Monday, September 30, 2013

We took the #SNAP challenge for September's #HungerAction

As a fellow lover of wholesome things especially in the realm of vegetables and sharing resources forward, I linked up with a like-minded gal who shares similar values. We teamed up at the end of the month of September to recap our resources for the Hunger Action Challenge where families are eating with less than $4.50 a day.

Jennifer of The Good Long Road changed her color to orange on September 1st. When we partnered up about two weeks ago, she asked me to share why my family supports the CSA (community supported agriculture). While I was writing the post for her blog, I expanded on how my family of 3 can eat on $4.50 a day: 

I. My family joined a CSA. We support the 'local farmer' for roughly $1.70 a day with Abundant Harvest Organics.

Every month, my family purchases two small boxes that include in-season organic produce. I know that the content of the boxes varies due to season, weather, and other factors. There is an option of purchasing a large box for about $3 a day (for twice a month pick up). The small box feeds 2-3 for 7-10 days and the large box 3-5 people for the same amount of time.

Because I’m using in-season produce, I know that I’m getting the best nutritive value for my dollar. I also supplement what I get in my CSA box with what I can find at my local grocery stores. My personal goal is to eat at least 5 fruits and 5 vegetables daily. I have changed my health around due to the daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. I truly believe there is power and healing in eating a variety of produce daily. Prices on produce are lower on the foods grown during the season and depending on where you live, you may be able to find many fruits and vegetables for longer seasons than in other places.  

I used to live in a metropolitan area of Southern California where I had the opportunity to visit a farmers’ market every day of the week. When I moved to the desert, it was a bit of a culture shock because the closest farmers market is 90 miles away. So, I checked Local Harvest to learn that Abundant Harvest Organics delivers in-season organic produce to my town twice a week. What a relief!!  

Buy fruits and vegetables in-season when they're at their lowest price, eat them and / or freeze the other portions to be used in smoothies and desserts. 

II. Less animal protein, more plant based protein. The second way my family can eat under $4.50 a day is not consuming as much animal protein. We aim to eat animal protein two times a week. The other meals are mostly vegetables with a starch usually. Rice is affordable and is a staple in our home. Other forms of protein can be found in foods like: grains, legumes, and guess what? --- Vegetables!

III. Tower at-your-fingertips gardening. The third way we can eat under $4.50 a day is growing our own produce. I plan to start an aeroponic garden in the near future and until then, I will continue to support my local, small business and local farmer which is a sustainable way of eating. The initial cost of the aeroponic garden will be an out of pocket installment of $100 a month and each subsequent payment will be $50 a month but it is payable in 11 interest free installments and the garden container is mine for life. I believe it is a worthy investment.

I’m a big advocate of families eating more fruits and vegetables and I want to empower you to eat at least 5 fruits and 5 vegetables daily. It may seem like a huge undertaking but guess what? The extra piece of the fruit or a vegetable daily will show some promise in your health regimen. The more you eat, the more you’ll crave. You may just find yourself salivating in the produce aisle of your local grocery store. I’m living proof. I was brought up on Little Debbie snack cakes and Kool-aid and I hardly ate any vegetables or fruit until after I had my son 5 years ago. Someone said to me, let me show you how to eat more fruits and vegetables. She did. My life changed. Can I help change yours?

The unexpected benefits of eating seasonal produce from Jennifer's family's CSA: 

Jennifer is a mom of two, as well as an independent filmmaker who has taught filmmaking to youth and has run after-school programs through her company Think Ten Media Group. She writes about her experiences with Wild Thing and Caterpillar at The Good Long Road with an emphasis on mindfulness, imagination, and creative activities related to her toddler and preschooler’s favorite children’s books. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

I. Having a 2 year-old that tries new foods without hesitation. Basically for my entire two year-olds life, we've been a member of a CSA and have received a produce box, more or less, every week. This was not the case with his older brother. I know this is probably not the exclusive reason that my youngest son is much more open to trying new foods and likes many more fruits and vegetables than his older brother, but I know it is a big part of it. For his entire life, these produce items have been part of his life. He has seen his parents eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and even trying new foods ourselves, so for him it being an adventurous, rather than picky, eater is normal.

