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Steps to Making Healthy Lunches

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child-packed-lunchNow that summer vacation is coming to a close and the kiddos are headed back to school, it’s time to start preparations. Many have already done the school shopping, picked out their first-day outfits, and packed their backpacks with new supplies, but haven’t thought about those pesky little lunches that need to be packed. A healthy lunch provides sound nutrition to give students energy to do well in school and for the rest of the day. Healthy lunches are not just for kids, so these tips can be applied to all packed lunches, including the ones you take to work.

Here are some tips to take that lunch from blah to healthy in no time!

Reusable Containers Make Packing Lunches a Snap

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Use containers that have separated sections, like Bento boxes. The separate sections allow for more healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and dips, with less waste from packaging. The box’s sections also allow for portion control, so you get to decide how much of each food is included.

Offer Nutrient Dense Foods

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Provide a selection of foods such as lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, that will give children needed nutrients. An added benefit of nutrient-dense food is that it makes you feel fuller longer.

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

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Switching from white bread to whole grain bread and opting for low-fat dairy products and organics can make a world of difference without noticeably changing the tastes of favorite foods. Also be sure to visit your local farmer’s market to buy locally grown produce!

Remember, Beverages Count, Too

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Giving children a healthy lunch, then packing a sugar-filled, high-calorie drink eliminates the efforts of the healthy lunch. Water is the best option for a healthy drink. Make the water more fun by picking a fun, reusable water bottle. (You can always pack a small low-fat milk or real fruit juice to add variety.)

Let Kids Choose Some of Their Food

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Allow your kids to pick some of the healthy foods they will be eating. Giving children the option will make them more likely to enjoy their lunches.

Enjoy those healthy lunches!

Is Food Healthy Just Because It’s Labeled Organic?

When most people see a food item that is labeled organic, they automatically assume that it is healthy for you. The truth is, food is labeled organic based on how it is grown, raised, or prepared, not based on the nutritional value. Unhealthy foods can be made with organic ingredients and be labeled as such, but will still be lacking in wholesome, nutritious ingredients. Check out this fun video that explains the difference between organic and healthy and will let you know what to look for next time you are shopping for a healthy meal:

Happy Father’s Day!

Father’s Day is a great time to recognize all of the wonderful things dads have done for their children this year. There are many ways to show appreciation, like planning a special event, finding that perfect gift, or doing something nice to help him out. Here are some ideas that are fun for Dad and friendly for the environment.

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Prepare an organic breakfast-in-bed

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Buy him a nice organic-cotton tie, shirt, or bathrobe

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Take him on a trip to a farmer’s market or a local restaurant

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Take him to a concert, festival, or sporting event

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Set up a hammock for him in the backyard so he can relax

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Take him bird watching and take pictures of birds you see

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Go on a hike or bicycle ride and spend some quality time together

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Get a pair of fishing poles and take him out to the river

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Find a nice recipe for dinner that the two of you can make together

Whatever you decide to do, the best part of Father’s Day will be spending some quality time together!

25 Ideas to Kick Your Summer Off Right

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Now that school is out and the weather is hot it’s time to think about what kind of fun activities you can plan to keep the whole family happy. Here is a list of 25 ideas we came up with. Use some of our ideas or come up with a few of your own.

  1. Volunteer at a local animal shelter, nature center, or organization that you support.
  2. Plan a camping trip and head out to the great outdoors.
  3. Visit your local farmer’s market for some yummy produce and local goods.

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  4. Pick berries.
  5. Use the berries you pick or the farmer’s-market finds to make delicious smoothies!

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  1. Have a picnic at a park.
  2. Go canoeing at a local lake.
  3. Have a backyard campfire – with s’mores.
  4. Go biking on a trail.

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  1. Plant a garden of herbs and veggies.
  2. Have an outdoor painting party using huge canvas or cardboard.
  3. Visit a museum.
  4. Learn about stargazing and identify as many constellations as possible.

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  5. Go outside and play. Volleyball, basketball, baseball, badminton- whatever game you love, get out and start playing.
  6. Get a map of the US and mark off all the exciting places you want to visit.
  7. Lace up your skates and go rollerskating.

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  8. Make popsicles with your favorite organic juice.
  9. Visit a flea market.
  10. Pick up a new hobby like painting, writing, fishing, etc.
  11. Visit a national park. The kids can even become Junior Rangers!

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  12. Have a game night with charades, Pictionary, Jenga, Monopoly, etc.
  13. Attend an outdoor festival or concert.
  14. Find a local carnival.
  15. Have homemade-pizza night.

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  16. Fall into a good book.

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the summer, be sure to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun!

