an oil you can order right off of Amazon! (Technically, it is not exactly the same, but the raw ingredient is.) More importantly, I enjoyed finding out more about this oil and its significance in the Biblical record.

In all honesty, when I had read this account before, I had not paid much attention to the type of oil, and if I had, I would have been clueless about what it actually was. Most of us have heard of myrrh and frankincense (gifts that the Magi gave to Jesus as a young child), but I don’t really think spikenard has made into our every day language. However, as I was preparing to teach a Bible study to my daughter and her friends regarding this Biblical account, I was compelled to pay attention to every detail. One of those details was the use of spikenard.

As I poured my energy and time into this study, I wanted to find out what spikenard was, how it was used by the ancients, and what its significance was in the anointing of Jesus. Spikenard was a highly expensive oil or ointment (as mentioned in scripture and confirmed by outside sources) derived from a plant that was used not only by the Jews, but many peoples from the Middle East and Asia. It was imported from the areas of present day India, China, and Nepal as the plant is native to the Himalayas. The ancients used it to season food, prepare bodies for burial, medicinal purposes, and as a perfume (See Charles Hatchet, On the Spikenard of the Ancients and Raoul McLaughlin, Rome and the Distant East.)

Jews used it as a component in incense burned at the temple in Jerusalem and apparently to bury their dead. Although I could not find first-hand sources, several online articles mentioned how Jews in Biblical times used it as one of the primary ingredients to prepare bodies for burial along with myrrh. Because nard was produced as an oil and/or ointment, it would allow more powdery substances like myrrh to stick to the body. In the John 12 account of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus’ feet with this expensive oil, Jesus himself declares in verse 7 that “she has kept it for the day of my burial” (HCSB version).

Regardless of what it was used for, Nard was highly valued and used by upper classes, including kings. For example, Spikenard appears to have be the primary fragrance in a perfume found in King Tut’s tomb. Therefore, it is only fitting that such an oil would be used to anoint the feet of the King of Kings! And if the oil was one of the primary ingredients for preparing bodies for burial, it brings even more significance to the humble act performed by Mary of Bethany. It shows that she knew exactly what she was doing, and was the first of Jesus’ disciple to acknowledge that he was indeed headed to the cross.

There is also an interesting correlation between the cross and how this oil is used today. While in hospice care, it is used to help patients transition from life to death because spikenard has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety, to calm both body and mind (See OilsandPlants.com and this article). When I read this, it brought my thoughts back to Jesus and what he must have been going through in the days prior to the crucifixion. We know from the record in Luke 22, shortly before his arrest, that Jesus was in agony over what was to come, enough so that he was sweating blood. If we backtrack only a few days to when Mary anointed his feet and filled the room with the scent of nard, I can only assume that the weight of what was before him was already weighing heavily on him. And I wonder, could the nard have been a small detail in how our Heavenly Father (through Mary’s loving action), was helping Jesus relieve some of that anxiety? We won’t know for sure on this side of heaven, but I do wonder. But even if the scent of nard was not physically helping to relieve some of his stress, Mary’s willingness to minister to him in that way certainly was.

Today, you can find spikenard as an essential oil. It is most likely not in the same form as it was used back in Biblical times as modern distillation processes were not existent (although Hatchet makes a good case that the Indians had a primitive form of distillation that they used to produce the nard ointment/oil). However, current research, some of which is in line with how the ancients used it for medicinal purposes, shows that nard essential oil can be used for a variety of purposes. Personally, I am just enjoying putting a few drops in my diffuser along with orange essential oil and meditating on the Bible record, but I also wanted to pass along this information for anyone that might need it.

 

Benefits of Using Nard Essential Oil

Fights bacteria and fungus

Antiinflammitory

Relieves anxiety, calming the mind and body

It boosts the immune system

Promotes hair growth

Relieves insomnia

Lessens sensitivity of nerves to pain

Reduces fever

Helps eliminate body odor

Provides relief from cough and other respiratory problems.

See these articles for more information on how to use it. Remember to do your due diligence especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding when using essential oils.