II. Saving Money - Initially, I thought I could not afford to buy organic produce for my family at either a farmer's market or through a CSA. However, once I committed to this, I realized that I actual save money for two primary reasons: the produce tastes better because it is fresh and organic meaning we eat more produce and need to buy less of other food items and, this it the big money saver, we eat at home more. Through exploring new fruits and vegetables throughout the season, I seek out new recipes and have improved my cooking skills. This means more meals at home -- saving money and calories and improving our health. In fact, no one in our family even wants take out/store bought or restaurant pizza anymore because the pizza we make at home is so much better. 

III. Liking Turnips! Who knew? I use turnips because they are probably the vegetable in our produce box that represents the value of seasonal produce the most. I always liked vegetables (in fact I was a vegetarian for 10 years), but often gravitated toward the same vegetables: spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, etc. Through a focus on seasonal produce, I was forced to branch out and to discover that vegetables, I would have NEVER picked up at the store before, have become some of my favorites, like turnips and rutabagas. I've also learned how to make beet brownies, a huge hit at our house. My one vegetable hold out is eggplant -- still don't like it. Please send me a recipe that will change my mind! 

IV. Getting to Know My Neighbors - My produce box has led to connections and conversations with my neighbors, one of whom actually brings my box to me each week. She realized that I have two small children and share a car with my husband. Since she has a produce box to pick up herself, she gets mine. We also split a box once a month and get our eggs from her free-range, organic eating chickens, which my sons also love to help feed. I also will share some of my produce with other neighbors from time to time on a week when we seem to have more than we need or when I know a particular neighbor is in need. My produce box builds community. I know other friends who have had the same experience through their farmer's markets -- getting to know farmers, offering to get produce times for neighbors/friends, meeting up with the same fellow farmer's market patrons each week. 

V. Herbed Playdough! - Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I still can't use up my herbs. We have lavender in our yard, so I decided to create Lavender Playdough once. Since then, we've experimented with different herbed playdough variations. The boys love adding a fragrant and textural element to their playdough play. Here's our Lavender Playdough

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Choose, eat, and live well! =)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Children and Healthy Snacks

Children and Healthy Snacks

As a certified health coach and a mom to a kindergartner, I have learned that sharing my interest of eating clean with my son has returned great results.  He has been eager to try new dishes with me. This is exciting because I’m always coming up with new ones! 

As a parent, I know you desire for your child(ren) to eat more fruits and vegetables but yet you’re stumped on how to or maybe have simply ran out of new ideas on how to present the foods to them, right? Look no further! Before I share a few ideas, I am going to give you a starter list of which ingredients to avoid and why.

·      High Fructose Corn Syrup is an ingredient that has been processed many times over. It also shuts down the body’s ability to say ‘enough.’ It contains 40-90% fructose and it shapes a child’s tastes toward sweet cravings. It is a leading cause of obesity (the over-consumption of fructose since the 1970s). More on this topic, click here.  

·      Artificial Dyes are ingredients that are a color and a number and studies show a link between them and hyperactivity in children. They are also called excitotoxins because they have the ability to damage cells in the brain.  Dyes: Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2, and Green 3. More on this topic, click here

·      Hydrogenated Oils are man-made fats. Another name for them is trans-fats. Trans-fats may damage cell membranes in the brain and nerve cells. More on this topic, click here

Now that we have addressed what to avoid, let’s focus on the positive. Here are some proven tricks to get your children to eat and enjoy more vegetables (and fruits):

Dip it (hummus, guacamole), Hide it (add grated veggies to dishes), Design it (make veggie art), Grow it (plant a garden), Fill it (stuff a pita), and Tell it (greens are ‘grow foods’).

My son’s favorite go-to snack is apple wedges with drizzled raw honey and sprinkled cinnamon.

Choose, eat, and live well! =)