Category Archives: Recipes

5 Healthy Plant Based Breakfasts

Its been over a year and a half since I moved to a plant based diet and I can’t tell you how much I’ve looked forward to every meal since that day. With the abundance of vegan processed foods on the market these days, its certainly easier than ever to eat a fairly junky plant based diet, so just like everyone else, even vegans need to be conscientious about healthy eating. I certainly adhere to an 80/20 rule. I eat whole, plant based foods 80% of the time, leaving 20% of the time for the occasional bit of whatever-the-heck-I-fancy food (although always vegan)! Here are a few of my favourite healthy plant-based breakfasts.

All the recipes below contain fairtrade organic ingredients and this article has been sponsored by Atlist, a fantastic new platform to help you with all the ethical shopping inspiration you could ever want.  Find out more about Atlist or sign up here.

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1. Smoothies

Smoothies are a great way to cram in lots of antioxidants and vitamins into your diet. I recommend buying organic fruits where possible, as while the vitamin content of conventional produce is similar to non-organic, antioxidants are found in much higher concentrations in organic produce. Although the addition of a frozen banana will give an excellent milkshake-like texture to your smoothie, frozen avocado will do the same whilst adding healthy fats and it won’t affect your blood sugar as much. Add as many frozen berries as you care to, along with a splash of plant-based milk and a spoonful of your favourite nut butter, for some protein. Smoothies are also a great place to hide a scoop of protein powder too. My favourite recipe is:

  • 200 ml cashew milk
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (or a teaspoon of your favourite nut butter)
  • half a frozen banana (or half a frozen avocado)
  • large handful of frozen strawberries
  • heaped teaspoon of inositol powder (to help lower blood sugar)

Blend all that up in a high speed blender for 1 minute until you have a thick, creamy strawberry milkshake-like appearance and enjoy!

2. Toast & Scrambled Tofu

Learning how to make scrambled tofu made the transition to a plant-based diet much easier for me, as I used to enjoy scrambled eggs from time to time as a weekend breakfast. You’ll need to crumble half a block of extra firm tofu (I recommend fermented tofu if you can find it) into a bowl and add 1/3 tsp of turmeric powder, 1 tsp olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Stir it all up and let it sit for a few minutes while the turmeric really stains the tofu. Then toss it into the frying pan and heat it up and serve it with your toast of choice – I like sourdough. You can also add some Indian black salt for a more authentic eggy flavour. The turmeric adds a great source of antioxidants to this dish, but if you add some black pepper to your eggs just before serving, you’ll increase that even further because the pipeline in the pepper boosts the bioavailability of the curcumin in the turmeric by up to 2000%.

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3. Overnight Oats

Overnight oats will rock your world if you’re always busy and never have time to make breakfast in the morning. Everyone’s worried about carbs these days, but there’s no reason to fear oats as they contain beta-glucans which help prevent our blood sugar from spiking when we eat them. And of course oats are a great source of fibre, with regular consumption being associated with smaller waistlines and a reduced risk of obesity.

Get yourself a good mason jar – something with a lid that won’t fall off in your handbag. Buy a big bag of organic Scottish style porridge oats (they work better than the jumbo oats) and fill your freezer with your favourite frozen berry. There! Now you have no excuse not to eat breakfast ever again.

The easiest overnight oat recipe I can suggest is to take your mason jar and fill the bottom 1/3 with a layer of frozen berries, then add 1/3 oats (you can add some dried fruit and nuts here if you like) and then top the final 1/3 of the jar with more frozen berries. Now grab your favourite plant milk (I make my own because its so cheap and easy to do so – get the recipe here) and fill the mason jar just until you cover the top of the oat layer. Put the top on the jar, stick it in the fridge and forget about it until tomorrow morning when you go to work. Of course, the beauty of this recipe is that you can add whatever you like – dried fruits, spices, coconut yogurt and even a dab of almond butter. There are no rules! Pinterest is filled with delicious overnight oat recipes to inspire you and I can highly recommend apple pie overnight oats!

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4. Coconut yogurt with berries, nuts & seeds

Some people really just aren’t breakfast people, and if that sounds like you, this may be your ideal breakfast. Even if you’re not too organised about preparing food ahead of time, you can grab a pot of coconut yogurt on the go, along with a box of blueberries and a bag of your favourite raw, unsalted nuts, and just graze away all morning long. If, like me, you try to prepare your own food and don’t want to buy too much packaged stuff, just load up a mason jar with fresh berries (maybe a few slices of banana) and drizzle with a couple tablespoons of coconut yogurt and sprinkle with a few chopped up lightly toasted almonds or raw walnuts. Throw in some chia seeds for some extra omega 3’s and fibre too. If you don’t like buying out of season fruit, you could buy bags of frozen berries (like I do) and prepare it all in a mason jar the night before. Berries are a really low glycemic index food and are packed with antioxidants, so this breakfast is great for anyone trying to keep their blood sugar balanced (just make sure you stick to berries and avoid adding other high glycemic index (GI) fruits like banana, mango or pineapple).

