Tag Archives: healthy eating

Five Reasons for Choosing Organic (And One Thing I Don’t Like About Organics)

I started writing about organic eating in 2011 and since that time, this blog has grown to incorporate green, natural living and eco-travel.  In the intervening 7 years, organic food has become much more prevalent, with more people choosing to buy organic on a regular basis.  Which is great, but sometimes when a movement becomes widespread, it becomes a bit like white noise.  We forget WHY we initially made the choice to switch to organic and our intentions become less resolute.  And some folks probably never really knew why they started buying organic foods in the first place, other than for vague reasons about it being “healthier”.

In short, by buying organic food, personal care products, home products and clothing, you are making a decision to consciously support sustainable agricultural land use (as well as a positive impact on the natural lands which surround it – for the wild birds, bees, flora and fauna), improved animal husbandry welfare (including no routine use of antibiotics which is important as we sit on the cusp of the post-antibiotic era), no use of artificial colours or preservatives which is better for your body and you’re also buying products made from natural materials which will more easily break down into compost at the end of their useful life, rather than spending the next 500 years in landfill.  So many great reasons to make this conscientious decision to buy organic as often as you are able.

What first inspired me to create this blog was my desire and passion to share with others why I choose to buy organic food, clothing and home items as often as I can. And I haven’t done that in a while, so I thought I’d remind my readers (and myself!) my main evidence-based reasons for choosing – and continuing – to buy organic.

Learn More – GO! Organic Festival (8-9 September 2018)

If you live in the UK and you’d like to explore more about organic living, my first suggestion is that join me at the Battersea Park on 8-9 September 2018 and celebrate everything organic at the GO! Organic Festival.  They’ve very kindly partnered with me to sponsor this article and to offer you the opportunity to win a free pair of tickets (see below). I’ll be there, so let me know in the comments below if you’re coming too! Buy your tickets HERE.

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There will be loads of organic food and drink (including beers & wines), celebrity chefs, pop up vendors and a marketplace with lots of my favourite organic companies including skincare companies, clothing and homewares.  (One of my favs, Greenfibres will be there too, you can check out my review of their pillows HERE.) There’s also a MainStage with a great line up of music.

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Oh, and if you have kids, can I just say that Andy (yes, CBeebies Andy, THAT Andy) and Mr Bloom will be there too!  There will also be facepainting, etc. In other words, it’s a very family friendly day out.

You can win a free pair of tickets by entering our Rafflecopter giveaway HERE.

In the meanwhile, start supporting your local farmers markets and natural foods shops, and when you do buy a packaged product, learn to read the label. You don’t need to change everything in a day, but the more you learn about why some people choose to buy organic foods, clothing and personal care products.  If you’re a bit skeptical about  why its important to buy organic and would like to learn more about why I “became organic”, then I invite you to keep on reading…

Why Did I Choose Organic?

I sometimes hear really intelligent people say that buying organic isn’t necessary because it’s just a marketing ploy to charge more, and that makes me sad. (I hear this a lot in the vegan community, and we should really know better.) Because while these folks are partly right that there is a marketing element to the organic label certifications and branding, that’s not why I choose to buy non-sprayed,  non-GMO foods, clothing and home products.  In fact, on many occasions the organic products I’m buying aren’t labelled organic at all.  I just talk to the farmer or producer and find out what farming and production methods they’re using.  I encourage you to do the same. I like supporting local farmers wherever possible, but I also have good reasons for making sure that I’m choosing organic products (and supporting organic producers, including those who go to the effort of obtaining pricy and demanding organic certification standards).
The US National Academy of Sciences reports that 90% of the chemicals applied to the foods we eat have not been tested for their long-term health effects before being deemed as “safe.” Furthermore, the US FDA only tests 1% of foods for pesticide residue.

“The most dangerous and toxic pesticides require special testing methods, which are rarely if ever employed by the FDA.”

Here are my top 5 evidence-based reasons for living an organic lifestyle.

1. Genetically Modified Foods

I’m not afraid of the boogey man or Franken-whatever – that’s not why I don’t eat GMO foods.  The point of most widely available GMO foods – especially the big ones like corn, wheat, canola and soya – is that they are branded as “Roundup Ready” and as such, the plants are designed to be resistant to higher levels of glyphosate so that more weed-killer can be used for a higher product yield – levels of toxins which would kill a conventional plant. Glyphosate is the main ingredient of Roundup and it is an endocrine-disrupting chemical which the WHO has listed as a probable carcinogen, in particular linked to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and to which there is increasing evidence and current legal debate that it causes genetic damage.

So when you see “soya”, “soy”, “canola”, “corn”, “fructose”, “glucose fructose”, avoid buying those foods unless they are labelled as organic or non-GMO. (Foods labelled as non-GMO, GMO-free and Non-GMO Project Verified foods aren’t necessarily free from Roundup (glyphosate) and other harsh weed-killing toxins like Dicamba (also produced by Monsanto), but they will have lower levels of those poisons. I won’t lie – I do occasionally buy those types of non-GMO foods, but it’s better to buy organic as often as possible.  I tend to apply a 90/10 rule at home – 90% organic, whole foods (I prefer to eat whole foods for my own health reasons – you don’t need to do that) and 10% fun foods (my fun foods are always vegan and always GMO-free, organic where possible). It’s nearly impossible to guarantee eating GMO-free when you go out to restaurants unless you eat somewhere like Chipotle, the first national chain restaurant to cook with all non-GMO ingredients. Just do your best.

