Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach.
I was thrilled to see how well the first edition of this article went over and how helpful many of you said that the suggestions were, so I won’t delay in rolling out my suggestions that focus more on foods and supplements that I love to use. Thank you to those of you who contributed your own suggestions as a follow-up!! It’s great to hear feedback and what others have found to work, too!! We all learn from each other.
As noted in my first article, this sampling of things I am recommending to replace or add to your stash is simply by my own use and loving of the products. I HAVE NO AFFILIATION WITH ANY OF THESE COMPANIES, SO MY ENDORSEMENTS ARE STRICTLY FROM LOVING THEIR PRODUCT(S):
First things first, I want to begin by reiterating the fact that our society, world, homes, etc. have been INUNDATED with harmful chemicals, so doing whatever we can to safeguard ourselves and loved ones starts in the home and has the greatest impact over time. A general rule is to use organic or genuinely all-natural (read the label!!) when you can, as this is the best defense against lots of harmful chemicals, additives, etc. Just know that not everything is perfect, and even organic products have their flaws (i.e. carrageenan being added to must nut and seed milks, INCLUDING organic!). The main point is to pick the best quality option that will cut your exposure and risk from harmful ingredients, etc. to a minimum.
FOODS / SNACKS / COOKING ITEMS:
– With the holidays right around the corner, I am sure many of you are baking, making, and storing away. I mentioned in the last article to use glass for storage and mixing whenever possible, but even things like cellophane, ZipLoc bags, cupcake liners, etc. carry tons of chemicals that LEACH into your food at an alarming rate! So your healthy recipe that you worked so hard on to make as nutritious as possible will most likely come in contact with terrible things if you use any of the aforementioned products. Instead of cellophane, try using parchment paper or a cotton dish cloth (even with a rubber band to secure it in place around lids, etc.) to cover food. Some people even prefer using aluminum foil, which I think is fine, as long as it doesn’t touch the food, as there is a concern over aluminum and our health. Cellophane is riddled with tons of toxins like hormone disruptors and neurotoxins that leach into your food, even if the cellophane is not directly touching the food. Also, I found these great baggies to use instead of conventional store-bought or ZipLoc brand plastic baggies: Natural Value baggies and similar products that do not use PVC or plasticizers (these are the dangerous things that leach into your food). And whatever you do – no NOT microwave food with cellophane and/or plastic baggies. This is just a recipe for chemical disaster, as heat causes the chemicals to be released at an even more alarming rate. How about those cupcake/muffin paper or aluminum liners? Try the If You Care brand of baking cup liners that use no chemicals and are eco-conscious. They also make other products like roasting bags for meat, etc. that replace the chemical-laden -counterparts found in the grocery store that people have been using for years (flashbacks to how many Shake-N-Bake dinners you ate as a kid?!?). Lastly, try and use pans and tins that are NOT non-stick, as due to the concerns that I mentioned in the part I article about toxins used in the manufacturing process that are released each time you cook or bake. Reference this article for more info about toxins in our cookware: https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/pssssst-pfcs-these-sneaky-chemicals-and-their-existence-in-our-homes-and-bodies/
– Don’t buy eggs that come in Styrofoam cartons – the chemicals in the Styrofoam leach into the eggs (their shells are permeable) and then are transferred to you when you eat them. Buying eggs that come in a cardboard carton is best.
– Food coloring. Ah. What else would we use to make our holiday cookies, cakes, and everything else that requires color?!? You know my rants about how horrible artificial food dyes are. Well, food coloring is just a concentrated form of those artificial food dyes, so I highly recommend switching this out with a natural-based food dye brand that is made from spices and dyes from nature. While these natural food dyes may be a little more pricey, I think the health and well-being of everyone eating anything colored with dye is worth it. I use India Tree brand and they work great. Here’s a post that highlights some concerns over food dyes: https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/dangers-of-artificial-food-dyes/
– The same concern goes for food flavorings as food dyes – the artificial ingredients are enough to make one cringe. These food flavorings may smell and taste great, but they are made with enough chemicals to emulate a mad scientist’s lab. Try using essential oils or natural extracts instead.
– As mentioned earlier in regards to the concern over aluminum being a health concern (aluminum is linked to neurological disorders, especially in children and the elderly – our bodies are barraged with aluminum daily from the environment and all the products we wear on our skin to ingredients in food to vaccines. Minimizing our intake and exposure is best.) One source of aluminum that many people are not aware of is baking soda – try and read the ingredients in baking soda to make sure it’s aluminum free. Bob’s Red Mill makes a version, as well as Rumford, Argo, and Ener-g. Just be sure to read the label AND ingredient list to make sure it’s aluminum free.
