Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Homemade Birthday Cake

Maybe it's because this is my first and only baby...
I just couldn't get myself to order a pre-made birthday cake, loaded with synthetic coloring, corn syrup and probably genetically modified flour.

Yes, I realize my daughter will one day stuff her face with chips, sodas and cupcakes and there won't be much I can do about it! 

Right now I have a two year window where I can get her to eat just about anything! 
I am trying to give her a good foundation while she can't talk back or tell me she really wants hash browns for breakfast!

She has never even tasted canned/jarred baby food because making my own baby food is much easier than I thought! 
She eats everything... quinoa, avocados, mung beans, chicken, fresh rosemary, butternut squash... many times all mixed together!

For her first birthday, I had to make her cake. We didn't add any extra sugar/sweetener to the banana cake (make sure your bananas are almost black--they'll be extra sweet!) but I did give in to sugar-sweetened cream cheese frosting.

I made an extra small cake for us to try--and everyone ate it! It was a nice balance of not too sweet--the cream cheese frosting is killer!

I tried to add concentrated juices to color the frosting, but it added too much liquid.
Next time, I'll try India Tree natural food coloring.

Have you made your own healthy birthday cake? I'd love to share your recipe!

Kingsley’s First Birthday Smash Cake
2/3 c. banana, mashed
1/2 c. earth’s balance, softened
3 lg. eggs
3/4 c. water
2 c. unbleached, gluten-free Bob’s Red Mill flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. cinnamon
Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan. Beat together mashed banana and soft earth’s balance until creamy. Beat in water. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until very foamy. Beat into mixture. Blend in flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Beat until smooth. 
Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Cool. Serves 8-10. 
Cream Cheese Frosting   
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (recommended: Neufchatel)
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla  
With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar  until smooth and creamy. (BTW, India Tree makes natural food coloring)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BPA found in canned children's food

This is just one of the many reasons why I soak beans overnight, slice fresh tomatoes and eat fresh pineapple instead of opening a can. I only cook with canned food in a pinch.

With a history of estrogen-receptive breast cancer in my family, I personally don't need additional exposure to Bisphenol A, a chemical known to mimic estrogen, especially when there are proven ways to lower exposure.

Consumer Reports found Bisphenol A or BPA in all canned foods and beverages tested back in 2009 which is why the group is calling for manufacturers to stop using BPA. Some countries, including Japan have already removed it. BPA is showing up in the majority of Americans, at rates higher than other populations studied.

Now, new tests of canned food marketed to children also found BPA lurking in the can liners.

It's used in the lining of most food or soda cans (you can sometimes see a white or clear plastic-like liner inside the can). The chemical leaches into food and beverages and has been linked to a variety of diseases including breast cancer.

The Breast Cancer Fund tested these 6 canned foods that are marketed to children:

• Annie's Homegrown Cheesy Ravioli

• Campbell's Disney Princess Cool Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth

• Campbell's Spaghettios with Meatballs

• Campbell's Toy Story Fun Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth

• Chef Boyardee Whole Grain Pasta, Mini ABC's & 123's with Meatballs

• Earth's Best Organic Elmo Noodlemania Soup

According to the non-profit group, every food sample tested positive for BPA. BCF says Campbell's Disney Princess and Toy Story soups had the highest amounts. Researchers are concerned because the levels found in these children's foods disrupt the body's delicate, developing hormonal systems.

You can lower kids' exposure to BPA by cutting down on canned and processed foods and eating more fresh foods.

Campbell Soup Company spokesman Anthony Sanzio told Web MD:

"BPA is used by the entire industry as a can lining to protect the food because it is approved for that use," says Sanzio. "We are talking about parts per billion here. These are very small, minute amounts that regulatory bodies have said don't pose a threat to human health."

"We are confident in what the science tells us, but that does not mean that we don't understand the concerns that consumers have expressed," says Sanzio.

Click here to see how to lower your child's exposure to BPA

Click here to read Washington Post article about how BPA lobbyists are trying to stop the chemical from being banned.

Get a fresh perspective on health: Heather's Natural Health

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Heather's 5 Day Fat Fighting Food Challenge

Are you ready to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle? 
Take our 5 Day Fat Fighting Meal Plan challenge to see how you feel cutting out processed foods, sodas and replacing them with real foods to fuel your body!
Dr. Christine Gerbstadt is a medical doctor and registered dietitian. 
Dr. Gerbstadt partnered with Heather to create this 5 day meal plan. It's designed to jumpstart your weight loss, fuel your body and help you get healthy!
The Fat Fighting Meal plan is for busy people who want quick and easy, real food meals.

