Category Archives: Sustainable Living

Planning a Productive & Practical Kitchen Garden

Planning a Productive and Practical Kitchen Garden

A well-planned kitchen garden, can be a beautiful and enticing way to incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet. The following tips will help you plan a productive and practical kitchen garden.

Tip #1: Pick the Perfect Spot.  When choosing a location for your kitchen garden, try to find a spot as close to your kitchen as possible.  After all, you want your own personal culinary garden to be easy to reach while you are preparing meals.  Of course, you have to make sure the soil you are planting on is healthy and not contaminated.

The location you choose must also take into consideration the kind of environment your plants prefer. Choose a sunny location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you live in a really hot climate, you may find a bit of afternoon shade is just as nice to have, as well.

Also, you’ll want to make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You definitely don’t want to drag a heavy garden hose around the house or carry buckets of water in order to keep your plants hydrated.

Tip #2: Pick Your Plants. The easiest way to decide what you want to grow is to think about what you like to cook or what your family likes to eat.

For example, if you use a lot of fresh herbs, you’ll want to keep a big pot of your favorite varieties on hand. Kids can’t get enough of your homemade salsa? Plan to have a steady supply of fresh cilantro and juicy tomatoes nearby. Increasing your salads, or smoothies?  Grow lots of spinach!

In other words, you want to stock your kitchen garden with the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers you use in your day-to-day cooking.  These are the items you will want to have convenient access to throughout the growing season.  Also be sure to have Mason Jars and other containers for items you plan freeze, can or otherwise preserve for later use.

Tip #3: Make the Most of the Space You Have.  Due to their proximity to the house, many kitchen gardens are confined to a relatively small space. Kitchen gardens can be in a box shape, raised bed, or vertical shelving.

Go Vertical! Consider growing juicy yellow pear tomatoes surrounded by creeping thyme in a vertical container or use hanging baskets suspended on shepherd hooks for your favorite herbs. Just make sure you keep them well watered as hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly.

You could also add a trellis or incorporate a fence into your design to provide support for climbing plants, such as pole beans or cucumbers. If your space has a blank wall with good sun exposure, you could add a ladder-like series of shelves to house a lot more plants than you could fit into the ground you have available.

Tip #4: Make It Beautiful. Although some may argue that beauty for its own sake is neither productive nor practical, I disagree. Your kitchen garden is an extension of your home and will likely be visible to your family and guests. So, making the area as attractive as possible just makes good sense.

Balance, symmetry and repetition are components of any good garden design. To incorporate balance and symmetry into your garden, try adding two matching brightly colored containers filled with herbs and place them on each side of the entrance.

For repetition, add multiples of the same plants throughout the garden. For example, a group of 3 cherry tomato plants in attractive containers will have a stronger visual impact than a single plant. You can also create a sense of order by planting lovely borders of edible flowers or fragrant herbs along walkways.

One great thing about incorporating ornamental aspects into your garden is you may find you want to spend more time in an area that nourishes both your body and soul.

I love to add seating space, and a space for bon fires to my garden spaces for a special touch.

 

 

Health Reasons To Grow And Eat More Colorful Vegetables

Health Reasons To Grow And Eat More Colorful Vegetables

With the official start of Spring this week, it is time to start thinking about renewing, refreshing and regenerating your health and your lifestyle.

Eating a plant-based diet can enhance and invigorate your health and there is every reason to believe that it can improve the quality of your life. Many nutrition experts recommend a colorful plate as the more variety in colors of produce the more nutrients you get into your body.

Many color vegetables and fruits can be grown in your garden and will provide fresh, pesticide free produce for you, and your family.

Both fruits and vegetables have their own natural color that will impart many health benefits. They are low in calories and can be picked from your garden when they have a maximum amount of nutrients. Here are some colorful fruits and vegetables you should be incorporating into your diet every day for optimum health and wellness.  Don’t you want to have the energy you need to keep up with your family?

Learn about starting a Kitchen Garden here.

