Sunday, June 27, 2010

Solutions for Identifying Gluten Free Food

Our house is completely gluten free so we don't have to worry about cross contamination or mix ups in our kitchen, but cross contamination and food mix ups are real issue when gluten free and regular food are being prepared in the same kitchen and served at the same time. Once, I was making banana bread for my daughter's class and there was a child with an egg allergy. It was pretty hard to be sure which bread was egg free when all the banana bread was baked and sliced, so I have experienced how difficult it is to tell after cooking which is the allergy free item. You can usually figure it out. But in some cases, such as at a restaurant or group situation, you need to have an easy way for everyone to know what is gluten free and what is not. Here are some solutions I have seen implemented and some I have used myself to identify gluten free food and cut down on cross contamination.

  • Use different plates. One restaurant has square plates for the gluten free food and round plates for the regular food. Since they are both white, you only know which one is gluten free if you are aware of the system. It is a nice understated way to differentiate two different dishes that might look identical. Lilly and Loo's in Manhattan uses this system because many of the items, such as the gluten free dumplings, look exactly the same as their regular counterparts. You can also use different colored plates if you want a more obvious system in place.
  • Use flags or toothpicks when the item is served. Risotteria, a NYC pizza place that serves gluten free and gluten filled pizza sticks small flags in their gluten free pizza which looks exactly like the regular pizza. As soon as the pizza comes out of the oven it gets a gluten free flag differentiating it from the regular pizza. If you don't have colored flags, you could put little frilly toothpicks in the gluten free food as soon as it is plated.
  • Prepare gluten free food first before preparing gluten containing food. Uno's pizza prepares all the gluten free pizza in the morning first thing when the kitchen is clean. This is important to do whenever baking gluten free items in a kitchen that is not completely gluten free. Everything used for baking should come straight out of the dishwasher to make sure that there is no cross contamination. Line all pans with parchment paper or foil or use paper or foil baking cups for baked items. You can keep all gluten free items on the parchment paper to differentiate it for the kitchen staff.
  • Put an extra item on cupcakes or cookies to differentiate it from gluten containing items. When my kids were younger and I used to bring cupcakes and cookies to class parties where other food was being served, I would serve the cookies and cupcakes my kids could have with a skittle in the middle. That way, they would easily know which ones they could have. I am not a huge fan of candy, but for a celebration, a small piece of candy transforms a gluten free treat into something appealing to everyone.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Another Reason to Avoid Fruit Juice..High Lead Levels

I received an email from Thoughtful House saying:

"The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) has filed a Notice of Violation alleging that testing has shown that lead, a toxic chemical, was found in a variety of juices and baby foods.
This notice has been filed for exposing consumers of certain brands of apple juice, grape juice, packaged peaches, packaged pears, and fruit cocktail to lead."

Twenty four brands of apple juice had one or more samples exceeding the limit of 0.5 micrograms of lead per serving including: Beech Nut 100% Apple Juice, Earth's Best Organics Apple Juice and Mott's 100% Apple Juice. Only ten brands did not exceed the limit including: Tree Top 100% Apple Juice and Martinelli's Gold Medal Apple Juice 100% pure from US grown fresh apples. If you take a look at the link below you can see information on apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears, packaged peaches and fruit cocktail.

For a complete list of companies and products under the Notice of Violation, please visit:

http://envirolaw.org/documents/ProductsTestedforLeadFINAL.pdf

For more information and to access the Notice of Violation, please visit:

http://www.envirolaw.org/documents/100609-NoticeLetterwithExhibits.PDF

Friday, June 25, 2010

Organic Fresh Lemon Ice Recipe

This is a recipe for homemade organic lemon ice that my friend is perfecting to try to wean her family off Haagan Daz ice cream. Homemade versions of ices contain natural vitamin C which is an essential vitamin necessary for wound healing and detoxification without the "natural flavors" and dye that store bought ices often contain. The lemon ice was made in a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker which you can purchase a stainless steel freezer bowl.