Most meals are created for two people with leftovers for the next day. Feel free to make the recipes your own... add additional spices, herbs and garlic to give your food an extra kick! 
Each day has roughly 1500 calories. You can chose snacks from the approved snack list but they will add extra calories.
Swap out all soda (including diet!) all week for peach white or green tea. No artificial or chemical sweeteners allowed. You can also swap out meat for beans in many of the recipes.
Try to walk 20 to 30 minutes at least 3 days during your challenge.
It's as easy as 1, 2, 3:
1.) Print out your grocery list, Fat Fighting Meal Plan and recipes
2.) Cross off grocery items you already have
3.) Shop and post your calendar so you know what to eat
Day #1
Breakfast #1
Hard-boiled large egg
Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
1 slice whole grain toast with almond butter
Black coffee or tea
100 calorie snack
(Apple with almond butter)
100 calorie snack
Day #2
Breakfast #2
High fiber cereal & skim or almond milk
1 slice whole grain toast with almond butter
Fresh fruit
Black coffee or tea
100 calorie snack
Leftover chicken with sun-dried tomato/spinach/mushroom
1 slice whole grain bread
Fruit or vegetable
100 calorie snack
Day #3
Eat Breakfast #1 or Breakfast #2 any day
Both 400 calories and 20 grams of protein
#1 = 12 grams of fiber
#2 = 16 grams of fiber
100 calorie snack
Leftover turkey burger with Lentil Bean Salad on mixed greens or spinach
100 calorie snack
Day #4
Eat Breakfast #1 or Breakfast #2 any day
100 calorie snack
Leftover White Bean-Turkey Chilil
Fruit or vegetable
100 calorie snack
* Cook all beef but set aside unseasoned portion for spaghetti tomorrow
Day #5
Eat Breakfast #1 or Breakfast #2 any day
Egg can be hard-boiled or cook one egg with 1 egg white
100 calorie snack
Fruit or vegetable
100 calorie snack
Quinoa: Make a pot on day 1 for the week store in refrigerator. Use chicken broth instead ofto add flavor. Add garlic and spices
Beverages: Make a gallon of peach green or white tea for the week to replace soda. No chemical sweeteners allowed.
Fruit or vegetable: Snack on fresh fruit and use vegetables as side dishes.
Optional snacks: Choose from list of 100 snacks on 100 calorie snack list. Hard boil half a carton of eggs for breakfast/snack
Optional dessert: Fresh fruit, 100% fruit frozen fruit bar or 2 whole wheat fig newton cookies or half 70% chocolate bar.
*Real food fat fighting meal plan has roughly 1500 calories each day. Snack and dessert add extra calories. Portion sizes are for two people with leftovers for next day.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Fresh and clean" smells like chemicals to me

A few years ago when I made the conscious decision to cut down on my exposure to everyday chemicals. I said goodbye to the "fresh and clean" chemical scents found in everything from chemical air fresheners, body lotions to laundry detergent. 
The manufacturers don't have to tell you which chemicals are in their products so I decided to support companies that would disclose their ingredients. 
Just as I do with food, I make sure the label has simple ingredients. 
Now that I have a baby, this is more important than ever.

According to CBS News:
A new small study suggests scented laundry items contain carcinogens that waft through vents, potentially raising cancer risk.
"This is an interesting source of pollution because emissions from dryer vents are essentially unregulated," said lead author Dr. Anne Steinemann, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs at the University of Washington, said in a written statement. "If they're coming out of a smokestack or tail pipe, they're regulated, but if they're coming out of a dryer vent, they're not."
Previous studies have looked at what chemicals are released by laundry products, since manufacturers don't have to disclose ingredients used in fragrances or laundry products.
Needless to say, these researchers weren't thrilled with what they found.
For the study - published in the August issue of Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health - researchers enlisted two homeowners to volunteer their washers and dryers, which the team scrubbed clean beforehand. The researchers ran a regular laundry cycle for three scenarios in each home: once without any detergent, once with a scented liquid laundry detergent, and the last with both scented detergent and a leading brand of scented dryer sheets.
Their analysis found more than 25 "volatile" air pollutants - including the carcinogens acetaldehyde and benzene.
Benzene causes leukemia and other blood cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Acetaldehyde has been shown to cause nasal and throat cancer in animal studies.
Steinemann thinks agencies focus too much on limiting other pollution sources when they should look closer to home.
"We focus a lot of attention on how to reduce emissions of pollutants from automobiles," she said. "And here's one source of pollutants that could be reduced."
The American Cleaning Institute, however, Steinemann's study, calling the findings "shoddy science" that didn't take into account many factors like washing machine brands, different load cycles, and non-scented products.
"Consumers should not be swayed by the sensationalist headlines that may come across the Internet related to this so-called research," the Institute emailed CBS News. 