Spikenard Stimulates the Immune System and Relaxes Both Body and Mind

Spikenard Essential Oil, Uses and Side Effects

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Breastfeeding a Toddler: Fighting Social Norms

Image15-300DPIThose who know me, know that I am a big proponent of breastfeeding. They also know that I breastfed both of my kids past the one year mark. I know that sounds strange to many or and it may even sound disgusting to others. I remember overhearing a mom in one of my circles criticize the idea not knowing that I myself was still breastfeeding my toddler. The reality is that the health benefits of doing so outweigh the social phobias against it. Since my children’s health is more important to me than what others may think, my decision was easy. That is the reason I want to share why I breastfed my kids well into their toddler years. I want others to also encouraged to do the same and know that they are not alone if they choose to do so.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding until at least one year and as long as mutually desired after that. The World Health Organization (WHO) takes it a little further and recommends at least two years. The reality is that no good pediatrician will ever chide a mother for breastfeeding past their kid’s first birthday because they know full well how beneficial it is for the child. Studies have shown (see below in “extra reading”) time and time again that there is no psychological effect on older children who are breastfed and that the health benefits continue well beyond infancy.

During the toddler years, a child’s eating habits are not established yet. They are still learning to eat good-for-you foods. Some days they hardly eat anything at all, and other days they eat everything in sight. Even as strict as I am with food, I was not sure that my toddlers were getting enough fruits and vegetables into their diets. Yet with my milk, I did not have to worry about that all. The amazing thing about breastmilk is that its composition changes over time to meet the nutritional needs of the child. So when my girls were already eating solids, my body knew what to do to provide supplemental nutrition through my milk. For example, during their second year, 448 mL of breastmilk actually provides (source):

  • 29% of energy requirements
  • 43% of protein requirements
  • 36% of calcium requirements
  • 75% of vitamin A requirements
  • 76% of folate requirements
  • 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
  • 60% of vitamin C requirements

It really is perfect for the transitional stage that is the toddler years. At the end of the day, I could guarantee that my girls were getting all the nutrition they needed.

The other important reason is that kids’ immune systems continue to benefit from it beyond that first year as well. I experienced this first hand. A bug went around my family that knocked my seven-year-old and my husband out for 24 hours (Others who got this same bug suffered with it for several days). They both had constant vomiting and a fever. For some reason, I was immune and I was spared the multiple trips to the bathroom. My guess was that having grown up in Guatemala and my numerous travels had exposed me to all kinds of bugs and I therefore have a built-in immunity to a lot of things. The incredible thing is that my toddler who has obviously had less exposure to stomach bugs, got it, but it only lasted a couple of hours. She vomited once in the morning and had a slight fever, but by late afternoon she was back to normal. I was still breastfeeding my toddler at the time. I was positive that the breastfeeding was the key in keeping her sickness at bay.

There is also the comfort aspect to breastfeeding. Toddlers are still too small too understand what is going on and it is more difficult to comfort them during an illness. Breastfeeding allowed me to have something that I could give them that would make them feel better immediately and provide a sense of security when they are too young to understand otherwise. It is a beautiful thing.

When is the right time to wean? I do not think there is a right answer for that. I think mothers need to follow their instincts. My first child was ready stop at 2 years old and she never looked back. My second child was different. I had planned to stop at the two year mark but my gut told me that she needed it longer. I breastfed her about 4 months more and then she too was ready.

In the US, where breastfeeding is still taboo in many circles, breastfeeding beyond a year is almost too much to bear. However, that view is hypocritical in today’s culture.  It just does not make sense that it is okay to see breasts of Victoria Secrets models plastered on billboards, but somehow it is not okay to see a mother feeding her child. We have sexualized breasts so much that in our minds we have perverted something so beautiful and innocent. As a mom you will need to make your own decisions as to what is most important to you. However, do know that if you decide to breastfeed beyond a year, you are not alone.  There are other moms out there that do it proudly for the sake of their kids regardless of whether it is socially taboo or not.