Ingredients:

5 organic lemons-medium size
1 Tablespoon organic lemon rind-zested
2 ½ cups water
¾ cup organic white sugar
½ cup organic agave

  • Freeze ice cream maker bowl in the freezer for a minimum of 12hrs – make sure your freezer setting is set low.
  • Squeeze the juice from the 5 lemons into a bowl. Zest 1 tablespoon of the lemon rind (wash the lemons you are zesting)
  • In a small pot add the water and sugar mixture, stirring on high until the sugar has melted. Let cool.
  • Add Lemons with rind, sugar water and agave into a blender. Blend on high until well blended. Put mixture into the fridge to cool.
  • When ready to make the ice, place mixture in frozen maker bowl and turn on for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cooking Swiss Chard















I love our farm share because I cook all sorts of greens I wouldn't normally bother to buy, wash and cook. But, if I get the greens through the farm share I am determined to cook and eat them before the next farm share. It is a huge undertaking to try to eat all the greens in my share, but I also have noticed all sorts of health benefits from my enormous leafy green consumption. My skin is noticeably clearer and my face is thinner--I have been told. I have lost a few pounds, which is a nice unexpected bonus. I have energy. My peripheral neuropathy (which was from vitamin deficiencies of copper, carnitine and B12) has lessened. And I have added a bunch of healthy recipes to my blog. Although, I am going away and won't have my farm share for the next two months, I am thinking of buying 4 heads of lettuce and 3 assorted leafy greens each week to continue eating the way I have been eating. Basically I have greens with 2 meals a day. It's pretty time consuming, but also a fun challenge. "Crowding out" bad food with healthy food, is one strategy of trying to get healthier. It certainly seems to work--at least for me!


Cooking Swiss Chard

-Before washing chard, chop the large stems off 1 bunch of swiss chard. Wash chard well. I prefer to wash greens in a sink full of water, but you can wash them however you like.
-Remove inner hard stalk with a knife or by folding leaf in half and ripping it out.
-Chop leaves coarsely.
-Finely chop 2 cloves garlic (or use a garlic press.)
-Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a pan
-Add chopped/pressed garlic and saute until golden brown.
-Add the chopped chard and toss with the garlic and oil to coat the leaves with oil.
-Then add 2 Tablespoons of water to pan. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes.
-Season with salt, ground pepper and lemon to taste.
-Serve with brown rice.

I made some rice paper spring rolls with the swiss chard, rice, walnuts and shredded carrots. It was a little bit of an experiment in how to make the swiss chard portable.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Posts!!!

I am putting together all my summer posts on one page so it is easy to find seasonal ideas. Visit the SUMMER POSTS link below and on column to the right. The link will be updated as I go back and find more great summer tips.

SUMMER POSTS

Westminster Tabletop Foosball for the Whole Family


















This Westminster Tabletop Foosball Game is a new family favorite. It's small size makes it perfect for an apartment sized foosball game--and even something you can take on a road trip. But, it's just as fun as any foosball table. My eight year old beat me 8 to 9 tonight. We have done the research and it's the perfect gift for kids 6 and up. I am adding it to my favorite gift list. I especially like games that are interactive and allow kids to easily play together. Even kids who hate typical games will like this gift. It's also good for "the kid who has everything." In addition, the table is made of wood which is impressive, given how many toys are plastic. The only downside is you do have to put it together. It took me about 20 minutes to put it together and it was pretty simple until I got to the handles which were a little more difficult. I bought is at Zittles on Madison Avenue and it cost about $30.00 which seemed like a bargain for such an impressive gift that was not plastic. You can also buy tabletop foosball on Amazon for $19.95 and pay $9.95 for shipping.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gluten Free Hamburger "Buns" for Burgers













Cutting out burger shapes from gluten free toast is often easier than finding gluten free hamburger buns. I love the way the hamburger on toast rounds looks on the plate. Usually I have gluten free bread around, but it is harder to find gluten free hamburger buns. When I asked my son if he wanted lettuce on his burger, he said "Is it shredded?" So now I am serving shredded lettuce with everything.

Making the toast rounds is really simple if you have a round biscuit cutter. I bought a set of biscuit cutters from William Sonoma but they sell a set of stainless steel round cookie cutters on TheCookPro.com that also work well. If you don't have round cutters, you can invert a small bowl over the toast and use a sharp knife to follow the edge of the bowl. It will take a little longer without round cutters, but it will still work. And for me it is far easier than finding gluten free hamburger buns.

If anyone has any suggestions for tasty gluten free hamburger and hotdog buns, I would love if they left a comment.

Strawberry Rhubard Oat Crisp with Maple "Butter"











T
his gluten and dairy free strawberry rhubarb crumble was inspired by Emeril Lagasse's recipe for Strawberry-Rhubarb Irish Crumble with Irish Whiskey Butter. This is a gluten free, casein free and alcohol free version. My children do not like crumbles, so they actually didn't like this. (NOTE TO SELF--STICK TO PIES.) My kids have unbelievably high standards and are a little spoiled when it comes to desserts. The Maple "Butter" Frosting was a big hit with my eight year old-she thought it was the best frosting I had ever made. My son hated the maple butter topping.

