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Unjunk Your Junk review

>> Thursday, April 26, 2012

As you know, I've been on a little quest to start eating healthier.  My first step in the process was to start following some blogs and facebook pages to help in figuring out my action plan.  One of those blogs I started following was  It's a great blog with lots of health related posts with a focus on whole foods  eating and natural health.  So, when I saw that they were coming out with a new book and were looking for bloggers to review it, I signed up!  And guess what?  I got picked!  Yay!

The book is called, "Unjunk Your Junk Food".  What a great title.  Because honestly, no matter how healthy you are, you still have snack foods or quick foods that you grab when you are in a hurry or just want a snack.  But at the same time, you don't want to sabotage your healthy, clean eating by grabbing the wrong things.

The book starts out by going over some definitions.  It was helpful to me because I'm just starting out on this journey.  It listed some good ingredients with funky ascorbic acid...did you know that it's Vitamin C?  And it lists bad ingredients, like Potassium Sorbate...did you know that it's a preservative that has been "linked to asthma, skin rashes, diarrhea, and hyperactivity in some people" (page 23)?  But, I would have thought that ascorbic acid would be bad for you (acid, hello?) but something with potassium would be ok.  Obviously I have a lot to learn!

The book also has a list of 7 worst ingredients in food...check out the article on their website that goes into a little detail.  But those ingredients aren't always clearly identified on the label, so how do you know for sure?  That's why it's awesome that this book also includes a "Worst Ingredients" chart on page 25.  It's actually a tear-out page to keep in your purse so you can check the labels before you put something into your cart.  The front side of the sheet are the worst ingredients and the back contains ones you should have caution in consuming. For me, this alone was the best part of the's definitely something I will be carrying with me when I'm doing my shopping.  You can also download the list if you register on their site!

So, the rest of the book is practical applications of what you just learned.  It goes through different categories of snack foods and gives you an example of a bad choice with the following page showing you a much better choice.  The snack food categories it covers are: 1) Chips, Dips and Party foods, 2) Ice Cream and Frozen Treats, 3) Cookies, 4) Chocolate, 5) Cakes and other desserts (Yay!), 6) Granola Bars and on-the-go snacks, 7) Candy, 8) Soda and other drinks.

Here's an example of one of the favorite, Cookie Dough Ice Cream!  So, on the left it shows the bad option including the ingredient list with the worst ingredients printed in red and the ones to beware of in orange.  And there are like 170 pages just like these!  The thing I find most helpful is that I'm able to look at the highlighted ingredients in the bad ice cream, so I know what to look for when I go out and buy some for us.  Obviously all the ingredients are listed on the master list, but I found it extremely helpful to have an idea of what to look for in each of the snack categories.

So, after reading the book, I went through our snack cabinet to see what was in there.  It needed organizing desperately anyway, so it was great timing!  Here's a "before" photo...

And here it is all organized out on the counter.  Now the fun begins of looking at the ingredient lists!

I have a mix of "healthy" options and "not at all healthy".  I'm currently in the phase of buying better food for our family, but I hate to waste things so I haven't made a purge and thrown any of the bad things away.  First up are some Special K cracker chips that I bought last week.  They taste good, but they do contain TBHQ in the ingredients.  TBHQ is on the worst ingredients chart (red) because it is a petroleum-based  food additive to increase shelf life.  According to the book, "it has been associated with nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, and prolonged exposure has been linked with cancer"(page 24). Bummer...looks like these go on the "do not buy again list."

 Next up is my beloved girl scout cookies.  I love the shortbread ones, and the ingredient list actually looks ok until you get down to the very bottom and see "artificial flavoring".  According to the book, "artificial flavoring is a blanket term that could include on or hundreds of unnatural additives.  For example, a typical artificial strawberry flavor contains forty-nine chemical ingredients!" (page 23).  Unfortunately, this was also the case for my favorite brownie mix, Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate.


The worst offender I found in the snack cupboard were Cheese Curls.  My boys love them and while I didn't think they were the best choice (obviously), they were much worse than I thought and I won't be buying them any more.  They contained MSG, artificial colors, artificial flavors (all on the worst foods list), and Disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate (2 flavor enhancers on the "beware" list).


Fortunately, the book had Cheese puffs (p40 & 41) and compared the Cheetos (bad choice) to Barbara's Cheez Puff Bakes, Original Cheddar.  I haven't purchased these before, but will definitely be looking for them as a replacement.

So, after organizing the snack cupboard, I had to check the freezer for my coveted Ben & Jerry's ForoYo Half baked ice cream.  And I'm so excited that it doesn't have any of the worst ingredients or the caution ingredients!  Yay!