5. Smashed Avocado on Toast

Seriously, who doesn’t love avocado toast? (Well, my husband actually.) But I’m fairly certain that everyone else in the world has the potential to love smashed avocados on toast. Avocados are full of healthy fats like omega 3’s and oleic acid, vitamin K and they are a low glycemic index food as well as a good source of fibre. If, like me, you live in an area where the quality of the avocados isn’t very dependable, you can now buy bags of frozen halved avocados, which is helpful for portion control too. (I recommend Mexican hass avocados if you can get ahold of them. ) You can bring out the required number of avocado halves, thaw them overnight, give them a good smash (using a bowl & fork – nothing fancy) with a pinch of sea salt and maybe some dried chilli flakes if that’s your thing (it’s my thing) followed by a squeeze of lime juice and roughly pile it onto a slice of toast – it’s particularly good on Poilane bread if you can get your hands on a loaf of that, but any sourdough will do. A sprinkle of dukkah is a delicious addition too.

Sources: World’s Healthiest Foods, Science News, NutritionFacts

Photo Credit: Avocado on Toast image by Maggie Lynch, Overnight Oats image by Jourdan Bourke, Photo by Rezel Apacionado on Unsplash

How to Make Your Own Cashew Milk

I like making my own cashew milk because its rich and creamy and it tends not to split in coffee or tea. I won’t lie and say I never buy store bought plant milks (because I do), but I try not to do so all the time because commercial manufacturers do add rather a lot of extra unnecessary additives. (However, as with cow’s milk, they do fortify these milks as well, so remember to adequately supplement your diet if you decide to eschew the commercial plant milks entirely.)  Of all the homemade plant milks I’ve made, cashew milk is my most successful one and everyone who has tasted it has loved it. It passes my “milk and cookies test” meaning it is delicious served neat in a glass with a cookie for dunking.

Nutrition-wise, cashews are one of the lowest fat nuts with around 82% of their fat being unsaturated, and of that, 66% is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, like the kind you find in olive oil. It has been found that when added to a low-fat diet, monounsaturated fats can help reduce high triglyceride levels in diabetes patients.  (Triglycerides are the form in which fats are carried in our blood and are what block our insulin receptors from activating and prevent glucose from entering our cells, thus keeping blood glucose levels high and contributing to the diabetes process.)

Cashews are also a great source of copper and a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Its also great news that regular nut eaters tend to be slimmer than non nut-eaters and are also at a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, gallstones and Type 2 Diabetes. Just stick to your portion sizes of roughly 1/3 c of nuts per day.

I make my cashew milk quite extra thick and creamy, but if you want a thinner drink, just add more fresh filtered water in 50ml increments until you get the consistency you like. I also recommend buying cashew pieces because its often cheaper than buying whole cashew pieces. If you’re buying in bulk, make sure you store your cashews in the fridge (for up to 6 months) or the freezer (for up to a year).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic cashew nuts*
  • 6 cups fresh filtered water
  • medjool date*
  • Pinch of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (optional)

Equipment

Method

1. Soak your cashew nuts overnight (or for at least 4 hours) in 2 cups of fresh filtered water with the medjool date and a pinch of salt. You’ll be amazed at how plump and moist the nuts will become after even just a few hours of soaking.

2. After soaking, drain the pre-soaked nuts (and de-pitted medjool date) and add them all to a high speed blender with 4 cups of fresh filtered water. You can now add a pinch of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of vanilla. This is optional, but I highly recommend it because of how delicious it makes the end product! Blend this mixture on a high speed for 1-2 minutes, depending on how powerful your blender is.

3. Strain the mixture through your nut milk bag* and store in a jar or milk bottle in the fridge. It will keep for up to 3 days.

Tip: You can save any remaining strained nut pulp by freezing it and adding it to cookies or other baked goods at a later date, however if you have a high speed blender, you’re unlikely to have much or any pulp leftover.

cashew-931960_1920Sources: World’s Healthiest FoodsJournal of Biological ChemistryLivestrong, “How Not to Die” by Dr Michael Greger MD



*I’ve popped in a few affiliate links into this post, directly with Nutri Ninja (worldwide) and Amazon (UK), so if you’d like to support what I do here at Our Little Organic Life, then please do shop via these links – you don’t pay any more and I get a small commission. Thanks!

Product Review: Karma Cola

Okay, so although I’m not a habitual drinker of sweet drinks, I think all you guys know I like the occasional cola with a veggie burger or pizza. I don’t drink Coke or Pepsi because they are…well…Coke and Pepsi. I don’t need to patronise you by explaining the dangers of the GMO high fructose corn syrup and aspartame that sweetens most sweet tasting drinks on the market, but in case you need reminding why its so dangerous, or if this is news to you entirely, just have a quick read of my article from last summer on Alternative Natural Sodas.

I know a cola addiction is a real problem for a lot of people. Even for some people who know enough to know better. You already know they’re not great for your body and health.  The colas on the market aren’t organic, so they’re not great for the planet. And they’re not fair trade, so they’re not great for the people producing the raw ingredients.  Until now.  The folks over at Karma Cola have made the first fair trade (real) cola in the UK and they were nice enough to send me over a selection of their fair trade, organic sodas to try out.

I want to say at this point, that 99% of the time you should JUST DRINK WATER.  Yes I am reviewing a soft drink today, but that does not change my view that sodas are meant to be a treat.  And I think the people at Karma Cola get that, which is why each of their drinks is quite special – in taste and packaging – and they feel special to drink.