Rhubarb is one of the first plant foods to be ready to harvest in the early spring so it's no surprise I received two stalks in my farm share this week. I love sour foods and was excited to get rhubarb. I do regret not making a pie, though. What was I thinking??? If I don't get rhubarb next week I will have to get some to make a pie.

I thought this strawberry rhubarb crumble would make a great waffle topping or ice cream topping. In fact, despite my love for the maple butter frosting, the crumble was begging for a ice cream topping. I should have served it with some Vanilla Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Ice Cream.

Maple Butter Topping Recipe
1/2 cup spectrum organic shortening (or butter)
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/8 cup of maple syrup

To make the maple butter topping, whip the shortening in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. With the mixer running, gradually add the confectioners sugar. Add the maple syrup. Continue whipping until light and fluffy.Serve room temperature or chilled.

Strawberry Rhubarb Oat Crumble Recipe (gluten free, casein free)

5 cups quartered strawberries
3 cups sliced rhubarb, about 1/3 inch thick
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup starch (cornstarch, potato starch or tapioca flour)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup gluten flour blend
3/4 cup gluten free oats
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
pinch salt
6 tablespoons spectrum shortening (or butter)

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease 7-by-11 inch baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, starch, and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Pour into prepared baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, salt and shortening. Mix well with a fork or clean fingers until mixture resembles course crumbs. Pour crumb mixture on top of strawberry mixture to form an even topping.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes.

Serve warm with your favorite frozen ice cream or the maple butter topping.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What's Cooking Today...

Today was not a meatless Monday at my house. The kids started off the day with french toast, which I make pretty regularly for breakfast. I had a salad for breakfast AND lunch because I was trying to use up the remaining greens before I picked up week 2 of my CSA farm share. For dinner, I made Pan Seared Chicken with Bay Leaf Sauce and then used the bones to make Julia Child's Chicken Stock for chicken noodle soup. My daughter has been begging me for chicken soup before she goes off to camp for the summer and today I actually had some time so I figured I would have a meatless day another day so that she could enjoy chicken noodle soup before she heads off for the summer.

I have a lot to do in preparation for sending my gluten free eight year old off to camp: sew on remaining labels into clothing and bedding, bake GF cookies and send gluten free food to camp, and repack her bag which has been riffled through a few times by her and her four year old brother. For an end of year party at school, my DD has requested GLOW Gluten Free Cookies so I don't have to bake for the party--which is nice given all the other stuff I have to do. But I am also taking her and two friends away for the weekend for her birthday which means I also have to buy some presents, pack up clothing and organize food for the weekend. It seems there is always something big happening followed by something else right behind it. I am looking forward to summer vacation.

I always say: I am good at many things--but organizing is not one of them! I am better at Birthdays! And staying up late! Off to sleep. Goodnight.

Related posts:
What To Make For Dinner
FUN Birthday Ideas

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On Road Trips and Junk Food

I don't bring junk food into the house, but when we are on the road I try to allow my children gluten free junk food (and in my son's case gluten free, casein free junk food) because I don't want junk food to be something that they NEVER have--and I want them to know the food that they can actually eat, in case, when they are older, they find themselves in situations where their only choices are junk food. So, at the gas station on the drive back home, from a reunion weekend my daughter chose Doritos Cool Ranch Tortilla Chips. A while ago, she carefully read the label of Cool Ranch Doritos and discovered they are, in fact, gluten free. Gluten-Free Frito Lay's products can be found on the Frito Lay Products Not Containing Gluten page. It is funny to both of us that the Nacho Cheese Doritos do contain gluten but the Cool Ranch are gluten free. My son chose the Frito's Original Corn Chips--which contain far less chemicals than the Doritos. His selection is more limited--he can have the Fritos or some potato chips.

I didn't always allow them to eat this type of food. For a long time they were sensitive to MSG which is in every Doritos brand product except Doritos Last Call Jalepeno Popper Flavored Potato Chips and Doritos Toasted Corn Tortilla Chips. While they were sensitive to MSG I kept processed food that contained MSG far away from them.

I am sure some people are surprised that I now let them eat this type of processed food at all. By allowing them this food now, I am hoping when they are older that they will know how to make the best choices when confronted with a sea of junk food. I am sure my eight year old would have a better day without these processed snacks full of chemicals, but I fear that if I make this type of food completely forbidden, that it will make it all the more appealing to her when she is older and on her own, in just a few years. And so, I let her make the choice to have it now. I also know she does not eat this type of food on regular basis. It is something she has as a treat when we are on the road.