Further Reading:

Benefits of Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy

Are There Benefits to Breastfeeding Beyond the First Year?

How Breastfeeding Transfers Immunity to Babies

Breastfeeding Past Infancy: Factsheet

Breastfeeding Around the World: Breastfeeding Recommendations

Good Meat, Bad Meat, Red Meat

For years we have heard that we should limit our intake of red meat and some nutritionist recommend getting rid of red meat all together.  But is it really bad for you?  From what I have found, the answer is yes and no.  Most red meat as it is sold today is bad for you because cattle is raised in a form inconsistent with nature.  We feed them foods that are unnatural for them and therefore change the composition of the meat.  We then eat that meat and suffer the consequences.

What you may not know is that the steak you are used to eating used to be a cow that spent the first six months to a year of its life in a pasture.  The cow was then transferred to a feedlot where it was fed a mix of corn, soy, grain and other supplements plus given hormones and antibiotics. Why do they do this?  To get the cow to the slaughter weight a lot faster (about a year faster) than the alternative.

What is the alternative?  The cow spends its entire life in the pasture and then it is slaughtered.  This is known a grass-fed cow or grass-fed beef. They are not given grains and are not given hormones nor antibiotics.

Why is the grass-fed meat better for you than the grain-fed meat?  For one, the grass-fed meat is naturally leaner; it has less fat per cut.  Of the fat it does have, it has a healthier ratio of omega 6s to omega-3s.  Without getting too technical, if the ratio exceeds 4:1, you are more likely to have health problems.  Grain-fed beef has ratios of about 20:1!  YIKES!!  Grass-fed meat has ratios that are about 3:1. These are within the levels that promote better health and also makes grass-fed beef another good source of omega-3s.

What are some things that omega-3s help prevent? Coronary artery disease, hypertension, arthritis, and cancer to name a few.  If that wasn’t enough to convince you, grass-fed meat also has more antioxidants, more vitamins A & E, and twice the levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  CLA may have cancer fighting properties and may lower the risk of diabetes. 

So, what type of meat are you going to eat?  Unfortunately, grass-fed meat is ridiculously expensive.  There is one way around this.  You can buy it in bulk which I am doing for the first time this year.  I bought a cow.  Not really, I bought half a grass-fed cow from a reputable farm and they will be slaughtering, butchering, packaging, and freezing the meat for me.  Instead of paying $13-26 per pound, I am paying about $5.00 for various types of cuts.

I haven’t even touched the subject of processed meats (bacon, hot dogs, etc), but they are even worse as far as health is concerned.  This will be the topic of another blog.  In the meantime, just know that red meat grown in a way consistent with nature is not bad for you.  On the contrary, it is actually good for you.

Sources: 

The Grass-Fed vs Grain-Fed Beef Debate 

Why Grassfed Animals are Better for You

Diets Lacking Omega-3s Lead to Anxiety, Hyperactivity in Teens: Generational Omega-3 Deficiencies Have Worsening Effects Over Time

“A Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-Fed and Grain-Fed Beef” from the Nutrition Journal 2010

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When to Introduce High Risk Foods to Kids

I decided to write this post after making a comment on Facebook and realizing few parents are aware of the new guidelines for introducing high risk foods to babies.  After doing some research, I also realized some pediatricians are not aware of the new guidelines either!  With all the allergies nowadays, it is scary giving your kid peanut products for the first time, so at the very least, we want to know what the experts are saying.  I put together a summary of what I found and if you want to investigate further, my sources are listed below.  My primary source is the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).  These are the people the experts go to for clarification on this type of stuff!

The AAAAI recently did a review of literature and studies on food allergies.  Their findings where published in the their journal which you can access by clicking here.  The primary finding is that a delay in the introduction of solid foods, especially highly allergenic foods, can increase the risk of that child developing a food allergy.  Here is the  summary  of my findings (Note:  My list includes both highly allergenic foods and other high risk foods):

GUIDELINES

——First rule of thumb, before giving your child any highly allergenic food, introduce some of the basics first (rice cereal, pureed carrots, etc).  Do not make the high allergenic food the first one they try!!