So here’s what I thought of what they sent me:

Karma Cola

My 5 minute review in the video below pretty much sums up my views on this drink. But to recap, this cola has a satisfying mouth feel because its made with real cane sugar and it has the right amount of carbonation. There are distinct spicy and botanical notes that come from the nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, lime and orange oils used in it (and presumably the cola nuts themselves…though I have no idea what a cola nut tastes like). There is also a clear citrusy-ness to it that reminds you of when you order a Coke while holidaying in Europe and it comes with a slice of lemon in it.  But this is nicer because the flavour comes from the Sicilian lemons they use. In short, I like it. I think its the best tasting natural cola on the market.

Lemony Lemonade 

Okay, first off, isn’t the bottle adorable?

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Who can resist the charms of a nonchalant lemon?

But lets talk about the taste. I hate to be London-centric, but if you are a Londoner, maybe you’re familiar with a chain of restaurants here called Franco Manca. They just do sourdough pizzas. That’s it. Pizzas, organic wine, fantastic coffees and a homemade sparkling lemonade they bottle themselves. I order it every time I go there. And that is what Lemony Lemonade tastes like to me. Its those big old lumpy Sicilian lemons that do it. They have a heady, floral quality to them. But there was something else there…a slight but pleasant bitterness. What was it…what was it….ah…yes, a hint of Fresca. Lemony Lemonade has a trick up its sleeve…grapefruit! So, Karma Cola had another win with me.  But could they get top marks for 3 out of 3 flavours?

Gingerella

This is where Karma Cola could lose me. I’m kind of funny about ginger beers, ginger ales, etc.  I just don’t like the aftertaste.  Up until now, its been the bottle I’ve left in the fridge and I’ve not tasted it.  So here it goes, as I write this.  (I take a sip.)  Okay, my first thought is that I think it would be better over ice with some pineapple juice, Brugal and a small paper umbrella stuck in the glass…served poolside. But…as far as ginger drinks go its pretty good.  If you like fiery Jamaican ginger beers, its a bit like one of those, but not as cloyingly sweet.  It does have lemon in it, but if I were designing the perfect ginger ale or ginger beer to suit my own tastes, it would have more lemon in it.  As it is, its like a lightly carbonated honey and ginger tea.  Definitely natural tasting and less carbonated than the other two flavours I tried.

So, this was fun.  Thanks to Karma Cola for the drinks.  And thanks to you for reading what I’ve had to say about them.  And if you’re after any of these fair trade organic sodas, I believe they’re available at Waitrose in the UK.

 

 

Gingerbread Ice Cream

Its the weekend and sometimes you just need a little cake and ice cream.  In this case together…in one dessert.  My gingerbread ice cream recipe uses leftover Hot Water Gingerbread cake (though you could use store bought gingersnaps if you were in a pinch) to make a delicious frozen custard.  Best of all, you don’t need to have an ice cream maker to do this recipe.

If you’d like to make this recipe, check it out on my recipe blog by clicking HERE.

Enjoy!

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Alternative Natural Sodas

The other day after coming out of the mum & baby cinema around lunchtime, I was absolutely famished, and headed into the Gourmet Burger Kitchen across the street for a veggie burger.  It was a hot day and before I knew it I had seen the chilly, frosted iconic glass bottle and had ordered myself a coke.

For me that coke was a very rare ‘treat’.  But like our American and Canadian friends, many Brits continue to drink their calories in the form of beer, wine, juice and soda.  I don’t need to shock you with the risks associated with soda consumption, which has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and obesity…because these aren’t shocking facts anymore.  They’ve been around for a long time now so its so easy to glaze over when you read them and just not take them seriously.

The high fructose corn syrup which sweetens soda comes from genetically modified corn that contains pesticides which – in only seconds – destroys your good gut flora, ruining immunity and contributing to an overall immune-compromised body that constantly struggles to find nutrients for survival and systematically loses the ability to fight off pathogens, parasites and antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

You’ll probably also know that diet sodas are just as bad, with research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showing that diet soda intake is directly related to abdominal obesity in adults over the age of 65 and the waist circumference amongst diet soda drinkers being three times that of non-diet soda drinkers.  Oh poo.  Well, there goes that plan.

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Overall, surprise surprise, its just better to drink water.  The University of Bristol and Bangor University found that drinking sweet tasting drinks, regardless of their sugar content or lack thereof, dulls your sensitivity to sweet tastes in general and the sweet treat you once enjoyed becomes less of a special reward.  This establishes a vicious cycle eating sweet foods and drinks on a regular basis.

Okay, so water’s great as a daily thirst quencher, but what about on those special occasions like a BBQ or family movie night in front of the TV where you really do want a treat.  I’ve tracked down the…not ‘best’, but ‘least detrimental’ options for you which are available here in the UK:

Zevia

cola-flavorZevia do every flavour of soda you could want, from cola to grape soda to cream soda and root beer, all packaged in aluminium cans (although they do a glass bottle range now as well).  They do a tonic water for those of you who miss the occasional G&T and – get this – they even make a ‘Dr Zevia’.  Its sweetened with stevia, monk fruit and erythritol – all plant-based with no caloric value or effect on blood glucose levels – and they are Non-GMO Project Verified.