And for my kids, now, it is okay. And for that, I am grateful.

WHAT TO FEED YOUR KIDS: Despite the name of my blog "What To Feed Your Kids" there are no easy answers. I don't bring junk food into my house but I do allow my kids to have this food outside of our house, occasionally, so they don't feel deprived being gluten free and end up resenting me for having this blog and being an advocate for healthy food. What To Feed Your Kids is really up to you, as a parent. I try to educate parents so that parents can make choices for themselves what is best for their family. Every family is different and every child is different. What is do able for one family is an impossibility for another family.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Carrot Scallion Sesame Salad

When I was making a sesame mizuma pasta salad, I tasted the salad without the pasta and couldn't believe how delicious the carrot salad was so I decided to make it into a carrot scallion sesame salad.

3 carrots
1/2 cup scallions
3 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 Tablespoons gluten free Tamari soy sauce
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Slice carrots on the diagonal into 1/8 inch ovals. Then chop each oval into 1/8 inch sticks.
Slice the scallions thinly on the diagonal.
Toss carrots and scallions with sesame oil, tamari and sesame seeds. Serve or toss with green salad for asian salad.

Emmy's Organics Cheesecake Review


I love the nutty, creamy taste of Emmy's Organics Cheesecake which is vegan, gluten free and raw. My dear friend Mary brought over some from the Park Slope Food Coop. I sampled the lemon cheesecake and the chocolate cheesecake. The lemon cheesecake looks like a key lime pie with a nut crust and a tangy nutty filling. I preferred the chocolate cheesecake because the cashews, almonds and cocao powder create a rich, mysterious taste. It's just sweet enough to be a rich dessert and a few bites are completely satisfying because of the raw, mostly organic ingredients. Unlike with most desserts, I felt better after the cheesecake than before the cheesecake--my brain felt calm and clear. My kids didn't sample the cheesecake-it was a little too healthy looking for them and since my son has never had cheese, the concept of "cheesecake" was a little too unbelievable for him. Emmy's Organics is made in Ithaca, New York in a facility that does not contain any dairy, wheat, gluten, corn, processed sugar or GMO's. And, unlike coca-cola, it's the real thing. If you are near the Ithaca Farmer's Market check out all the treats Emmy's Organics sells. And if you aren't near Ithaca you can check out their blog Emmy's Organics and be inspired by their raw, vegan vision.

Gluten Free Sesame Mizuma Pasta Salad

This is an adaptation of Sesame Pasta Salad with Mizuma recipe from the Greens Glorious Greens Cookbook. I like to publish my recipes so I remember what I did to the original! And it's handy to have the recipe when I am on the road without my favorite cookbook.

Gluten Free Sesame Mizuma Pasta Salad

2 cups mizuma leaves, washed and stemmed
1 carrot
1/4 cup scallions sliced
1 package Tinkyada organic brown rice pasta
3 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon ginger juice (I used a garlic press)
2 Tablespoons Tamari (wheat free soy sauce)
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds

1. Slice the mizuma into 1 inch peices. Cut carrots on the diagonal into 1/8 inch rounds. Julienne into sticks. Slice the scallions on the diagonal.
2.Cook the pasta according to directions in salted boiling water.
3. Toss pasta with mizuma, carrots, scallion, ginger, tamari and sesame seeds.
4. Season to taste

Farm Share Sesame Bok Choy Recipe from Greens Glorious Greens
























The first week at the farm share we received Cherriette Radishes, Bok Choi, 2 heads of Red Leaf Lettuce, Buttercrunch Lettuce, Arugula, Mizuna, Mustard and Oregano. My son did have a salad and some of us enjoyed the bok choy stir fry but mostly, I was the main beneficiary of this weeks early lettuces and greens. I made a double sesame bok choy stir fry from the Greens Glorious Green Cookbook which I have posted below. Although I own (and LOVE) the cookbook and use it often, I will be on the road this summer and I might need the recipe.

Also here is a picture of my lettuce soaking in my sink. I learned to wash lettuce by soaking it in a sink full of water and letting the dirt sink to the bottom while the lettuce floats on top. Then you gently lift the leaves out so the dirt remains. Many people just rinse lettuce, but when the lettuce has farm dirt on it, it works well to soak it to remove the dirt. If it is really dirty, you can wash it twice.

DOUBLE SESAME BOK CHOY FROM GREENS GLORIOUS GREENS COOKBOOK

1 head bok choy
2 teaspoons sesame oil, coconut oil or lightly flavored oil
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons gluten free tamari
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
cayenne pepper (optional)

1. Wash bok choy in sink full of water. Cut the stalks away from the leaves. Stack the leaves on top of each other, roll up and slice into 1/3 inch strips. Cut the stalks into 1/3 inch pieces.

