What are Prebiotics?

Source: Exhibit Health

Source: Exhibit Health

Prebiotics

Over the past few years, we’ve been inundated with information about probiotics and why they are so good for us. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t eat yogurt these days, “so they get their probiotics”.  From baby probiotic drops, to keifer, to capsules, making sure you’re getting enough probiotics has become part of a normal lifestyle.

Now I’ve been starting to see buzz around prebiotics. I’ve noticed packaged food claiming to have added prebiotics that make them even healthier than before!

So, what are prebiotics?  Consider it fuel for the probiotics.  The healthy bacteria, fungi and other organisms that make up your gut microbiome need food too, and some consumables are more beneficial for the prebiotics than others.  Healthier probiotics in your intestines and colon mean improved digestion and mineral absorption.

Dietary fibers are considered prebiotics because they are not digested in the small intestine, but rather make their way to your large intestine and colon where they are consumed by probiotics. It turns out that when our parents told us to “eat our roughage”, they were actually encouraging us to eat prebiotics!

Chicory Root "Coffee"

Chicory Root “Coffee”

After doing a little research, I was surprised to learn that chicory root is one of the highest sources of prebiotic dietary fiber Inulin. I wonder if our ancestors realized how beneficial it was to be drinking their chicory root coffee when the real stuff wasn’t available.  Not only was it contributing to healthy digestion, it helped get rid of internal parasites like intestinal worms.

If you’re not into drinking Chicory Root Coffee, you can buy Inulin powder and start adding it to your smoothies, oatmeal or other foods. Same with Jerusalem Artichoke Powder
or Dandelion Greens.

Other sources of prebiotics include garlic, onions, asparagus, wheat bran, whole wheat flour and bananas.

Do you include prebiotics in your diet?  What’s your preferred source?

 

Product Review and Giveaway: Glob Colors Face Paint

Non-Nano Face Paint

Non-Nano Face Paint

Glob Natural Non-Nano Face Paint

My kids were thrilled when the box containing face paint from Glob Colors arrived in the mail. They knew it meant I would be forced to paint their faces, which they had been inexplicably begging me to do for some time. I was pleased to discover that Glob Colors seemed to be truly “all natural”. Their website lists such delightful ingredients as purple carrots, red cabbage, chlorophyll and gardenia fruit among others. This plus the fact that they are free of many of the toxic chemicals found in conventional face paints such as titanium dioxide and are cruelty free sealed the deal for me. I was excited to paint some squirmy, sticky faces.

facepaintI chose my youngest daughter’s 5th birthday party guests as my test subjects. There were only 3 guests, so it wasn’t going to be too hard, or so I thought. One of the girls wanted a lot of blue on her face, so that was easy as one of the colors in the paint kit was a beautiful blue. Two of the kids then asked for rainbows on their cheeks. The colors in the Glob kit were not exactly “rainbow” material, they seemed more like “earth colors”, aside from the blue. I attempted to mix the colors in an effort to get green and orange only to end up with a sort of “terra cotta” rainbow springing from a white cloud. The kids were just excited to have their faces painted so I let it go, only to discover an hour later when the paint dried it turned into a vibrant, traditionally colored rainbow! The paints were no easier or harder to mix than regular face paints.

Natural Easter Egg Dye

Natural Easter Egg Dye

Because of the excellent ingredients and the fact that, when dry, the paint looks great I would definitely purchase products from  Glob Colors in the future.

And if you still haven’t purchased Easter Egg Dye and are looking for something natural, try out Glob’s Natural Easter Egg Coloring Kit. Like the face paints, the egg dyes are made from herbs and plants (annatto, radish and cabbage), are non-toxic and CPSIA compliant. They are packaged in Post Consumer Waste Paper printed with vegetable inks.

 Glob Colors Face Paint Giveaway

We are giving away a set of Glob Colors Face Paint. You can enter our giveaway up to five times, and the last day of entry is Tuesday, April 7th, 2015. Entries must be received by 12:00 AM, PDT and is open to US residents only.

Recipe: Ricciarelli Almond Cookies

Ricciarelli Almond Cookies

Ricciarelli Almond Cookies

Ricciarelli Almond Cookies

Ricciarelli Cookies are a traditional Italian cookie made with blanched and finely ground almond flour, sweetener and egg whites. If you do a quick search for Ricciarelli cookies, you will see that there are lots of variations out there. Some call for citrus zest or other flavorings in addition to almond extract. Some are drop cookies, while other recipes call for you to shape them. I’ve tried many of these recipes, and they are all delicious and gluten-free.