Red Fruits and Vegetables

These include healthy foods such as tomatoes, guava, raspberries, red cabbage, watermelon, cherries, kidney beans, beets, and blueberries. All of these fruits and vegetables are extremely rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins and lycopene.

Antioxidants stop the chain reaction of oxygen free radicals from the body, which has the potential to damage cells, including cellular DNA. Experts say you will be healthier if you eat up to 30 milligrams of lycopene.

One medium tomato picked fresh from your garden will provide you with 3 milligrams of lycopene. Lycopene is also considered a carotenoid, which helps you make and use Vitamin A in the body.

Orange and Yellow Fruits and Vegetables

These are vegetables and fruits like yellow peppers and cantaloupe. They are rich in beta-carotene, which is a precursor to making vitamin A. Vitamin A is a healthful nutrient that helps your vision at night and is helpful in controlling the health of your skin, bones, and teeth.

Yellow and orange vegetables and fruits also contain folate, which is an antioxidant that also is a preventative against neural tube defects in growing fetuses. You need about 500 mg of vitamin A per day, which can be more than gotten from a couple of cups of yellow cantaloupe. The same amount of cantaloupe provides about 65 mg of folate, of which you need about 320 mg per day.

Green Vegetables

There are many green vegetables you can grow in your garden including greens, peas, and green beans. These are especially good for the health of your bones, teeth, and eyes. You need these vegetables as adequate sources for vitamin K, which helps you clot blood better. Just two cups of raw spinach gives you more than double the amount of vitamin K you require each day for optimal health. Green vegetables contain great amounts of vitamin C and vitamin E, which aid in decreasing your overall risk for certain chronic disease. They also provide you with the phytonutrients called zeaxanthin and lutein, which are protective against macular degeneration.

I’m starting my kitchen garden soon.  Will you join me?

Blue and Purple Vegetables

These include blueberries, other berries, and eggplant. They contain anthocyanins, which prevent heart disease through their antioxidant properties. It is known that they contain certain flavonoids and Ellagic acid that can destroy cancer cells, including cells that make lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer and breast cancer. These compounds also have anti-inflammatory properties, which are protective against colon and esophageal cancer.

White Fruits and Vegetables

White fruits and vegetable include pears, apples, cauliflower, cucumbers, and bananas. These foods are fiber-rich which can aid in your digestion and which can bind cholesterol so it doesn’t reach your bloodstream. They also contain antioxidants like quercetin, which is particularly prevalent in pears and apples. White fruits are helpful in lowering your stroke risk.

The Home Garden

Try to incorporate as many colored vegetables as you can in your daily diet. They all act differently on your body and have known health benefits you truly need. This is made easy by growing an organic vegetable and fruit garden at home. It does not take a lot of space, and it is a rewarding and beneficial activity for the whole family.

One of the greatest benefits to growing your own produce is that you can avoid eating the pesticides that are in commercial fruits and vegetables. Organic produce is available in stores, but many people complain about buying organic because it costs a lot more– that is another great reason to start a garden!

A Super Easy Way to Get A Boost of Antioxidants NOW

A super easy way to add antioxidants in your diet is through essential oils.  I add lemon oil, grapefruit oil and orange oil in my smoothies almost everyday.  I make a mean chocolate mint smoothie with the peppermint oil.  These are very high quality oils, and they taste AMAZING!

via GIPHY

Learn more about how essential oils can be added to your plant-based healthy lifestyle here

 

Health Benefits of Growing Your Own Produce

Health Benefits of Growing Your Own Fresh Produce

As I was writing a GMO-Free Shopping Guide for you, I thought it would be great to talk about the many great benefits of growing fresh produce to get your interest going.

There are many reasons people choose to grow their own fruits and vegetables at home, from saving money to having access to produce without chemicals. There also happen to be quite a few health benefits to choosing fresh produce, especially when you grow it yourself. Here are some health benefits to keep in mind.

