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Free Range Vs Cage Free

Posted on Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 at 5:27 pm
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EggsBuying eggs at the grocery store has gotten more complicated in recent years. When you were a child, your parents probably looked at the brand of the eggs and the price. Today, there are a lot of other labels to be aware of. Do you understand the difference between free range and cage free? What about all those other labels?

Natural
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not developed a definition for the term natural (or its derivatives) on a food label. In general, it allows the use of the term on a product label if the food does not contain any added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

The word natural evokes a feeling of purity and wholesomeness. Some foods with that label are better than others. Natural doesn’t always mean that the food hasn’t had something added to it.

Cage-Free
Cage-Free on an egg carton label describes a little bit about how the chickens who laid those eggs were treated. Cage-Free indicates that the chickens were uncaged. Those chickens did not spend their entire existence in a small cage. They were able to freely walk around, nest, and engage in other normal chicken behaviors.

The thing to be aware of with the cage-free label is that it doesn’t automatically mean that the chickens were allowed to have access to the outdoors. They might be freely walking around in an indoor environment. That indoor environment could be small.

Free Range
Free Range can also be called Free Roaming. The terms are interchangeable. These descriptions on an egg carton label describe how the chickens who laid those eggs were treated. Free Range, or Free Roaming, chickens were uncaged. They were able to walk around freely, and engage in nesting and other normal chicken behaviors.

The difference between Free Range/Free Roaming and Cage-Free is simple. Cage-Free chickens may or may not have been allowed access to the outdoors. Free Range/Free Roaming chickens did have access to the outdoors. It doesn’t say much about what that outdoor environment was like.

Pasture Raised
When you see the phrase Pasture Raised on an egg carton label, it means that the chickens who laid those eggs were raised in a pasture. These chickens did not have cages. They spend most of their time outdoors. At night, they were brought inside so they could sleep in a protected environment.

Organic
The word organic on an egg carton label can be a bit confusing. It doesn’t specifically describe the eggs at all. Instead, it indicates that the chickens who laid those eggs were fed with certified organic feed. It also means the farmer’s practices have been certified as organic.

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What are Superfoods?

Posted on Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 at 5:51 pm
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BlueberriesPeople who enjoy eating healthy have probably heard about superfoods. It has been said that these foods are more powerful than others. Sometimes, they are also more expensive than other fruits and vegetables. What are superfoods? Are they really superior to healthy foods that haven’t been given that label?

LiveScience describes superfoods as foods that are thought to be nutritionally dense and especially good for a person’s health. These foods mostly consist of plants but can also include some fish and dairy. Some foods that have been called superfoods are blueberries, salmon, kale, and acai.

The American Heart Association points out that there is no standard criteria or approved list of superfoods. The foods that have been called superfoods are healthy foods. However, they aren’t super powered or significantly healthier than the other foods that people would count as healthy foods.

The American Heart Association notes that superfoods cannot cure chronic diseases. You can eat all the blueberries you want to, but doing so is not going to magically solve a health problem. Superfoods are not bad for you. They also aren’t miracle workers.

One of the reasons why we are hearing the word superfoods a lot has to do with marketing. For example, in the early 20th century, the United Fruit company advertised the banana as a weight loss promoting superfruit. As a result, people chose to go on a banana and milk diet.

This same pattern has been used to market other foods to consumers. Call something a superfood, and people become more inclined to purchase that food. In 1988, the Oregon blueberry harvest was 17 million pounds. By 2013, blueberry production increased to 90 million pounds. The reason is because blueberries had been marketed as a superfood.

The European Union (EU) banned the use of the word superfoods in 2007. The reason was that nutritionists had pointed out that there are no proven benefits of superfoods as compared to other foods. As such, the EU banned the use of the word superfood unless it is accompanied by a specific authorized health claim that explains to consumers why the product is good for their health.

What should consumers take from all this information? The foods that have been called superfoods are healthy choices. They are definitely not junk food! If you enjoy a food that happens to have been given that label, go ahead and keep eating it. The thing you need to realize is that superfoods aren’t significantly different than other healthy foods.

