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.