2. Heat a large wok or frying pan. Add oil and heat being careful not to burn. Add a pinch of cayenne to taste. Add leaves and stalks and stir to cover the greens with oil. Cover for a minute to create some steam. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes until cooked but still bright green.

3. Season with dark sesame oil, tamari and rice vinegar. Garnish with sesame seeds.






Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Our GF Family Favorite Gluten Free Packaged Food - 2010

When we first went gluten free we tried so many different gluten free products. Many were terrible and were thrown out after one bite. In the three years I have been gluten free there are so many new, wonderful products that make gluten free life so much easier to navigate. Unfortunately, a lot of the gluten free products are made with white rice, tapioca flour and sugar. While the products are tasty and I love having them available, they aren't nutritious. Some of these products are more nutritious--the GLOW cookies and the Tinkyada Organic Brown Rice Pasta and the Authentic Foods Brown Rice Flour are all slightly more nutritious options but they won't make you healthy. In general, when moving to a gluten free diet, you need to eventually move to more fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, and homemade baked goods, in order to be healthy. The packaged foods should supplement a healthy diet. You can not make these foods the bulk of your gluten free diet. That being said, I am so grateful for all these wonderful products which make gluten free life so much more fun and convenient.

Tinkyada Organic Brown Rice Pasta

Ancient Harvest Quinoa

Food for Life Raisin Pecan Bread (toasted)
Kinnikinnick Yeast Free Bread

Udi's Bread and Udi's Pizza Crust(delicious but has yeast--some people are sensitive to the yeast molecule which is similar to the gluten molecule.) This bread can be ordered from Fresh Direct in NYC.

Donuts: Kinnikinnick Gluten Free Dairy Free Soy Free Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

Licorice: Organic Strawberry Vines

Chocolate Chip Cookies: GLOW Gluten Free Cookies

Oreo Cookies: Kinnikkinnick K-Toos

S'moreables Gluten Free Graham Crackers

Dr. Schar Italian Bread sticks

Cereal: Bakery on Main Granola
Gorrilla Munch
Nature's Path Organic Crispy Rice Cereal
Animal Crackers by Orgran or Kinnikinnick Animal Cookies

Joan's Gluten Free Bagels


Foods by George-Pound Cake, Blueberry Muffins, Brownies

Amy's Pizza (has dairy)

Flours:
Authentic Foods Multi Blend Flour (includes xanthum gum--can use 3/4 of this as substitute for wheat flour.)

Authentic Foods Brown Rice Flour (use this in a flour blend)

Authentic Foods GF Classical Blend (For GF recipes)

Baking Mixes:

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Baking Mixes

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Being Free of Being Gluten Free

I have been busy sewing labels on to clothing for my almost 9 year old who is going away to camp and haven't had the time to post recipes with all that is going on for the end of the school year. Today was a real highlight for me, though, and I wanted to share my day with everyone. My 9 year old was spontaneously invited to a birthday party of a friend's child. It was a generous, last minute invitation to a super fun celebration and I asked my daughter if she could just go and eat whatever she could and she could have a treat after the party if she wanted to. We had cupcakes in the freezer and frosting in the fridge, but it felt like the right thing to not make the food thing complicated. How nice that they happened to be serving barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers so she could eat a hamburger! Anyway, after the party she asked if we could stop at the grocery store so she could get some ice cream since she couldn't have the cake.

I don't really mind bringing substitutes everywhere for my kids, but it is a lot of work. And, I have often wondered how sustainable it is to bring food to every celebration. I love to bake and cook, but my kids also need to learn to eat what they can in situations. This will allow them to be included in more activities and allow them to go into the world without me. I have tried to tell them both that the fun part about celebrations is being with our friends. It's not really about the food--it's about being together. But, what a real gift to see that my daughter was able to enjoy a fun party and be flexible about the food.

My almost nine year old is going off to camp this summer for the first time. She didn't want to go to a gluten free camp for kids with celiac. She no longer wants to take her own pretzels to pottery so she has a snack. By making the choice to eat what she can eat in certain situations, (which might mean not eating sometimes) she can be free of being gluten free for a while and just be a regular kid.