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Healthier Options for School Lunches

Posted on Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 at 2:08 pm
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Packing Lunches again? Save with free printable coupons.Want to ensure that you kids are eating healthy lunches at school? There are plenty of ways to help make that happen. Parents can be choosy about what they put into their children’s lunches and substitute healthy food for junk food. Or, parents can have their kids purchase a healthy lunch from their school.

Are your kids asking for junk food to be placed in their school lunch? Parents can substitute healthier foods instead. Choose something that has close to the same taste and texture as the junk food they desire.

Instead of buying Lunchables, parents can put together their own version. Most Lunchables consist of crackers, small slices of cheese, and small slices of lunchmeat. Put together a home made version of Lunchables by selecting crackers, cheese, and lunchmeat that are healthy. For example, give your kid cheddar cheese, organic crackers, and lunchmeat that doesn’t include a bunch of extra chemicals.

There is now a wide range of substitutions for potato chips. Offer sweet potato chips instead. Get a bag of veggie chips that includes chips made from potato, spinach and carrots. These kinds of chips are crunchy, colorful, and a lot less salty than typical potato chips.

Another option is to select one of the varieties of chips that don’t contain potato at all. Today, there are chips made from beans, hummus, pitas, bagels, and chickpeas.

Be careful when selecting juice boxes. Read the ingredients and find out how much sugar is in them. People assume all juice boxes are equally healthy – but that is not so! Instead of a juice box, parents can purchase a small thermos that will fit into a lunchbox or lunch bag. Fill the thermos with a juice that isn’t so sugary. Or, fill the thermos with water and help your kid stay hydrated.

Make fruits and vegetables easy to eat – and your child will eat them at lunch. Grapes are bite sized. Banana chips are easy to eat. Other good selections include baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and fruit snacks that are organic or made by a company that doesn’t add a ton of junk to the product.

The lunch your kid can buy at school today is a whole lot healthier than what you were offered when you were his or her age. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 ensures that students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week.

The Act has increased the offering of whole grain-rich foods. Kids are now offered only fat-free or low-fat milk. The lunches now have a correct portion size based on the age of the children. There has also been a reduction in the amount of sodium, sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats in the school lunches.

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Quick Breakfasts from Natural Ingredients

Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 at 7:00 am
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bear naked granolaIt has been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The heat of summer can make some people not feel like eating. The solution to this problem is to find breakfast foods that are natural, nutritious, and that don’t require cooking. These quick breakfast ideas can also come in handy after school starts up again and you are pressed for time in the morning.

Granola
Granola is a good choice. It’s super simple to eat no matter where you go. It doesn’t require any cooking. Pick a good one, and it will provide you and your family with some nutrition. Look for granola that contains plenty of dried fruits and nuts. Avoid the ones that seem to be filled with candy.

Not finding a granola mix you like at the store? Consider making your own mix. Shop at a store that sells dried fruits, nuts, and other healthy food in bulk. Select exactly what you want. This option is great for people who need to work around food allergies.

Want to add extra nutrition to your granola? Eat it with yogurt. Some people like to mix their granola into their yogurt. Others prefer to eat granola and yogurt at the same time, but not mixed together.

Shakes
Buy some frozen strawberries, cherries, and blueberries. Put some of each into a blender. Add some ice cubes and some milk (or soy milk, or coconut milk, if you prefer). Add a banana if you want to thicken up your shake.

Within minutes, you have created a cold, refreshing, nutritious breakfast that feels like a treat. Best of all, these homemade shakes aren’t filled with cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Their sweetness comes from fructose.

Sliced Fruit and Cheese
Real Simple suggests that you make a breakfast from some sliced fruit, sliced cheese, and walnuts. Specifically, they point out that sliced apples, and sliced or cubed cheddar cheese go nicely together. Walnuts add some fiber and protein to the meal.

This simple meal can be “picked at” while a person is traveling (on vacation, or on their way to school). Small, cold, bites of food can feel lighter than a plate of eggs and french toast.

