Composting 101

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste account for 30% of what ends up in landfills. Instead of throwing these materials away, they can be composted! Compost is decomposed organic material that is commonly added to soil to enhance nutrient quality, promote soil bacteria and fungi that aid in plant growth , and help retain soil moisture. In addition, organic material disposed in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas. Production of this gas is greatly reduced when wasted food and yard clippings are composted.

What You Need

Brown material – dead leaves, twigs, branches, shredded paper
Green material – grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds 
Water

Composting at Home

Select a dry spot near a water source to host your pile. You can fence off a small area or, if you prefer a tidier arrangement, purchase bins to contain the waste. In the past I have used a bin with a lift off lid to add in the materials. Although this was cleaner and kept the critters away, I found it more difficult to access and mix the compost compared to open piles. Tumblers are also a good option as they are easy to maneuver.

Once you have set up your space, add clippings, scraps and any other organic material as it is accumulated. As the “greens” carry more nitrogen and the “browns” carry more carbon, alternate layers of each type, being sure to moisten dry materials as they are added. Turn your compost pile with a shovel or pitch fork weekly during the summer and monthly during the winter. Don’t worry – a compost pile that is managed appropriately will not smell or attract rodents!

From the Kitchen to the Bin

Although this may seem like common sense, be sure to determine a sustainable way to get your compost outside to you pile. Here are some ideas that may work for you:

  • Take it out after every meal
  • Store it on a small countertop container, like this one, to be taken out every other day or so
  • Store food scraps in the freezer until you run out of space

Your compost may take anywhere from 1 to 6 months to fully breakdown. This will depend on the moisture, temperature, and composition of the material. When the material at the bottom is a rich dark color your compost is ready to use. Now have at it and don’t forget to add the finished compost to your garden, house plants or landscaping!

*For those uninterested or unable to participate in backyard composting, but would still like to recycle organic waste, check out findacomposter.com . This resource connects you to organics collection services in your area. Rust Belt Riders, the top commercial organics collection service in Northeast Ohio, have been collecting and diverting over 32,000 pounds of food scraps each week from landfills as of December, 2018! They plan to have their Residential Composting Service up and running by summer 2019.

What’s in Your Water?

For many families, mine included, bottled water is just another regular item on the grocery list. Many choose whatever store brand is cheapest, while others purchase the bottles with images of mountain springs, expecting a superior product. However, few (including myself until recently!) have ever taken a deeper look at the food label or what exactly is in the water they are drinking.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are both responsible for regulating the safety of drinking water. The EPA oversees the tap water system while the  FDA regulates bottled drinking water. Most would expect bottled drinking water to be safer than tap water. However, the FDA’s bottled water regulations are not any stricter than the EPA limits for tap water and in most cases, are the same.

Continue reading “What’s in Your Water?”

Meal Prepping Made Simple

Meal prepping is a great way to not only save time, but money as well. It is a helpful strategy to utilize during a busy week, when a lack of time or energy may result in a last minute stop at your local fast food restaurant or a call for delivery pizza. It is also a way to control what exactly goes into your food – a must for anyone trying to stay on track with their health goals.

Before meal prepping there are several points to consider such as the best day of the week to cook, the recipes you will use, the number of people you are meal prepping for, and if you will get sick of eating the same meal every day. For beginners, I recommend keeping it as simple as possible. Making a list of your favorite types of protein, vegetables, and starches will make shopping and cooking easier. I have also listed some suggestions below.

Choose a Protein
(3-4 oz serving)
Choose a Vegetable

Choose a Starch
(optional)
Wild SalmonRoasted Brussel Sprouts
Quinoa
Free-range chickenBroccoliRice
Grass-fed beefCauliflower RiceSweet Potatoes
Turkey
Green BeansSpaghetti Squash
BeansKaleLentils
Continue reading “Meal Prepping Made Simple”

Zucchini and Tomato Frittata

In an effort to save time and keep my meals nutritious during my busy workweek, I am constantly planning ahead. I pack my lunch the night before and place it, ready to go in my lunchbox, in the fridge. As for breakfast – although I prefer to cook breakfast, early morning alarms and a long work commute make cooking chaotic and time consuming.

This recipe has been one of my favorites for years. I make it all the time as part of my regular meal prepping and mix up the ingredients to get a variety. These are not only great for adults, but are perfect for little hands too!

The eggs serve as a great source of protein and healthy fats* to stabilize your blood sugar and help keep you full all morning. The vegetables are a great source of fiber and micronutrients. This is also a great way to get an additional serving (or two) of vegetables in each day!

*Eggs from organic, free-range chickens have TWICE the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in them compared to conventional eggs.

Here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS

8 organic, free-range eggs
1 zucchini (green or yellow)
1 sweet onion
grape tomatoes
sea salt
oregano or seasonings of choice

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Scramble 6 eggs in a medium size bowl.
  3. Dice 1/2 the sweet onion and 7-10 tomatoes. Add to the scramble.
  4. Spiralize then lightly chop OR grate the zucchini then add to the mixture.
  5. Using a muffin tin, grease 8-10 cups or line with paper cups. Spoon mixture into tins and bake for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly golden.
  6. Enjoy!