The good news is that in the US and Canada its available nearly everywhere.   (If you live in North America, here’s a Canadian coupon for $1 off a 6 pack of Zevia and for Americans, here’s a US coupon for $1 off a 6 pack.)

The bad news is that here in the UK its really tricky to find…unless you have a local Whole Foods Market near you, where they do stock a limited number of flavours.

Whole Earth

range-refreshingWhole Earth are a London-based company here in the UK which grew from a small macrobiotic restaurant back in the 60’s.  They make a range of organic sodas packaged in aluminium cans.  They make a cola as well as cranberry, lemon and elderflower sodas.  You can see their macrobiotic roots reflected in their cola which is flavoured with barley rather than the weird and wonderful botanicals you seem in some natural colas. They’re sweetened with organic agave nectar which has a lower GI than cane sugar.

Fever-Tree

2663-200ml-white-indian-tonic-low-res-rgbFever-Tree are a UK luxury botanical drinks company.  They primarily make mixers, such as tonic water, ginger beer, ginger ale and lemonade.  Their drinks are beautifully packaged in glass bottles so you do feel you are drinking something special with their products.  As a result, they have rather a lot of rewards to show for their efforts.  Their drinks are all sweetened using natural cane sugar and natural fruit sugar.

But, remember, its still sugar.  Its still going to spike your insulin levels.  Its still high GI.  It still has calories.  But its ‘real’ sugar, so it will be less damaging to your gut than the sugar you’ll find in a can of Coke.

Fentimans

fm_colaFentimans market their sodas as “botanically brewed beverages”.

But at 50 calories per 100 ml, their Curiosity Cola comes in at 8 calories per 100 ml higher than a can of Coke and it contains glucose syrup, yeast, sugar, unspecified flavourings, and a variety of e-numbers such as caramel colour (E150d) and phosphoric acid (E338).  Oh, and it is caffeinated as well.  It has been labelled by The Guardian as “The World’s Best Cola” however, so its up to you if that’s how you choose to spend your daily caloric intake.

They do a number of other flavoured sodas and cocktail mixers as well,  including a delicious Rose Lemonade (coming in at a whopping 52 calories per 100 ml).

They’re not organic and they only will confirm that their Victorian Lemonade and Ginger Beer are GMO free.  As such, I opted not to do a ‘taste test’ of their cola for this article and would NOT consider Fentimans to be a healthy alternative to conventional soda.

Roots

Because this article is about soft drinks available in the UK, we now come to Roots, a small, small, independently owned soda works in Granton, Edinburgh.  They make their soda by hand hoodoo-sodaand claim that their beverages are all natural fizzy drinks comprising of carbonated water, freshly squeezed whole fruit juice, raw cane sugar with infused flavour from herbs, spices, and petals.  Their sodas contain no artificial sweeteners, colourings, flavourings, preservatives or caffeine.

They’re not organic, but I like that they market their sodas as a special treat, only to be consumed once in a while, because “sugar is still sugar, and both fructose and sugar are *not cool* for us.”  At the moment there are only a couple of places in London carrying Roots sodas (BrewDog in Camden and Shoreditch).  I’m a mother of a 4 month old baby, so heading off the Shoreditch with the pram to taste a soda for my blog article wasn’t going to happen.  And as the company couldn’t provide me with a sample of their product for this article, I have to say I haven’t tried it yet.  I’ll update this article when I’ve done so.

Coca-Cola Life

Sigh.

1673295-slide-coca-cola-lifeOkay, I’m including this product in this article in no way because I think you should drink it.  I’m including it because some people will want to know:  “Is this a healthier alternative?”  Yes, its a healthier alternative to Coke Classic, in the way that cigars are a healthier alternative to cigarettes.

To start with, the green label is an absurdly obvious bit of greenwashing, as is the 30% of the bottle being made from unspecified plant-based resources (which I seriously wonder is GMO corn).  The product was launched in Argentina a couple of years ago and has now made its way to the UK.  (Pepsi have a similar product called Pepsi True, but as it doesn’t appear to be available in the UK, I’m not including it here.)

Coca-Cola Life contains 1/3 less sugar than regular Coke, but still contains 2/3 of whatever awful sugar it is that Coke uses in their normal soft drinks, along with a bit of stevia for “Natural Sweetness”.

And it tastes awful to boot.

Baby Essentials: What to Have Before Baby Arrives

Having your first baby is a bit like getting married.  The minute its obvious that you’re pregnant, sales clerks see pound signs in neon lights on your forehead.  There are so many things to buy.  All of them designed to make your baby smarter, better, faster, happier, cuter…and with a rounder head.  And very little of it do you actually need.  But when you tell the sales clerk you’re looking to buy organic, environmentally responsible products…well, weirdo.  Sadly, I suspect that those of us looking to buy natural products for their babies are in the minority, because even the big ‘healthy living’ stores like Planet Organic and Wholefoods have very little to offer aside from nappies and baby skincare.

As I’ve recently had a baby, and have gone through all the trouble of tracking down these products for my own use, I thought it might be helpful to share my list of essential items to have prepared at home for when your baby arrives.  You can get most of these things from Amazon or John Lewis. However, if there are local eco stores in your town, I would encourage you to shop there…or better yet, see if you have friends and family who could lend you or give you hand-me-downs of the following items. So many of these items are used for such a short time, and not all can be found in environmentally friendly versions or at least in effective environmentally friendly versions.

