Thursday, December 29, 2011

Udi's - Healthy Foods that Happen to Be Gluten Free

I just had the opportunity to review some all-natural, gluten free breakfast foods by Udi's, a wonderful little natural foods company that has recently been getting its products into bigger chains such as Walmart and Ralph's Super Markets. An important move, in my opinion, since not all of us are lucky enough to have a Whole Foods Market in our town.
PERSONAL REVEAL: I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease 9 years ago and have been gluten free ever since. Honestly, it really hasn't been a huge struggle. Gluten had made me nauseous and malnourished my entire life. By the time I was finally diagnosed in my thirties I was already eating organic and living a green lifestyle - so one more healthy change wasn't a big deal. That said, there have been a few things I missed that I simply could not find a decent replacement for in the gluten-free world. So when Udi's sent me a package of their products, I was thrilled to find it actually contained many of  those items: muffins, bagels and real granola.

So - let's start with the muffins. Udi's sent a pack of their Gluten Free Double Chocolate Muffins which were good, for sure, but nothing earth shattering. If you ask me, it's hard to go wrong with chocolate muffins, but it's also hard to impress with them. The Udi's Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins, on the other hand, were outstanding. I hadn't had a blueberry muffin in 10 years. Sad, I know. But the ones I recall from my gluten days tasted like fake cake stuffed with colored sweet tarts. Blech! I honestly never met a blueberry muffin I even half-way liked. Then came Udi's Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins  - which do not taste artificial at all. More like spongy, light, blueberry scones - if you will - topped with just the right amount amount of sugary crunch (check out the sugar crystals on this one - yum!)
Gluten Free Muffins by Udi
Next - I just had to indulge in the Udi's Plain Gluten Free Bagels. It was Christmas morning - and my family decided to help me. My two daughters LOVE plain bagels with cream cheese, but they are not on a gluten free diet, so I thought they might baulk at the density of the Udi's bagels. Once warmed, however, the Udi's Gluten Free Bagels took on a light, chewy texture that we didn't expect and my gluten-eating girls loved them! My mother-in-law, who was dressing a turkey for our family dinner later that night, decided to add some fresh chopped turkey liver to her bagel. The liver was a real hit with the grown ups - not so much with the kids.

Gluten Free Bagels by Udi
Lastly, Udi's sent me a bag of their gluten-free Cranberry Granola to try, which magically tastes like the 1970s. I'd given up on gluten-free granola, as all the other brands I'd tried tasted like carnival treats and nothing like a hearty, breakfast food that would stay in your stomach and not give you a sugar rush. I paired the Udi's Cranberry Granola with organic, plain lowfat yogurt and a squirt of organic raw agave and the combination powered me through the entire morning.
If you're looking for light, delicious, all-natural foods that just happen to be wheat, soy, dairy AND gluten free, then the Udi's products are definitely worth a try. Check out their complete array of gluten free products at

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ECO DEAL: 20% off Non-Toxic Toys thru Thursday - one of my FAVORITE online natural toy toystores - just extended their exclusive 20% blowout sale until Thursday evening. To receive 20% off you must use the coupon code below - but don't delay! Their gorgeous eco-friendly, non-toxic toys sell out fast this time of year. My girls particularly love the Rosie Hippo wooden trucks and wooden animals - which provide endless hours of imaginative, non-electric fun.

To save 20% at, simply enter coupon code THANKS2011 at checkout (some items excluded - but not many!). Offer valid until midnight PST Thursday, 12/1/11. Happy Eco Shopping! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Best Paraben-Free Mascara - bareMinerals Flawless Definition

I've tried many a natural mascara in my day - and most are aweful. You have to apply 10 coats just to get a bit of color and then the whole effort  is usually wasted 30 minutes anyhow when the stuff is smudged or flaking down your face. Companies like Lancome and Mabeline know how to rock the eyelash market, but they use chemicals to extend and darken those lush lashes so alas...I have bid them farewell (sniff sniff). I had all but given up on finding a natural alternative that could provide true volume and definition when I came across Flawless Definition by bareMinerals - a paraben-free, ALMOST all-natural mascara that uses nature's minerals and no harsh ingredients to create a thicking and extending mascara that actually contends with the best chemical department store brands out there. At $18 a bottle - it is not cheap, but then neither are those toxic department store brands.