——Second rule of thumb, after introducing the highly allergenic food and if there is no reaction, it can be increased in gradual increasing amounts. 

——Third rule of thumb, if your child has moderate to severe eczema that is poorly controlled with treatment; if your child has a sibling with severe food allergies; or if your child has shown a reaction to other foods, you should consult an allergist and/or pediatrician before introducing a highly allergenic food.  

——Fourth rule of thumb, new food should be introduced in intervals of 3-5 days. 

HIGH RISK FOODS


Yogurt and Cheese:  Introduce at 4-6 months based on existing studies. A note on cheese, do not give baby big chunks of cheese, it is a choking hazard.

Egg: Introduce at 4-6 months based on existing studies.

Wheat: Introduce at 4-6 months based on existing studies.

Soy: You may introduce at 4-6 months.  There are no studies showing early introduction or delay has any effect on the risks, but the experts do not think there is any harm in introducing it early.

Shellfish: You may introduce at 4-6 months.  There are no studies showing early introduction or delay has any effect on the risks, but the experts do not think there is any harm in introducing it early.

Fish: Introduce at 4-9 months based on existing studies.

Peanut or Tree Nut Butters: May be introduce at 4-12 months.  Do not give baby whole peanuts because of the high risk for choking and do NOT give them a spoonful of peanut butter for the same reason.  A little dab of peanut butter mixed in with something they already eat, may be a good way to start.

Honey: Introduce after 12 months.  This is NOT highly allergenic food but it in rare instances it may cause botulism in babies younger than one year old.

Cows Milk:  Not so much because of allergies, but due to other reasons, cow’s milk as a drink should not be introduced until after the 1st birthday.  Milk products however like cheese and yogurt are okay before the first year.  Cow’s milk in small amounts in baked goods or added to other foods the baby is already eating is okay too.

Popcorn, hot dogs, sausages, grapes, large uncooked chunky fruits or vegetables (carrots), marshmallows, gum, chewy sticky candy, chunks of peanut butter, chunks of meat:  Not highly allergenic, but because of the choking hazard, they should not be given before 4 years of age.  A special note on popcorn, the danger lies mainly with the little pieces of the kernel.  Those little bits can get stuck in the airway and cannot be forced out in a normal way (Heimlich Maneuver for example.) Also, use good judgement.  I give my 18th month old grapes, but I cut them in small pieces.

Sources:

Primary Source:  “Primary Prevention of Allergic Disease Through Nutritional Interventions” published by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology

Other Allergy Sources: http://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/introduction-of-solid-foods-into-the-diet-of-infan.aspx

http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodAllergy/understanding/Pages/Pregnancy.aspx

Honey Source: http://www.babycenter.com/408_when-can-my-baby-eat-honey_1368490.bc

Other High Risk Foods: http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/choking.htm

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Making PB&J Healthy for Kids

These make for great and healthy ingredients for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich is a classic and believe it or not, it can be a great lunch for your kids or you (with a side of fruit or veggies).  Traditionally the PB&J is made on white bread, with of course peanut butter and jelly.  Unfortunately, the white bread and the jelly add little nutritional value to a children’s meal.  However, if you use quality alternatives, the PB&J can be part of a power punched meal.  Here is how I make my kids’ PB&J.

Bread:  I use Ezekiel Bread made from a variety of sprouted grains which I believe is superior to just plain old whole wheat.  However, if whole wheat is more affordable that is okay too, just make sure you buy a brand that doesn’t have corn syrup added to it. (To find out more on the different types of breads read my blog on breads.)



Jelly: The jelly is unnecessary for the nutritional punch, but it is the part that makes a kid smile.  However, you can reduce the sugar use by putting just a slight coating on the bread and choosing a high quality fruit spread.  I use Crofter’s Organic Raspberry Fruit Spread.  Why?  Look at the difference in ingredients from the traditional Welch’s. 