If you want to know more about practical ways to avoid GMO foods, check out Mama Natural’s blog post on how to avoid GMO’s. You can also check out my previous article on the subject.

If you don’t have the time for reading all those articles and you don’t have time to read labels at the supermarket, the easy solution is – just buy and eat organic food.  

Organic food cannot be genetically modified, so it’s an easy cheat to avoid having those toxins in your food.

2. The Health of Agricultural Workers

There are over 5.6 billion pounds of pesticides used in the agricultural industry worldwide (1 billion of that is in the US) and with woefully inadequate hazard assessments taking place, especially when chemicals are combined, each year 25 million agricultural workers experience unintentional pesticide poisoning.

(Note, I’m not even touching on how those chemicals affect the environment, animals, the bees and bird life.)

Personally, I care about the health of all those agricultural workers and their families and I don’t wish to contribute to risking their lives so I can have a cheap bag of Doritos or whatever.

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3. Groundwater Becomes Poisoned

The US Department of Agriculture has found that the groundwater which provides drinking water for around 50,000,000 people in the US has been contaminated by pesticides and chemicals from the agricultural industry.

“According to Cornell entomologist David Pimentel, it is estimated that only 0.1% of applied pesticides reach the target pests. The bulk of pesticides (99.%) is left to impact the environment.”

But maybe you’re not a statistics person.  Maybe you need to see an example of the kind of thing I mean, so please check out the video below showing the issues with the Costa Rica pineapple industry.

4. Because Pesticides Get EVERYWHERE

Even household dust (in addition to food and water) is now contaminated with pesticides, particularly in rural agricultural areas. Studies have found that children between 3 and 6 years of age received MOST of their dermal and non-dietary oral doses of pesticides from playing with toys and while playing on carpets which contributed the largest portion of their exposure.

That means the dust from the air settling on the toys of our kids  – on the objects we use everyday – is toxic.

That bit of dust that’s settled on Sophie the Giraffe or my daughter’s favourite blankie is toxic.

Do you find that as shocking and distressing as I do?

This means the more of us who buy and support organic, the more farmers will be able to make the viable economic decision to farm using sustainable, organic methods and this will mean gradually, fewer and fewer pesticides in the air, especially in agricultural areas where this issue is most prevalent.

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5. Increased Nutrient Values

In the past when I researched this topic, there didn’t seem to be much evidence that organic foods had much more nutritional value than conventionally grown goods, aside from increased phytonutrient content.  But more high quality studies and reviews have shown that foods grown in well-nourished soil, using organic, sustainable practices have higher levels of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

As an example, five servings of organically grown vegetables  can provide an adequate daily level of vitamin C, where the same number of servings of conventionally grown vegetables do not.

Organic produce, on average, contains:

  • 21.1% more iron
  • 27% more vitamin C
  • 29.3 more magnesium
  • 13.6% more phosphorous

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One Thing I Don’t Like About Organics

There is one aspect to buying organic food which does get my back up.  And its not the perceived increase in cost. When I go into the supermarket, all the organic produce seems to have extra layers of plastic. (You can watch my Real Food Organic Groceries on a Budget video here to see what I mean.)  I appreciate the supermarkets need to differentiate the conventional produce from the organic for pricing reasons, but surely they could do that with produce stickers rather than having to add so much plastic. This isn’t an issue when I can make it to the farmer’s market or when I order my organic fruit and veg box from Ocado (email me at ourlittleorganiclifeblog@gmail.com to get a voucher to save £20 off your first order) or from Abel and Cole or Riverford Organics (my downstairs neighbour uses Riverford on a weekly basis and I’m always so jealous of the gorgeous produce she gets each week).

However, the good news is that supermarkets here in the UK (where I currently live) are soon going to have to become more accountable for their plastic usage in the coming years so thankfully this should become less of an issue in future.

Resources: 

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946087/
3.  https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/a20453119/top-reasons-to-choose-organic-foods/
Nielson EG, Lee LK. Agricultural Economics Report Number 576.US Department of Agriculture; Washington: 1987. The magnitude and cost of groundwater contamination from agricultural chemicals: a national perspective.

Identifying populations potentially exposed to agricultural pesticides using remote sensing and a Geographic Information System.

Ward MH, Nuckols JR, Weigel SJ, Maxwell SK, Cantor KP, Miller RS
Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Jan; 108(1):5-12.
4. Biologically based pesticide dose estimates for children in an agricultural community.
Fenske RA, Kissel JC, Lu C, Kalman DA, Simcox NJ, Allen EH, Keifer MC
Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Jun; 108(6):515-20.

Organophosphate urinary metabolite levels during pregnancy and after delivery in women living in an agricultural community.