As a blanket statement, when buying new cotton items, I prefer to buy organic, but if you’re getting non-organic hand me downs or gifts, don’t sweat it and just use those.  Why buy organic?  Because cotton production is responsible for 25% of the world’s insecticide use and 10% of its pesticide use, with those pesticides being amongst the most hazardous and carcinogenic.  Not only do you not want any of that residue against baby’s skin, its just more environmentally responsible.

Your hospital bag and your baby’s hospital bag

I will be doing a separate post on this, but make sure that you have two bags ready to pack.  Its much easier to keep your things separate from baby’s things.  This is so your things can be easily accessed during labour and you’ll only need access to baby’s things once he or she is born.  Your bag should be a small suitcase or duffle bag and baby’s bag can be your nappy/diaper changing bag.  My husband bought me this Skip Hop changing bag for Christmas before the baby was born and it was perfect to have in hospital, and continues to be useful to this day for its original purpose as a changing bag.

A Carrier

When it comes to wraps, its probably best to go to a sling library if there’s one near you to try them out.  They just weren’t for me.  But a fitted carrier was perfect for us.  You can get this Ergobaby carrier we used to carry our daughter when hiking in Italy.  Edit:  We loved it so much, we even bought the doll version for our daughter to carry her ‘baby’ around in now!

Something to Sleep In

I know plenty of people who used an empty drawer as baby’s bed for the first few months of their lives.  And others who chose to co-sleep.  But…I wasn’t about to put my baby in an empty drawer.  And despite being a natural mama, I just wasn’t comfortable with the risks associated with co-sleeping (even with safe co-sleeping guidance).  We were given a Moses basket and I found it useful having her in the basket right beside my bed to pick her up for comforting and late night feedings.  I liked that it was made from renewable resources and would easily biodegrade once it had reached the end of its lifespan.  I found the Moses basket to be convenient, safe, easy to move around the house and inexpensive.  Only you will know how long your baby needs to be sleeping in your bedroom with you, but the Moses basket will contain them for roughly 3-6 months before they outgrow it and need to go into a cot (unless you are a long-term co-sleeper).  To go with the Moses basket, you will need a mattress, fitted sheets and ideally a stand or rocker base.

I’ve included links below to a plain, undressed palm basket (the same one we had), a natural mattress to fit it and the same rocker base we had.

You may be able to live without the rocker base or stand…but your lumbar region may not, so give it some consideration.

Two fitted sheets should be enough.  I recommend organic cotton jersey sheets.  The jersey is soft and doesn’t need to be ironed.  There are organic waterproof mattress protectors for Moses baskets, but unless your mattress isn’t already waterproof, as most are, you won’t need one of these.

Cellular Blanket

You will be given many, many blankets as presents.  Some for the cot, some for the pram.  But just in case these don’t appear until after baby is born, its best to ensure you have one in the house ready to cover your baby in their Moses basket and/or pram.  Cellular blankets are made with a loose weave so if the blanket goes over baby’s face, they should still be able to get air and will be less likely to overheat which is associated with cot death.  The cellular blanket in the link below is made from organic and unbleached cotton.

Muslin Squares

Prepare to spend the next six months of your life mopping up poo, wee, vomit and drool.  You will get used to it.  These muslin squares were recommended to me by every parent I know.  And they were right.  They serve as burp cloths, drool catchers, towels, napkins, baby wipes…you name it.  Its best to buy around 20-24 of these.  Cotton is good, but bamboo is far more absorbent and the ones below are made from organic bamboo.

A Tippitoes Bath & Sponge

I am recommending this product specifically by brand as it has a raised section in the base and anti-slip back rest that helps babies feel supported and safe.  Everyone told me to not bother getting a baby bath as you can wash them in a sink or the dish pan.  This was bad advice!  I did this for the first few weeks and consequently my little one hated bath time and screamed her way through – first in the dishpan (which was awkward) and then in the sink (which was uncomfortable for both of us)…until my friend lent me her son’s Tippitoes bath that he’d outgrown.  Bath time instantly became fun, for both baby and me.  She felt supported and safe and I was able to have more fun with her as she splashed around and giggled.  More practically, I could finally wash her more easily with the sea sponge now that I wasn’t having to hold her in place.  This product is not natural.  It is plastic and it is expensive-ish for what it is at around £13.99.  However, they can be found second hand on eBay and if you choose to buy one new, the resale value on eBay is very good, so you can pass it on to the next person.  Don’t bother buying any baby toiletries as they are too harsh for baby’s newborn skin and you won’t need them until later down the road.  Even now at 4 months, I still only use coconut oil with a single drop of lavender or chamomile essential oil to wash my baby.

     

Baby Towels

Your baby will need a couple of hooded towels for after bath time.  Lots of shops recommend Cuddledry apron towels which do look really cozy and they are organic.  If you can afford them at £29.99 each, great.  However we just bought very simple, hooded baby towels which we use for bath time and now that our baby is older, we can take them to the pool too.