After many batches, I came up with my own variation that is even easier than the other ones I’ve tried, and just as delicious. The dough comes together quickly in a food processor, is rolled into logs and frozen until ready to bake. Just slice the logs evenly into cookies, and the whole batch fits on one cookie sheet.

This recipe is quick and easy, and the resulting cookies transport well. You can pack a whole batch neatly into a ziplock bag for transportation or mailing.

Ricciarelli Almond Cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 40

Ricciarelli Almond Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

    For the Dough
  1. Pour extracts and egg whites into a measuring cup
  2. Add remaining ingredients to food processor with chopping blade and pulse until combined
  3. While processor is on, slowly pour liquids into the feeding tube and process until a dough ball forms
  4. Transfer dough to a piece of parchment paper and split dough into two balls
  5. Roll one of the balls of dough into a 1 1/4-in in diameter log on the parchment paper
  6. Wrap the log of dough in parchment
  7. Repeat with the second ball of dough
  8. Freeze the dough logs for at least 2 hours (Or wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze for up to three months)
  9. To Bake
  10. Preheat oven to 300F
  11. Unwrap a log of dough and slice into 5/8" pieces while still frozen
  12. Repeat with second log
  13. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 1" apart (They won't spread while baking, so they can be crowded together onto one sheet)
  14. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half way through
  15. Remove sheet from oven and turn all the cookies over. They should be slightly browned on the bottom
  16. Bake for another 10 minutes
  17. Cookies are done baking when both sides are slightly browned
  18. Cool on baking sheet and store in a sealed container at room temperature for 3 days, or 3 months in the freezer
http://greenbabyguide.com/2015/03/25/recipe-ricciarelli-almond-cookies/

Eco-Friendly Easter Ideas

Spring is in the air and Easter is right around the corner.  Here are some wholesome alternatives to conventional Easter products that are a little better for you (and the environment), and just as colorful.  The snow has melted and it’s time to get outside and enjoy some fresh air!

Natural Easter Egg Dye

Natural Easter Egg Dye

Natural Easter Egg Dye

Especially if your kids like to help out in the kitchen, start by making your own Easter Egg Dye using easy to find fruits and vegetables like beets, blueberries and onions.  It doesn’t take too much time or effort, and makes the egg-dying experiment a multi-step activity.

If you don’t have the time to create your own Easter Egg Dye, try out Glob’s Natural Easter Egg Coloring Kit. Their egg dyes are made from herbs and plants (annatto, radish and cabbage), are non-toxic and CPSIA compliant. They are packaged in Post Consumer Waste Paper printed with vegetable inks.

 

18-rabbits-bars

Chocolate Bunny Bars

18 Rabbits Bars

Instead of filling your kids baskets with chocolate bunnies, how about a healthier bunny-themed snack? We have been enjoying 18 Rabbit Bars lately, especially the Cherry, Dark Chocolate & Almond Bar.  They are made with organic ingredients and are delicious to boot!

18 Rabbits also donates 1% of their products to kids without access to affordable, nutritious food, which is a great message to share with your children.

Play Love Laugh Nail Polish

Kid-Friendly Nail Polish

Kid-Friendly Nail Polish

If you’re looking for something colorful for the Easter Bunny to leave in your kids’ basket, Play Love Laugh Nail Polish is a great eco-friendly choice.  You’d never guess it derives its bright colors from fruit and vegetables. Unlike conventional nail polish, it doesn’t contain acetone, acetates or alcohol.  Not only is it non-toxic, gluten-free and vegan, it peels right off nails – no nail polish remover necessary!

 

Natural Jelly Beans

Jelly Beans

Natural Jelly Beans

Easter wouldn’t be the same without jelly beans, but we aren’t fans of the artificial colors found in most brands.  We especially like Trader Joe’s Gourmet Jelly Beans.  They contain natural flavors, and are colored with fruit and vegetable based dyes. If you want organic jelly beans, Surf Sweets Organic Jelly Beans are a good, albeit less colorful, choice.

Snipe Game

Go on a Snipe Hunt!

Go on a Snipe Hunt!

Enjoying the outdoors is a big part of raising Eco-conscious kids, and spring is a great time to get out of the house and have some fun.

If your kids can’t get enough of Easter Egg hunting, or if eggs aren’t part of their diet, then send them on a Snipe Hunt instead. This Snipe Game sends your kids out as a team or opponents to find the hidden Snipes and return them to their nest. After a bit, the Snipes begin to chirp and light up to help the hunters find them.

 

Live Grass!

