Tag Archives: healthy

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.

Strawberry Smoothie

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!

Scrambled tofu & sourdough

cof

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%.

overnight-sweet-potato-oats

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!

blueberry chia pudding

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).

smashed avocado on toast

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

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.

Minimalist & Eco Baby Essentials (2018)

Having your first baby is a bit like getting married.  The minute its obvious that you’re pregnant, sales clerks see pound/dollar 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, 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, it’s just more environmentally responsible.

Hospital Bags – For You & Baby

Make sure that you have two bags ready to pack.  It’s 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, it was an absolutely fantastic changing bag for the first couple of years, and to be honest, it is so well made that I still use it to this day as a little overnight bag for my daughter when travelling.

A Carrier

When it comes to wraps, it’s 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.  We loved it so much, we even bought the Ergobaby Doll Carrier 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) because I am a very heavy sleeper.  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, palm basket (the same one we had), a natural mattress to fit it (it comes with a mattress, but you may wish to have a natural mattress which is free from any toxic chemical residues) 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 and it is just an added expense.

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 options in the links below are made from organic and unbleached cotton, silk, bamboo and merino wool, so even if you’re vegan there are natural options.

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.  Organic 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.  Unfortunately I now can’t seem to find it for sale anywhere, so here is a similar alternative which is a best seller on Amazon. However, there are still plenty of the Tippitoes tubs which can be found second hand on eBay.  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.  For the first year or so, I still only used coconut oil with a single drop of lavender or chamomile essential oil to wash my baby. If you absolutely, desperately need some soap, a drop of Dr Bronner’s baby wash is adequate.

          

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 th309010_baby_hooded_towel_set_enviro__540x540_q85_crop_subsampling-2ey are organic.  If you can afford them at £29.99 each, great.  However we just bought very simple, hooded organic baby towels which we use for bath time and now that our baby is older, we can take them to the pool too. Norwegian company Norwex also do a very deliciously soft baby towel set too, but they aren’t organic and they aren’t cotton or bamboo – but it is embedded with antibacterial silver, to help bacteria from surviving on the surface of the towel between uses and it comes with a little wash cloth. So there are a few options for you to consider, all of them excellent. Heck, I’ve even bought second hand baby towels and just put them in a good boil wash to get them clean.

Baby Wipes

There are some wonderful ways to make your own reusable baby wipes at home and below is a link to my YouTube video on how to make easy DIY homemade wipes in 10 seconds flat using any old cloths you have available.

For when you’re on the go, Norwex do a set of gorgeous thick baby wipe cloths embedded with antibacterial silver with a chic little reusable wet wipe bag. I used to recommend Water Wipes for on the go, but now I think these completely address the difficulties of doing baby changes out of the house.

55bc356915d5af1ae3f2ff97cf0f1991Even if you already plan on using reusable wipes, you may want to make your life easier when baby comes – even just for the first couple of weeks – by using Water Wipes.  I’m not here to judge if you want to use them longer (just please don’t flush them!). You’re going to be so busy at first, feel free to be kind to yourself and give yourself one less thing to think about washing.

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.

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.   Bambo Nature Nappies are great as well and are widely available.  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.

If and when 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 Apple+Cheeks.jpgway 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.  It’s not as gross as it sounds and its a cheap way of trying out different brands.

There have also been a few new nappy start up companies within the last year or so, and it might be worth giving one of those companies a go to see how you like their functionality and fit.

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.  It’s 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 little white Engel 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.

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 option which has recently been redesigned and updated to be better for hip development.  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 or in taxis, you will need a car seat.  What you don’t really 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 for our first carseat,Stokke iZi Go 120330-6921 black_15844 we bought Swedish made, uber safety conscious 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.

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).

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 probably the only baby-related thing your husband will enjoy buying.

It’s great to enjoy shopping for this item together, but it is whoever is planning to be the primary caregiver who needs to make the final decision on this item.   If you are the one who will be spending the next two and a half to three years pushing the child in it all day, everyday, then you need to know it will be a reliable and comfortable system for you to use.

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, it is 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 it’s 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 endocrine-disrupting chemicals in plastics than the now-banned BPA, I’m afraid, so BPA free just isn’t enough).  There are a number of glass baby bottles on the market but we found the Nuk ones were the least expensive, were sturdy (not a single breakage yet) and they have the benefit of the Nuk anti-colic teats which you can buy at plenty of local pharmacies and supermarkets.  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 to replace the teats. So very zero waste…I’ll be using them for years!

If you’re worried about breakage – fair enough – the LifeFactory ones are really cool and come in gorgeous colours (see below) and they are covered in silicone sleeves so they don’t break when dropped.