So, what are the results from this snack cupboard clean-out?  First, I definitely need to start reading the ingredients list before putting things into my cart.  I will be carrying the list of the ingredients to avoid and beware in my purse to reference if I have questions while I'm shopping!  I have a lot to learn, but this is a great resource for beginners.  If you are interested in buying the book, you can find it on Amazon. You can also follow Naturally Savvy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

* I received a free book in exchange for my review.  The opinions expressed are my own and I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review.


Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits

>> Thursday, April 12, 2012

I'm back for my first post in, err, a while.  I'm suprised Beth hasn't fired me yet!!!  We are moving into our new house in a little less than a month, so I hope to post more regularly then.  The past 10 months of living in a 2 bedroom apartment haven't been too terrible, but I haven't had much motivation to cook or craft in our small space.  The lighting is also terrible, so I haven't been able to take good pictures of any recipes I have made.  Over the next 3 months, I plan to do lots of DIY decorating of our new home, including a nursery for our baby girl due in July!!, and lots of cooking in my new kitchen and stocking my freezer in preparation for baby.  I hope to post about a lot of those things. 

I have also been terrible about responding to comments on our posts, but I appreciate them all.  I got several supportive comments on my motherhood vs. career post, and it's great to know other ladies can relate.  Just today there is a news story about a commentator attacking Mrs. Mitt Romney for "not working a day in her life".  I don't know much about the Romneys, but apparently she's raised 5 sons.  Sounds easy to me! (insert heavy sarcasm) Anyway, my point is that in a nasty world of women attacking each other and putting each other down, I am grateful for those who took the time to comment in such a positive way!

I am always looking for quick, healthy snacks my kids can grab from the refrigerator.  I am pretty much the pantry police, because my oldest son always heads there when he is hungry and I am always trying to direct him towards either a healthy pantry choice, or preferably something from the refrigerator.  I really don't have alot of candy, sweet things, or junk in my pantry -- I am much more likely to bake a cake than buy snack cakes or cookies or chips -- but still most items in my pantry that don't require preparation are inferior to choices in the fridge.  For some reason, my son doesn't choose unsweetened applesauce from the pantry!  Anyway, I love to make these and the kids love them too.  I have long been a fan of McDonald's yogurt parfaits, so that's kind of the idea behind these.  See what I mean about terrible lighting?

Choose your favorite yogurt.  I tend to use Dannon Light and Fit Vanilla Yogurt for the kids.  For myself, I try to use Greek yogurt for the extra protein (kids won't eat this kind).  I am addicted to the little Chobani Champions in Berry flavor.  I tried them in the store, and although they are meant for kids, I keep buying them and hiding them in the back of the fridge hoping no one else notices them.  Layer your yogurt with the fruit topping.  I like putting them in these glass jars and it makes them more attractive to the kids for some reason.  Before eating them, add granola if you want.  You could also layer it within the parfait, but I like mine crunchy and the kids don't like it at all.

Fruit Topping:  (blueberries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries)
2 cups fruit (I use frozen right now, may use fresh this summer as it is in season)
sugar -- amount depends on your taste.  The recipe I adapted called for 1/4 cup, but I use half of a 1/8 measuring cup.  Sometimes I use a couple of tablespoons and then 1 tablespoon of splenda.  Adjust this to your taste and to your preferred sweetener.
Place these in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the frozen fruit starts to break down a little.  In a little bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon cold water, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice together.  When it is smooth, pour it in the saucepan.  Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to your taste, and a little vanilla.  Bring mixture to a boil and then quickly reduce to a simmer.  Stir a minute or two until thickened.  Remove from heat and let cool.

For cherry, I reduce the sugar a little more and use a tablespoon of brown sugar.  I also add about 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract to the mixture and omit the cinnamon.  I love the addition of the almond flavor to the cherries.

The parfait above has cherries and blueberries.  The strawberries make for a much prettier presentation, but this is probably my favorite flavor combo.  Don't skip the cinnamon. Just a little gives the fruit such a great flavor.  I keep these for 3 days or so in the fridge.  After that the fruit starts to get watery.  This fruit topping would also be good over pancakes, french toast, or frozen yogurt.


The Evolution of a Swing Set

>> Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Today we built a new swing set for the kids!  My parents and Steve's dad came this morning to help assemble the new swing set.  I bought a kit on Amazon that included instructions, brackets, swings and a canopy and then I purchased the wood and screws separately as well as a glider swing.  I took photos of the entire process and wanted to share :)

Mom and Molly sitting on one of the piles of wood.

I had two little boys who "helped"the entire day.  The past week they have been telling everyone that someone "sole our old swing set so we are building a new one."  I actually sold the old one on craigslist, but whatever :)

 Starting to put the "fort" area together.