Other Simple Options
Need a quick breakfast while you are on the go? You can pick up a fresh piece of fruit in any grocery store, in some convenience stores, or even a Starbucks (if you want a banana). Small packets of unsalted nuts are another healthy option. Split a package of crackers and a small block of cheese with someone else.

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Tips for Staying Hydrated

Posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 at 3:06 pm
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Couple at gymSummer is a great time to get outside and check out the many events that are going on. The nice weather may inspire you to get out of the gym and exercise outdoors. It is important to remember to stay hydrated, especially if you will be outside in hot, humid, weather. People often forget to drink enough water. Here are some tips to help you to stay hydrated.

How much water do you need?
The American Heart Association says that the answer to that question can vary from person to person and based on climatic conditions, clothing, and how hard a person is working out. People with certain health conditions may need more water than others.

They point out three ways to determine if you are properly hydrated:

* Are you thirsty? That generally means that you have already become dehydrated.

* What color is your urine? People who are properly hydrated have pale or clear urine. If your urine is darker than that, it means you need to drink more water.

* Are you sweating? If you are working out, but not sweating, it means that you are dehydrated. You should stop and drink some water before you develop heat exhaustion.

Carry a water bottle.
Skip the energy drinks! Water is the best choice and exactly what your body needs in order to stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle with you so that you can drink water while you are working out or being active.

One advantage to carrying a water bottle is that it makes it easier to avoid dehydration. Another advantage is that it is a frugal way to do it. Pay for the water bottle once, fill it at home multiple times, and save the money you would have otherwise spent on drinks.

Plan ahead for best results.
Are you planning on exercising outside in hot weather tomorrow? Start preparing your body for it today. Drink plenty of water the day before you exercise (or spend a lot of time outdoors being active). Drink water the hour before you go, and continue to drink water as you exercise (or attend an event).

Live Science notes that water is the best choice in order to provide dehydration. However, they also point out that tea, coffee, juices, milk, and soup can count towards the amount of water you need in order to stay hydrated. Fruits and vegetables can provide your body with some water, and some nutrients.

Avoid alcohol.
Spending time outdoors, in the heat, at a festival can be fun. It would be wise to avoid drinking alcohol while you are there. Alcohol is extremely dehydrating. If you drink alcohol, you have to be extra careful about making sure you also drink enough water to stay safely hydrated.

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Debunking the Myths About Sunscreen

Posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Applying SunscreenSummer is filled with plenty of things to do outdoors. That fun can turn to pain very quickly if you choose not to wear some kind of sunscreen on exposed skin. This is one situation where the things you don’t know – about sunscreen – can actually hurt you. Here are a few myths about sunscreen that have been debunked.

Myth: Sunscreen is Just for the Beach
There is a good reason why people associate sunscreen with the beach. People tend to use it on days when they are planning to be outside, on the beach, for hours. It is true that sunscreen is a good thing to wear at the beach.

That being said, sunscreen isn’t only for beach days. The main purpose of sunscreen isn’t to block “the sun” but to block UV light. Ultraviolet light is around all the time. People should be wearing sunscreen on exposed skin even on cloudy or rainy days.

Myth: Sunscreen 100 can block 100% of UV Rays
This is another myth. In reality, you won’t be able to find a sunscreen that is going to block 100% of UV rays. This doesn’t mean you should skip the sunscreen. Instead, it means you need to remember to reapply it.

The American Academy of Dermatology says you should make sure the label on your sunscreen says three things: “broad spectrum”, “SPF 30” (or higher), and “water resistant”. Sunscreen that says “broad spectrum” can protect from both UVA rays and UVB rays. It can’t block 100% of them, but is still recommended for use.

Myth: All You Need is Sunscreen
Sunscreen provides you with a certain amount of protection from the sun’s rays. It isn’t, however, the only way to block the sun. Additional options include: sunglasses, hats with large brims, and clothing. You can also sit under an umbrella while you are at the beach, and seek out shade while enjoying other outdoor activities.