Water Wipes

There are some wonderful ways to make your own reusable baby wipes at home and someday I’ll provide links to the YouTube videos I’ve found useful.  Even if you already plan on using reusable wipes, you will want to make your life easier when baby comes – just for the first couple of weeks – by using Water Wipes.  The olive oil and cotton wool combo recommended by the hospital is just really messy and you cannot use conventional baby wipes on a newborn – nor would I want to do so at any stage (have you seen the ingredients in those things???) – but Water Wipes are 99.9% water and .1% fruit extract, so they’re very gentle on baby’s skin and they do an excellent job of cleaning even sticky meconium.  I order them by the case at home and keep them at the baby’s changing station and in my changing bag.

Nappies

You’ll need to have some disposables packed away in your baby’s hospital bag anyway, so just go ahead and buy a pack of eco-friendly disposables.  We are a cloth nappy household and I would encourage anybody else to do the same.  Modern cloth nappies are effective and just as easy to use and maintain as disposables.  But for the same reasons as recommending the Water Wipes, you’ll want to make life with a newborn as easy as possible for those first couple of weeks.  Out of the natural brands of nappies, we found the Swedish brand Naty, available here in the UK, worked the best for us and our friends.  They are made from GMO-free corn, are biodegradable and don’t contain the chemicals found in conventional brands such as Huggies and Pampers.  We also tried Beaming Baby Biodegradable Nappies but found them to be consistently very leaky.  I’ve heard good things about Bambo Nature Nappies, but I’ve not tried them yet.  Edit: I have now tried the Bambo nappies and they are great as well.  We still buy the eco-friendly disposables for longer outings away from home so I recommend finding one that works for you.  That being said, I would discourage anyone from buying conventional disposable nappies.  The average baby will create around 2 tons of nappy waste in their lifetime and this will take a minimum of 500 years to degrade away in landfills, so please do give cloth nappies or at least eco-friendly disposables a try.

US Shoppers can try Bambo Nature  diapers here:                 4ba8ce735ed7a9eb1b005de33be73f92ae0a94b7When and if you are ready to try cloth nappies, remember that every baby is a different shape so different cuts or brands may fit them best.  I learned the hard way that you also get what you pay for with cloth nappies.  Also, if you buy ‘one size fits all’ nappies or nappies that are too big for your newborn, you will get lots of leaks and you’ll be put off the whole idea of using cloth.  For us, AppleCheeks and FuzziBunz® brands were, and continue to be, the best.

If you want to cloth diaper from birth then I would recommend Fuzzibunz because they offer an x-small nappy (4-12 lbs) whereas AppleCheeks size 1 only starts at 7 lbs.  That was fine for our big baby but if you know that yours might be a bit more on the tiny size, then Fuzzibunz may be the way to go.  You can also buy your cloth nappies second hand.  eBay has now banned this practice on their site, but there are lots of Facebook groups where you can buy and sell second hand cloth nappies.  Its not as gross as it sounds and its a cheap way of trying out different brands.

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Footed Sleepsuits/Onesies

You know that cute little Ralph Lauren mini version of Daddy’s sweater vest and khakis ensemble or the adorable Bonpoint dress with cashmere cardigan you’ve already bought your bump?  Yeah, they won’t wear it.  I mean you might get it on them for a photograph and for meeting the grandparents or something, but your newborn will be much happier in sleepsuits.  And you’ll be happier having them in sleepsuits because they’re so freakin’ easy to get on and off.  No ironing of tiny miniature pleats or ruffles.  Again, I recommend organic and buy a few newborn sized ones, if you can find them.  They won’t be wearing them for long but even if you have a big baby, you’ll still get a couple of months’ use out of them.  You can then either save them for the next baby, donate them to a charity shop, eBay them or sell them on one of the plethora of specialist organic baby clothes buy & sell groups on Facebook.

I say ‘footed’ sleepsuits so you don’t have to use those horrible little newborn socks that don’t stay on and will just clog up the filters on your washing machine.  Its the same for scratch mitts.  If you can find a sleepsuit with built in scratch mitts, you’ll appreciate it so their little talons aren’t ripping apart both you and them.  (Tip:  If you insist on using newborn socks and scratch mitts, wash them in a lingerie bag so they can’t get into the nooks and crannies…and filters and mechanisms…of your machine.)

Unfortunately when my baby was born, I couldn’t find any organic sleepsuits in newborn size, so we used a combination of second hand normal cotton sleepsuits in newborn size and some 0-3 month organic Toby Tiger sleepsuits.  I have now found that L’ovedBaby make newborn sized sleepsuits and sleepgowns.

          

Bodysuits

Have around 3 to 5 or so of these on hand before baby arrives in newborn size.  If your baby is born during the colder part of the year, they are handy to layer underneath their sleep suit as an extra layer of warmth.  In the summer it may be their main wardrobe staple.  What we found worked best for us were these little kimono style bodysuits by L’ovedBaby which wrap around your baby rather than being pulled over their heads…something which is incredibly enraging to a newborn for some reason.  Down the road they will also be awfully helpful at containing poo blow outs.  The L’ovedBaby 100% Organic Cotton Kimono Short Sleeve Bodysuits come in loads of lovely colours and are available in newborn size which will fit preemies – something normally quite tricky to find in an organic brand.