Getting there, but so much more to do!

For those of you who know my dad, you won't believe this photo...WHAT!?  He's actually reading the INSTRUCTIONS?  Maybe he was just posing for the picture :)

The boys helped me screw on the deck boards and then we paused for a photo op.

Putting the swing hangers on the beam.  Oh, and the kids decided they didn't want to wait any longer.  Who cares that the ladder to get up isn't built yet...just climb up the slide!

SWINGS!!  I still need to buy one more set of swing hangers for Molly's swing, which will go between the boys' swings.

Almost there!  Just need to finish adding the safety boards around the "fort".

Finished for now...just need to hang the glider on the cantilever area (I forgot to buy the hangers for it), add Molly's swing, stain and add the sand.  Oh, and you can't really tell from this photo, but the yard kinda goes downhill towards the fence, so I need to dig some holes for the A frame brace to go into to make it level...right now it goes uphill.

Oh, and just to compare, here is a picture of the previous swing set.  It was similar except it was about 20 years old, wobbly, leaning and it only held 3 swings.  It's hard to tell with the different angle but the new one is much bigger, sturdier and will hold 3 swings plus the glider.

It was a great team effort and I'm so excited to have this project almost finished :)


Grocery Trip

>> Tuesday, April 3, 2012

So, the focus of our blog isn't to share coupons, grocery ads for the week, or anything along those lines. When Lesley and I met together to talk about our blog, we both agreed that there are plenty of other blogs out there that already do those things.  Our goal was to share real experiences from our lives, recipes that we've enjoyed and ways we have made our houses a "home".

As such, I have never shared about my grocery trips or how I use coupons (or not).  But this post is different.  I wanted to share a photo from a recent trip I made to the store.  I just went to pick up a couple things I needed for a cake and also wanted to check and see what they had as far as organic items.

So, I bought some Kale and grapes...neither of them are organic or new purchase for me, but I knew we would eat them.  The new stuff for us...Organic Whole Milk, Keifer fruit smoothie (not organic, but I've heard good things about Keifer), Sunflower oil and Organic coconut oil.  I was excited to find the coconut oil but it was really expensive!  I also bought some organic butter and I just realized i forgot to include it in the photo :(

The problem is that I'm new to buying organic items, so I really don't have a price reference on them.  I have no idea if $3.58 for a 1/2 gallon of organic milk is a good price, average price or on the higher end!  So, my next project is to create a spreadsheet that I can use to compare the non-sale prices on the new items I'm planning on purchasing.  That is what I did when I quit my day-job to stay home with my babies and it gave me a good reference to start learning what was a good deal on items that I was purchasing all the time.

And for breakfast, I had some Kashi cereal with Organic Soy milk.  Tyler wanted some as well and he thought it was yummy :)


Eating healthy

>> Monday, April 2, 2012

So, lately I've been trying to eat healthier.  Partly because my body still isn't back to normal since having baby #3.  And by normal, I don't mean back to pre-pregnancy weight or pre-pregnancy sized clothes, but I mean health wise.  My last A1C (the average blood glucose level for about 90 days) was over 8.  To give perspective, the goal is less than 7 and a normal person without diabetes usually is between 4-6.  An A1C of 8 or higher means your average glucose levels were around 205...yikes!  The problem with this is that the longer your body stays at the higher level is the higher risk you have of developing complications.

Another medical condition that I've had since I was diagnosed as Type 1 diabetic in 2004 is high cholesterol.  I tried changing my diet (although my diet has never really been that high in cholesterol to begin with), but that had no effect on my cholesterol levels and I was put on Lipitor.  I didn't have any adverse reactions to the drug (that I know of), but was taken off of it when we started trying to have a family (it causes birth defects so you can't be on it if you are pregnant).  My doctor mentioned to me at my last checkup about going back on it since we are finished having kids.  However, I'm still nursing so I can't be put back on it until Molly is weaned.  Anyway, my bad cholesterol is 132.  Which isn't super-high, but again with being diabetic, they want it less than 80.

Anyway, all that to say, I've been trying to change my diet and adding some supplements to 1) get my blood sugar back into a normal range, 2) hopefully get my cholesterol under 100, with a goal of not ever going on Lipitor again, and 3) become more healthy to lose a little weight and maintain a healthy weight for the rest of my life.

So, this is what I had for breakfast:

And it was good!  This was my first time buying soy milk and I must say that I tried to drink a glass of it and it was disgusting.  But, when I put it on the cereal, it was really good.  I also put it in some organic Annie's mac-n-cheese for the boys the other day and they didn't even notice.  In fact, they had thirds.  We haven't made all the changes to eating as healthy as I would like, but we are making progress!