Chocolate In the Raw.

So you’ve heard that dark chocolate is good for you right? Well, if you dig a little deeper, there is more to consider about chocolate than if it is simply dark. Truth is that processing can make or break the ‘healthy’ claim.

Giddy yoyo_original

Raw cacao is one of the healthiest things on the planet. It contains a significant amount of valuable antioxidants which help cells in the body to repair themselves and stay well.  It is reported to have many times more antioxidant power than raw blueberries, goji berries and red wine. Studies on cacao confirm it is linked to reducing blood pressure and preventing cardiovascular disease and cancers.

The issue is most cacao used in conventional bars of chocolate has been grown with chemicals, is then high heat processed and to boot any goodness is further diluted with hydrogenated oils, dairy, and crazy amounts of refined sugars.

Enter Canadian company Giddy YoYo….who have figured it all out by making bars of chocolate both nutritious AND delicious. Giddy’s bars are made without high temperature processing. I asked them the scoop and was told that the highest temperature their bars get is in the sun in its native Equador. Wow…who knew? And certified organic means you won’t be consuming the loads of chemicals from high pesticide use and irradiation commonplace in conventional cacao bean production.

And just to make life a little sweeter…they use just enough (non GMO of course!) cane sugar and some very delish organic, fair trade flavours, My personal faves are the Mint, Orange, and the Spicy. But with more fab-sounding flavours just coming out, I have more taste-testing to do.

And as there is never any dairy, gluten, nuts in Giddy YoYo, I am over the moon as it is a healthy, nutritious and safe treat for school lunchboxes. Yippee!

As with most of my very fave products, Giddy YoYo bars can be purchased on-line in Canada at Sessabel (with free shipping in the Greater Toronto Area) and it’s in lots of brick and mortar stores as well.

 

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The Dark Side Of Baby Oil And Why You May Want to Avoid It

Conventional baby oil is made from mineral oil and fragrance. Mineral oil is sometimes called liquid paraffin (or Paraffinum Liquidum) as it closely resembles melted wax. You will find it listed by either name as an ingredient on product labels.

Mineral oil is a by-product of the petroleum industry, which translates to it is derived from crude oil.  Make no mistake, it is not environmentally-friendly nor baby-friendly. Pictures you may have seen of an oil spill in water gives a visual of the environmental part of the issue. As well, many believe that using mineral oil on your child’s skin is akin to wrapping the tot in plastic wrap as skin really can’t breathe properly when doused in petroleum oil. Worse, is that mineral oil is a suspected carcinogen according to some environmental experts and in recent years mineral-based baby oil has caused horrific, unspeakable injuries to at least one baby and death to  others.

So I am convinced that there may not be a more frightening ‘baby’ product available. As it is always best to know all the risks associated with a product so that you can make the best decision for your family, here are some details:

In 1985, a 15 month old boy suffered horrible injuries after he drank baby oil oil and inadvertently got some in his lungs.  The boy lived but is reported to live today in a state where he cannot move his arms or legs as they are stiff and spastic. He cannot speak and suffers mental retardation. A lawsuit ensued, the details can be seen here.

And in 2001, a 16 month old boy died in the US after swallowing baby oil and also getting some into his lungs.  According to this account, It took 28 days for the end to come, when he suffocated to death. Sadly, it was reported that doctors could do nothing to help him once the oil got into his lungs.

And in the news this past summer, a 14 month old girl in California died after ingesting baby oil. Reports of the tragedy, confirm the baby’s mother said that it took a split second for her daughter to get the baby oil and ingest it.  Little Mya Rose lived for a number of weeks then passed away earlier this month.

The bottom line was that the parents in each case claimed they had no idea that this product was a hazard to young children and thus, it was not treated as a potentially dangerous substance in their home.  I have to admit that when my kids were babies I had no idea either and had baby oil in arm’s reach of the change table. And even though it makes perfect sense that a child could aspirate on an oil, I had no real thoughts of the inherent danger either.

The early cases were apparently integral in putting in place laws regarding child-proof lids on products that could possibly injure children. However the danger still exists, so it is good to know that better alternatives exist to soothe your child’s skin without the potential risk of asphyxiation.