Fat: Friend or Foe?

It is no secret that over the past several decades fat has developed quite a bad reputation. Nowadays, you can find just about low-fat anything in the store, and if a food is naturally low fat or fat free, you bet it will be advertised across the label.

The initial demonization of fat primarily stemmed from one study – the Seven Countries Study led by Ancel Keys. This study examined the association between diet and heart disease. It concluded that the countries where fat consumption was the highest had the most heart disease. However, it was later discovered that only the countries that supported this theory were included in the study.

Contrary to what we may have been led to believe, fat is not only an important, but an essential component of our diet. It is needed for normal growth and development, hormone production, fat-soluble vitamin absorption (vitamins A, D, E and K), energy, healthy skin and nails, and proper cell function. With that being said, some fats are more healthy than others, while some aren’t healthy at all.

Saturated Fat

Found in foods such as animal meats, butter, ghee and coconut. This group of fats tends to be the most demonized from low-fat supporters. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They are best for cooking at high temperatures as they are the most chemically stable and will not oxidize or become rancid. This is because all of the bonds in this fat molecule are “saturated” with hydrogen bonds so there is no room for free radicals to enter and oxidize the fat.

Trans Fats

This group deserves every bit of heat it has been getting! Trans fats are the worst types of fats. They have been linked to certain types of cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and increasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Avoid foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. These oils are frequently found in peanut butter, baked goods, fast food, margarine, shortening, non-dairy creamers, and crackers.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Monounsaturated fats are relatively stable, but not quite as stable as saturated fats. In this type of fat molecule, “mono” indicates there is one space for a free radical to enter. This group is found in various oils such as olive, avocado, sesame, flax, macadamia, walnut, and hemp. These oils should be unrefined, expeller-pressed or cold-pressed to avoid high heat and chemical processing that will damage the oils. With that being said, these oils should not be used for cooking. Instead, use them in cold salads, condiments, etc.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

These types of fats have the multiple binding sites exposed, making them the least stable type of fat. However, this does not mean that this type of fat can not still be healthy. In fact, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of PUFAs that are essential for our health. Our body is unable to make them so it is essential we obtain them though our diet. However, since they are the least stable, it is important to avoid ones that have been heavily processed or exposed to high heat. Oils that have been oxidized can cause inflammation in the body. Highly processed oils to avoid include vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil.

FATS AND OILS SAFE
FOR COOKING

FATS AND OILS SAFE FOR
COLD USE

Butter
Ghee or clarified butter
Lard (pork fat)
Duck fat
Lamb fat
Goat fat
Coconut oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Avocado Oil
Nut Oils (Macadamia, Walnut)
Seed Oils (Sesame, Flax, Hemp)

*High quality extra virgin olive oil may also be used for cooking or roasting at lower temperatures.

FATS AND OILS TO AVOID

HEALTHY FOOD SOURCES OF FAT

Margarine
Vegetable Oil
Canola Oil
Sunflower Oil
Soybean Oil
Grapeseed Oil
Corn Oil
Cottonseed Oil
Vegetable Shortening

Olives
Grass-fed meats
Fatty fish (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon)
Avocado
Egg yolks from pastured eggs
Nuts (raw is best)



4 Healthy Habits to Adopt this New Year

A few years ago I stopped making New Year’s resolutions. Not only were the majority of my goals unrealistic, but I never actually devised an action plan on how exactly I was going to achieve them. This led to a downward spiral of me slipping up (usually within the first month or two), devising an excuse for why my slip up was acceptable, making more slip-ups, getting mad for not accomplishing the goal as I hoped, and finally giving up on my resolution altogether. I decided I needed to change up my methods.

For the past few years, I have reflected on the year prior to determine what areas of my health tended to slack the most. Did I drink enough water? Was I more stressed then usual? How was my sleep?

After identifying several areas of improvement I set a specific goal for each, followed by 3-4 actions steps on how I specifically plan to achieve each goal. I then choose the goal most important to me to start, and when I feel I have adequately improve my habit, I will reward myself by starting on the next goal!

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5 Tips to Help Dodge the Cold and Flu this Season

  1. Take elderberry syrup. Studies have demonstrated that elderberry can lessen both the duration and severity of both cold and flu symptoms.  In fact, in a double-blind, placebo controlled study, the participants taking elderberry experienced a reduction in the duration of flu symptoms by 3-4 days! In another study conducted in vitro (aka in a Petri dish), elderberry extract actually prevented the influenza A virus from infecting host cells.                                                                                                                                       In previous years I have purchased elderberry lozenges to take as soon as I felt a cold coming on. However, this year I decided to take the extra step and make my own syrup using this kit! This was not only much cheaper ($20 for 18 oz compared to $19 for 8oz), but it eliminated my intake of any unwanted additives and fillers and tasted awesome! You can also purchase a bag of dried elderberries in bulk to make it even cheaper. I personally take 1 tsp daily for maintenance and will double or triple that during illness. This remedy is also safe for kids, but I recommend talking to a naturopathic doctor or family physician for more personalized recommendations. 
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