Rothschild Coat Review

So for a change... I am going to do a review of a coat I received from Rothschild Kids.  They did not pay me to do this review but they did send me a coat for Dylan, size 2T.

They describe their children's clothing line:

Rothschild Kids

Style. Quality. Imagination. Rothschild Kids. America's most trusted name in children's coats and outerwear for over 125 years. The classic skating coat, the sporty snorkel coat, the down snow parka. A coat for every occasion, for boys and girls from newborn to pre-teen.

The coat was the Action Man Puffer in red.  Here are the pros and cons I found:

- Very warm
- Nice hood that velcros around the face
- Long enough to cover the top of pants (so no snow can sneak in... if it ever snows)
- Lots of pockets!
- The coat has a slim fit - which is good for my tiny toddler

*The BEST feature is by far the fleece sleeves within the coat that go past the end of the coat sleeve and have elastic around the wrist - this will be great with gloves/mittens

- My son seems to think this coat is for grown ups... he keeps saying "daddy's coat?" - I am sure this will pass :)
- The first time I opened the velcro (right out of the box) - one of the pieces ripped right off... it is easily fixed - and doesn't seem to reflect the quality of the rest of the coat - all of the other seams are very secure... I checked.

All and all it seems like a great coat... and you can get it for half off today with the coupon code SAVE50.

The Battle for School Lunch

Well, it has been a while since I had time to blog.  But with the recent, numerous, snowdays I thought I would take some time and chat about why I hate school lunch.

The last time my family went out to eat the waitress asked my son, "would you like broccoli or French fries with your meal?"  He quickly answered broccoli.  He loves fresh fruit and veggies and they make up a big part of our diet.  I wondered why the students I teach are so vastly different - why they are constantly snacking on horrible processed and sugar filled foods... and it got me thinking about school lunch.

The last time I was pregnant, I ate a lot of school lunch.  Almost everyday... sometimes more than once a day (if it was meatball subs mmm).  My pregnancy was filled with high blood pressure and lots of swelling.  This time around I vowed... NO school lunches.  They are tempting... especially the grilled cheese and tomato soup - but I have done my best to pack a healthier lunch than the one provided at school - I succeed most of the time.

Some of my collegues and I have recently discussed this very issue discussed in yesterday's New York Times.  Don't get me wrong I am never for more government oversight over anything - so I don't agree wholeheartedly with this article, I guess I just wish individual schools would make better decisions for their students - ESPECIALLY those schools that know they are providing the only meals their students are eating during the day.  Many of these students have no choice in what they are eating - and have been filled up with processed foods since they could eat.  I guess the government could help by supporting (with the same reimbursement $) those schools that do choose to serve healthier food - but it is so hard to hold anyone accountable - because the government is working with the fast food industry... etc.

I guess my main gripe is that many kids don't even know what "good food" is anymore.  I know that it is not all due to school lunch - but I think it plays a part. 

I am just so happy when my son chooses broccoli over french fries - I wonder how long it will last.

Washing Fruit Organic

So seeing my parents a lot this summer has led to lots of great discussions about the benefits and drawbacks to buying organic. My dad has started saying that, "I am going to wash this fruit so well that once I am finished it will be organic." This got me thinking about the importance of washing fruit, organic or not, fresh picked or not. I loved the way it is worded here:

Foodtrainers: Do you know where that apple has been? Fruit Washi...

Local vs. Organic

Ok... so in all my searches to find good food for my family I have run into this problem... which is more important?  Should I try to purchase food from local farmers or... purchase organic food that may have been shipped thousands of miles to get to our table.

First, let me be honest, I think this time next year I will be blogging about my abundance of veggies grown in my backyard - as I have decided I would like to try and live more sustainably and grow my own veggies and fruits in the summer, as a teacher I think it's the least I can do for my family.  Then I know the food is healthy, free from GMOs and free from pesticides.  Organic seeds are very available (from Amazon even) and super cheap.  I plan to start them in my sun room and plant them in the soon-to-be-built garden my husband is cooking up :)

Anyhow back to organic vs. local - it seems there is some debate out there in the organic blog-o-sphere - but really it is about what is important to you and your family.  You have to ask questions no matter where you buy your food but where you buy it seems to depend on whether your motivation for changing what you eat has to do with your carbon footprint/supporting local business OR eating organic.

For me it is about taste (organic vs. local/not organic is not even close for me... especially in the berry department - organic berries... mmmm they just taste better!) and protecting my family from harmful (hidden) additives in our food.  I want to know what I am eating.  If I find a local business that is not organic but is using non-gmo corn - well I am all for it! 