——Welch’s Grape Jelly Ingredients:  Grapes (Concord Grapes, Grapes), Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate (Used As Needed).  13 Grams of Sugar per 1 Tbs.

——Crofter’s Organic Raspberry Fruit Spread:  Concentrated organic grape juice, organic raspberries, natural apple pectin, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), citric acid. 8 Grams of Sugar per 1 Tbs. 

Crofter’s doesn’t have added sugar like Welch’s (also known as corn syrup). 

Nut Butter:  
I use Almond Butter.  Don’t get me wrong, both peanut butter and almond butter are good options.  Almond butter rates better on Vitamin E, magnesium, and iron,but peanut butter provides more selenium.  The key is to find nut butters that are minimally processed with minimal ingredients.  The almond butter I use is from Trader Joe’s and it has only one ingredient: roasted almonds. No added sugar, salt, etc. 

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Vacationing at Hershey Park with Little Kids

In May we took our first vacation to Hershey, PA and we all enjoyed it.  We stayed at The Suites at Hershey by Bluegreen, our time share.  We liked that option because the suites have a full kitchen and dining room.  That allowed us to eat most of our meals at the hotel (very important for me the health nut) and have a place to prepare snacks and to-go lunches for when we were out all day.

Biggest Lessons Learned:  May is a great time to visit Hershey Park.  Although the water park portion is not opened, there is still plenty to do and no lines.  We waited no more than 5 minutes for any ride and our kids got to go on many of their favorites again and again.  Note that during this time of year, it is only opened on the weekends.

As always, I recommend buying groceries vice eating out.  Vacation is a great time to get sick because you are outside of your normal “habitat” and you are in places that are visited and frequented by thousands of people.  Healthy meals keep your immune system strong.  It also saves you a lot of money. The only day we ate out was at Hershey Park and we all regretted it.  It was gross and very expensive.

THE SITES WE VISITED

Hershey Park:  One of our worries was whether there would be enough to do for our kids who are not yet old enough to ride roller coasters.  We were very pleased that there were plenty of options for our six-year-old and our one-year-old.  The other nice surprise was that we could rent a stroller for $12 a day which I thought was very reasonable.  The only thing we were not happy about (this is probably true for most amusement parks) was that the food was over priced and not very good.

Chocolate World:  The information that you get on their website is very confusing.  It seems as though you pay for each of the attractions.  Thankfully, we got some pointers from the museum workers.  The main ride is free although you pay for the extras such as making your own candy bar.  Unless you take part in the extra activities, you will not spend more than an hour there, but it is a fun little outing.

The Hershey Museum:  It is a small but very nice and interactive museum.  Our six-year-old really enjoyed the scavenger hunt.  My husband and my daughter took the chocolate making class and it was definitely not geared for little kids.  My six-year-old was bored for most of it, except at the end when she actually got to make the chocolate treat.

Zoo America:  Price of admission is included in your Hershey Park admission.  We mistakenly thought that this would similar to a “normal” zoo with tigers, zebras, and giraffes.  That is not the case.  Zooamerica only showcases animals in North America, but we still enjoyed it.  It is not very big so we were able to see the entire Zoo in about an hour or so.

Whitaker Science Center:  This was one of the nicest surprises of our trip and well worth the price.  It is in Harrisburg (and not in Hershey), but it was no more than a 15-20 minute trip.  Not only is it interactive and fun for the kids, it is educational as well.  They get to do things like touch a tornado, build a paper airplane, or create dunes to keep a town from being flooded.  There is so much to do and although we spent several hours there, we didn’t get to see everything.  Even my one-year-old enjoyed playing in their toddler area.

At the Whitaker Science Center.  On the left is a real live tornado for the kids to see and touch.  The center is my daughter using their rock climbing wall.  The picture on the right is my one-year old enjoying the water table. 

Strasburg Train:  With no traffic, it took us about 40 minute to get there from Hershey, PA.
I thought it was a neat experience and my girls enjoyed it.  I was a little disappointed that the 40 minute ride is not really a 40 minute ride.  You are physically moving for 40 minutes but you travel in a straight line (vice a loop).  In other words the second half of the trip is the same scenery as the first, you are just going in the opposite direction.