– Speaking of Bob’s Red Mill… this is a decent company that makes a HUGE array of different flours (gluten-free included!) that are more nutritious and nutrient-dense than traditional processed flour. The company also has other ingredients like rice, grains, and seeds for cooking. I also really like Lundberg Family brand for rice products and all kinds of gluten-free options and alternative baking ingredients. They also have a line of snacks like rice cakes, etc. that are nice alternatives. Check out this former article that highlights options: https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/flour-power-healthy-alternatives-to-the-white-stuff/
– Don’t cook at high temps with olive oil anymore! Use something like grapeseed oil or refined coconut oil; these stay more stable at higher temperatures and their fatty-acid chains do not become damaged by high heat as much (which in turn makes what would be a healthy oil into a dangerous oil to your health due to the free-radical damage that occurs). I have been able to find organic brands of both in large containers at Costco and other warehouse stores. This is a great option, for I use coconut oil for many things, including making my own body butter. Refined coconut oil does not have much of a coconut smell or taste, so many people prefer that for cooking over the raw, unrefined version (which works great as a body butter or addition to a smoothie to add some healthy fat to your diet, not to mention all of the health benefits. See this former article: https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/cheers-for-coconut/
– Try and switch out that traditional white table sugar with a healthier alternative (please note: sugar is something that should be used sparingly regardless. I like to use different natural sweeteners instead of refined table sugar). One of my faves is Sweet Tree brand organic coconut palm sugar (I order mine through Amazon.com!). I like the coconut palm sugar because it has naturally occurring magnesium, nitrogen, zinc, potassium, calcium, and amino acids…not to mention it has a much lower glycemic load than most sugars, so it has a slower absorption into the bloodstream (which means less sugar spikes and crashes). Read about the health concerns regarding sugar here in a past article I wrote: https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/megan-monday-carbs-the-often-confused-macronutrient-broken-down-part-iii-focus-on-sugar-balances-in-the-body/
– Most food from a can is a bad idea….and here’s why: the first reason is the high prevalence of the chemical (toxin) BPA. BPA is used to line most cans and undeniably leaches into the food (with tomatoes being the worst!!!). Who cares about BPA? Well, BPA is a known hormone disruptor that has been linked to many hormonal and reproductive malfunctions, especially in children and pregnant women (and their unborn fetuses). I avoid food in cans at all costs unless I know for a fact that the can is BPA free. There are very few brands that use BPA-free cans, and my favorite brand is Eden Organic. Not only does this company make sure their packaging is safe, but they don’t add anything artificial to their products. While I mostly buy their canned beans, they also offer a fantastically-wide array of other products, including tomato products, which is super important, as the acid in tomatoes tears right through the BPA lining of cans and creates the highest level transferred in foods. Trader Joe’s also uses BPA-free cans for their beans and other food products (you’d have to check their website on which products for sure), but they don’t advertise on the can that it’s BPA-free (which I wish they would do so consumers could make a better choice!). Also, these brands tend not to add salt, which can add up and be a health concern. I absolutely love BioNaturae tomato products – they use BPA-free cans and glass jars to package their tomato products (and they are organic, which is especially important for tomatoes). I use their jars of fresh organic tomato puree for a majority of my recipes and will never go back to using anything else.
– Nitrates and preservatives are something you want to stay away from, especially for children and/or pregnant or nursing mothers. Meats, meat products, and some cheeses like bacon, deli meats, sausage, hot dogs, deli/sliced cheeses, etc. are loaded with them. While I am not a huge fan of eating lots of meat, I know some individuals out there love their bacon and deli sandwiches, which is why it’s important to select a brand that does not use nitrates, nitrites, or preservatives. Applegate Farms makes a great selection of meat products that are free from these additives, including hormones and antibiotics (some of you may have even seen their comical commercial). I know Trader Joe’s offers some meat selections that are also free from additives, in addition to Columbus brand deli meats. Just be sure to read the ingredient list to make sure nothing questionable is added.
– Looking for an awesome brand of coconut milk for your recipes or as a great dairy alternative? I love the Native Forest brand of organic coconut milks that come in BPA-free cans (one of the only brands that does this). I order mine in bulk from amazon.com for a reasonable price. This unsweetened coconut milk is delicious and makes recipes come to life. My son even enjoys drinking the low-fat version instead of cow’s milk on some days.