Live Grass!

Living Easter Basket

Back in 2009, Joy wrote a great post about making a living Easter Basket.  Although it might be too late to plant grass seeds, you could buy some to use instead of the plastic kind that just ends up in the trash. If you have pets, you could use Pet Grass and let them in on the Easter fun!

Book Review: Llama Llama Red Pajama

Where's Mama??

Where’s Mama??

We were gifted a copy of Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney and it quickly became a favorite.

After being tucked into bed for the night, the baby llama decides he needs his mama one last time. Baby llama calls for his mama, who is busy doing dishes downstairs and says she will be up in a minute to check on him. In the moments it takes her to finish up, the llama has scared himself silly over why she hasn’t rushed to his side. He basically has a conniption fit when she doesn’t come right away. Most of us parents can relate to this scenario, and so can our kids!

I glanced at the reviews for this book, and some parents thought it caused behavioral issues with their children. I was surprised (and maybe a little not surprised) at this. Some kids emulated the llama in order to manipulate their parents. Others were scared for the llama and had anxiety as a result.

These negative reviews were a pittance compared to the hundreds of five-star reviews. The illustrations that accompany the thoughts of this llama with the overactive imagination are priceless. The rhymes are clever and catchy and it’s the kind of book that you can read over and over and still enjoy it.

If you and your kids have a good handle on the difference between reality and fiction, I highly recommend this bedtime story!

Fun With St. Patrick’s Day

Fun With St. Patrick's Day

Organic and Chemical Free Mattresses

Organic Chemical-Free AND Affordable!

Organic Chemical-Free AND Affordable!

I am in the market for a new mattress and want this time to get an organic/natural mattress. By law, mattresses have to be flame retardant. Most mattresses are soaked with highly toxic flame-retardant chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ether, better known as PBDE. These chemicals have been linked to various serious health issues.

I’ve known this for a long time but I was always under the impression that “natural” mattresses were way out of my price range. Today. I went to a local store that sells only organic and chemical free mattresses and was pleased to find that there are some affordable options. The one we settled on was by a Spanish company called Spaldin.  The mattress is made with a plant-based foam core. Surface layer is made out of Hypersoft plant-based foam wrapped in organic cotton. And it was under $1500.

I’m excited to try it out and I’ll let you know what I think.  By the way, here is a good guide to avoiding PBDE exposure in general put out by one of my favorite non-profits — Environmental Working Group.

Product Review: The Portable High Chair

The Portable High Chair

The Portable High Chair

While part of the US has been seeing record breaking snow fall and cold weather, some of us have yet to see “real” winter this year. Since we’ve been enjoying spring-like weather for weeks, we’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors. Franci has even been taking her meals outside, and always asks to sit in her ciao! baby Portable High Chair.

There are some definite pros to the high chair. Franci has no chance of standing up in it or jumping up to run around in the middle of a meal. She is so securely held in place by the tray, it takes two people to take her out of the chair.

Which brings me to the main detraction. I can put her in the chair by myself, but I need help to get her out. The tray is immobile and close enough to the back of the chair that it is a tight fit at 23 months old. That, combined with the crotch piece, mean her feet get stuck when I lift her out. The product says it is for a child up to three years of age, but my two year old has nearly outgrown the opening.  If your child is still a little wobbly when sitting, the tight fit would hold her securely in place.  I wouldn’t recommend it for a child over two years old.

One great thing about The Portable High Chair is how easily it folds up for transport. It’s about the size of our other full-sized camp chairs and has a comparable carrying bag. It’s easy to set up, and the plastic lined tray is water proof and can be quickly wiped off with a damp rag.

When I first saw a picture of The Portable High Chair, I thought it was short. In some ways I like the height since it means Franci is at the same height as a picnic table. That said, I wish they would make a chair that would double as a kid’s camping chair. The tray would need to be removable, but it would be dual purpose! That way I wouldn’t have to pack two chairs for each kid.

Umbrella Attachment

Umbrella Attachment

If you’re used to sitting at picnic tables at a camp site, you know how impossible it is to secure a booster seat or folding travel highchair (like the one we reviewed previously). Picnic tables are not the cleanest of spaces, and can cause splinters on roaming hands. The benches beg to be stood upon and the tops crawled on top of. If your toddler loves to explore and be a little too busy during meal times, being corralled in a highchair from whence they can’t escape could be the answer to your problems.

In the middle of writing this review I found out that they also sell an attachable umbrella.  We haven’t tried it out, but it would provide a nice sunshade for your little one!