It is Loaded With Nutrients

Fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables, and herbs, have tons of nutrients. Many of these are considered superfoods, which have a higher amount of vitamins and minerals. Some good superfoods are blueberries, kale, spinach, and strawberries. All fruits and veggies have a lot of nutrients you want, which are a higher amount with fresh produce. This includes vitamins C and A, vitamin D, folate, potassium, fiber, and lots of antioxidants.

You Can Prepare Well Balanced Meals

Thanks to the nutritious fresh produce and the convenience of having them at home, you can also use them to prepare healthier, more balanced meals. This is an excellent health benefit as your family might be struggling with malnutrition without even realizing it. Sure, you might be eating enough food, but not the right foods. Having fruits and vegetables right in your own backyard encourages you to prepare more of these balanced meals for the good of your family’s health. I share healthy recipes in my upcoming Clean Eating Plan guide.

Gardening is Good Exercise

Growing fresh produce in your backyard is great exercise and good for your health. It helps you burn calories, be more active, and can even get your kids involved. Plus, don’t forget that when you are outside more often by planting your veggies and herbs, you are going to get more vitamin D from the sunlight. This helps to prevent vitamin D deficiency, which is common for many people. Try to get everyone in the family involved in growing your own food and you will all benefit from it.

You Won’t Have Nasty Chemicals

Growing your own produce means you have full control of what is added to it. You can avoid harsh fertilizers in the soil and use pest control methods that are completely natural without chemicals in them. This is the same thing you get from buying organic produce, but when you grow it on your own, you have the convenience factor and save money at the same time. Less chemicals is always a good thing when you are feeding your family more fruits and veggies.

My next article will go over tips for beginners and those starting their first produce garden!