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A Newborn Hat

Just buy one of these little Newborn Baby Hats.  These Lilano brand ones look like the one which Princess Charlotte wore when she came out of hospital and they are made from 70% Organic Merino Wool and 30% Silk and they even come in a Preemie size (2-5 lbs).  Little babies only need a hat on indoors during their time in hospital, as they’ve just popped out of a very warm, cozy environment into a cold one.  Once they’ve acclimatised however, don’t keep the hat on all the time while indoors like your mother and grandmother will tell you to do.  Overheating your baby is linked to cot death and unless your house is very cold, keep the hat off until you go outside.  Cotton ones are more common, but wool ones are designed to help regulate baby’s temperature and avoid overheating.  If you do prefer cotton (or if you’re vegan and eschew wool and silk) these colourful Toby Tiger jersey hats are so incredibly soft and are in such fun colours…though we only discovered them once our baby was a couple of weeks old.

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A Swaddle & This Book!

Buy something to swaddle with and a copy of this book:  The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp, MD.  It does what it says on the tin.  Key to the whole process is swaddling your baby.  So get a swaddle.  Even if you think your baby doesn’t like swaddling.  Get a swaddle.  You can buy a fancy swaddle like the Gro Swaddle which is idiot proof (I say from experience) and comes in a non-organic cute version with little woodland animals or in a plain organic version (which for some reason is a few pounds cheaper).  You can also just use a big square of fabric like a blanket in winter or a big muslin square in summer.

     

A Car Seat

If you have a car, you will need a car seat.  If you don’t have a car but ever travel in other people’s cars, you will need a car seat.  What you don’t need is a car seat base.  While they are incredibly handy for easily clicking the car seat in and out of the car, they are expensive (considerably more than the seat itself) and are unnecessary.  It takes about 10 seconds to buckle baby into their car seat with the seatbelt.

Do try to get a car seat which is compatible with your model of pram/stroller.

For instance, we have a Bugaboo Cameleon3 pram/stroller system and we bought the BeSafe iZi Go carseat with five point locking system which clips on to the Bugaboo base with adapters.  You can use the same adapters with Maxi-Cosi carseats, although they only have a three point locking system.

Do try to get a car seat with a five point locking system, if possible, for added safety, or buy a five point locking systems adapter to fit onto your existing car seat.  Its available from places like Halfords (here in the UK).

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A Pram/Stroller System

Pram and stroller shopping is like buying a new car.  You cannot do it online.  You have to go to the actual store – perhaps several times – and try each stroller out, weighing up the pros and cons of each.  It is a major investment.  It is also the only baby-related thing your husband will enjoy buying.

Do not let him take over.  He is not the one who will be spending the next two and a half to three years pushing the child in it all day, everyday.  Unless he is going to be a stay at home dad…in which case, ignore the previous sentence, and let him take over.

You will very likely wish to buy something which converts from pram to stroller so you can use it from newborn to toddler stage.

If you live in a city, make sure you buy something lightweight, with a sharp turning radius and something which is not too wide so you can get onto trains and buses easily.  If you live in the country, make sure you get something with heavy duty enough wheels to manage gravel, mud and grass which little wheels can get stuck in.  We went for the Bugaboo Cameleon3 because it managed all of the above criteria really well, but there are other good systems available at a lower cost.  You can get second hand Bugaboo strollers on eBay, and all the parts are available to buy separately, so it means if one piece breaks or is damaged, you don’t need to scrap the whole stroller.  My friend bought the base chassis second hand for £80 and then bought all the other bits, such as the pram and stroller fabrics, new,  which saved her a bundle and got her a very nice pram/stroller system for her little boy.

Newborn Healthcare Kit

At some point within a day of two of getting home with your baby, you will be convinced that your little one has a fever and you will need to obsessively take their temperature, or you will need to suck out the little baby boogers from their sniffly noses, or to trim their tiny talon-like nails that grow incredibly fast and are oh-so-sharp.  Or if your baby isn’t bald (mine was) then you might even just want to brush their lovely soft hair.  This is when you will need a Healthcare Kit.  Its not quite as serious as a first aid kit, but is more than just grooming tools.

Bottles

However you end up feeding your baby, its helpful to have a couple of bottles on hand.  You don’t need to buy a steriliser or a breast pump in advance.  Unless you’re full time formula feeding, a steriliser is just another big piece of equipment on your kitchen counter and its quick to sterilise using boiling water by immersing everything in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes.  The bottles will stay sterile in a covered saucepan for about three hours afterwards.  While you may end up buying your own breast pump down the road, don’t bother doing it now.  You can rent the really good hospital grade breast pumps from the NCT, your hospital, a variety of commercial companies or your local children’s centre which often rents them for free, with a deposit which is refunded when the machine is returned.  We bought these Nuk glass baby bottles which don’t leach any chemicals into our baby’s milk (there are more chemicals in plastics than the now banned BPA, I’m afraid).  There are a number of glass baby bottles on the market but we found these Nuk ones were the least expensive, were sturdy (not a single breakage yet) and they have the benefit of the Nuk anti-colic teats.  Edit:  Also over time we have found them to be useful as snack pots for older baby/toddlers because they come with little screw on lids.