The Worst Kids Sunscreens--Banana Boat

Environmental Working Group did an in depth evaluation of 500 sunscreens. Of the 500 sunscreens they looked at, only 39 were safe to recommend! You would think that sunscreens for kids would be safer than those for adults. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Banana Boat Baby Max Protect, SPF=100 for babies earned a place at the top of the list of the Environmental Working Group's Hall of Shame. Don't be fooled by the high SPF number. This sunscreen protects against UVB radiation (which causes sunburns) but leaves babies skin exposed to UVA radiation that is known to cause aging and skin cancer. Yikes. It also contains a frightening long list of ingredients.

One ingredient that is of concern is oxybenzone which has a hazard score of 9. Among the concerns for oxybenzone are "Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Violations, restrictions & warnings, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Persistence and bioaccumulation, Enhanced skin absorption, Biochemical or cellular level changes." (1) When I watched Toxic Childhood last week, the advice one doctor gave was "Don't put anything on your skin that you wouldn't eat." (2) Because the skin has no filter (like the liver which can process hazards we ingest) these toxins go directly into the bloodstream.

Another unsafe kids sunscreen is Banana Boat Kids Ultra Mist Continuous Clear Spray Sunscreen SPF 50. It gets an overall score of 7 because of the high health concerns which "reflects combined hazards of all products ingredients. Actual health risks from product use, if any, will depend on the amount of the ingredients that absorb into the body and individual vulnerability to health problems." (3) There are several ingredients which are of concern.

This product also contains oxybenzone, as well as Octinoxate. Among the concerns for Octinoxate are "Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Persistence and bioaccumulation, Enhanced skin absorption, Biochemical or cellular level changes." Not great for any kids I know. (4)

And while, one would think that vitamin A would be a good thing, actually "This additive may hasten the development of skin damage and tumors on sun exposed skin." Not really what one would hope for in a sunscreen! (5)

For three decades sunscreen only blocked UVB rays, the rays that cause sunburn, while allowing UVA rays, which are also of concern. There is some concern that sunscreens allow people to stay in the sun for longer and actually increasing our risk for the deadliest forms of skin cancer. Which is why "many experts are now recommending clothing and shade, not sunscreen, as primary barriers from sun exposure." (6)

The Environmental Working Group says:
"The best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt. No chemicals to absorb through the skin, no questions about whether they work." (7)

To find out the safest sunscreens, go to the EWG Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens or see my post on Safest Sunscreens for a few safe choices.

(1) http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient/704372/OXYBENZONE/
(2) http://unearthed.earthjustice.org/blog/2010-june/cnns-toxic-childhood-dose-truth
(3) http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/finding-the-best-sunscreens/158102/Banana-Boat-Kids-UltraMist-Continuous-Clear-Spray-Sunscreen-SPF/
(4) http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient/704203/OCTINOXATE/
(5) http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient/705545/RETINYL_PALMITATE_%28VITAMIN_A_PALMITATE%29/
(6) http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/full-report/epidemiology-studies-of-sunsreens-efficacy-for-cancer-protection/
(7) http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/best-beach-sport-sunscreens/

Monday, June 7, 2010

EWG Safest Suncreens for 2010

The Environmental Working Group has a list of the Best Beach and Sport Sunscreens for 2010...I am packing up my eight year old for camp and have a long list of toiletries. We stopped by the drugstore to see if I could find any on the list but, sadly, non of the top sunscreens were to be found at the CVS near me. At the health food store nearby I did see both JASON Natural Cosmetics and California Baby which are mineral based sunblocks--without chemical sunblock. Mineral based sunblocks are the safest option. Environmental Working Group rates each product--0 is the safest 9 being the unsafest. If you click on the link you can see how each product earned the rating. I don't slather my kids with sunscreen every day--I use it as sparingly as possible. Whenever possible I opt for hats, shade and swim suits with the most coverage.

Jason Natural Cosmetics
Sunbrellas: Mineral Based Physical Sunblock, SPF 30+
Sunbrellas: Chemical Free Sunblock, SPF 30+
Earth’s Best: Sunblock Mineral Based, SPF 30+

California Baby
Sunblock Stick No Fragrance, SPF 30+
Sunscreen Lotion No Fragrance, SPF 30+
Sunscreen Lotion Everyday/Year-Round, SPF 30+
Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+, Citronella
Sunblock Stick Everyday/Year-Round, SPF 30+


If you are going to stick with Coppertone, below are the products which are the safest by Coppertone. These sunscreens contain both mineral and chemicals sunblocks.

Coppertone
ultraGUARD Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 15
Oil-Free Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 15
Sport Sunblock Lotion, SPF 15

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Popping Popcorn--A Naturally Gluten Free Snack


Kids love popping popcorn and it is a super simple way everyone can enjoy a gluten free snack together. An air popper is a great investment in future healthy snacking. We have a Presto Orville Redenbacher Hot Air Corn Popper, which makes a large bowl of popcorn in 2.5 minutes. A popcorn maker with some organic popcorn makes a wonderful gift for someone who doesn't have one.