I love shopping close to home...  If only I could find a local organic farm!  We did find one in NY fairly close to my parents:

I'm not a crazy person, we will go out to eat and order in, but my goal is to eat a little better this year than we did last, and then even better the next.  Here are some sites on this debate if you're interested:

Grilled "Cheese".

So I am visiting my parents for a bit... and they are ready to start eating organic - but (like me) are unwilling to waste the food they already have in their refrigerator and cabinets.  This made total sense to me (and them) until lunch yesterday.

First let me start by saying I take buying organic food totally for granted.  Where they live in upstate New York it is almost impossible to purchase all organic... whereas in my stores (any of them) you could buy what you wanted organically - right down to all your spices.  It may be more expensive - but you at least have the option.  Not so here.  I have been to 3 grocery stores just to check what they have available and yikes!  I had no idea how lucky I am!

Ok... back to the cheese.  My dad asked, "What do you guys want for lunch?  I could make some grilled cheese, I know the baby likes it."  My mom replied, "Not if all we have is the plastic cheese..."  So I went to the fridge and found this:
A few things struck me about the front:
1. "100% Farmer Owned" - what's the other option?  Government owned? Cattle owned? 

2. "100% of our Proceeds go to American Dairy Farmers" - PHEW!  I was so worried some of this $$ might go to cancer research or something!

3. "Pasteurized Processed Cheese Product" - really the only part there that worries me is "product" - it makes me think it isn't cheese...

4. "Triple the Calcium!" - Hey I love strong bones that don't break... but how
are they jamming calcium into their cows... or cheese?  Where does it come from?  How does it get in there?

After checking out the cover - we were all in hysterics (mostly about the proceeds going to dairy farmers) - and then we turned it over to the ingredients.  First we wrote down the things we thought should be in cheese.

I wrote "milk."

My dad wrote "milk, preservatives, salt,  and food coloring" (he really wanted to make the grilled cheese).

My mom wrote "milk, whey, and salt."

After thorough analysis of the ingredients (looking up all the ones we didn't know on Google) here is what we found...

Milk (fine... except all the hormones and rBGH found in non-organic milk)
Whey (same as above)
Skim milk (same)
Milk protein concentrate (same)
Cream (same)

At this point I was thinking lunch was still grilled cheese... all these things I have heard of!

Calcium phosphate (this is a calcium supplement)

Whey protein concentrate (same milk concerns as above)

Sodium citrate (a salt/acid, used for flavor, makes things tart... also a drug used to treat kidney problems... with some interesting side effects)

Salt (everyone in my family has high blood pressure... the more salt the better!!)

Sodium phosphate (what's that? more salt! mmmm, it adds texture, also used as a medication - you drink it before a colonoscopy)

Sorbic acid (prevents the growth of mold... I hope there's not a lot of it in there though... here is how it is treated in the lab)

Citric acid (used for flavor, it's the same as sodium citrate... so more salt!)

Color added (doesn't this just cover a whole host of things?!  If you haven't checked out the Southampton Study on the links on the right of the page... check out this article on it)

Vitamin D3 (in case you don't take your vitamins)

Enzymes (really?  which ones?)

Cheese Cultures (oh good, glad it's in there, even if it's the last ingredient!)

Then in bold: CONTAINS MILK (phew!)

If you're interested... we opted for leftovers and threw the cheese out.

Shared at: Frugally Sustainable

The HIGH cost of conventional foods.

I think that many times I am distracted by what seems to be the high cost of organic foods - and I know my husband is...  Bananas are 20 cents more a pound, strawberries are sometimes twice the price (although lately they have been on sale), blueberries are usually twice the price, tomatoes too, but the meat... that is where the cost is.  Grass fed beef and organic chicken are two, sometimes 3 times the price... I am constantly looking for places to purchase healthy foods for my family that are more reasonably priced.

This article makes the case that cheap food is actually more expensive... in the long run...

Anyway... I like his tips for eating healthier:

Four Tips to Start Eating Healthy for Less Today

1. Listen to Gandhi. Yes, Gandhi! He said that we should never mistake what is habitual for what is natural. Case in point: Some Chinese are very poor and yet they eat extremely well--small amounts of animal protein, with an abundance of vegetables.

2. Be willing to learn. We have to learn new ways of shopping and eating, new ways of ordering our priorities around our health and nutrition that supports our well-being, even if it is hard at the beginning.

3. Do your research. There are ways to find cheaper sources of produce, whole grains, beans, nuts, and lean animal protein. You just need to seek them out. It doesn't all have to be organic. Simply switching from processed foods to whole foods is a HUGE step in the right direction.

