Thereʼs nothing that says “Summer” like flip flops and a snow cone, but do they have to come with crude oil, artificial ingredients, chemicals and the multitude of potential health risks associated with these all to common toxic substances?
“No way!”, says me.
So letʼs do a little summer product makeover and replace these bad boys with non-toxic, safe, environmentally friendly options sure to keep your kiddos cool, happy, and healthy!
1) FLIP FLOPS
The No-Go: “ Jellyʼs “ or plastic varieties of flip flops are cheap and so darn c-u-t-e, but they have a dirty little secret. They are commonly made of PVC, also called "the poison plastic," which contains harmful plasticizers including BPA, a known endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen in the body, increasing risk of breast cancer, testicular cancer, and causing reproductive problems. PVC is also destructive to the environment and can not be cleanly recycled without creating highly carcinogenic and deadly dioxane. The chemicals in the plastic flip flops degrade with body heat and are absorbed into the body. These chemicals bio-accumulate making them especially concerning and harmful. Look for the PVC materials label on the product, although it it not always labeled as such.
The "Clean Fresh" Flip Flop Alternative: We want Flip Flops that stay true to their native feel, so make sure they are made of earth materials like natural rubber (not synthetic which contains crude oil). These cutie patooties from “Planet Flops” hit the green trifecta by being non-toxic, planet friendly, and cute.. Also,Feelgoodz (available at Whole Foods too!) do just that with use of their natural rubber & hemp materials and super fun designs for the entire fam including little boys who sometimes get the short end of the stick in the cute shoes department.
The No-Go: Letʼs face it, a hot Texas summer can create LOTS of stink… but thereʼs no reason to douse ourselves & puberty entering kiddos with chemical cocktails! Store shelves & bathroom cabinets alike are chock full of aluminum containing antiperspirants which prevents the body from sweating but also is a brain toxin attributed to alzheimerʼs, dementia, and kidney problems. Further, all bio- accumulates making repeated exposure high risk. Deodorants and antiperspirants (perfumes and colognes as well) contain artificial fragrances, such as carcinogenic synthetic musk, heavy metals, crude oil/petrolatum, and parabens, which act as estrogens and promote the growth of cancer cells. They can also contain other chemicals designed to transfer the chemicals deeper into your skin like propylene glycol (found in anti-freeze) or anti-bacterials like triclosan, which are proven endocrine disruptors and are passed into breast milk (Triclosan also reacts with chlorinated water). “Crystal” versions are really no better for you, as they only possess different toxic ingredients. Bottom line, itʼs no “Secret” that we need to “Ban” these and other toxic chemicals from deodorants and antiperspirants to a large “Degree.”
The "Clean Fresh" Deodorant Alternatives: We have tested a LOT of deodorants, and Iʼll be honest, if you’re really sweating, youʼre probably going to need to keep your arms by your side and discreetly head towards the bathroom where you can grab a soapy wet towel for a quick wipe off. But on your average day, you should be more than fine and your body systems will thank you as they work as they are designed to rid your body of toxins, not accumulate more. Alternative, clean deodorants are especially vital for kids and teenagers as their hormones are raging (we certainly do not need chemicals mimicking and interfering with them). Above are a few of our faves that keep us smelling sweet! Weleda has a few different scents. My daughter and I use the Rose which is wonderful and refreshing. My teenaged son needs double duty so he opts for the Weleda Sage spray on top of the Jason Apricot which is does the trick. You can find them at Natural Grocer or Whole Foods. My husband prefers the Natureʼs Gate or Jason's!
The No-Go: Deep breath. This is a hot issue for me. Spray sunscreens should be banned from existence. They contain harmful chemicals and nano mineral (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) particles that can be inhaled and enter the bloodstream through the lungs with the possibility of causing damage to vital organs. The FDA recently banned all SPF (nano) from loose mineral powders, due to this health risk. If you prefer a spray, please choose a pump instead of an aerosol and use a stick SPF on the face which gives better coverage without the added risk. Also be sure to look for brands without chemical sunscreens such as avobenzone and oxybenzone and refrain from applying spray sunscreens in public places, as it will put others at risk.
The No-Go: Thereʼs nothing worse than toxic kisses… Sadly, most lip balms aimed at kiddos are just that. Underneath the colorful packaging and candy-flavored goodness, they’re filled with high levels of crude oil by way of petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin flavored in saccharin. Oh and don’t forget the crude oil based dyes, toxic chemicals, fragrance, and heavy metals. YIKES!