50 Tips for Organic & Clean Living

50 Tips for Organic & Clean Living

  1. Faucet water contains fluoride in all 50 states. Purchase a reverse osmosis filter to remove it. A Britta filter won’t be enough.
  2. Chlorine in water will evaporate after a few hours. Just leave it in a filter or jug in your fridge overnight.
  3. Though Nalgene bottles are BPA-free, they’ve been found to leech other chemicals. Use glass bottles to be 100% safe.
  4. Avoid synthetic anti-bacterial soaps. Residue on dishes and hands gets in the stomach and kills your “good bacteria.”
  5. Cooking with coconut oil is better than olive oil. It has more Omega-3s and doesn’t oxidize in sunlight or high temperatures.
  6. Traditional toothpaste is full of chemicals like Triclosan, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Diethanolamine (DEA). Even though you need to get used to the different taste, use alternative to traditional toothpaste. I use Thieves Ultra Toothpaste from Young Living (I am a member and distributor).
  7. Setting up a vertical garden takes a week or two, but can pay off in organic produce for years. Ask about our “growing your own food” guide!
  8. Coconut or almond based ice cream is a fantastic way to indulge, without eating dairy.
  9. Most organic eggs come from cooped up chickens fed organic produce. For true free range eggs, find a local farmer on localharvest.org.
  10. “Organically made” is not the same as “Organic.” “Freely Traded” is not the same as “Free Trade.” Those former foods aren’t certified.
  11. Avoid cheap vegetable oils, not only are they full of GMO’s they are often full  at all costs. They’re high in Omega-6 and very unhealthy.
  12. Most “grass fed” beef are still grain finished. For 100% grass fed beef, look for a local farm you can buy from.
  13. Many fruits have quite a high glycemic index. The exception are berries (including strawberries) which are low GI and very healthy.
  14. Think you can’t afford organic? Buy foods that are in season. It’s both more inexpensive and healthier. Buy it when it’s in season, then freeze it. It’s healthier than buying it out of season.
  15. Avoid large fish like tuna. Large fish eat small fish and build up higher concentrations of mercury.
  16. Avoid multi-vitamins. Instead, build your own vitamin stack. Most multi-vitamins skimp on the important nutrients.
  17. Consider supplementing Omega-3s. It’s perhaps the most important supplement of all for the health conscious.
  18. Look up and remember when your local farmer’s markets are. They’re cheaper, and you can ask directly about how the food was grown.
  19. Buy green cleaning products to avoid chemicals like ammonia or chlorine in your house. Ask about our “Detox & De-stressing Your Home” class.
  20. Not all food has to be labeled “Organic” to be healthy. If you’re buying directly from the farmer, it can also be organic ask how it was made grown.
  21. Sign up for a local farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to get your local fruit or veggie boxes. Farmers will deliver fresh organic produce straight to your door.
  22. See if there are food co-ops near you. These co-ops grow organic food and sell it to their local markets. Co-op membership fees are one-time, but the benefits last a lifetime.  My family has had a co-op membership for 15 years and the kids use it!
  23. Carrots, beets and radishes are very easy to grow. If you want to give growing a shot, that’s a good place to start.
  24. Try to eat as much of your produce raw as possible. Cooking destroys enzymes and can reduce vitamin content by 12x.
  25. Soak produce in 1/3rd vinegar and 2/3rds water to kill bacteria, if eating it raw.
  26. Check the OCA’s website to buy organic foods online – organicconsumers.org
  27. Trader Joe’s is a great, lower-cost alternative to Whole Foods. Do you shop there?
  28. Subscribe to health coupon sites for deals. organicdeals.com healthsavers.com mambosprouts.com
  29. Look for “specials” in supermarkets (including Whole Foods.) These mean the food’s in season and affordable.
  30. Organic beans are a great source of protein. Make sure you cook them thoroughly, as semi-cooked beans are toxic.
  31. Quinoa is a complete amino acid and provides your body with all the proteins you need. Yummy and easy to cook, too!
  32. Buy your organic chickens whole. It’s cheaper than buying by the part, and you can use the carcass to make broth.
  33. Most coffee shops (including Starbucks) sell Fair Trade but not organic coffee. Organic coffee is available online or at your local co-op.
  34. Use the bulk isle. You can buy everything from beans to quinoa to nuts while saving money and saving packaging.
  35. Never eat the skin of non-organic papayas or mangos. Some are dipped in toxic pesticides when they cross the border.
  36. When buying seeds, make sure you’re buying non-GMO. If it doesn’t say it’s non-GMO, don’t assume that it is.
  37. Make your jams at home. Most commercial jams (even organic) like peanut butter jam or strawberry jam are high in sugar.
  38. Agave nectar isn’t much healthier than traditional sugar. Organic honey is better, while organic coconut sugar is best.
  39. Store your olive oil in a dry place, outside of sunlight. Oxidized olive oil is very dangerous.
  40. Nut milks in supermarkets contain a lot of additive ingredients. For best results, make your own. It only takes 10 mins.
  41. Nuts can be healthy snacks, but they’re also very high in fat and calories. Enjoy them, but eat in moderation.
  42. Bananas are high GI and low in nutritional value. Plantains are low GI and much healthier. But they need to be cooked.
  43. Add a few Brazil nuts to your diet. It’s one of the few foods high in selenium, which is good for your hormones and your thyroid.
  44. Buy good salt. Good salt can add dozens of minerals to your diet. One jar of Himalayan sea salt can last a year.
  45. Avoid Teflon. If you must cook with Teflon, never ever place metal into the pan. I cook with cast iron.
  46. Rice has very little nutritional value, but isn’t unhealthy either. Use sparingly.
  47. Stay late or go at the end of Farmer’s Markets. They’ll often give out last minute deals to clear out inventory.
  48. Put paper towels on the edges of your fridge’s veggie drawer. It’ll draw the moisture and preserve your greens.
  49. Spinach wilted? As long as it doesn’t smell bad, you can still cook it and it will be just as good.
  50. Check Meetup.com for organic potlucks and meetups. They can be a fun way to add variety to your diet!

A full guide to transitioning to clean eating will be available in my book soon!

 

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) 101

What Are Genetically Modified Organisms?

The term “Genetically Modified Organism” refers to the practice of altering the DNA of a plant or animal so that it contains one or more genes that are not normal or innate to the organism. The genetic modifications are created in a lab environment where the DNA from one organism is inserted into another.