ITINERARY:

Day 1:  Spent the morning/early afternoon at the outlet mall.  We then checked in at the hotel and I went grocery shopping for the week.

Day 2:  Hershey Park and Zoo America.  Since there were no lines, it was easy to get through the whole park, Zoo America, and still leave by 5:30 P.M.

Day 3:  The Hershey Museum in the morning and Chocolate World in the afternoon.

Day 4:  Whitaker Science Center

Day5:  Checked Out of the Hotel and then hit the Strasburg Train.

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Best Running Shoes for Kids

If you read my previous post on running, you will know that I am a firm believer that “finger shoes” are the best running shoes out there.  Not only do I use these type of shoes, I believe that kids should be using minimalist shoes as well to preserve their natural running style.  I do not want my daughter to develop bad running (or walking habits for that matter) that may later affect her knees and her back.

Last year we got her finger shoes, but she was having a hard time putting them on so she would revert back to her old regular gym shoes.   My daughter has a wide foot and the shoe had a very narrow opening. And I think because of that, she is already started to develop those bad habits I was trying to avoid.

To prove a point I took a video of my daughter’s running style.  Note in this first video how my daughters foot hits the ground…it is almost as if the ball of her foot hits simultaneously with the heel.  Last year, when I noticed her run, she would strike the ground first with the ball of her foot. It is still better than heel-toe running, but not ideal.

This next video demonstrates heel-toe running which I want my daughter to avoid.  This is how I used to run and how I see many people running nowadays.  The use of heavily padded shoes promotes this type of heel-toe running where the heel hits the ground first.  When I used to run like this, I had knee and back problems despite the hundreds of dollars I spent on finding the right running shoe.

This last video is how I run today, the primary impact is on the ball of the foot.  Even though this shoe has no padding, I can still run 6 miles in these with no issues.  This is very similar to the way my daughter was running last year, her natural running style.

Now that we updated my daughter’s finger shoes to a pair that she can easily put on, I am confident she will revert back to the way she used to run.  She loves her shoes and especially since her classmates told her, “Oh wow, those are so cool!”

My daughter modeling her new Vibrams.

If you are looking for minimalist shoes for your kids, the brands I love are Merrell and Vibram.  Not all minamilst shoes look like “fingers.”  Merrell has various styles that look like normal shoes such as the one below, without the padding the promotes the heel-toe strike.  Also note that Vibrams sizes do not correspond to normal US sizes so be sure to use the conversion chart on their website.  The amazon links I provided below will direct you to both the girls and boys variations of the shoes.

The shoes I got for my daughter which works well for a wide foot are the following:

The type that she used to have which were nice, but just didn’t work for her type of foot are these:

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Why the “Perfect” Lawn Isn’t Always Better for Your Kids

So now is the time that we all start preparing our gardens and lawns for the spring.  We all want to keep those lawns looking nice and green and keep those pesky bugs out of our rose bushes.  It is no surprise then that I received a newsletter from a our local nursery making a few suggestions.  Now is the time it says to “make your first application of granular pre-emergent weed control” fertilizer to the lawn.”   It also suggests that you consider adding a “liquid or granular insecticide which is applied at the base of trees and shrubs.” Before making a mad dash to the Home Depot to pick up that weed-killing fertilizer for the lawn and bug killers for our gardens, it is important to think about what else these products do.

The same label says to keep out of sewer systems, lakes, ponds, etc and to keep out of reach of children. The information sheet for one of the leading makers of a weed control product says,

“Harmful if swallowed. Do not inhale dust. Do not allow contact with skin, eyes or clothing. When using this product, wear long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and shoes.  After using this product, remove clothing and launder separately before reuse, and promptly and thoroughly wash hand and exposed skin with soap and water.” 


The label for a granular insecticide says, “Depending upon concentrations encountered, wear coveralls or long-sleeved uniform and head covering. For larger exposures as in the case of spills, wear full body cover barrier suit, such as a PVC suit.”