Bradman A, Eskenazi B, Barr DB, Bravo R, Castorina R, Chevrier J, Kogut K, Harnly ME, McKone TE
Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Dec; 113(12):1802-7.
5. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/107555301750164244

Photo Credits:

Farmer photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Baby photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Kale salad photo by Deryn Macey 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.

cashewsSources: 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!

The Perfect Diet

So here it goes.  A moment of truth…and shame.  Since I was about 15 years old I’ve been a chronic dieter.  And as a result, I’ve done a lot of damage to my body by depriving it of the essential healthy fats and other nutrients that it needed to be nourished.  And even worse, an imbalanced body like mine was utterly unable to support the healthy mind and spirit needed to really love myself.  The worst damage was done in the time leading up to my wedding when I began a 1000 calorie a day diet.  If I’d been just eating big bowls of vegetables and lightly steamed greens it might not even have been so bad, but I wasn’t.  I was incorporating the nutrition-less, empty calorie ‘diet’ foods like Weight Watchers meals and diet sodas.  And the awful thing, was that after 9 months of eating like this, depriving my body of any nourishment, I was exhausted, mentally and physically, and I wasn’t really losing that much weight.  I struggled to keep up my exercise routines because I had no energy.  I think I lost around 12 pounds in total.  I went to see a dietician at my local GP practice and her “sage” professional advice, after looking at my diet diary was to swap butter and olive oil for margarine and suggested that perhaps I should reduce my diet to 900 calories.  Yep, you heard it.  She wanted me to remove the small amount of healthy essential fat I actually WAS getting in my diet and replace it with toxic, hydrogenated, free-radical spread…I mean margarine.  Even I knew that was wrong, so I ignored her and continued with what I was doing.  It was only later, after the wedding and honeymoon, when I started thinking about wanting to become pregnant that things really changed and I realised the damage I had done to myself through deprivation dieting.

And now I’m ready to share with you the perfect diet.  Are you ready?  Here it is………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….there is no perfect diet.

There is a perfect diet for you, but there is no perfect diet that will work for all of us.  And here’s why.  It’s really complicated.  It’s because, get ready for it, we’re not the same person.  That’s right.  I’m not you and you’re not your neighbour John, or Sally who works at the supermarket.

Do I wish that we could all use the same diet and exercise formula and get the same results?  Yes, of course I do.  But genetics doesn’t work that way.  We each have different DNA (aside from identical twins, but even they express those genes in different ways) and so we don’t all have the same number of genes.  There is no perfect or ideal number of genes, so its not a competition.  But it does mean that some of us may have mutations with, or even lack, enzymes which are essential for different body processes.  (Bear with me here, this will come back around to diet.)  You may have heard of the MTHFR, COMT or BRCA genes.  MTHFR and COMT enzymes are essential for methylation, which is used to control gene expression.  Women who have mutations with these genes will have difficulty becoming pregnant and maintaining pregnancies.  On the other hand, the BRCA genes are tumour suppressing proteins and Angelina Jolie made the BRCA I & II genes famous when she had prophylactic surgery undertaken to remove her breast tissue, ovaries and fallopian tubes because of her high genetic risk for getting this cancer.  So what I’m getting at here, is that we don’t all process the world around us in the same way.  And we have to love our bodies for what they are.  The lack of this gene or a mutation with that gene doesn’t make us imperfect, but it does make us realise that we may have to take certain precautions to avoid higher risks for foods, toxins and lifestyles which our bodies are simply unable to handle.

Okay, so I started eating healthfully again.  I got skinny right?  Wrong.  I started eating normally for like the first time in years, and my body had no. clue. what. to. do.  I mean I’d basically been telling my body – in prehistoric terms – that I was going through a time of famine and so when it started getting a normal amount of food, and I’m talking like 1500-1700 calories here, it thanked the god of rain for sending it a time of plenty and it decided to store every calorie it could.  As fat.  Yay.  But the good news was that all this healthy food I was now eating allowed me to maintain a really healthy pregnancy and produce a really healthy baby.

So a year and a half on postpartum, no I’m not skinny.  I’m not where I’d like to be, but I’m okay with how I look.  I fit into my size 8 jeans and that will do for the time being.  I’m still breastfeeding my daughter and I’m grateful to my body for all its been through and for the beautiful daughter its given me and still helps to nourish.  I continue to support my thyroid health through diet and the use of therapeutic essential oils, and that is helping me enormously now.  So I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve very slowly found the diet that is right for me.  And actually, it isn’t a diet at all.  I’ve learned that I can’t eat too many sugars (argh!), one cup of coffee a day does me good (but more than that doesn’t) and that I definitely can’t process gluten very well (as much as I like to tell myself I can when I see a croissant winking at me from the bakery window).  However, you may not be able to tolerate coffee at all.  And some people have issues with one of their liver enzymes and can even build up high levels of mercury from eating something as simple as salmon, whereas the next person processes it perfectly well.  Even healthy juices green smoothies could actually do you a lot of damage if your thyroid isn’t functioning optimally.  And I haven’t even touched on how your gut flora fits in to all of this.  The list goes on.  Bodies are funny old things, aren’t they?

There is an easy and shorter – but more expensive – way to learn all of this about yourself.  You can get genetic testing done and enlist the help of a reputable nutritional therapist.  They can help you to understand your test results and to recommend bespoke  adjustments to your diet and lifestyle which will support what your individual body is able to do, and to avoid what it isn’t able to do.

