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Friday, August 31, 2012

Our School Lunches Need A Makeover!

Michelle Obama, our first lady, is a mother first and I respect that a lot!  She also spills the love for her children over to our children. She has put her position as first lady to good use by trying to improve the very unhealthy lunch system our schools have inherited.  I remember the staples of my school lunches growing up: chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza, hot dogs, chocolate milk, cookies, brownies and cakes to name a few.  While we may have had a small selection of fruits or vegetables to choose from, the previous list was what was at the forefront when going through the cafeteria line.  Now that I am grown with kids of my own and truly understand what those choices do to a small person’s body and mind, I want to be part of the movement to change what is served in our cafeterias!   Here are few things that schools around the country are doing to try to educate our children on the importance of healthy eating.

In the state of Washington, one school district, for the past 4 to 5 years has implemented a fruit, vegetable and grain of the month program.  In this program, one food is featured from each category every month.  They also give information about each one on the school district’s website.  What a wonderful way to introduce new foods to kids and a great way for parents to get involved and learn as well.  Here is an example of September’s Featured Fruit Vegetable and Grain including a recipe at the bottom of the page to encourage parents to introduce it at home also! The school district even goes as far as to hang educational signs in the lunch room and have tastings of each.  They have introduced grains such as farrow, brown rice, wheat pasta, wheat berries, couscous and bulgur.  This is such a great way to get kids to try new things that may not be offered to them at home.

In Ohio, there has been a debate on serving chocolate milk at lunch time.  The USDA recommends that any flavored milk that is offered should be fat free.  This has caused some districts to switch their milk brands to accommodate these changes, finding brands that contain no high fructose corn syrup , is produced locally and contains 10-15 percent fewer calories and sugar than regular chocolate milk.  My opinion is… just get rid of it!  Offer regular milk and water; let the parents be the judge of what flavored milk or juice there child receives at home.  Some parents may prefer that there child does not drink those kinds of drinks but it is hard to regulate that when the options are there and we are not!

School Districts in Louisiana have teamed up with the Edible School Yard Program programs that help the children understand the concept of field-to-plate eating by letting them get their hands dirty!  Five school sites have gardens, the biggest one being 1/3 of an acre.  The schools offer hands-on gardening classes that tie into their life science lessons.  The children get to plant, harvest and eat the fruit (or veggies) of their labor.  They also set up field trips to community gardens.  Their philosophy:  teach the kids to “Eat to Learn and Learn to Eat”.   LOVE IT!

 One of my favorites is a county in Kentucky, where they implement a Connect the Dots programs at their elementary schools.  The cafeteria is set up with different colored dots on all the food options.  Each student is encouraged to select a rainbow of colors at lunch.  The color system includes:  blue for dairy/milk, orange for bread/grains, purple for meat/protein alternative, green for veggies and red for fruits.  “The whole idea is that they’re learning and it’s not a sit-down lesson.  The cafeteria is able to contribute to the health knowledge of the school”.  How much fun this must be for the students, especially the younger ones! 

While I love all the changes our Government is trying to make, I still believe that it starts with the parents.  We as parents need to step up at home or this is a “no win” situation.  It makes my heart break that when healthy foods are introduced in schools, some parents respond by not letting their kids buy lunches and pack them a junk filled bag full of non-nutritional garbage.  We should care about our younger generation and WANT them to jump off of the railroad to obesity that so many of our youngsters seem to be on.  The Healthy Edge is offering a “Back to School: Healthy Edge Style” series the whole month of September.  This is a FREE series offered to our online community.  Get Healthy Meal Plans, healthy afterschool snack ideas, recipes, informational audios and more.  And the most beneficial feature is support from other parents who like you and me, put their child’s health first!

What does your local school do to try to implement healthier lunches?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Live a More Sustainable Life!

Living a more sustainable life may seem like a challenge, especially if you don’t know where to get started.  Here are a couple tips to get you started on your journey!