Why is it important to use paraben-free mascara? Because parabens - a synthetic preservative found in many cosmetics, beauty products and personal hygene items - can mimic hormones in the human body and disrupt the endocrine system. Research has shown that this disruption has been linked to cancer and early puberty. Why risk cancer in the name of beauty - when there is an awesome alternative: bareMinerals Flawless Definition. You can pick up Flawless Definition mascara online or at a bareMinerals store near you.

  • NutriPlumpTM formula dramatically plumps lashes up to 600% (After two coats of mascara, based on an independent study)The super-plush, incredibly soft bristles of our wand gently wrap around every lash
  • Perfect definition, fullness and flutter
  • Paraben-free, smudge-proof, flake-free, clump-free
  • Opthamologist tested
  • Safe for contact lens wearers
  • Parabens
  • Sulfates
  • Synthetic Fragrances
  • Synthetic Dyes
  • Phthalates
  • GMOs
  • Triclosan

Water (Aqua/Eau), Diisostearoyl Trimethylolpropane Siloxy Silicate, Beeswax (Cera Alba/Cire d'abeille), Stearic Acid, Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, (Canelilla Cera/Cire de Candelilla), Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Triethanolamine, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Ozokerite, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax (Cera Carnauba/Cire de carnauba), Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Smithsonite Extract, Malachite Extract, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Tocopheryl Acetate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Hydrolyzed Lupine Protein, Acrylate Copolymer, Propylene Glycol, Montmorillonite, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol. May Contain: Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ECO DEAL: Wooden Kitchen only $79!

I just had to post this amazing deal on a solid wood kitchen now being sold at Bed, Bath and Beyond for only $79. ($99, really, but when you use a 20% off coupon - which are available everywhere and NEVER expire, even though they have an expiration date -  which brings the steal-of-a-deal down to to $79.) What a terrific holiday gift - for little girls AND boys! Bed, Bath and Beyond is carrying a ton of other eco-friendly toys this holiday season so run to a store quick or log onto today before they sell out (because they will!).

TIP: The Bed, Bath and Beyond website will NOT honor 20% off coupons, but if you go into the store and have them place the online order for you, the store will honor the discount.

PS>> I have no connection to Bed, Bath and Beyond - other than loving the store and always being pleasantly surprised by the eco-choices you can find there. Such as organic sheets, Pyrex storage containers, 100% cotton washable curtains, real wood blinds, etc.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Glass Straws - A Great Alternative to Plastic

Eco-friendly Glass Straws
Glass straws - made from ALMOST unbreakable Pyrex - make an excellent alternative to plastic straws. We use them at our house for smoothies, shakes and coffee too (to help prevent coffee-colored teeth). As long as my kids stay put at the table when they use glass straws, I have no worries about breakage or kids getting hurt. Many online eco merchants now carry glass straws, but my favorite source is - which is run by an East Coast glass blower named Steph. Steph's been making glass straws by hand for over 6 years (I only know this - because that is how long ago we bought our first set from her online). When making her straws, Steph uses Borosilicate (otherwise known as Pyrex), a grade of glass reserved for only the most quality of glass utensils. Borosilicate is also the preferred glass of scientific laboratories because it is more durable and has more thermal resistance than most kitchen quality glass.

If you want to stop using plastic straws away from home too, you can buy a carrying case for your glass straws or a package of paper or corn biodegradable straws to pull out and use at restaurants or friends' homes. Stainless steel straws are another option, but you can't use them with hot beverages and they are harder to clean than glass (since you can't see too well if anything is still lurking inside).
CLEANING TIP: For gunked up glass straws (like those that hold onto smoothie particles), you'll want to use a small nipple brush. Otherwise, just toss them in the dishwasher.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Healthiest Cookware - Le Creuset

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching I wanted to give praise to my favorite cookware of all time - the Le Creuset enamelled cast iron collection. Yes these puppies cost a fortune - per piece about the price of a designer dog actually - but so worth it. I have pieces in my "collection" (read: inherited from my mother-in-law) that are over 25 years old. Every few years I treat myself to a new piece. My favorite colors are teal and orange - but it's not about the pretty. It's about the quality, the health-conscious, aluminum-free, non-leaching eco composition, and the durability. I've had two pieces break over the last 25 years and Le Creuset immediately replaced both. No questions and no receipts required. Buy some Le Creuset today and in 25 years when you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner for your grown-up children you'll pat yourself on the back for being such a wise investor.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Making Single Serve Coffee Eco-Friendly