The "Clean Fresh"(& Kissable) Lip Balm Alternative: I am addicted to lip balm. I have it by my bedside, in the console of my car, on my desk…everywhere! My very favorite lip balm on the planet is MyChelle Love Your Lips in Raspberry Cherry Pineapple. It has good stuff in it like coconut oil, smells good naturally without any artificial fragrances and chemicals, and, most important, can be used by kids without fear they are harming their health. I have given away dozens of these and always hear how much people love them.
5) SNOW CONES
The No-Go: Who doesnʼt like an refreshing and yummy snow cone, shaved ice, or icy-pop on a steaming hot day? I have several festive friends that have snow cone machines armed and ready! Itʼs such a bummer that neon blue, bright red, and psychedelic yellow have to be full of petro chemical based dyes, highly processed sweeteners, artificial flavorings, preservatives, binders, and chemicals that cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity and are just plain not good for your health.
The "Clean Fresh" Snow Cone Alternative: Just like there are alternatives to artificial colors and flavors in candy, there are alternatives in snow cone syrups! Try ordering some of these organic snow cone syrups from Natures Flavours. (The blueberry and strawberry would be perfect for July 4th). You may have to compromise on super bright, multi colors, but you will not compromise your families health by eating them – and the best part is, they still taste great and help you beat the heat!
Who knew sunscreen could be so controversial? But, as with most products containing chemicals brought to us by cosmetic companies, it's all to common today. So what are the best products available? What do we look for and how do we best protect our families from the possible harmful effects of too much sun?
We know the sun’s radiation, UVA (long wave) and UVB (short wave, most damaging) rays cause free radicals to increase in the skin.
Sun exposure damages cellular DNA, increases the signs of aging and increases risk of skin cancer. But before you run inside and put your caftan and XL brimmed chapeau on, that awesome star of our galaxy has some major benefits to health also. Let’s chat about a couple of those first.
Vitamin D: It’s actually not a vitamin at all, it’s a hormone.
(Background: In the 1930’s the dairy industry began fortifying milk with “vitamin” D) Vitamin D is vital in mineral metabolism, supports the immune system and is essential to bone health and growth making it especially important to developing children. Recent studies demonstrate the importance of healthy levels of Vitamin D and a wide range of benefits to our health, specifically a reduction in risk of colon and breast cancer. Recent trends show Americans to be deficient in vitamin D due to the use of sunscreens which block the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin and the overall decrease in outdoor activity. To increase your bodies vitamin D hormone, simply get direct sun (meaning without sunscreen) skin exposure for about 20 minutes per day. Your body will naturally produce the hormone vitamin D you need. Vitamin D supplements can be taken daily for those not wanting the direct sun approach, in addition to a diet rich in foods that support Vitamin D production such as wild salmon, organic free range egg yolks and mushrooms.
Be Happy. Sunlight makes us happy. Like the chemical reaction in the body that causes the hormone, vitamin D to be produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight, the body has similar reactions that release other hormones and signals to the brain and body. Sunlight exposure helps regulate our sleep cycle, decrease stress and depression. Making a short daily dose of sun part of your wellness regime can be life changing.
So, what about skin protection for everyday exposure or the pool days of Summer?
Here are some tips and guidelines to ensure protection from exposure to harmful rays as well as potentially harmful chemicals commonly found in sunscreens:
Clothing, the first line of defense: Shade and protective clothing including hats, shirts and sunglasses are among your first lines of defense. Sunglasses or water googles with UV added protection for the eyes is also strongly advised for children and adults alike.
Stay out of O-Zone: Avoid sun exposure on high ozone days which can increase free radicals, skin damage and exacerbate problems with breathing.
Liberal Application: Apply a BROAD SPECTRUM, (Block both UVA & UVB Rays) Sunscreen often and a LOT of it. Tests reveal, in order to have maximum protection, sunscreen must be applied in a large dosage that delivers the product completely over the skins surface. Half the “dosage” only gives half the protection.
Don’t get High on Numbers: Resist the temptation to get caught up in a numbers game when choosing sun protection. Products boasting SPF 50 do not always translate to greater UV protection or that you can stay in the sun longer. Go for an SPF in the 30 range, apply often and take breaks from direct exposure by seeking some shade.