What’s the alternative?  For a baby’s behind, choose a good quality all-natural (non-liquid) balm made from soothing, plant-based oils such as olive and jojoba.  I like Ella’s Botanicals Magic Balm or Bottoms Up! Diaper Balm.  The Magic Balm has multi-uses for soothing all dry, irritated skin so is good for the entire family.  For a cream-based skin soother, I know tons of mamas who love the all-natural Original Sprout’s Scrumptious Baby Cream.  It definitely works well at soothing chafed skin and the scent is very close to the scent of conventional baby oil. Interestingly, the entire Original Sprout baby line seem to elicit almost a cult-like following by moms in the know. And for an unscented option,a good option is Dr. Robin For Kids Daily Moisture Cream. As it’s a great moisturizer developed by a doctor for children with super-sensitive or eczema-prone skin. And as the scent is  not specifically ‘baby’, it a good choice for anyone in the family to use. And a tube lasts a long, long time. Yippee!

If you have a personal favourite baby or toddler skin soother, feel free to let me know.  I always love to hear what other parents use on their wee ones skin. And please, please do pass this information along to anyone who may benefit from the info in hope this NEVER happens to another baby EVER.

The Low-Down on Commercial Baked Goods

Bread still life

It is no secret that I became a card-carrying label reader and avid googler of all things food while developing food products for a large Canadian company.

I have seen the inside of many factories producing food for mass distribution. I have had to study and research food ingredients to ensure regulatory approval and to ensure a sufficient shelf life. My colleagues and I used to joke that ‘our employer was the best university in the world for learning all about processed foods’. And now as a parent, navigating grocery labels in terms of health I believe my food industry experience was just that…no joke.

I am often asked why I avoid commercial baked goods like the plague. Because over and above the undesirable GMO wheat and oils, there are a host of unsavoury chemicals used to cheapen production and to extend shelf life.  Sadly, many of them are linked to ill health. Unlike when I worked for Big Food having to go with the status quo, I now exercise the option to avoid some ingredients.

Here’s the dirt on the ingredients I choose to avoid:

Azodicarbonamide: As time=money, processors use this to speed up the wheat production process. So we all get a dose of this dastardly chem. in most of our commercial baked goods.  Next time you eat fast food, don’t just sweat about the health of of what’s inside the bun, consider also the bun itself.  Europe got wise a while ago and banned it as BOTH a plastic blowing agent ( yes its used in plastics too) and a flour whitening agent as it is linked to respiratory issues.

Calcium Propionate:  Used to prevent mold growth in baked goods, this chem. has been linked to irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in children who consume it daily.  A 2002 study cited in the Journal of Paediatric Child Health confirmed the details. Who thought it was a good idea to have bread last two weeks and to potentially harm human health?

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene): This is a preservative and a quite controversial one at that.  Widely used, it is considered a human respiratory irritant, as well as a human allergen and carcinogen. BHT and its cousin BHA are flagged for future assessment under Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan. So why would I eat it until they figure it all out? Check commercial cereals and chewing gum as well.

So now I opt for smaller, organic producers when I do buy baked goods. If you make the switch, the first thing you may notice other than feeling better is that your bread no longer lasts for two weeks.  If you really think about what that means, you may come to realize its a good thing 🙂

8 Things You May Want To Avoid in the Grocery Store

One of my biggest food challenges as a parent is finding healthy foods for my family. Too many conventional packaged foods and snacks are over-processed, over-sugared, have been genetically modified and offer little nutritional value. We are all tempted to reach for the convenience foods at times but if you are tempted, best to do so with your eyes wide open.

Having worked for one of Canada’s biggest food brands for over a decade developing food products, I learned oodles about food and the processing of it. And from one parent to another, I wholeheartedly recommend questioning what is in your family’s food to make sure you are comfortable with it. Here are some factors I consider when purchasing foods:

1)  Genetically Modified? So many foods are genetically modified. As the jury’s out on whether adverse health issues can arise from eating GMO foods, I figure why wait while the scientists and major genetic modifiers are arguing about the details? When we know that some crops are modified to withstand some pretty serious pesticide use which would otherwise kill the plant, why eat it? That’s why I chose organic (especially corn, soy and sugar) as often as I can.

2) High Heat Processed? Heat kills alot of nutrients but is needed to kill live components that go off easily to give a longer shelf life. So chose raw or minimally-processed foods whenever possible. This means a piece of fruit vs. a processed fruit juice. No matter how much benefit a juice producer tells you there is in a commercial juice, it has been processed. As well, raw cocoa super-healthy in its raw state, loses considerable nutrients in its processing.. For a healthier treat, chose raw cocoa made into home-made goodies or in a chocolate bar sweetened with a little cane sugar.