4. Make an effort. Eating healthy does take more planning. It may require you to find new places to hunt and gather for your family. You might have to reorder your priorities regarding where you spend your money and your time so that you can make healthier eating choices.

Who owns it?

After reading and reading about who is making our food... I found this chart about who owns the organic companies we purchase organics from.  There are some interesting links!  I didn't know Kraft had it in them to own an organic company... but they have to I guess since organic food sales are WAY outpacing the sale of conventional foods.

With that said... so far... for us... Big Y has the cheapest organic foods and (by far) the best selection... which is strange since everything else is so expensive there!  The Living Earth store in Worcester, MA has a great selection (and well priced) of produce... but the rest of the store has all the same brands as the grocery stores at MUCH higher prices... when I am driving by though - I will definitely stop for the produce.  I like that they search out produce from local growers.

Well - as always - good luck trying to provide healthy food for your families!  I am off to pack a lunch for mine :)

Do you know about GMOs?

Ok... one more post for today... hey I have two happy napping babies - so why not?!

This article (originally posted on Robyn O'Brien's facebook page) discusses the basics of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) - I talked about it in my very first post - but they are in everything - and many of us have/had no idea!  Check it out!

Happy Wednesday!

I Guess It's Not Just Me...

Check out this article - I guess I am not the only one wondering about what it means to be organic!

The last paragraph notes the difference in taste between organic and conventional foods.  If you haven't done your own taste test - now is the time.  Buy yourself some conventional strawberries and some organic strawberries - the taste isn't even close.  Why? Because conventional foods are "ripened."  Check out this article for a description of the ripening of tomatoes.  The agent used is one that just changes the COLOR of the fruit or veggie.  This does not at all affect the taste.  So those bright red conventional strawberries look yummy... but taste... tasteless...


Cut me some slack, that's how my son says "milk" :)

We started buying organic whole milk because we were buying organic formula.  So since we have been buying milk for my son we have purchased only organic milk.  Many people don't purchase it because of the higher price but we never bought conventionally produced milk... and it was WAY less than formula was - so I never really noticed the change in our grocery bill... but I am cost conscious at the grocery store. 

If you price shop and use your store card (and sometimes online coupons) you can get some reasonably priced milk:

At Stop and Shop after 6 half-gallons of organic milk (of any brand) you get one free.

At Big Y - if you have a silver coin or a silver coin card - it is $2.88 for a half-gallon.

I didn't actually know the benefits of it; but here are the rules from the USDA for organic milk...

- Organic milk comes from cows under organic management for at least 1 year prior to production of milk (or cheese or anything).

- The food they eat must be organic feed or organically treated grass/pasture (this means their feed cannot include any GMOs - which means the milk won't contain any GMOs).

- The pasture must be free from USDA organic prohibited substances for 2 years.

For further reading this comparison is produced by the national dairy council:

What's Organic Anyway?

So we had a wonderful weekend celebrating our son's 2nd birthday!  The food was yummy (and mostly organic and healthy).  I did get some complaints about the organic corn chips... but anything to keep my family from eating dangerous foods right?

OK - I thought it was about time to explain what it means when a product is stamped "USDA Organic" (it is a little circle seal - sometimes black but mostly green).  Buying something that is "All Natural" means nothing... you would have to research the item and the company to know anything about it.

For something to be labeled with the USDA seal it has to be at least 95% organic.

For something to be called "100% organic", it has to be 100% organic (minus salt and water).

For something to be called and labeled "organic" it has to be at least 95% organic.

The use of the seal is voluntary on the producers part. So you have to look at the labeling as well as the seal.

Something can be labeled as "Made with organic ingredients" if it is at least 70% organic (for example there are bags labeled "Made with organic corn" or whatever). 

I think sometimes people misunderstand and think they are getting scammed when they buy something they think is organic - so here are the rules for organically labeled produce according to the USDA

  • Land must have no prohibited substances applied to it for at least 3 years before the harvest of an organic crop.
  • Soil fertility and crop nutrients should be managed through tilling and cultivation practices, crop rotations, cover crops and supplemented with natural fertilizers (like manure and crop waste), and other allowable synthetic materials.
  • Crop pests, weeds and diseases should be controlled through physical, mechanical and biological controls. When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical or synthetic substance from the approved National List may be used.
  • Preference will be given to the use of organic seeds and other planting stock, but a farmer may use non-organic seeds and planting stock under specified conditions.
  • The use of genetic engineering (GMOs), ionizing radiation and sewage sludge is prohibited.
I guess my main problem is with the last one... GMOs, radiation and sewage sludge?  Seriously?!  If you are interested in learning more about genetically modified produce... start researching corn and soy - almost all of the corn and soy produced in the US is genetically modified to withstand toxic amounts of pesticide and weed killer.  These goods are then fed to any meat you purchase... and integrated into almost all processed foods (start looking at the labels).  Nothing has to be identified as genetically modified - but organic foods cannot be.