NO SPRAY Sunscreens: Deep breath. This is a hot issue for me. Spray sunscreens should be banned from existence. Harmful chemicals are inhaled and can enter the bloodstream through the lungs with the possibility of causing damage to vital organs. In addition, many sunscreens contain powder, talc and other micro, nano properties that can be harmful if inhaled. The FDA recently banned all SPF (nano) from loose mineral powders, due to this health risk, but exempt small companies to make the change until December of this year. (Say what?) If you must use a spray, please refrain from applying in public places as it will put others at risk.
No Mixing: Don’t mix Sunscreens and Insect Repellants. It’s simply a toxic chemical cocktail. Use light colored clothing in addition to layering your mineral based sunscreen first, then apply your deet-free insect repellant. (More on that another time.)
No-Go Ingredients: Refrain from using any sunscreen product (including lip balms) containing these commonly used chemicals:
Oxybenzone and/or Octinozate- Both have been shown to cause reproductive disorders, endocrine disruption and hormone mimicking activity in humans. These chemicals are highly toxic and pose significant risk to people as well as animals and aquatic life.
Retinyl Palmitate (vitamin A)- Research shows retinyl palmitate acts as a photo carcinogen, speeding up the development of skin tumors and legions on sun, UV radiation exposed skin. With sun exposure alone, free radicals are are formed and damage to DNA strands occur which contribute to the cause of skin cancer. With the presence of vitamin A, that skin damage increases, including tumor and lesion growth, compared to those without vitamin A. In my own research over the last several years, I examined the findings of studies such as this one and strongly believe retinyl palmitate should not be used in sunscreens, skin lotions or other applications for sun exposed skin. It can take 10-15 years for this type of research to reach mainstream and be “applied” to products. I want you to be informed now. Read your labels carefully.
Best choices for sunscreens are mineral based, zinc oxide & titanium dioxide.
Despite the fact sunscreens and loose powder mineral makeup with SPF contain nano particles which carry a risk of inhalation, mineral based sunscreens are safer and less toxic, making them a better choice than chemical sunscreen varieties. Zinc oxide is king. Keep in mind the sunscreens that cause you to look like Casper, have lower levels of nano sized particles in them. We can all stand a ghost effect in the name of health and true anti aging benefits can’t we?
Some of my trusted, personal favorite sunscreens in my beach bag for kiddos include California Baby Sunscreen stick which I love for the easy application to the kids face and shoulders, Aubrey Organics is a brand I totally trust. The SPF lotion goes on a little thick and white so the kids may bark a bit, but this mom loves its protection!
If you would like to dive into the deep end of sunscreens a little deeper, check out Environmental Working Group’s “Guide to Safer Sunscreens”! You can find the complete reporthere which includes awesome information including ratings on the sunscreens they tested.
When it comes to food, my motto is, “You are what your food eats.” A healthy diet isn’t about deprivation, rather it hinges on eating the right things. After all, food is our best medicine, and food that’s been grown free of toxins and chemicals is essential. With that in mind, I wanted to share a list of my top 15 favorite foods for helping you and your family achieve optimal health.
1. Avocados - A perfect source of essential fatty acids and unsaturated fats, a great source of folate, with more potassium than bananas, avocados are a nutrient dense food, high in phytochemicals, carotenoid, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B-6, fiber, and glutathione. Studies show salads and salsa eaten with avocados increase carotenoid absorption. Served with eggs, salsa, and black beans in the morning, tossed in a fresh green salad for lunch, or chopped into quinoa for dinner with a squeeze of lemon, it’s a fruit that compliments just about anything.
2. Kale - A rock star in food circles and rightfully so. Kale is high in antioxidants and vitamins including Vitamins K (1,020%!), Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. It’s also a great source of minerals including: calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. As if that wasnʼt enough, kale also contains the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin (fights macular degeneration) and polyphenols (awesome free radical killers). Oh and it’s good for your bones, reduces cancer risk, and helps about every single bodily function. How can you top that? It’s best prepared raw by massaging the leaves to tenderize or slightly cooked.
3. Raw Organic Cacao Nibs - Scoring a 621 on the ORAC scale of antioxidant power (blueberries have a score of 65), cacao is a key to health. As the magical bean that begets chocolate, cacao nibs (at least 70% cacao) can be added to protein shakes, baked goods, topped on organic plain non-fat yogurt, or mixed with nuts and seeds for a mid-day snack. Note: This nutritional value information does not apply to chocolate candy or candy bars. (Darn.)