Shopping locally is important for environmental sustainability as well as economic sustainability. When you shop locally (whether it’s food or any item you purchase) you are supporting members of your own community who are also vested in the heath and success of the community. You are also travelling less and requiring fewer things to be shipped meaning less carbon, pollution and traffic congestion. Much of our food travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles (2,500 and 4,000 kilometers) or more from farm to table when we choose to not buy local. Farmer’s Markets, Seasonal Food Stands, Community Support Agriculture (CSA’s) and Co-ops provide opportunities to support local food businesses. We also suggest researching farms in your area that offer grass fed beef and organic chicken to purchase in bulk and freeze for the year. This is not only more sustainable than purchasing in the store, but it is also economical. You can also choose to share bulk orders with other families.

Now since Buying Fruits and Vegetables Locally means that you are also Buying In Season Foods (another great tip), our next tip is...


A question that can now be asked is how you eat local and seasonable in the cold winter months when these options are not available. We suggest that you invest in a free standing freezer (if you don’t already have one) and buy or collect seasonal fruits and vegetables in bulk and freeze them to enjoy all year around. We love to pick fresh blueberries each summer and we calculated that we eat a pound of blueberries a week. We pick 50 - 52 pounds of blueberries for half the price of purchasing them in the store. We then clean them (you don’t need to run under water if they are organic, just pick the bugs off) and store in gallon bags in our freezer to enjoy all year around. We do the same for organic strawberries and blackberries as well as a variety of vegetables. Freezing allows you to also preserve most of the nutritional content of the food as well.

For more tips on how to live a more Sustainable Life, check out The Healthy Edge Subscription, where they dedicated the whole month of August to Sustainable Living! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Superfood Sisters Are Talking Trash

Do you ever think about the fate of your trash as the garbage truck drives by for the once a week pickup? How easy is it to throw trash into a plastic bag, tie it up and put it out by the road once a week and then wait for the big garbage munching machine to come pick up? Garbage gone. Problem solved.  Do you ever really think about what happens after the truck drives away? Do you even want to?

Landfills are where the majority of our trash goes.  From a distance, landfills just look like a huge hill.  But in the center of that big hill, landfills begin as a big hole that our trash is dumped into and then covered with about 6 inches of dirt.  Then trucks and compactors drive over the dirt to pack it down as firmly as they can.  This helps to keep the trash in place and to prepare the area for more trash the next day. This process keeps going on and on until the landfill is full, then it gets covered with several layers of soil and landscaped. Some landfills are even turned into parks (the water and soil in the area has to be closely monitored for up to 30 years after the closing of the site to make sure that no toxins enter the environment). You may think that the trash will quickly decompose is this large hole, but in reality the trash that is put into a landfill will stay there for a very long time. Inside a landfill, there is little oxygen and little moisture. Under these conditions, trash does not break down very rapidly. In fact, when old landfills have been excavated or sampled, 40-year-old newspapers have been found with easily readable print. Landfills are not designed to break down trash, merely to bury it. When a landfill closes, the site (especially the groundwater) must be monitored and maintained for up to 30 years!

Now that you have gotten a crash course on your local land fill, don’t you wish there was something you could do to help the rising amount of trash that fills these stinky hills?  There is!  It’s simply to RECYCLE!  I know, it can be a pain in your backside and you may think it takes too much time?  Not really.  We have a back room with four different containers for various types of recyclables such as cans (aluminum), glass, paper and plastic.  We then use our “trash can” only for the stuff that we cannot recycle.

Back to the containers, they are labeled plastic, glass, aluminum and paper (the containers do not have to be big, just big enough to fit what you use). Once a week, we have a local volunteer group who holds a recycling drive.  I load up my van, drive over, wait my turn and empty my recyclables.  It doesn’t take long, they are open until sun-down and I know that I am doing my part to help our environment.  To find a recycling center near you check out Earth911!