My husband was recently given a used Keurig machine in perfect condition. I wanted to get rid of it immediatly because I am not a fan of single-serve coffee machines that require disposable plastic pods for every cup of joe you brew. It is irresponsible to choose convenience without considering the impact. But boy, did he love that little machine - so we comprised. I said he could keep it if we could find a refillable pod. Only took one trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond (my favorite store on the planet) to find what we hoped existed: the very convenient Solofill Cup,  a reusable single-serve filter for the Keurig brewing machines. Simply fill the Solofill Cup up with your favorite brand of coffee, snap it shut, and pop it into the cartridge slot. Works like a charm - and saves you a ton of money, since you won't be buying pre-packaged pods anymore. The Solofill cup is BPA-free, however, it is still plastic. And the heating of plastic is never the best choice. So, go with the Solofill is you absolutely must use a single-server coffee machine, but if you have want to the healthiest, most eco-friendly coffee possible, then choose a coffee maker and filter system that uses no or little plastic. They are few and far between, but no impossible to find. To learn more read my post "How to Make Plastic-Free Coffee" post (coming soon)...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Story of Stuff ... 20 Minutes to Change

This little 20 minute "movie" is gaurenteed to significantly change the shopping habits of anyone who watches it. Even my 6 year old was moved by it. After seeing it, she decided she didn't want to buy anymore plastic toys. Not that we have a ton of plastic toys - but The Story of Stuff  makes you stop and think about the polution that is produced by the making of even just one small toy or plastic bottle and the working conditions of the person who made that product for you. The Story of Stuff paints a whole new (toxic) picture over our day-to-day consumerism . Watch this movie!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dangerous Chemicals Found in Most Car Seats just recently published its annual report on toxic car seats with detailed research conducted by the Ecology Center. Surprisingly, over 60 percent of the 2011-model car seats tested contain at least one toxic chemical, while others were found to be virtually free of harmful chemicals. Over 150 car seats were tested for bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers); lead; other heavy metals, and allergens. These substances have been linked to allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer. It is important to remember that heat and UV-ray exposure in automobiles can accelerate the breakdown of these chemicals and possibly increase their toxicity and that infants are actually the most vulnerable because their systems are still developing and they spend more time in their car seats than older childen.

Below is a list of the least toxic car seats and most toxic car seats for 2011:

Least Toxic 2011 Car Seats:
• Infant Seat: Chicco KeyFit 30 in Limonata, Graco Snugride 35 in Laguna Bay & Combi Shuttle 33 in Cranberry Noche
• Convertible Carseat: Graco Comfort Sport in Caleo, Graco MyRide 65 in Chandler and Streamer, Safety 1st OnSide Air in Clearwater, and Graco Nautilus Elite 3-in-1 in Gabe
• Booster Seat: Graco Turbo Booster in Anders 

Most Toxic 2011 Car Seats:
• Infant Seat: Graco Snugride 35 in Edgemont Red/Black & Graco SnugRide 30 in Asprey
• Convertible Seat: Britax Marathon 70 in Jet Set & Britax Marathon in Platinum
• Booster Seat: Recaro Pro Booster in Blue Opal & Recaro ProSPORT Toddler in Misty

While no one is arguing that car seats save lives and are absolutely necessary, this report bears paying attention to, particularly when buying a new seat., in coordination with the Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety, is stepping forward and asking the largest car seat retailers, Graco and Evenflo, to take a leading role in disclosing and phasing out hazardous flame retardants from their products. Click here to sign the petition to Graco and Evenflo and let them know our children deserve safer seats. 

To view the full report and read a list of all car seats tested for to

Plastic Bag Ban Finally in Effect

I'm so proud of my city! Santa Monica FINALLY banned plastic bags at all grocery and retail stores this week. It was a long time coming - for a city that claims to be a green leader. If I forget my stash of  reuseable bags at home it is going to cost me 10 cents per paper bag. This is definitely an incentive to keep those reusable bags stocked and clean. My personal favorite are cloth and nylon, like the Flip & Temble sold at I'm not a fan of the cheap plastic and vinyl reusable bags many chain stores give away. They don't wash or wear well - so what's the point?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Use Cloth in lieu of Paper to Soak Grease

If you're a bacon lover like me (pork, turkey OR veggie) you've probably been guilty of soaking your bacon grease on a paper towel or two over the years. But have you ever thought about what may be leaching into your bacon from those paper towels? Bleach, dioxins and BPA - just to name a few of the toxins not meant to be ingested by humans. Not to mention - you're wasting yet another tree. So next time you get the bacon bug, simply lay a cloth napkin, flour sack or cheesecloth across a plate and use that to absorb the excess grease. Yes - it will stain your cloth a bit, so be sure to use an older cloth and consider just making it your dedicated "bacon soaker."