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Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) for Dummies

A lot of my friends seem to be not that bothered about GMOs.  I mean, they’ll agree they’re not good and will tsk vaguely about bees dying or something, but for the most part, they seem to confuse genetic modification with cross-breeding (i.e. modern cross-bred grains) and they don’t go to any particular lengths to make sure the food they’re buying doesn’t contain GMOs.  Mostly they’ll just look at me like I’m a lovable hippy, a luddite or I’m about to author a book on how GMOs are linked to the FBI, JFK and the moon landings or something.  But gradually people are starting to realise that concern about GMOs is not about rejecting science and the modern world and its not about conspiracy theories.  Many modern scientific discoveries have turned out to be wonderful (IVF, insulin and the mapping of the human genome and epigenome)…so it was bound that some discoveries would go equally wrong. I am not a scientist, but I thought it might be helpful to share a quick rundown on the basics of what I know about genetically modified foods and why I choose to exclude them from my family’s diet.

What are GMOs?  

Well, to start with, GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms.  They are created in a laboratory by the artificial manipulation (gene splicing) of the genetic material of living organisms to create unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes. Sometimes they’re marketed to the public as being a ‘good thing’ for the world and the beginning of the end of world hunger because they promise drought resistant crops and increased nutritional values.  However, in reality, GMOs are both anecdotally and evidentially responsible for health problems, environmental damage and violations of the rights of both farmers and consumers.

But they’re safe, right?  I heard there were studies that proved they were safe.

Well, there have been studies conducted in the US testing the safety of GMOs…oddly enough, conducted by the same biotech corporations that originally developed the research and continue to profit from the sales of the same products. It speaks strongly that more than 60 countries around the world, including all the countries in the EU, have significantly restricted or banned the production and/or sales of GMOs.  In contrast to that, in the US, GMOs are in around 80% of conventional processed foods…but considering American foods are shipped all around the globe, that means you really have to think about the foods you’re buying. If you’re just starting out, the foods which are most likely to be genetically modified are alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soya, sugar beets and zucchini.  These are the foods which are between 88-99% GMO in the US and are therefore are easy ones to try to avoid when you’re out shopping.  Not easy when you have to remember to check for soy lecithin, a common emulsifier (think nearly every chocolate on the market), cornstarch, corn oil and high fructose corn syrup (again, its in so many processed foods) and canola and cottonseed oils (sometimes labelled very vaguely and they can be sneakily added in very small quantities into healthy foods like dried fruits which are packed with a little bit of oil).

Are you crazy?  Are you saying I can never eat corn or soya again?

You can, of course, eat what you want.  But if you choose not to consume or support genetically modified foods, just make sure that when you’re buying foods that contain the main offenders listed above, that you buy the organic versions.  Certified organic foods cannot be genetically modified.  Some US and Canadian certification labels allow for a very small margin of cross contamination these days.  For that reason, some organic food companies have chosen to boycott the organic certification labels and can no longer label their foods organic.  So if there’s a food you like and its not labelled organic – go to the producer’s website and check out their ethos or call up the company.  Very often you will find out about the company’s stance on GMOs in their FAQs and I have been surprised at some of the brands I like (Genius – in the UK – and Linda McCartney to name a couple) which are GMO free.

OK, but if these foods have been designed to be more resilient, then at least there will be less need for pesticides, right?

Again…no.  The toxicity of herbicides such as Roundup has been increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced.  The companies developing the GMOs are also the ones who are developing and selling agricultural chemicals.  I’ll leave it to you to do the math. In fact, one of the reasons that organic plants are better for you is because they are forced to be ‘tougher’ and not mollycoddled with pesticides.  Studies have consistently shown that while organic plants are not necessarily better than non-organic plants in terms of their micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), there is a significant increase in the amount of phytochemicals in organic plants.  Phytochemicals are the compounds that give vegetables and fruits their natural properties which we benefit from when we eat the plants – such as being anti-inflammatory or anti-cancer.

Why do you eat GMO-free?

Well, I hope I eat GMO free anyway.  There is always the risk of some cross-contamination in some crop which becomes an ingredient in a food I eat and glyphosates (the key ingredient of Roundup) have made their way into the water supplies of many areas.  And when you eat in restaurants, there’s no way of knowing unless they promote that they are GMO-free (like Chipotle).  But I’m pretty darn vigilant for the sake of me and my family because: 1 – I don’t want my baby girl consuming the ever-toxic pesticides which cover both these and non-GMO conventional crops. 2 – I don’t like the dirty behaviour of those who hold the patents on GMO crops.  Through the use of their vast budgets and political influence, they are allowed to sue farmers whose fields have become contaminated with GMO crops when drifting from neighbouring fields. 3 – And ultimately the long term health and environmental impact of GMOs are an unknown factor.  But if the short term impacts are anything to go by (a sharp increase of inflammatory gut conditions and autoimmune disorders of near pandemic proportions), I’ll pass on finding out the long term impacts, thank you. Maybe this will be helpful to some of you who have seen the anti-GMO bandwagon passing by and have had no clue why to jump on it.  Maybe you’re already on the bandwagon but have no clue why.  Or maybe this is all new to you.  I’ve now shared what I know…let’s just hope ‘the man’ doesn’t come and get me now! 🙂