A PVC suit, really?


 This stuff is obviously highly toxic.  You need not worry because this stuff stays outside right?  Not really.  When it rains, where does this insecticide end up?  In the sewer system, in your local ponds, and lakes.  Where else? On your shoes as you bring it into the house.  On your kids hands when they play outside.   At their schools when they go out for recess — how else do they keep the school grounds looking so nice and pretty?

But I am just the crazy health lady.  And I guess that the American Academy of Pediatrics is pretty crazy too.  Late last year they produced a report that warns about the effects of pesticides on children.

“Prenatal and early childhood exposure to pesticides is associated with pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems.”

Maybe I am not that crazy after all.  

Further Reading:
Harmful Effects of Fertilizing
How to Kill Weeds Organically?

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How Much Sugar is in Your Food?

There are many reasons why we should try to reduce our sugar intake–our intake of “added” sugars that is. Without getting into the web of simple versus complex sugars, added sugars usually provide little to no nutritional value. “Added” sugars are empty calories added to soft drinks, cereals, desserts, etc. Natural occurring sugars found in milk, vegetables, fruits, and grains are usually accompanied by vital vitamins and nutrients. The negative effects of added sugars to our bodies include:

* Depressing our immune system
* Puts us at risk for high blood pressure
* Can give us cavities
* Increases our risk of diabetes through weight gain
* Sugar lows can cause behavioral problems
* It can decrease our brain function

I love sweets. I can go through an entire tub of ice cream in one fell swoop if you left me alone in a room with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  For that reason, I try very hard not to keep that stuff around. If it was completely up to me, the house would be void of anything resembling a dessert. However, my husband who also has a sweet tooth, makes sure that does not happen.

Dessert is one thing.  What about all the added sugar in common every day foods we might give our kids?  I decided to do a little experiment and measure the amount of sugar in some popular items.

Frosted Flakes – 1.5 Cups (as shown)

Frosted Flakes:  The serving size on the label is 3/4 cups, but who has only 3/4 cups?  I therefore did the test for a real life serving which is about 1.5 cups.

Stonyfield Blueberry Yogurt- added sugar (does not include  sugar that  is natural to yogurt from the lactose)

Stonyfield Low-Fat Blueberry Yogurt — This one surprised me a lot.  I buy these to throw into my husbands lunch for convenience sake.  I don’t like low-fat items because generally they will be higher in sugar than full-fat items but unfortunately I have not found full-fat individual servings of affordable yogurt.  Therefore I knew the amount of sugar would be higher, but I was surprised by how much.  Yogurt naturally has sugar in it because of the lactose so I measured only the added sugar.  After this little experiment, I think hubby will be better off if I just make him a parfait with plain yogurt, fruit, and a tad bit of granola.

Blueberry Pop Tarts — Two Pop Tarts

Blueberry Pop Tarts: I included the measurements for 2 Pop Tarts because that would be the normal serving–who only eats one?  I was even more surprised that the organic equivalent that I keep at home has even more sugar.  Every once in awhile, I will let my daughter have one for breakfast along with some fruit, but I think I may cut it in half or just save them as a dessert.

Cascadian Farm Chocolate Almond Granola — 3/4 Cups

Cascadian Farm Chocolate Almond Granola:  I usually keep this around because I like to sprinkle it on my yogurt.  Their ancient grain variety has about 1 teaspoon less sugar than this one.  I always knew the pre-packaged granola could be high in sugar so no surprise there.  As a family, we only really eat a  fraction of the normal serving size so I am not too worried.  However, this little experiment was just a good reminder.

Kamut – 1.5 Cups

Kamut--Puffed Kamut is the cereal I have in the mornings.  I usually add a banana to it or a bit of granola.  If my daughter is having cereal, I will mix this into it to cut down on the sugar intake.  It is always sold organic and you can buy a large bag of it for $1.69 at Wegmans, a real bargain.  It has a variety of health benefits and best of all, it has no sugar.