I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to tell you that a Slim Fast shake is the perfect diet solution for you.  But its not.  Not for anyone.  And the one bit of generic advice I can give everyone is to get the toxic chemicals out of your food, cleaning and skincare regimens.  Eat organic, biodynamic or non-sprayed foods.  Eat more plants.  Use natural skincare.  Clean your home and office with natural cleaning products.  (They work just as well, by the way, and they cost less.)  Yes, we do have livers and yes, livers were designed to remove toxins from our bodies, but no one’s liver was designed to handle the amount of chemicals we eat, breathe and slather onto our skin every day in today’s world.

So whether you choose to go the slow route of figuring out the right diet for you, like I did (and continue to do), or if you opt for a faster route with the support of a nutritional therapist, I hope that above all you prioritise learning to love yourself and love your beautiful body.  Personally, I found the support of my Young Living essential oils incredibly helpful in both an emotional and physical capacity over the last 9 months of this process.  But I guess what I’m saying is be gentle with yourself, be kind to yourself, eat beautiful foods and move in ways that make you happy.

BBC Good Food Show – Summer 2016

So yesterday my friend Amy and I headed over to the ExCel centre in Docklands here in London with our babies to check out the BBC Good Food Show.  I had very kindly been invited by Umi from new start up kefir company, Little Bird Kefir to come visit her at the exhibition and it seemed a wonderful opportunity to see what new foods and producers were out there.

My overall impression of the show was that there are a lot of ‘healthy’ drink companies out there now.  Like, a lot.  These days people know they should avoid sugary soft drinks but they seem to just not want to drink water and there were a plethora of sweet herbal tea and juice or flavoured stevia type drinks on the market.  There also seemed to be a lot of companies selling products to make ‘fat free, sugar free’ baked goods.  Kind of reminds me of the Olestra days of the 1990’s, but these products were marketed as ‘natural’.  I love the catch all marketing use of ‘all natural’ which is essentially meaningless.

But Amy and I had a great time walking around the exhibition and sampling all the goodies.  I always really enjoy chatting to small producers and hearing their stories of how they came to create their business and what they have to say about their products.  They’re so passionate and bursting with pride about what they’ve made.  There were a few products that really stood out for me for various reasons and I thought I’d share them here.

I should also say that I’m not sponsored, paid or compensated in kind by BBC Good Food Shows or any of the producers below, aside from Little Bird Kefir who gave me my ticket, no strings attached, to come sample their kefir.  So a particular thank you to them for giving this mum & blogger a fun day out.

Little Bird Kefir

I love my cultured foods (think sourdough bread and yogurt) and this was – I’m pretty sure – the only cultured food producer at the show.  Umi and her husband have set up this company making kefir, a delicious cultured dairy drink, very similar to yogurt, but with up to 5 times more strains of bacteria than are found in yogurt.  They are really friendly, genuine people.  They don’t hard sell their product at all and are happy to explain a million times to people what kefir is and its benefits.  And their kefir is delicious.  I’m a bit funny about kefir when its over-cultured and gets too sour or bubbly (I’m not one for the carbonated milk thing!) and I’ve run into this a lot with some of the other brands on the market here in the UK, but Little Bird Kefir is very similar to a drinking yogurt.  Unfortunately they’re not quite yet certified organic, and as their kefir is produced in Poland I don’t know quite what that means in terms of the dairy being used.  But when they’re able to clarify that their product is organic, I’ll be ordering it regularly because now that my daughter is moving on to drinking cow’s milk in a bottle, I’d like to introduce a bottle of watered down kefir to her each night, to maintain healthy gut bacteria.  Oh and I think the best part of their business model is that if you live on the UK mainland, you can order their kefir online for home delivery and its priced reasonably enough at 1.5 litres for £8.50, so that you can enjoy it as a daily drink and not just as an expensive occasional treat.

Sukrin Peanut Flour

Where has this been all my life?  Seriously.  I mean it.  Where has peanut powder been all my life?  This stuff is delicious.  And not just ‘healthy’ delicious.  Really delicious.  If you’re familiar with the Mexican candy ‘de la Rosa’ – a little disc of powdery peanut-ey deliciousness, generically called mazapan – it tastes like that.  Concentrated peanut buttery-ness.  I guess you could bake with this like a coconut or almond flour, but where this really comes into its own is when added to frozen banana smoothies or when you use it to make a reconstituted peanut butter by adding water or almond milk. Its more delicious than any actual peanut butter and its completely smooth like the fake, sugary Jif, Skippy type peanut butters.  And I bought a bag of it for only £3 at the show.  (Its normally £5 at Sainsburys or £5.85 direct through the Sukrin website.)  Oh yeah…I guess I should mention the nutrition part now…this powder is 50% protein and a whopping 11% fibre.  So, fill your boots.