 Take a look at any of the following articles for some more information:

Hope this information helps you to make informed decisions about your purchases... because the labeling on packages in some cases does not help you to make educated choices - just do a search on GMO labeling - it has been in the news recently.

Buying Organic and... BIG LOTS

I know what you're thinking... no way!

I was at the mall today to go for an indoor AC walk - and I walked through Big Lots... to my surprise there was a decent selection of canned organic veggies, cereal and baby food.  I am not to big to buy groceries at the mall... so I did for $7... score.

Today I am working hard to start preparing for my son's birthday tomorrow. 

Here is the menu (the parts that I am making):

Chips (organic)
Salsa (organic)

Sausage (grain fed/local) & Peppers (organic)
Spareribs (grain fed/local)
Beans (organic)

Strawberry/Rasberry Lemonade (organic/local)
Iced Green Tea

I shopped a few places for these items: Big Y, a local farmers' market, and a local meat farm.  We are lucky that we have these options for our family! 

Eyes Open Wide

So as it turns out healthy food isn't all that healthy.

Here is what I thought:
1. Veggies are good
2. Junk food is bad
3. The boxed frozen diet food was good for losing weight
4. Stuff at Whole Foods is always good for you
5. Organic and not organic... was pretty much the same

Yikes.  Now that I know what I know... I can't undo it!  But here is how my journey began...

When my son was 3 months old I started feeding him some formula.  Don't get me wrong, I am all for breast is best, and breastfeeding as long as possible, but my son wasn't gaining weight.  In fact during some trips to the doctor he was losing weight.  I remember sitting in the car and crying (while I pumped) while my husband took my son to the doctor because I was too depressed to go.  If I knew then what I knew now... or had the supports that I know about now, perhaps things would have been different - but that was my reality.

So, when I started formula I started with the ones I had heard of: Enfamil, Similac, and Good Start.  We went with Enfamil after some trials with our baby.  One day while I was at the store price shopping with my coupons and sales I glanced at the organic brands and thought - well that is probably better and in fact it's cheaper!  And that was the first organic item I bought Vermont Organic Formula.  At the time I didn't even know what it meant to be organic, but I just figured, it must be better.

That summer we also joined a local CSA.  The veggies were yummy and they happened to be organic.  Again, I didn't join because it was organic or even know what it meant to be organic, I joined because it was convenient and I liked veggies and fruit and I wanted my family to eat more good foods.

I went back to work after our CSA summer and ate school lunches, ordered take out for dinner once a week, and did what I could as a working mom to buy what I thought were semi-healthy foods for my son.  We bought organic baby food and I even made some of my own.  I really tried to provide some good food for him - but my husband and I continued to eat crap.  It was hard to have time to cook every night (especially when I was making baby food) so we ate a lot of pizza, Chinese, and frozen foods.

We started DVRing Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution.  From that show I learned lots about processed foods and grass fed meats, but really nothing about what it meant for something to be organic.  This was however one step in the process.  It was around this time that I started observing my students' behavior in relation to what they were eating.

Let me back up.  I am a high school teacher.  I co-teach a humanities class with an English teacher (I am the history half).  One of the many benefits of co-teaching is the fact that you can really take time to observe the behaviors of the students. 

Here is what the students were eating and drinking (prior to the new rules we set):
-Ice Cream (yea we have an ice cream machine)
-Arnold Palmer Ice Teas (if you have never seen these they are twice the size of a can of soda and 3x the amount of sugar you need in one day)
-Cookies and candy - Oreo Cakesters were a fav
-And more things of the like

After watching the Food Revolution at home - I shared some of the observations I had made with my co-teacher.  We decided only healthy snacks would be allowed in our classroom, and water.  No sugar drinks no candy... the less processed food the better!  Students started to really take pride in their snacks!  "Look!  Peppers!" "I have cherry tomatoes!" "Almonds!"  We started chatting regularly about healthy foods and drinks and really making changes within our classroom and the two hours a day we had our students.

Then summer this came!  Here is where things really changed.  My son is almost two now and I read Robyn O'Brien's The Unhealthy Truth. WOW.  I learned what it meant to be organic and why the heck it even matters.  I started researching feverishly on the Internet about pesticides in our corn and gene splicing in our veggies.  I was horrified. 

This blog is going to be where I post my challenges and successes to feed our family healthy food and the research I find online and elsewhere about what is in our food.  Hopefully it will help you make some healthier changes in your life as well.
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