If you buy organic popcorn you can easily have an organic snack on hand for a minimal investment. You can even bag up the leftover popcorn to pack for snacks on the go. (We usually don't have leftovers because one batch is the perfect size for movie night.) Although companies want to sell you microwave popcorn, it is much healthier and cheaper to pop it the old fashioned way or use an air popper. And the ritual of actually popping popcorn is super fun for kids. The truth is, using an air popper is really just as easy as the microwave. And there is no cleanup, which is nice. Or you can try a pan with oil if you really want to do it the old fashioned way...

PERFECT POPCORN RECIPE

3 tablespoons oil of choice
1/3 cup organic popcorn
large covered pan or pot
butter or olive oil
salt

1. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. (You can also add salt and seasoning to the oil if you want the popcorn preseasoned.)
2. Place three or four kernels of corn in the oil and cover.
3. When the kernels have popped, add the remaining 1/3 cup of kernels, cover and remove from heat for 30 second so all the kernels can heat up. This insures that when you return the pan to the heat that the kernels will pop evenly.
4. Return the pan to the heat and the popcorn should begin popping immediately. As soon as it starts popping, shake the pan moving it back and forth over the burner until the popping sounds start to slow down. Pour popcorn into bowl as popping slows down.
5. Salt to taste. Butter can be melted in pan at this point.

Enjoy and marvel at how delicious old fashioned popcorn tastes.

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Some kids are sensitive to corn and do better without corn. But air popped organic popcorn is a great way to test whether kids are sensitive to corn. If they are okay with air popped organic corn, then it might be other ingredients or the GMO corn that they are reacting to.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our Library Routine and Cooking

Every Friday we go to the library to take out and return books and videos. In the past, before we had a designated day for the library, I would forget to return books and end up with overdue fees. But now that we make a weekly trip to the library it is very easy to remember to bring back and return books because I know that they are due Friday. I have a library bag where all the books go and everyone knows where to find and return the books so we aren't looking everywhere come Friday afternoon. It all seems very uncomplicated as part of a routine. But I remember the days when it wasn't a routine. I would take books out one day and weeks would go by and was it last week or the week before I had taken the books out? Were they do on Monday or Tuesday. It was impossible.

Cooking is similar to the library. If you make a routine and do things on a weekly basis things get easier. If you never cook and then you decide to cook everyday it will feel like an impossible task. Instead work it into your routine--pick one day a week to make a healthy homemade meal. Once you get used to cooking once a week, twice a week will seem do able.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Journal Article Published about Early Test for Autism in the Works

British Scientists are working on a test which could identify children who have autism as young as six months based on the chemical fingerprint of their gut microbes. The Telegraph reported on this development in a story "Autism Test Could Make the Condition 'Preventable'." According to new research that is being published tomorrow, children with autism have a different chemical fingerprint of their gut microbes which can be analyzed through a urine test which could eventually screen for autism. The article in the Journal of Proteome Research is called Urinary Metabolic Phenotyping Differentiates Children with Autism from their Unaffected Siblings and Age-Matched Controls.

The study found that a group of non-autistic children had a different chemical fingerprint from siblings of children with autism and that children with autism had a different chemical fingerprint than either siblings or non-autistic children. Of course, we don't know if the difference in gut microbiology is a cause of the autism or a result of a system that is not working.

The author of the study, Professor Jeremy Nicholson said “Children with autism have very unusual gut microbes which we can test for before the full blown symptoms of the disease come through." (1)

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(1) http://www.autismsupportnetwork.com/news/autism-test-could-make-condition-preventable-93894034

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fruit and Vegetable Bean Bag Contest Winner!

Random.org picked number 7 and so BenBarton1 is the winner of the Fruit and Vegetable Bean Bag contest! Congratulations BenBarton1. Please email me your address and we will get you your custom made bean bags.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why I Recommend a Balanced Multivitamin with Minerals

If there is one thing I have learned from all I have been through with my kids, it is that a balanced multi-vitamin with minerals is critical for many children--especially ones who have issues with detoxification, absorption of vitamins and minerals or developmental issues of any kind. In addition, studies have consistently found that children on a restricted diet (like a GFCF diet) can become low on vitamins when following a restricted diet. In fact, most American children are deficient in key vitamins. (3)

I used to think that if a child moves from a typical diet to a "healthier diet" more based on whole foods, that they would get more vitamins and minerals because often a restricted diet (like a gluten free diet, a casein free diet or a vegetarian diet) contains more healthy foods. But there are several factors at work which cause this not to be the case. First, when you remove a food group, like wheat or dairy, you are also removing a source of supplementation, because both wheat flour and milk are fortified with vitamins. Even though cereal is totally junk food, it is fortified and in many cases contains a third of the vitamins you need for the day. So when you remove this mainstream food, you are also removing vitamins from the child's diet.