Bart ‘n’ Lainy’s Canadian Wild Blueberries

These folks are ADORABLE.  And after chatting to Lainy (Elaine) one of the owners, I can see this business is both a leap of faith and a labour of love for them.  I mean, people here have never seen our small wild blueberries before.  Their berries are imported from Nova Scotia and Maine (not all Canadian then!) and are packaged in glass bottles in a light syrup (which you could stir into yogurt or spoon into the bottom of a champagne glass and top up with prosecco).  I sampled some of their berries and they tasted exactly as they should – nothing like the big cultivated blueberries I’ve become used to.  They’re tiny and delicious and full of that sweet, concentrated, real blueberry flavour.  They’re available at various independent delis and health food shops around the country, but you can order them direct from the owners with free shipping!

Ginger Love

This company is based in Belgium.  They started out as a popular restaurant called Lombardia in Antwerpen, where they serve fresh, raw juices, but realising they couldn’t export their juices and maintain the raw enzyme benefits, they decided to concentrate them into a powder so they could be reconstituted.  Ginger Love is the most popular blend, but they have others as well.  I think there are plenty of sweet drinks on the market, but I like ginger and these have that strong, fresh ginger flavour and they can also be blended with hot water to make a sweet fruity, herbal tea…and I kind of like that. EDIT 2018: I am still buying this stuff occasionally from Holland and Barrett when I see it there.  I love it and it makes a lovely iced tea.

Donat Mg Water

Most people are deficient in magnesium.  And the magnesium in most supplements is in its least bioavailable form, meaning your body isn’t absorbing any of it.  So I liked the idea of this natural magnesium water from Slovenia.  Okay, that’s a lot of food miles for bottled water and for that reason I probably won’t be buying this water very regularly, but as little as 300 ml of this water is enough to meet the RDA for magnesium.  Which is easier than choking down those huge, chalky Cal-Mag ‘horse pills’.   And I also like that its naturally balanced with calcium as well.

The Olive Shop

Okay, I don’t think anybody takes as much pride in sharing how great their food is, as do the Greeks.  And John, the owner of The Olive Shop was no exception.  He had me trying everything they make, just so I could see how delicious it was.  And it was.  They don’t sell a million types of olive oil; just two, an extra virgin olive oil and an organic version.  I bought the litre size tin of EVOO, only realising afterwards that I don’t think it was the organic one, but that’s okay.  They also sell olive pastes, honey, balsamic vinegar (balsamic vinegar with honey…yum!), olives, wild organic mountain herbs and some organic olive oil and botanical based toiletries which their friend makes.  They also sell what they call ‘rock salt’, which isn’t what we would call rock salt (crushed mountain salt), but is in fact, hand scraped from the rocks along the shores of the Peloponnese (Mani, to be specific) during the hottest months of the year.  Although I didn’t taste John’s salt, I can say with confidence that I think this is the most delicious salt in the world, because my Greek friends who live a short distance across the water from Mani buy this same salt harvested from their shoes and it is the only one I use at home now.  I also bought some of the Akess Hamamelis & Helichrysum eye cream (only £9!!!) made by John’s friend and I look forward to trying it in a couple of months when I run out of my current eye cream.

EDIT 2018: I’ve had to remove the link for this because sadly I don’t think they exist anymore.

MaxBurn Fitness Plate

These aren’t a food, but I was kind of intrigued by these vibrating boards.  There were a couple of companies selling them at the show and so I went to the one which looked to be the highest quality in appearance to give them a try.  I always used to enjoy the PowerPlates when I went to the gym, and this is a similar concept, except you don’t hold on to anything.  You can do lower body, abdominal and upper body work on them and they were super easy to use.  The only downside I could see was the staff they’d hired to help customers try them out.  There were two members of staff on hand.  Their booth was empty of other customers and the first staff member I made eye contact just gave me an irritated, dull look and turned around and the second staff member begrudgingly came over and helped me after I asked her to, and answered my questions with as little care or energy as she could possibly do.  I’m not quite sure why or how a new mum in her 30’s with a few pounds to lose WOULDN’T be their target demographic, but apparently not.  Anyway, despite their lackadaisical and zombie-like approach to selling, I liked the product and will give some thought to researching the various brands and perhaps getting one of these for home workouts at some point, because who doesn’t want to burn up to 500 calories in a half hour workout session?

So the BBC Good Food Show is still on all day today here in London, in case you want to go meet some of these people and try out their goods.  Check out their website as they’ll also be at the NEC in Birmingham next month and at Hampton Court Palace in August.  I’m hoping to check out the Taste of London show next month as well, so will share my thoughts on that if I make it.

There were other sellers I haven’t mentioned above, like the big organic company, Seeds of Change, who had an adorable little faux garden with fresh vegetables plopped on the earth in little terraced beds and little watering cans for kiddies to pretend to water the plants.  There were also some beautiful, brightly glazed natural terracotta ceramics designed by the owner at Bristol-based Collectively Artisan (I’m afraid I didn’t catch his name) and then made by potters in Spain and Greece.  (We both bought some little tapas bowls for serving snacks in at home.)  And my friend Amy couldn’t stop raving about the Limpopo Biltong stand selling biltong and drywors which she had to visit twice and then stocked up on their dried meats to take home with her.