If you do a lot of camping with your little ones or just a lot of car travel to destinations without high chairs, you might really like The Portable High Chair.  Right now you can get $10 off an original model by using the promo code Save10.  The code also applies to the umbrella, but not the college chairs.

Recipe: No Mess Fried Bacon

oven-bacon

Before Ovenating

I love bacon. Who doesn’t? What I don’t love is standing by the stove for 20 minutes frying five pieces at a time. Even with a splatter guard I have to clean up a big splattery mess after standing there for what seems like ages. And if I forget to wear my apron? Arg!

Then I discovered cooking bacon in the oven. I was working as a caterer and we were providing a breakfast buffet for 100 utility workers. You can imagine how much bacon this group was going to eat. We laid out the bacon strips on lined baking sheets ahead of time, and were able to keep the chafing dishes full throughout the event with little effort.

oven-fried-bacon

Fresh from the Oven

Once I perfected my own technique for frying bacon in the oven at home, I never looked back. I don’t even set a timer; I put it in the oven and forget about it until the mouth-watering smell of fried bacon hits my nose and I remember to take it out.

Beside the simple cleanup of crumpling the tinfoil and throwing it away (no dishes!), there is an added bonus: the bacon grease that renders contains very little sediment. We store our bacon grease in the fridge and use it to saute onions, baste burgers and add to cauliflower rice.

Recipe: No Mess Fried Bacon

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Recipe: No Mess Fried Bacon

Ingredients

  • 1 package of Bacon

Instructions

  1. DO NOT preheat oven!
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (I like the 18-inch for lining)
  3. Place bacon strips in a single layer on baking sheet
  4. Put baking sheet in the cold oven
  5. Turn oven up to 450F
  6. Start checking for doneness when the oven reaches 450F
  7. Bake until bacon reaches your desired crispiness (I go about 5 minutes past the preheat beep)
  8. Remove bacon from pan and place on paper towels to absorb extra grease
  9. Carefully pour the bacon grease into a jar for later!
http://greenbabyguide.com/2015/03/11/recipe-no-mess-fried-bacon/

Is Daylight Saving Time Worth The Energy?

Daylight Saving Time vs. Standard Time

Daylight Saving Time vs. Standard Time

If you’re a parent of young children, you already understand the steep emotional and psychological costs of switching from Daylight Saving Time (DST) to Standard Time. This year, it took us a month to get Frances to re-adjust to the earlier schedule and stop waking up an hour before the alarm clock went off. I’m not sure who it was harder on; the parents who had to get up extra early each day, or Franci that couldn’t seem to make up for the lost sleep during her nap.

Environmental Impact

Personal issues aside, what about the environmental impact of changing the clocks twice a year? It turns out to be a bit of a wash, and very much dependent upon where you live. While you might not turn your lights on until later in the day, residents in southern locations are more likely to turn on their AC when they get home and leave it running for more hours. Despite the fact that DST was implemented to promote energy conservation, it no longer achieves that result because of the proliferation of AC units in residential locations. Back in the 1970’s, studies showed that the country’s electricity usage was down one percent per day during DST months, but 45 years later, it is actually up 1-4% due to cooling expenses.

Economic Impact

Let’s not forget about the economic impact of the changing time. While most of the American and European Countries observe DST, the majority of Asia and Africa does not. This means the whole world has to keep track of who is on what time and when, costing the airline industry around $147 million. The stock market, retail and TV industries take a huge blow as well.  There are indications that traffic safety increases with the Daylight Saving Time and crime decreases, both of which save communities money.

Health Impact

Our health suffers with the time changes too. A study conducted in 2008 suggests that the incidence of heart attacks, workplace injuries, illness and low-productivity incline steeply in the days following the time change. I know that I’m cranky for a few days in the fall, not just because of the lost sleep but because of the lost daylight in the evening. Additionally, people tend to be more physically active in the evening and watch less TV during the months of DST.

At the end of the day, the biggest cost seems to be in the switching of time. It’s hard on businesses and our health, costing both industries millions. The “Energy Savings” is negligible, so that isn’t something I’m worried about. If we just eliminated the time change entirely, everyone might be able to rest a little easier.

But which time do we choose?

I personally prefer Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time. If I had to choose between the two, I’d chose the one that gives us lighter evening hours year-round. I’m more productive after dinner and am more likely to stay active instead of lounging around before bedtime. Not to mention, we are already on DST 8 months of the year, so it wouldn’t be that much of a change to switch to DST permanently.

What’s your opinion on the time change? Do you think it should be phased out? If so, should we stay on Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time year round?