In addition, although a child may be eating healthy food, you really don't know what they are absorbing. Although it would seem like food sources would be the best way to get these important vitamins and minerals, if children are deficient in one mineral they can have trouble absorbing another. So you might know you are low in iron, eat red meat, but not absorb iron because you are low in copper, which is necessary to absorb the iron.(2) Also, some vitamins (like B6 and B12) which are critical for brain function are synthesized in the gut by beneficial bacteria. We have evolved to create these vitamins ourselves so our brains don't starve when we can't get them from food sources. But, if bad bacteria takes over the gut and there isn't the right balance of bacteria these vitamins cannot be created. In addition, the stress of toxins use up these B vitamins quickly.(3) In this case supplementation is necessary. And finally, food is generally less nutritious than it was years ago.(4)

We were fortunate to have a lot of access to nutritional testing when my son was sick which led us toward supplementation and better health.

I didn't know how important a multivitamin was at the time. But it was obvious to me that my 18 month old son was desperately low on vitamins--his brain and body were starving. He had gone from the 90% of weight at 12 months to the 6% of weight at 17 months and his iron level was below 10 (normal was above 40.) An alternative test showed that he was low on B12 and a doctor friend ordered me to go directly to the pediatrician and get a blood test for B12, homocysteine and methylmalonic acid. His B12 level was 324 (there was no normal range for kids under 5 and normal for adults was above 200) but there was a note on the test that a percentage of people had problems with levels between 200 and 400. And his methylmalonic acid level was elevated indicating a low B12 level despite being in a the so-called "normal" range.

I stumbled upon the Nutristart multivitamin at Whole Foods, which my son took for almost three years. He began to speak after B12 with folic acid from the vitamin shop. And he grew more alert and functioned better when I gave him probiotics. Not everyone has such a response to vitamins, but children whose brains are starving for nutrients can have dramatic responses to supplementation. In other cases, kids systems are such a mess that they are unable to break down vitamins. This was the case with my daughter until we discovered she had a thyroid problem.

Which is why I recommend trying samples of vitamins to see how your child reacts and trying a different product if they have a bad reaction to a particular vitamin. Everyone is different and what works for my children might not work for your children. Food sources are the best place to get vitamins and minerals, but a multivitamin with minerals like Nutristart Multivitamin Powder or Hero Multivitamin with Minerals is insurance that they have the necessary nutrients to absorb nutrition from the food they are eating.

Also...

(1)from Vegetarian Diets: Advantages for Children:
"Consuming foods rich in vitamin C, such as orange juice, with iron-rich foods enhances the absorption of iron. Some foods are naturally rich in both iron and vitamin C, such as broccoli, Swiss chard, and other dark green leafy vegetables. Other good iron sources include iron-fortified cereals, enriched bread, pasta, rice, soybeans, chickpeas, and blackstrap molasses. Dairy products are extremely low in iron and may interfere with iron balance, especially in very small children."
(2) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=53
(3) The Best Vitamins for Removing Toxins

From Should You Give Your Child a Multivitamin:
"A recent survey found that children between ages two and eighteen receive only about 40% of the daily value for vitamin A, 30% of the daily value for vitamin E, and 60% of the daily value for magnesium. The average American child also consumes insufficient quantities of other essential nutrients including iron, zinc, and vitamin B6. Although these deficiencies are not pronounced, if they are not corrected, over time they can rob a child of reaching his or her full potential as they impair growth, hinder immune defenses, and produce a wide range of shortcomings that are associated with marginal deficiencies. "

(4) "Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999" (J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 23: 669-682,2004) studied 50-year changes in U.S. Dept. of Agriculture food composition data for 13 nutrients in 43 garden crops-vegetables plus strawberries and three melons. Study found apparent declines in median concentrations of six nutrients: protein -6%, calcium -16%, phosphorus-9%, iron-15%, riboflavin-38%, and vitamin C about -20%. nutrient-dense foods.

Toxic America on CNN Tonight at 8 pm


Watch CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta's special two-part investigative report Toxic America (airing 8 PM on Wednesday ET June 2 and Thursday ET June 3).

Click here for more information.