Many areas offer recycling as part of your trash pick-up.  They will even provide a recycling container and all of your recyclables can go in one container and they sort it for you. Many times the pick-ups are bi-weekly.  Also, pay attention to community recycling areas off the side of the road, especially for glass and paper.
Here are just a few of the benefits of recycling:
  1.   Every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees.
  2.  Recycling creates four jobs for every one job created in the waste management and disposal industries.
  3. Well-run recycling programs cost less to operate than waste collection, landfilling, and incineration.
For more information on benefits of recycling visit A Recycling Revolution.
Another great way to recycle if you have a garden is to start a compost pile.  There is nothing better for your garden than your lawn and kitchen wastes!  

 Here are examples to get you started!
Vegetable Scraps
Meat or animal products
Egg SHELLS (not actual egg)
Coal ash
Yard Waste (lawn clippings, leaves)
Weeds or weed seeds
Colored paper
Coffee grounds and filters
Synthetic chemicals

Visit Planet Natural website for more information on getting your compost pile started. 

Please share how you and your family are recycling in your home! 

For more information on sustainable living, check out www.getthehealthyedge.com/thehealthyedge.com for some great tips, conversations and even recipes!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Tomato Plant’s Worst Nightmare

Can you find the worm?
Over the past week, my husband and I have watched our tomato plants quickly deteriorate.   When looking at the tops of the plants it seems that something has been eating away at them.  What a disappointment to us, I have only been able to do one canning session and I was hoping to get in at least two more.  While out watering the other night, I saw a HUGE green worm hanging upside down on one of our plants.  Of course me being the girly girl that I tend to be with large, disgusting crawly things, I sent out a scream and ran for my husband.
After some research, I discovered that what I saw was a Tomato Hornworm.  These pesky worms work very fast so if you ever see them on your plants, or if you ever notice a lot of green/black droppings under you plants, be sure to get rid of them ASAP!!  Or you will have no plant left.  We unfortunately have already had to pull one of our plants out and there are three more that we are praying will recover. 

Life of a Tomato Hornworm

Eggs are deposited singly on both the top and bottom of leaves in the late spring and hatch within 6 to eight days.  Once hatched, it will take up to three weeks for them to reach their final larval stage.  As they eat your tomato plants they will grow bigger and bigger.  They can reach 4 inches long in size.

Once fully grown, they will drop off the plant and burrow into the soil to pupate into Hummingbird moths or Sphinx moths.  In the summer this takes two weeks.  In the fall they will not change until spring.

How to Get Rid of Them:
 The first thing you will want to do is pick off as many worms as possible.  The worms do a very good job of blending in with the plants so you must look hard.  They tend to “hang out” on the tops of the plants and “eat” there way to the bottom.  When picking them off the plant, be prepared to tug, they tend to latch on very tightly to the stems.  Use gloves and if you do not want to pluck them off with your fingers, try using pliers.  When you take them off, be sure to either kill them right away, or place them far away from your plants.

To prevent them from finding your plants or to keep them away once you have gotten rid of them, here are a couple tips:

    1.   Plant things in your garden, near your tomato plants, that will deter the worms and attract insects that will kill them such as: dill, clover, fennel or spearmint.  These will attract predator wasps to that will eat the worms.  These worms like dill even more than tomatoes, plant this near your plants to attract them.

     2. Do things to invite birds to the garden.  Build birdhouses, put out bird feeders and bird baths.  They are natural predators to the tomato hornworms.

   3.       Sprinkle cornmeal around the base of the tomato plants.  The worms will die when they eat the cornmeal.

  4.       Make a homemade insecticide to apply to the tomato plants.  You can try combining 1 qt. water and 1 Tbsp mild liquid dish soap.  Mix well and put in spray bottle.  Apply liberally to your plants.  You can also try a salt spray.  Dissolve 2 Tbsp table salt into a bucket with 1 ½ gallons of warm water.  Transfer to a garden sprayer and apply to the plants when you see the green worms.

   5.   Hot Pepper Spray: Chop ½ cup hot peppers and mix them with 2 cups of hot water.  Strain and Spray.  The capsaicin in the peppers should cause nerve damage to the insects and repel them from the plants.

For more All Natural Pesticides check out this website: 

What do natural pesticides do you use on your plants??
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