– A neat nut butter alternative I heard about from a friend and have been using is NuttZo. While the company makes a variety of different nut butters, some with peanuts, but most varieties without, it offers a nice healthy and organic change to sandwiches, snacks, and recipes. My favorite version is the crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter. Since it’s peanut-free, I feel safe giving it to my toddler who loves it on fruit. It’s high in Omegas and minerals!
– Pasta can be tough thing to switch to if going gluten-free or just looking for a healthier alternative while keeping the taste great. With all the concern around GMOs today, I highly recommend buying organic. I have switched to using gluten-free pasta when I can and have fallen in love with Ancient Harvest Quinoa brand. It does not taste gluey or like cardboard and is gluten-free. It cooks up beautifully and you’d never know it was a healthier alternative to wheat-based pasta. Katie also found a neat lentil-based pasta that I ordered and am going to try this week: Tolerant Foods organic lentil pastas.
– Let’s face it – this time of year, we’re all running around in a nutty fashion, and our eating tends to take a back-seat in the priority department. While I am not a huge fan of replacing meals with shake or food bar products, I did find an awesome bar that will help fill your belly until something more ample comes your way (and if you don’t have a pouch of a MySuperFoods Super Snack on you already): Pure Bars are a delicious, organic fruit bar or fruit strip snack (adults and kids alike can enjoy them!). These bars are gluten-free, vegan, Kosher, organic, and made from fruits, nuts, and ancient grains.
– Looking for a protein boost here and there? I am normally not a fan at all of isolated protein shakes or products, for I feel they are so heavily processed and unnatural. However, I have been using SunWarrior vegan protein powders in smoothies and even sprinkled on top of cereal, yogurt, or pureed fruit to add a boost to my protein or my toddler’s protein intake. While many people like using whey protein powders, I know many individuals are dairy-sensitive or don’t want a dairy source for protein. I also like that SunWarrior uses all plant-based proteins, but not entirely from rice (which is commonly used as the main protein powder alternative to whey). SunWarrior uses all non-GMO products and is soy-free, so it’s very allergen-friendly. With a combination of raw pea protein, cranberry protein, and hempseed protein, it offers a nice variety of nutrient-dense and easily-digestible complete essential amino acids. It comes in vanilla, chocolate, or natural flavors – but I must admit, it does not have the super-sweet or creamy taste and texture of most protein powders offer. It may take a few tries of mixing with different ingredients to get used to the taste, for it is a little different at first.
– I am a huge fan of taking spirulina and chlorella (blue green algae and chlorophyll products from nature) to boost immunity, take in natural proteins, minerals, and vitamins, in addition to naturally detoxifying the body and pumping a great dose of antioxidants into the blood. I must admit, I am thrilled that I found tablet forms in both, for the powders were a bit much for me to stomach (the taste is very, um, sea-dense and meaty), and thankfully the tablets go down easy. After much research into which brands are best and most pure, I use Pure Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica brand (I order on amazon.com for the cheapest price) for my spirulina (and kids can take this, too! My son actually stomachs the powder form when I mix it with fruit and even yogurt). For chlorella, I order mine through the online store at Natural News (the brand is called Health Ranger Select) www.naturalnews.com, for it has been rigorously tested by a third-party for purity and processing standards. This brand also lists the purity testing results online to show exactly what showed up in the tests, so I love that there is full-transparency with the product, not to mention it’s sourced from the cleanest harvest.
– For other vitamin and supplement products, I am not going to re-invent the wheel – rather, I am going to reference you to this previous article I wrote on vitamins and supplements that I trust (if you use supplements; I know some people prefer not to use any supplements whatsoever, which is totally fine!): https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/megan-monday-vitamins-and-supplements-for-babies-toddlers-children-the-low-down-on-what-you-should-know/
– I am also a huge fan of probiotics and am going to refer you to this article as to why I feel they are important to take and the brands I trust and use (this is especially important for this time of year when our immune systems begin to become run-down and more vulnerable): https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/props-for-probiotics/
– Water filters – since we are 70% water and it is a vital element that we must take in plenty of on a daily basis, it makes sense that we drink only the cleanest and purest available, right? Please reference this article for my suggestions on the best water filters and why filtering our water is so important (including our shower water!): https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/megan-monday-do-you-know-whats-in-your-water/
While this list is far from complete with everything you can use as a healthy alternative (and from what lines my cabinets), in essence of time and web space, I figured I’d highlight these. Please feel free to add your own suggestions and/or ask questions based on things you’d like to see better alternatives for. Chances are, I have researched it! Have fun experimenting with any of these products you want to try…and let me know what you think!
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us or feel free to send her an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.