Myth: Homemade Sunscreen is Effective
Huffington Post points out that there is no good way to test SPF levels on the sunscreen that you made at home from a recipe you found online. The FDA has very rigorous regulations on sunscreen. The purpose is to make sure that the label on the bottle matches the sun protection that the product provides.

You cannot know, for certain, that your homemade sunscreen is effective at blocking UV rays. You also aren’t going to be able to mix the ingredients as well as the companies that make sunscreen are able to do. An uneven mixture could result in a bad sunburn!

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What Does the Word “Natural” Actually Mean?

Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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woman shopping grocery storeMany of us have become very discerning about the types of food that we will buy and feed to our families. We avoid processed foods and seek out the natural ones. But, what does “natural” actually mean? The answer to that question is more complex than you may think.

In general, we all know what the word natural means. The word brings up concepts of health, cleanliness, and nutrition. Dictionary.com has several different definitions for the word “natural”. One of them says: existing in or formed by nature (as opposed to artificial).

When we see the word “natural” on a package of food, we automatically think that it means the food is, well, healthy and good for us. In reality, the word “natural”, when used on a food label, doesn’t mean as much as you might have hoped.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has some clarification about the world natural. It says “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth.”

It continues with more information that people should be aware of. It notes that the FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. The FDA doesn’t object to use of the word “natural” if the food doesn’t contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

US News points out that foods that have a “natural” label can contain “added sugar, trans fats, and genetically modified ingredients or GMOs”. In other words, you shouldn’t assume that a food that has been labeled with the word “natural” won’t have things in it that you are trying to avoid.

What about the word “organic”? It has somewhat more meaning than the word “natural” does. The FDA “uses state agencies to inspect and certify food companies that market organic foods. Small farmers with less than $5,000 in organic sales such as those selling at farmers’ markets, are exempt from the certification process but they must still be truthful in their label claims and comply with the new government standards.”

One big difference between the word “natural” and the word “organic” on a food label is the regulation involved with the word “organic”. Foods that truly are organic will have a sticker on them that says USDA Organic. If the sticker isn’t there – the food isn’t really organic.

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Target is Shifting to Promote Healthier Foods

Posted on Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 at 8:09 am
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Target Logo (Matchups)Take a minute think about what kinds of products were on the endcaps at the grocery store. Chances are, those highly visible shelves were filled with sugary cereals and other processed foods. Things might be changing in the near future. There are signs that some stores will be shifting towards promoting healthier foods.

There has been a trend towards foods that are natural over foods that are processed. More and more people have become interested in feeding their families healthy foods. One problem with doing that, though, is that fresh, healthy, foods tend to be more expensive than the sugar filled processed kinds.

When you look for coupons, what do you see? The products on the coupons probably come from the big food manufacturers. Your chance of finding a coupon for a box of potato flakes is much greater than finding a coupon for actual potatoes.

Things might be about to change, and that shift is starting at Target. The store has stated that it will be shifting its focus to healthier food selections while de-emphasizing the processed foods by big-name brands.

In addition, Target is likely to place a greater emphasis on its own private label brands. That could include Simply Balanced which contains no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or trans fats. The brand “avoids high fructose corn syrup”. Most, if not all, of the products in this brand are GMO free.

Why is Target making this change? One reason is because it wants put less money and effort into promoting the big brands. Instead, it wants to put that into its own brands. This is in response to the changes that have occurred what people are buying. Canned Soup, for example, has been on the decline and will be de-emphasized.

Processed foods, such as the ones that come from Kraft or General Mills, will get less emphasis. Target’s own brands will get more emphasis, and so will fancy sauces and oils. The brands that fall to the bottom of the list won’t get featured as frequently in circulars or in stores. There’s a chance you might see sales on the healthier brands, and perhaps even some coupons for them.

Now, this change doesn’t mean Target is going to drop all the foods that you are familiar with. But, it might be shifting away from putting effort into promoting some of them. As always, when one supermarket makes a change in response to what customers are buying, there is a possibility that others will decide to follow that same trend – and make the same kinds of changes.