Overall, I wish there had been more organic producers and I wish I’d arrived earlier in the day because there were a few stalls I just didn’t get to see and had wanted to (such as Arctic Power Berries with their powdered berry food supplements, as I’m quite fascinated by the idea of them and Oppo ice cream made with milk, coconut oil and stevia) but by 4.15 we simply had to leave to avoid the Friday rush hour traffic.  (Think getting a large stroller onto the Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf!)  We had a nice time and I’d like to thank all the producers and sellers who took the time to chat to us.

 

 

Essential Tips for First Time Hiking With Your Kids

This week, Zara Lewis, blogger,  mother of 2 and regular contributor to High Style Life joins us for a guest post on essential tips for hiking with children.

As a person in love with hiking, it was one of my greatest fears that once I had kids I would have to forget about my passion. Luckily, it wasn’t the case; my kids love hiking adventures and nature as much as I do, and our hiking trips have been a great source of joy for all of us. Of course, some things had to change, and I have adapted and adjusted so that all of us can have fun but still be responsible.

picmonkey_image

Be practical with your food

I remember back when I was a kid how my mother always packed just bare necessities in my backpack and I was devastated because I wanted chocolate and sodas like other kids. However, once I became a mother myself I discovered that my mother was right: you do not need a ton of sweets, but rather practical and nutritious foods to keep you strong. I always pack healthy sandwiches, my own protein bars, and plenty of nice fruit: apples, pears, and peaches. This way I am sure my kids are eating healthy food without sugar and additives, and most importantly: we never leave candy bar wrappers or any other sort of garbage behind.

It can rain anytime

Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. After a couple of our hiking trips ended abruptly because of light rain that started falling suddenly, it became a custom of ours to pack light raincoats in our hiking backpacks. These do not take too much space, but are wonderful protection from the elements. We would end our walks suddenly even if it was just light rain, but now we just take our raincoats out and keep walking for as long as we want. Pro tip: you can even use raincoats instead of tablecloths when having a picnic, since they are water-resistant and a million times easier to clean afterwards.

ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR HIKING WITH KIDS 2

Thorough examination afterwards

Always carry hand sanitizer with you when going for a hike, but when you get home that is when the real battle starts. Remove all of your clothes and examine your body to see if you have any ticks or other possibly dangerous insect bites on your body. Do it for your kids too, and then use a natural cleanser to remove all the dirt from your hands, face, and body. Your face is putting up with a lot during your hikes, and it is important to wear a protective hat and apply sunscreen so you don’t get a sunburn. You can apply a face mask made of baking soda and activated charcoal to remove sweat and dirt particles from your pores.

Stretching and relaxing

Kids will probably want to run like crazy all the time, and that is fine. They are young and restless and they should spend their energy like that. As for you, try not to push yourself too much, choose a nice easy tempo and stick to it so you don’t pull a muscle or hurt yourself. You can even take a short break from time to time and stretch so your body can relax. What is more, there are some easy stretches you should do before you set out on your hiking adventure; this way your body will prepare and warm up so your hike will not be as difficult as you thought it would be.

Time spent with my family away from the city crowd is truly a blessing: we watch birds, learn about different plants and animals, and experience the seasons much more intensely than we would in the city. We are used to fresh air, the chirping of birds, eating while sitting on the grass, and the smell of earth after rain. Don’t be afraid to take your kids out for a hike; it is a beautiful experience which all of your family will enjoy.

10 Achievable New Year Resolutions

Every year I ask my mother what her new year resolution is.  She says she’s giving up chocolate.  It lasts about 3 days.  Sound familiar?  Sure, I’ve made major life decisions which I have adhered to over the years, but I’m pretty sure that none of them were ever the result of a new year resolution.  In fact I struggle to think of a single new year resolution which wasn’t a complete failure.  So I’ve come up with 10 achievable changes to incorporate into my life for 2014.

1)  More Family Time

A while ago I made the decision that my job should make me as happy as the rest of my life does and I started training to become a Nutritional Therapist.  This has involved me keeping my day job while attending class on most weekends.  My work-school-life balance has been less than ideal for a while now and so this week I made the decision to reduce my hours at work and switch to a weekday class schedule, which will once again free up my weekends to once again spend Saturday mornings at Borough Market with my husband again or exploring Telegraph Hill with the dog…or even just spending a lazy morning on the sofa with a mug of tea and a copy of the Sunday Times.

2.  Grow Where You’re Planted

Maybe this one only applies to me.  I’ve spent my whole life thinking “life will be perfect when we move to….” and  “when we get a bigger house then  we can……”.  But maybe I just need to learn to love the space I’m in and cherish what I’ve got.   I have a warm and beautiful home with enough space to welcome our friends and a garden where I can enjoy the sun in the summer.  We live in a great neighbourhood with access to plenty of parks.  There’s always going to be something bigger and better and somewhere else that seems more exciting.  And who knows what the future might hold?  But right now, maybe I just need to nurture the little plot where I’m planted right now.