TIP: Be sure to soak the cloth in soap and water afterward so your next load of laundry doesn't reek of bacon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stainless Steel Water Bottles with Silicone Straw

Time to stock up on my favorite stainless steel water bottle for the kids' new school year - the adorable Funtainer by Thermos. We've been using these for over 5 years - since my youngest was less than a year old. They come in a bevy of bright colors and characters and the pop-up silicone straw is perfect for little ones to quickly access on their own at school or a park. You can use a Funtainer for milk or Juice, but we use them exclusively for water - that way we don't have to clean them as often. The Funtainer's wide mouth does make it extra easy to clean with a kitchen sponge and the silicone straw pops off and can be de-gunked with a nipple brush or pipe cleaner. These little guys are sturdy too - my kids go through only about one Funtainer every year or two, at the most. At only $15 a pop - that's a steal.

DEAL OF THE DAY: has several Funtainers on clearance right now for only $12!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

All-Natural Gum Fights Tooth Decay

I'm not a huge fan of chewing gum. A constant wad of the stuff in a child's (or adult's) mouth really does look tacky. However, when my kids were diagnosed with early tooth decay (both of them by age 4) their pediatric dentist convinced me that we should give xylitol sweetened gum a try. Xylitol is an all-natural sugar substitute derived from the sugar alcohol found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including berries, plums, corn husks, oats and mushrooms. In the 1970s it was discovered that xylitol contained dental benefits and could be used to combat tooth decay. Recently, many companies have started adding it to their products. Even Trident is now claiming "xylitol" on its label.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

BPA-Free Alternative to Canned Oil Sprays

I recently discovered that my go-to spray can of 100% virgin olive oil was sitting in a bath of BPA. BPA (Bisphenol A) is the “hot topic” hormone-disrupting chemical found in many plastics and resin linings. Continuous exposure to BPA has been linked to cancer in several studies. And wherever there is a food or drink can, there is usually a BPA resin lining. I knew this – and that is one (of many) reasons why I refrain from giving my family canned foods or drinks. Yet, despite this knowledge, I kept buying olive oil in a can because it was convenient and I had no clue another option existed.

I have so many healthy uses for oil spray – from greasing the iron frying pan for burgers, to coating ceramic baking pans for cakes, to spritzing homemade chips and baked sweet potato fries – that once I discovered the BPA link, I was desperate to find a healthier, BPA-free alternative. A quick internet search lead me to my solution: the Prepara Oil Mister, an attractive glass tabletop mister that allows you to use your own oil for misting foods and coating pans. A patented filtering system even allows you to infuse fresh herbs and spices without clogging the easy-to-use, non-aerosol sprayer. What I also love about my new Prepara Oil Mister, is that you control what goes into it, so there are no “surprise” ingredients. My go-to olive aerosol spray contained soy lecithin (an ingredient I am trying to avoid anyhow) and other additives to control the consistency and freshness. With the Prepara Oil Mister, you ingest only pure, healthy oil. No more fillers. No more additives. No more BPA.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Go Green Expo and Plastic Bottle Clothing Both Disappoint