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June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month

Posted on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 at 4:33 pm
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Fruit & Vegetable PlatterDid you know that June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month? This is a great opportunity to get more healthy fruits and vegetables into your diet. Here are a bunch of other helpful ideas to try this month.

Tips for Storing Fruits and Vegetables
The Fruits and Veggies More Matters website has some helpful tips for storing your fruits and vegetables. Some of their advice applies to not only fresh produce, but also produce that has been frozen or canned.

The big idea is to practice the FIFO rule. FIFO stands for “first in, first out”. Make sure you are rotating your stock of fruits and vegetables so that the oldest ones are easiest to grab. This will help you to eat the food before it goes bad and reduce waste. Supermarkets practice FIFO – you can do it, too!

Visit a Farmers’ Market
Some places have Farmers’ Markets every week. Other places, who experience a lot of rainy days in spring, or snow in winter, might only have Farmers’ Markets during the summer. No matter where you live, your best chance of finding a local Farmers’ Market will happen when the weather is nice. June is a great month to find a Farmers’ Market.

One of the great things about Farmers’ Markets is that you can be absolutely certain that the fruits and vegetables that you buy from it are fresh. You also will be buying local, a practice that helps sustain local farmers. Buying local is “greener” than buying food that has been shipped from far away.

Wash Your Produce
It is important to know how to properly wash your fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them (or serve them to your family). Washing your produce helps remove the dirt, traces of pesticides, and the wax coating that has been added to the produce (to keep it looking nice in the grocery store).

Do not use soap when you wash your fruits and vegetables. There is a chance that you won’t be able to remove all the soap – and that could make people sick. Use clean tap water to wash your produce. You don’t have to use a specialized produce scrub. Clean water works just fine!

How Much Produce Should You Eat?
The United States Department of Agriculture has a chart that shows the recommended daily amounts of fruit that a person should consume in a day. There is another helpful chart that shows how much vegetables a person needs to eat (either daily or weekly). Follow those recommendations might help improve your health.

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Important Things to Know About Natural Insect Repellents

Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Bug SprayParents want what’s best for their kids. It’s great to be able to play outside in the warm weather, but the fun stops when the mosquitos start biting. Some parents have concerns about the safety of insect repellants. Others worry about their effectiveness. Here is a quick look at the most important things to know about natural insect repellents.

Reapplication is Necessary
Natural insect repellants may contain ingredients made from plant oils. Some include citronella, lemongrass, peppermint, and cedarwood. Parents who are concerned about the potential effects of DEET might select insect repellants that contain natural ingredients.

Be aware that natural insect repellants need to be reapplied more frequently than do the insect repellants that contain DEET. Set a timer on your smartphone so you will remember to round up your kids and reapply the natural insect repellant several times.

Be Careful When Applying
Before you apply natural insect repellant, check your child’s skin for cuts. It’s just not a good idea to add insect repellant to an open wound – even if the insect repellant is natural. Keep the insect repellant away from your child’s eyes.

It is advised that parents put the natural insect repellant onto their own hands first. Use your hands to apply the natural insect repellant. Applying it directly to the child’s skin could result in accidentally putting too much of it on your child.

Read the Label
Not all insect repellants are the same! Some need to be applied more often than others. It is entirely possible that one brand of natural insect repellant will contain different ingredients than another brand will. Check the label while you are still at the store. Does it contain something that your child is allergic to?

Do not assume that just because an insect repellant is natural that it is safe for everyone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) points out that oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children who are under 3 years of age.

Remember to Wash it Off
It is important to take the time to wash the insect repellant off of your child after you are finished playing outside. This is true for “regular” insect repellants and the natural kind, too. Nobody needs to have insect repellant on their skin after they have come indoors (where the mosquitos aren’t).

Choose Effective Insect Repellants
WebMD says that soy-based insect repellants were the most effective alternative to DEET. Insect repellants that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus also work really well. Studies have shown that natural insect repellants that contain citronella, peppermint oil, and other plant based oils are not particularly effective.

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