4. Mushrooms - Used for thousands of years in medicines, mushrooms are a powerhouse immunity builder, cancer cell killer, and healer of cardiovascular and liver problems. Mushrooms are high in Vitamin B and naturally possess anti- inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Cooking enhances their potency in most varieties, so sauté with fresh minced garlic and dig in!
5. Salmon - Salmon is natureʼs ultimate source of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA, and astaxanthin. But only Wild Alaskan/Pacific Coho, Russian River, or Sockeye, please. And be sure to purchase from a responsible source and do your part to conserve.
6. Flaxseeds - With a shift in focus within the health community on more Omega-3 fatty acids and less Omega-6s, freshly consuming ground flax seeds is an easy way to balance the ratio. (The research is especially promising for Omega 3ʼs ability to block hormone-related cancers.) Flaxseeds are proven to reduce LDL cholesterol and lower average blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The best source is organic, freshly ground. Use within 20 minutes of grinding. Ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil with DHA are also a wonderful alternative to fish oil.
7. Seeds & Nuts - From almonds and walnuts t0 pumpkin and sesame, seeds are bursting with nutrients as they are ready to sprout new life. Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, amino acids, iron, phosphorus, vitamins, and protein, they are seriously good for you. Almonds and walnuts offer awesome health benefits with omega 3s, and the filling unsaturated fat makes them a great snack food that provides protein and antioxidant power.
8. Quinoa – A perfect seed (not grain) , quinoa is easy to cook, high in fiber, and a good source of non-animal protein (11 grams per half cup!) It’s super versatile and perfect for on the go, add kale and your set.
9. Broccoli – This green veggie is one of the best cancer blockers around, as it modifies natural estrogens into less damaging forms and increases enzymes that fight free radicals and carcinogens. It’s high in Vitamins C, K, Folate, and Choline; minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium; and powerful phytochemicals that stimulate the bodies immune system. I have heard first hand, Doc's at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston tell their patients suffering from cancer to eat organic brocolli as much a spossible! It's powerful enough to battle cancer cells! Everyone should eat at least 3-4 servings per week, and never over cook (mushy broccoli is not just less health, it’s a bummer).
10. Green Tea & Matcha- Studies have shown the antioxidant power in one cup of green tea, especially polyphenol-rich Matcha, to be superior in improving immunity, aiding digestion, and fighting the signs of aging. There’s also evidence that the high antioxidant levels of green tea are associated with reduced cancer risk. (I drink a cup every night!) Caution regarding your source. Choose only organic , Japanese green teas that have been tested for radiation and heavy metals such as lead and aluminum.
11. Garlic & Onions – High in Sulfur compounds and antioxidants, these bad breath boys will blow out your arteries (in a good way), assisting in the reduction of blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. Consuming them can also help treat hair loss (allicin) and help fight cancer. Garlic is a natural anti-bacterial and antibiotic that is 100 times more effective than two commonly prescribed antibiotic drugs. Stinky garlic is also an anti-inflammatory.
12. Turmeric – An excellent anti-inflammatory, liver cleansing, anti-cancer food, turmeric has received lots of well deserved recognition of late. I eat turmeric daily, fresh in my morning protein shake. Ginger is fellow root star with common properties and digestive enzymes to boost its power pack.
13. Wheatgrass – Weighing in with twenty times more density than other veggies, and containing 103 vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, wheat grass is seriously nutrient rich. It’s especially high in Vitamins A, B Complex, C, E, and K; beta-carotene; and chlorophyll which helps to detoxify the body and build immunity. Wheatgrass is best taken as a freshly juiced shot (I add mine to my daily protein shake), but be sure to ease into it, as drinking too much too soon can hit you with a hard and fast release of toxins.
14. Lentils – A great substitute for animal protein with 9 grams of protein per half cup, plus heart healthy folate, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, lentils are a seriously healthy, easy to cook go-to food. Toss in soups and salads or eat alone as a side dish. They cook, start to finish, in about 20 minutes! This is one of my pantry staples… you canʼt go wrong.
15. Purified Water – Yes, I know it seems obvious, but you can not cook, live, or be truly well without clean, purified water. Use it in your teas, coffees, soups, to wash your vegetables and fruits, boil your pasta, steam your veggies, and soak your beans. It is the single most important ingredient in healthy food.
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