In general, the practice of Genetically Modifying crops has caused little objection from the public. However, as scientists began inserting DNA from viruses, bacteria, and animals into seeds to create ‘super specimens’ people began to question the approach. In the eyes of many there is a big difference between cross pollinating two pea plants for more efficient growing and adding the genes from a fish to a tomato plant.

The US is a world leader in the production of Genetically Modified crops. However, contrary to popular belief The European Union does not ban Genetically Modified Foods. In fact, Spain is a leading contributor too. What makes the EU different from the United States is that they don’t approve domestic cultivation of many GMO crops and they have mandatory labeling laws. The food must be labeled GMO if it contains more than 0.9 percent of GMOs.

This has caused many food companies in Europe to reformulate their products so that all GMO ingredients are removed. They then avoid the GMO label. However, products from animals raised on GMO feed do not need a label, so Europeans continue to use GMO corn and soy for animal feed.

As of 2013, roughly 85% of corn, 91% of soybeans, and 88% of cotton produced in the United States are genetically modified.

GMO’s are typically restricted in an organic lifestyle.

Learn more and stay connected!

Do you have what it takes to live a life that is sustainable? Are you interested in becoming self-sufficient by relying on your own two hands to grow food ? If that sounds intriguing, you might be a future homesteader.

What Is Homesteading and Why Is It Growing In Popularity?

Homesteading is the practice of growing your own food, raising animals for produce, and even providing your own energy. Some homesteaders also make their own clothing and strive to live completely dependent upon their own resources.

It is a lifestyle choice. You don’t have to live in the country to be a homesteader. You also don’t need tons of land. You can grow your own food and provide your own energy living in the city. In fact, many urbanites raise chickens and grow food. Community gardens and master gardeners are great places to start.

Why Do People Homestead?

Many people have made this lifestyle choice for a number of reasons. Raising your own food and practicing environmentally friendly farming is good for the planet. Itís sustainable. In fact, homesteaders often use rainwater and other water conservation practices to irrigate their crops.

Homesteading is also financially friendly. Imagine if you could get your eggs, dairy, and even some of your meat and produce from your own labors. You’d save money. You can also take advantage of renewable energy tax credits. Some people are so caught in the living for a job lifestyle that they can’t see the benefits of making small changes toward sustainability.

Finally, many people embrace homesteading because they find it to be a rewarding lifestyle. Itís true that food tastes better when you grow it yourself. And thereís tremendous pride in learning how to take care of yourself and live off the land.

Of course homesteading is not an all or nothing lifestyle. You can choose the pieces that appeal to you. You can start small or buy a farm and dive right in. When I lived in the city, I was a community homesteader.  I created community gardens, and farmers’ markets to help my neighbors live a more natural life.

Next time we will take a look at the three primary components of homesteading.

 

In Love and Health!

 

Detox Your Life

As an organic food teacher, one of my top concerns is the amount of chemicals we put in and on our bodies without having the proper knowledge of their long-term effects. The average person is exposed to over 80 chemicals before breakfast! Did you know that by the time you get to work, you’ve likely been exposed to over 300 different toxic chemicals?

The Cleveland Clinic has a “What Chemicals Are In My Home” chart that lists your everyday products as having hazardous ingredients.  You can see it here.

Here is a quick list of things that increase your chemical load, and a few tips on how to mitigate toxins in your environment.

Things that add to the toxic burden inside our home:

  • Cleaning products
  • Off-gassing of carpets, furniture, plywood
  • Carpet cleaning
  • Laundry detergents/dry cleaning
  • Personal care products (makeup, lotions, shampoos, fragrances, etc.)
  • Dish detergent/soaps
  • Air fresheners

Ways to decrease the toxins:

  • Houseplants (purify the air) – grow them in your bedroom too!
  • Regularly open windows and air out your house (spend as much time out of doors as possible)
  • Educate yourself (Environmental Working Group: www.ewg.org, sign up for this newsletter)
  • Change out toxic products for nontoxic products (cleaning products and personal care products) – what we put on our skin is worse for our body than what we eat!!

In Love and Health!