3.  Eat More Coconut Oil

Hey this is an easy one.  Coconut oil is great.  I’m a little biased because I love the stuff.  Its great for healthy skin (applied topically or when eaten regularly), for shiny hair (again, either applied topically or eaten regularly….or both!), for brain function (appearing to play a role in the reduction of dementia and Alzheimer’s), and it contains high levels of lauric acid which can kill  fungi, harmful bacteria and viruses.  Yes, its a saturated fat, but its structurally different to other saturated fats and is metabolised differently.  It fills you up, reducing your overall intake of calories, and even promoting a reduction in abdominal fat.  You know…your spare tire.  But make sure that you buy the raw, virgin, cold-pressed organic stuff.

4.  Take Your Vitamins.  (Not Just Buy Them)

I’ve got better with this over the last year, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.  I spend a lot of money on good quality  supplements and when I take them, I feel great.  I try to keep it down to a minimum, so I’m not rattling as I walk down the street, but there are a few vitamins I take as well as a couple of herbal tinctures and a fantastic breakfast shake which balances my blood sugar from morning to early afternoon because I really REALLY don’t wan to get diabetes!  That being said, I don’t particularly want my life to revolve around my vitamin schedule, but I do think it would improve my overall wellbeing if I just take the vitamins I’ve got when I’m supposed to take them.  (Even the yucky ones with kelp and spirulina that stink like low tide on a hot day and make me want to barf every time I take them.)  Its called structure.  I have very little of that in my life.

5.  Walk More – 10,000 Steps

“You know what, I really need to start walking less” said no one, ever.  Okay, that sounded like one of those glib Facebook shares and perhaps somewhere it is.  But really, walking is so good for you, and if you are at all able to engage in this exercise (i.e. not in a wheelchair or completely bedridden) then get out and walk some more.  I’m not really a pedometer kind of a person, but depending on your height and gait, 10,000 steps a day is between 5 and 8 kilometres.  There is a plethora of evidence that 10,000 steps a day will burn excess calories,  improve heart health and also can improve mental health. Any times in the past when I’ve gone through a difficult period, I know that walking has been my drug of choice.  I walk, walk and walk some more.  And when I think I can’t walk anymore, I just keep going.  This year I definitely plan to reignite my love of this simple activity – and best of all, its free!!!

6.  Think About Where Your Money Goes – Shop Local & Shop Strategically

Your pound, dollar, peso, whatever, is the best communication tool in the world.  Its better than Twitter, Facebook. customer feedback groups or the Amazon star rating system.  Because in the end, like it or not, the world is about money.  Every purchase you make tells companies (both big and small) what to keep making and tells stores what to keep stocking on their shelves.  For instance, today the average person in Britain consumes 36.4 kilos of sugar each year.  In 1997  that figure was 29.5 kilos.  This trend tells companies to produce more consumables (can you really call it food?) with sugar and to continue to make sweet foods sweeter.  By thinking about which companies, products and values we are supporting before spending our money, and taking into account the impact that even one person’s spending habits can have (remember that 36.4 kilos of sugar per year we’re all eating?  That’s over 230 million kilos of sugar in Britain alone), we are shopping strategically and helping to set the marketplace of the future.

7.  Try Something Different

Everyone gets caught up with crazy, restrictive or just plain unhealthy new year diets.  We suddenly realise we have to lose a whole whack of kilos which we just spent the last 6 months gaining and expect to lose it in two weeks.  Well, it don’t work like that, honey.  So instead of putting pressure on yourself, just remember how to enjoy real food and exercise again.  I find diet books exhausting.  They provide such rigid protocols I feel bored before I’ve even finished the second chapter.  But you know what?  Some different ways of eating are both really healthy and really fun.  For instance, in the spring, summer and early autumn months, I love eating a lot of raw vegan food.  There are some great bloggers out there with recipes that are so much fun to try:  Fully Raw KristinaFragrant Vanilla Cake and Live.Love.Raw.  Try it for a day.  A week.  A month.  Or even just one meal.  I’ve always been a little intimated to try eating Paleo, so on 1 January Mr Harris and I agreed to do it together.  There was no pressure – no commitment to adhere to it for any set length of time. Just to see how we got on with it.   And you know what – it couldn’t be easier having a grain-free lifestyle.  It makes the weekly shopping trip quick and easy (just fish, meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables and nuts!) and if I feel I just can’t get on without a bit of dairy, well, then I have a bit of cheese made from organic sheep or goats’ milk, which are much easier to digest.  Its not about discomfort and deprivation.  We might keep eating this way for another week.  We might keep eating this way forever.  But I’m just pleased that we tried it.  (And don’t forget to combine it with resolution number 5 above:  Walk More!)

8.  Meditate

(Uh oh…where’s she going with this?)  Meditation doesn’t have to mean a prayer rug and incense.  It can mean whatever it needs to mean to you to calm the near constant hyperarousal of the sympathetic nervous system which so many of us experience in our everyday lives.  We react to the so called ’emergencies’ in our work environments in the same way our bodies evolved to react to say, an attacking tiger.  While intellectually we can tell the difference, unfortunately our nervous system can’t, and adrenal fatigue is just all too common from overstimulation of the fight or flight instinct.  So what helps?  Meditation is one thing that can help.  You can sit on a prayer rug and silently empty your mind.  You can tune into Oprah & Deepak on their regular 21 day meditation sessions.  You can find a group of like minded people who enjoy chanting and ohm your hearts out.  I find it difficult to clear my mind unless I’m focusing on some type of gentle, preferably repetitive movement like walking or rock climbing, or being guided through yoga or tai chi.  I’ve even achieved a clear mind when swimming, looking at the bottom of the ocean floor or the tiles of the pool, and just focusing on gliding through the water while causing as little rippling as possible.  Or I don’t know, go fly fishing.  Just something quiet to take you away from the stimuli and scheduling of the rest of your life:  away from mobile phones, television, computers, wifi, traffic, screaming children and loved ones asking when dinner is ready and where the toilet paper is kept.   And by ‘you’, I mean ‘me’.