Yes, The American Cleaning Institute can continue to keep consumers in the dark and NOT disclose chemicals they use. I will continue to support companies that do disclose this information. 
You and I have a right to know--we're paying for the product! I will also continue to cringe when I see people spray those sweet smelling air fresheners and other items that may not be so sweet for us. The reality is that most are just chemicals in a bottle.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Heather's fresh and fast baby food from scratch

I can admit, I may have waited a little TOO LONG before feeding my daughter real food.
You know that moment, right after your baby takes a first bite, when you expect her to spit it out and scrunch her nose? That never happened!
Not only did Kingsley gobble it up, but, at almost 8 months old, she looked at me as if to say, "It's about time!"

I know, I know... everyone told me we should have started feeding her rice cereal around 6 months. Yes, there were a lot of jokes made at my expense... "She's going to be 15 years old and still drinking milk" on and on and on... I heard them all.

I waited almost two months longer, mainly because nursing was convenient and to be honest, I needed more time to figure out if I really had extra time to make my own baby food!
I wanted to make my own food because jarred food tastes too sweet to me, plus I have to believe if she likes steamed vegetables early on, I'll have a good shot of getting her to eat them later in life.

I added an extra challenge for good measure--I didn't want to use plastic steamers or the microwave to prep her food. I've replaced all of my plastic storage containers with glass and I rarely use the microwave. I find a pot on the stove only takes a matter of minutes to heat leftovers.

In all honesty, I didn't put any pressure on myself. If I could find a fast and easy system that would work, we would make our baby food from scratch, otherwise, I would buy jars of organic baby food--guilt free!
Moms have enough to worry about!

Swiss Chard, Sweet Potato and Millet

I am happy to say making baby food from scratch is much easier than I expected!
What surprised me the most is how easily she eats swiss chard with sweet potato and millet, lentil beans with millet, peas and a pinch of banana even oatmeal with egg yolk and blueberries!

We started with one food at a time... first millet (soaked overnight to soften it) next, she tried steamed sweet potato and then mashed butternut squash. I crossed my fingers every time she ate a new vegetable, hoping it would go down the hatch so she would develop a taste for real food.


Organic Whole Grains and Beans

Here are the 5 things that helped me make this happen:

1.) Super Baby Food is my saving grace!
A friend of mine (with 3 vegetable eating boys) gave me this book: Super Baby Food--the Bible of natural health baby food books written by a true saint! A working mother of twins!

Naturally Healthy First Foods for Baby is a smaller book for someone who wants to try a few recipes.

2.) Stainless steel immersion blender
It takes 30 seconds to puree just about anything. I don't have to worry about any plastic parts coming into contact with hot food.

*Some plastics are coming under fire for being endocrine disruptors because they mimic estrogen.
While other countries have banned controversial plastics in baby products, lobbyists in this country maintain these controversial plastics are safe and there is no need to ban them here.
Several manufacturers have decided to remove these controversial chemicals and create Bisphenol A or BPA-free options, but there is something to be said for using old school methods that have stood the test of time, including stainless steel and glass.

3.) Stainless steel steamer pot
Make sure it's not tin or aluminum.

4.) Glass storage containers (Costco Wholesale Club has a great variety pack!)

5.) Infant fish oil and multi-vitamin drops you can sneak into food
Make sure you buy pharmaceutical grade fish oil that is tested by a third party. I like Dr. Sears multi-vitamin because it's not loaded with sugar or artificial ingredients.

I make separate containers of grains (millet) vegetables (steamed sweet potato) plant protein (lentil beans) and hard boiled eggs (yolk only) every 3 days. I mix and match dozens of combinations to make baby food in 10 minutes or less.

Now if only I could find a way to dress up these recipes and pass them off to my husband as "dinner." Crackers anyone?

RECIPE: Millet, Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard
1 cup of cooked millet (rinse and soak overnight to soften)
1 cup of cooked sweet potato
1/4 cup of steamed swiss chard
Combine ingredients and puree with 1 tablespoon of breast milk or formula until smooth. I add cooked egg yolk (no whites) or a spoonful of cooked beans if I have them.

RECIPE: Oatmeal, Sweet Potato and Apple
1 cup of cooked oats (I use whole grain steel cut oats)
1 cup cooked apple
1/2 cup cooked sweet potato
Combine all ingredients and puree
*Make only for breakfast or lunch. Apples are acidic and can contribute to diaper rash.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A healthier way to replace your soda fix!

Forget the empty calories, chemical sweeteners and artifical flavors... fill up your cup with fruity teas in hundreds of different flavors. Drinking peach white and green teas with a bit of honey helped me break the soda addiction more than 10 years ago.
The added bonus is you'll also get a good dose of cancer fighting antioxidants and much more! Check out the 10 reasons to switch to tea below. I stopped by the cutest tea boutique in South Tampa on Davis Islands.
TeBella sells hundreds of loose-leaf teas including many organics. The owner is pretty funny too... he says why support the corporate tea stores when you can help his 10-month-old pay for college!