3) Wheat?  I am not really a big fan of industrialized wheat. It really offers minimal nutrition at best as compared to other grains. Stripped of natural goodness through modifications and processing, it barely resembles the wheat our grandparents knew.  More and more people who are not celiac are having trouble digesting it. So better choices are the grains not yet tampered with such as spelt, kamut or red fife. I find these taste better and they are not genetically modified. And surprise, my kids love the baked goods I make.

4) Added Sugar? Sugar is added to more foods than you might imagine. Food companies love to add sugar as the human palate loves it.  Its so unnecessary in products like pasta sauce and salsa. And conventional yogurt most often resembles a desert not a breakfast food with the huge amount of added sugars.  Instead, I opt for unsweetened, organic yogurt and use a little real Quebec maple syrup to sweeten as needed. And I ditched my fave brand of salsa in favour of one that has no added sugar. Funny thing about the human palate as much as it loves sugar, it adapts to less and less quite easily.

5) How Is It Preserved? One thing to know about Big Food is that it generally must preserve the food in some way. The foods go through huge distribution systems, sit in warehouses and then sit on store shelves and then in your home. I watch for controversial preservatives or any even linked to health issues. This means I avoid BHT (used to preserve food AND cosmetics). As Canadians are being warned against even using it in bodycare,  I prefer not to eat it. Who wants to wait while science is proving or disproving suspected links to cancer? Check your breakfast cereals, margarines, enriched rices and even chewing gum.

6) Scary ingredients In the Packaging?  While BPA was banned for use in baby bottles, it remains in the lining of cans and the lids of baby food jars. Cook your own beans from dry and make your own baby food or simply limit the amount of either that you consume.

7) Unappealing, Unnecessary Ingredients? Read your labels! Food companies try to innovate to get more of your consuming dollars. Sometimes they miss the mark, developing foods that are in my opinion, are really quite unappealing. I recently saw a yogurt ingredient list which included anchovy and sardine oils AND pork gelatin.  If the addition of valuable omega 3’s is what they were after, someone should tell them there are great plant-based options for getting your Omegas.

8) Real Or Not? Know your foods and figure out your own tolerance for fake foods.  Processed snacks are often not ‘real’. At only 42% potato, Pringles are not so ‘real’. And neither are Fruit Roll Ups. With the regulation in Canada requiring only 2% be fruit puree, fruit rollups provide no nutrition for your wee ones. One company Sun Rype does offer a real fruit snack so should not be confused with Betty Crocker whose fruit snacks contain artificial dyes and loads of sugars, mineral oil and carnuba wax.

So read labels, research things you hear about food and figure out what is important to you and yours. Credible sources of info are readily available on-line.  And next time your kids work you over for something in the grocery store, you just may have a really good come back as to why its not such a good idea!

I Was Feeding My Kids Butylparaben!

Butylparaben is a controversial but still widely used preservative.  As cough-medicine-babiesstrong evidence exists suggesting that this preservative is a human endocrine disruptor, people have opted to avoid it in droves with concerned parents leading the way.

I am on board having read details of the effects of butylparabens (and the closely related propylparabens) on the male reproductive system and the suspected link with parabens and breast cancer.  Ever since I found all of this out, I read labels and shun anything containing any sort of parabens in my family’s products. Sunscreen, shampoo, baby wipes, body wash and even bubble bath containing parabens that inadvertently made it into my home, were tossed out long ago.

So I was quite gobsmacked really to find that there was one place butylparabens were hiding out in my home…in my medicine cabinet.

After watching a segment of the Morning Show recently, which alerted parents as to where to check for toxins hiding out in their homes, I checked my kids Children’s Tylenol Fever and Pain meds. I was shocked to find the dastardly preservative had indeed eluded me!

How ironic is it that a medicine supposed to help kids get healthier and to feel better also contains something considered such a health-related issue that it has already been banned for use in young kids products in Denmark? Sadly no regulatory body has followed suit on this side of the pond so many wee North American kids are being fed a dose of potentially endocrine-disrupting preservatives every time they have a fever, a cold or teething pain.

I researched and found that there are a few big brand children’s cough/cold/fever/pain meds out there that DO NOT contain parabens. Much better choices if you too, wish to avoid controversial preservatives are Children’s Advil and Children’s Motrin as neither contains ANY sort of parabens.

Kudos to the manufacturers who figure out that parents prefer the less controversial variety of preservatives in their kids products. Even a link to ill health is not something most parents are good with when it comes to their tots. Needless to say, I know which way my dollar will be spent next time I shop for pain meds for my kids.

Please feel free to let me know if you knew this information already or if like me, you were surprised and will be making a change.