Here are my suggestions if you are also want to cut down on “added” sugars.

**When purchasing common items such as cereals, yogurts, or even things like salad dressing, pasta sauces, and condiments, look at the label.  Do the math, and it will give you a pretty good idea if you are buying a high-sugar or low-sugar item.   Just divide the number of grams per serving by 4.  So if the items has 12 grams of sugar that will equate to 3 teaspoons.

**When giving yogurt to your kids and babies, give them plain yogurt and just add regular fruit (not the canned syrup stuff) to it. I like to smash a banana into my kid’s yogurt or add frozen blueberries.  They love it like that. Or if you have a picky kid, mix the kid yogurt with some plain yogurt, adding a little more each time.

**If you are giving cereals to your kids, you can try to cut down on the sugar by mixing it with a no-sugar cereal like Kamut.  With picky kids I would start by adding just a little bit and gradually increasing it until they get used to it.

A good website that demonstrates the sugar content in some other popular items is www.sugarstacks.com.  It is a real eye opener!

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Lesson in Persistence: Teaching Baby to Eat Her Veggies

When it came to learning how to eat veggies, my first child was the model kid.  She was so easy.  I followed the recommendations from the experts and introduced veggies first before bringing out the bananas and apples.  That kid ate anything I put in front of her.  She was eating strained spinach by 5 months and that was just the beginning.  Now at 6 years old, she will eat a salad for lunch or salmon with green beans for dinner.  My proudest moment was when she was served a traditional Afghani meal by some friends of ours.  My daughter, 4 years old at the time, tried everything, and gobbled up half of her adult size plate.

And then came my youngest daughter.  She is 11 months old and it has been a struggle to get this child to eat.  You wouldn’t think it since my little chunky monkey has consistently been above 95th percentile in weight!  Yet, other than mommy’s milk, for the first 8 months, I couldn’t get her to want much of anything else.  Well, of course, if I gave her a smashed bananana she would eat that all day.

I started her out on solids just like I did her big sister by introducing vegetables first.  We started at 5 months, but she was not interested.  We tried again at 6 months and she took a little bit, but only a miniscule amount.  She seemed to be okay with the carrots and peas for awhile.  And then I introduced the fruits and forget it, she wouldn’t touch anything else.  Here, I am, the professed health nut, and my kid does not want to eat anything other than the sweet stuff!!

But, I am persistent (or maybe it is just a matter of pride).  This kid was going to eat vegetables one way or another!!  I just kept repeating to myself, “If Japanese kids can learn to eat natto (fermented beans), my kid can learn to eat vegetables.”  What did I do? I stopped giving her the bananas and apples, and tried again only offering vegetables.  She stopped eating.  Since, Lia is breastfed and since she certainly was not losing weight, I didn’t worry about it.  Every day I would offer her something, and everyday it was wasted food down the drain.  I would put the spoon to her mouth and she would just turn her head and keep her mouth closed.  I made my own baby food. I tried giving her Earth’s Best Organic.  Nothing.  I tried different flavors and combinations. Nothing.

I changed my strategy.  She seemed to like the little pieces of Ezekiel Bread (sprouted grain bread) that I would give her, so I started just putting smaller versions of our food on her tray and see what she would do with it.  She started eating!!  It turns out that her biggest problem was that she did not want to be fed.  She wanted to feed herself.  And she didn’t like smashed up food.  She wanted real food with real texture.  Who knew?

Since I don’t really cook with salt or sugar, or anything with preservatives, I pretty much just cut up whatever we are having for dinner into small pieces and let her go to town. Now that she can feed herself, she will allow me to feed her with a spoon–sometimes.  The other day we were having a salad, so I just cut up the tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers in small pieces and she ate all of them without a problem.

It was a very frustrating few months and I was very tempted to just throw in the towel and give her only fruits.  However, I knew it would be easier for me if I fought the fight now, than to try to fight it later on.  With a little bit of persistence, I figured out that it was not that she did not like vegetables, it was that she is Miss Independent.

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