A while back I attended the Go Green Expo in Los Angeles and have to say I was embarrassed by the amount of green washing I witnessed. From big companies jumping on the "green" bandwagon (with few green products to show for it) to small companies introducing yet another stainless steel water bottle (yawn) with a yet another plastic spout (do our kids REALLY have to suck on plastic to get their daily water intake?). One furniture company claimed its furniture was "eco-friendly" because they used sustainable wood in SOME of their products. When I asked about eco-friendly upholstery and cushions I was met with blank stares. A company pushing an all-purpose cleaner of some sort sent a hard-core sales rep after me who seemed straight out of the 50's. He demanded to know if I wanted ONE product that could do everything. When I asked what everything was, he wouldn't tell me. Instead he shoved a small bottle into my hands, which I mistook for a sample. I said thanks and started to walk away and he demanded $8. I laughed and said I didn't want to buy it because I make all my own products at home anyhow and he, in all seriousness, actually then tried to haggle the price down. I put the bottle down and moved on. Possibly the worst offender of the day though was a company selling soft rayon-like t-shirts proudly made from recycled bottles. Apparently, I would be helping the planet if I purchased this petroleum-based, bpa-laden, artificial fabric that required a great deal of pollution and chemicals to mash up and "recycle" into a fabulous new t-shirt. That's more offensive than polyester. But hey, recycling is always green, right? I won't even go into the horrible key note speaker presentation I witnessed...okay I will. It was supposed to by the very organic, holistic-minded Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway and star of Woody Allen's Manhattan, whom I had admired many years back for getting her silicone breast implants removed and choosing not to replace them  (a feat that would kill most actresses' careers).  But she was late. Very late. And when she finally arrived, beautiful and out of breath, she hardly spoke three words. Instead, she gave the reins to Bobby Williams, a "practicing intuitive healer"  who was clearly her eco boy-toy companion (who knew there was such a thing!). Apparently Mariel and Bobby-the-healer had arrived late to their speaking engagement because they were rock climbing barefoot at a rural waterfall outside L.A. and lost track of time.  He went on and on about how we (you and I) shouldn't wear sunglasses because no other creature in nature wears them. Well, last I checked, other creatures don't wear clothing either, but lucky for us...Bobby chose not to show up naked. Were it not for the nice Ventura County couple who were selling organic mattresses for a steal and a rockin' kid's art station that gave us free all-natural sunscreen samples...I would have called the day a total waste and wanted to recycle it and get my money back.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Natural Remedy for Nail Fungus

I have to confess to an embarrassing affliction: for years I suffered from a mild (but unattractive) toenail fungus infection in one of my big toes. I wouldn't touch the internal anti-fungal meds -- as they are all associated with possible liver damage and other serious side effects. So instead I tried virtually every topical NATURAL (and natural-ish) solution under the sun: daily tea tree oil application, daily vinegar soaks, nightly Vics applications. NOTHING worked (and all of them smelled the house up).Finally - I tried daily soaks in hydrogen peroxide. Within a week - I could see a huge difference. Within months, the toenail fungus was completely gone.

To get started – buy some large bottles of hydrogen peroxide ( Costco sells them in bulk for super cheap). Next, pour just enough into a bowl to soak the number of affected nails you have (don’t soak the whole foot). Allow your toes to soak for about 10 minutes each day (you can skip a day occasionally, but NOT MUCH MORE -- or the fungus will keep growing. Fungus LOVES the dark moist underworld of our nails.

TIP: Be sure to RINSE with water and moisturize your toes and feet after each soak, as the peroxide can make your skin dry.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Green Your Easter with Hollow Wooden Eggs

Finally someone has created the perfect Easter Egg alternative to the hollow plastic eggs my kids love to hunt -- wood. I envisioned a wooden alternative long ago, but couldn't find anyone who actually made or sold it until I came across the Golden Cockerel website this season. Each egg measures  2.75" and costs $3.60. A bit of an investment at first (because of course who won't want a dozen or two?)  but they will eventually pay for themselves when they outlast those cheap, toxic plastic eggs that fall apart each year and leach toxins into your child's treats. Best thing about these wooden Easter eggs, is that kids (or grown ups) can get creative and design or paint them as they see fit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Power of Honey on Coughs and Allergies

As I stay home this week with my very sick 7 year old, I’m reminded of just how well honey works to treat a bad cough. A 2007 study proved that a teaspoon of honey before bed suppresses a cough better than over-the-counter cough medicine, and my kids are living proof. We don’t bother with cough meds anymore – not even holistic ones. Why should we when honey is cheaper, fresher, and contains absolutely no chemicals? Raw buckwheat honey works the best, in my opinion. Unlike most raw, unheated, unpasteurized honeys, buckwheat honey is smooth, rich, clear and liquid-like. Not to mention it’s delicious in teas, smoothies, and baked goodies.

For allergy sufferers, a teaspoon of local honey consumed each day helps acclimate the body to pollens that exist in a local area. To reap this benefit, however, the honey must be produced in the person’s residing city, state or region.