Get a fresh perspective on health: Check out Heather's Natural Health


1. Tea contains antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your body from pollution and diseases.
2. Tea has less caffeine than coffee. Coffee usually has two to three times the caffeine of tea. An eight-ounce cup of coffee contains around 135 mg caffeine. Tea contains roughly 30 to 40 mg.

3. Tea may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Researchers say drinking tea may help keep your arteries smooth and clog-free. A study from the Netherlands found people who drank at least two to three cups of black tea a day had 70 percent lower risk of fatal heart attack compared to non-tea drinkers.

4. Tea protects your bones. One study suggests the phytochemicals in tea contributes to strong bones.

5. Tea gives you a sweet smile. Tea contains natural fluoride and tannins that may keep plaque at bay.

6. Tea bolsters your immune defenses. Drinking tea may boost your body’s immune system and fight off infection.

7. Tea helps protect against cancer. Researchers credit polyphenols, antixidants for the potential protective benefits.

8. Tea helps keep you hydrated. Drinking tea throughout the day will keep fluids flowing through your body.

9. Tea is calorie-free. Drinking flavored teas can be a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Adding a dollup of honey sweetens it a bit without too many extra calories.

10. Tea increases your metabolism. Researchers say drinking five cups of green tea a day increases your metabolic rate. Of course drinking your tea during a walk will burn even more calories!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Beat the heat one bite at a time!

When the temperature reaches 90+, you can't help but look for ways to cool off.  Creamy frozen yogurt hits the spot! I love this new yogurt place at the mall...yum!

Have you checked out the new Pinkberry Yogurt at Westshore mall, right next to P.F.Changs?   

They have mouth-watering flavors including pomegranate, mango, chocolate, green tea and so many more!
The caramel with sea salt is worth a taste too!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Dirty Dozen" most pesticide laden produce

EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Dirty Dozen
Buy these organic
– imported
Grapes – imported
Red Pepper
Sweet bell peppers
– domestic
Kale/collard greens

Clean 15
Lowest in Pesticide
Sweet Corn
Sweet Corn
Sweet peas
- domestic
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes

Red, yellow, green... there are more than 7500 different types of apples!
I love green Granny Smith. They're tart, easy to eat on the run and extra delicious dipped in raw almond butter-yum!

When I was pregnant with my daughter, green apples were my number two craving--I ate at least one apple a day (of course my number one craving was dairy-free, mint chocolate chip coconut milk ice cream!).

Apples are loaded with vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants and most likely something else: pesticide residue!
In fact, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration testing, apples top the list of the 2011"Dirty Dozen" most pesticide laden fruits and vegetables.
A non-profit, consumer advocacy group called the Environmental Working Group analyzed the government data and created the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15" to help you know which fruits and vegetables are worth buying organic.
According to the USDA tests, pesticides showed up on 98 percent of the 700 apples tested.
All produce was washed and peeled before testing.
The USDA even found 33 unapproved pesticides on 44 cilantro samples which is the most unapproved pesticides found on one type of produce since EWG started tracking government produce tests back in 1995!
Clearly, this isn't meant to stop you from eating fresh fruits and vegetables. This list is to help you buy what's best for your family. 

Eating 5 servings of produce from the Dirty Dozen list could expose you to 14 pesticides a day, while picking produce from the Clean 15 lowers that to two. Or buy organic produce when possible, especially if you're pregnant or feeding young kids. 

Integrative medical doctors also encourage you to buy organic or from the Clean 15 list when possible.
A study in the journal Pediatrics found kids with an above average level of a common pesticide in their urine had twice the odds of being diagnosed with ADHD.
"I really worry that pesticides on food are unhealthy for the tender, developing brains and bodies of young children," said Dr. Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP, creator of the book/DVD The Happiest Baby on the Block. "Parents don't realize they're often feeding their little ones fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide residues. Studies show even small amounts of these chemicals add up and can impair a child's health when they're exposed during the early, critical stages of their development. When pesticide sprayers have to bundle up in astronaut-like suits for protection, it's clear parents want to feed their families food containing as little of these toxic chemicals as possible."
"Pesticides, while designed specifically to kill certain organisms, are also associated with a host of very serious health problems in people, including neurological deficits, ADHD, endocrine system disruption and cancer," said Andrew Weil, MD, Founder and Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a renowned medical expert on natural health and wellness. "My advice to shoppers is to whenever possible avoid exposure to pesticides, including pesticide residues on food."

Now that I am a busy mom, I am stilling eating an organic green apple a day... it's one of my favorite, fast foods to grab and go!