9.  Eat a Carrot a Day

Yes, I am going to eat a carrot a day.  I told you these were achievable resolutions.  I could bang on for days about the health benefits of carrots , but here’s a new one for me.  Raw carrots contain a type of undigestible fibre that binds excess oestrogen (and other toxins) and prevents them from being reabsorbed in the intestine.  Instead, your body can then focus its resources on progesterone and thyroid (yay!), rather than cortisol and oestrogen (boooooo).   And apparently all within just a few days of regular use.  (Ditto for bamboo shoots, by the way, in case for some reason you prefer those to carrots.)  Unfortunately, oatmeal – though also a good source of fibre – won’t do the trick.  This is because oatmeal provides good food for bacteria.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but the resulting bacterial endotoxins can put a chronic strain on the liver (liver processes toxins remember?), and divert its focus from storing enough sugar to process thyroid and other hormones….which could be the reason for the hormone imbalance in the first place.

And why do we care about too much oestrogen?  Less oestrogen means less strain on the liver, less inflammation overall and improved thyroid health.  Oh yeah, and boys, it also means less likelihood of you getting a nice set of moobs.

10.  Bake a Cake

Not just one cake.  Cakes on a regular basis.  And tea too.  Because what’s a home without a cup of tea and a slice of cake (in my case delicious almond, honey & orange Paleo cake) on a  Sunday afternoon?

Organic? Who has the time?

Ok, so not everyone has time to peruse the farmer’s market every weekend, slowly mulling over the decision about whether to buy strawberries or raspberries. In fact, as much as I love doing it, even I don’t always have the time. In an ideal world I would have a job where I could spend my days thinking, talking, writing, and musing about food. Oh yeah, and eating it too. But right now, like most of you, I have a busy job, where often a bowl of takeaway miso soup is all I get to quickly scoff at lunch. Its not until I get home in the evening that I can release my stress by aggressively crushing garlic with the flat of my 9″ chefs knife, passionately beating batter or losing myself in the pedantic process of creating a complex sauce. Even on the weekends sometimes I just don’t have the time, and this is why I have some quick tips on healthy, organic shopping for busy people.

Quick Tip One: Subscribe to an organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Scheme.
These are sometimes called Farm Box Schemes or Vegetable Box Delivery Services. Whatever you call it, they’re really great. They’re all your seasonal, local vegetables (and sometimes fruits, if your scheme is big enough) packed in a box which is delivered weekly and safely stowed in an agreed spot, so when you get back from work on delivery day, your order is waiting for you. Some schemes are run by individual farms, some by larger farm cooperatives and some people have made small businesses out of it. Able & Cole in London have been able to partner up with meat, dairy and other producers so you can get almost an entire grocery order with your weekly delivery box. Of course, if you’re ordering meat and dairy, you’ll need to be home for the delivery so these can be safely tucked into the fridge right away.

Quick Tip Two: Online Grocery Shopping
Its the lazy way out, but if I know I have a crazy weekend coming up (hey its summer – there’s weddings, BBQ’s, parties, travelling around and social events with friends galore) I’ll spend a lunch hour at work doing an online shopping order, and I can still make sure that the bulk of my order is organic, without spending hours trawling through the non-organic produce. I tend to use the Ocado website, where I can create a shortlist of my preferences, such as ‘organic’ or ‘organic and wheat free’ or similar. Otherwise, just do a search for ‘organic’ and all the organic items will come up as a shortlist, and you can select the items on your grocery order from that. Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s and I think even ASDA offer similar options.

 Quick Tip Three: Prioritise
So it’s 7pm and you’re just getting out of the office. You worked through lunch, so no time for an online order and you live alone, so how the heck are you supposed to eat a whole box of organic veg each week? If you’re eating any fruit or veg at all, chances are they’re gonna come from the shop on the corner. Use this handy list from the American Environmental Working Group’s website – The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. Kind of obvious, but avoid The Dirty Dozen because they’ll up your pesticide intake, being the worst contaminated fruits and vegetables out there. Instead, if you aren’t able to buy organic, then try to go for the Clean 15, which are the least contaminated produce you can get.

The Dirty Dozen
Apples
Celery
Strawberries
Peaches
Nectarines
Grapes
Bell Peppers
Blueberries
Lettuce
Potatoes
Kale
Spinach

The Clean 15
Sweetcorn
Pineapple
Avocado
Asparagus
Sweet Peas
Mangoes
Eggplant
Cantaloupe
Kiwi
Cabbage
Watermelon
Sweet Potatoes
Grapefruit
Mushrooms