 

Plan A Picnic

 

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Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect occasion to pack a picnic and head outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather. First you have to decide what dishes to bring. Typical picnic foods can include hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and cookies, which are not the healthiest choices (though they may be delicious). If you’re looking for better options, here are 10 healthy finger-food ideas for your next picnic outing!

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1. Edamame

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2. Ants on a Log (celery with peanut butter and raisins)

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3. Grilled Vegetables (zucchini, squash, mushrooms, etc.)

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4. Pita Chips with Hummus

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5. Homemade Trail Mix (dried fruits and nuts)

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6. Turkey Sandwiches with low-fat ingredients (whole-grain bread, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, and low-fat cheese)

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7. Shrimp and Lemon Skewers

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8. Yogurt

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9. Fruit Salad

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10. Angel Food Cake (low in calories) with fresh fruit and fat-free whipped cream

Now that your basket is packed with delicious foods, it’s time to head out and enjoy the beauty of nature!

 

Allergy Season

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Spring is here, the flowers are in bloom, and it’s a beautiful sight, except for those who suffer from allergies. Allergens such as pollen can cause all sorts of symptoms for allergy sufferers, such as itchy eyes, congestion, and sneezing. Many people take prescribed or over-the-counter medicines that help allergy symptoms, but some of these medicines can cause side effects that are worse than the original problem. For a more natural solution to ease mild, spring-time allergy suffering, here is a list of 10 home remedies that may be helpful:

  1. It’s hard enough to avoid allergens outdoors, so try not to bring them into your home, too. Keeping windows and doors shut during allergy season can help keep pollen out of your house. Eliminate any cross breeze by shutting off fans that circulate air in and out of the house. Indoor air purifiers/HEPA filters are a great added step to keep your house as allergen-free as possible.
  2. While being outdoors it is difficult to avoid allergens, so one great step is to wear eye protection. Wearing sunglasses (with side shields) or goggles while outside will keep pollen and other allergens from landing in your eyes and causing swelling or itching.

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  1. Taking a steaming-hot shower has two major benefits for allergy sufferers: First, the steam soothes sinuses and clears nasal passages. The second benefit is that the shower washes away pollen and allergens from the skin and hair, preventing the spread of contaminants into your home.
  2. Peppermint tea has essential oils that act as an anti-inflammatory, decongestant, and mild antibacterial. A nice warm mug of peppermint tea can help alleviate irritated nasal passages and a sore throat.

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  1. For those who don’t want to take a shower every time they feel congested, a steam bowl is a simpler way to get similar results. Fill a large bowl with steaming water (add eucalyptus oil for added relief), place a towel over your head, and take deep breathes of the eucalyptus steam.

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  1. Another way to clear your nasal passages is to use a saline nasal rinse. There are many different methods of delivering the solution into your nasal cavity, but the basic concept is to flush out the congestion and keep the passages dry.
  2. For those who can handle spicy foods, wasabi and horseradish are great for clearing your sinuses. Allyl isothiocyanate is the ingredient in these two foods that activates your sinus and tear ducts to promote mucus flow. Also foods like walnuts, flaxseed, and cold-water fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, are great for fighting inflammation when eaten regularly.

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  1. There are a variety of herbs and supplements which have been studied for allergy relief, such as spirulina, goldenseal, and eyebright. The plant extract butterbur has had strong results with reducing airway inflammation, as well as bromelain, which is an enzyme found in pineapple. The stinging nettle is a plant with natural antihistamines, which can be extracted, consumed through tea, or absorbed a variety of other ways.
  2. Consuming locally produced honey on a regular basis is thought to build up your body’s immunity to local pollens. When bees transfer pollen from your region into honey and you eat it frequently, it can slowly inoculate you against regional pollens.

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  1. Since you spend a third of your life in bed sleeping, it is important to protect yourself from allergens in your bedroom. Dust mites are microscopic pests that live in warm, humid environments and feed on discarded human skin cells, therefore your mattress and pillow are an ideal location for them to live and thrive in. The excrement and buildup of dead dust mites can be the cause of allergic sensitivity. To protect yourself from being exposed to dust mites and bed bugs, consider purchasing OMI’s certified-organic cotton Bed-Bug and Dust-Mite Pillow and Mattress Barrier Covers. The tight micron weave prevents these pests from invading your mattress and multiplying, giving you peace of mind and a healthier night’s sleep. Here is a link to view more information about our barrier covers:

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Spring is in the Air…

Spring is finally here! After an unusually bizarre winter with the “polar vortex” swirling around the east and the dry skies in the west, we’re all ready to enjoy the pleasures of springtime. The sun is shining, maybe a little rain is still falling, but warm weather is here, hopefully to stay!

 

Here is a list of 10 things to do, get outside… enjoy the weather and your family and friends.

1. Read outside on a blanket in the sun

2. Go fishing with your buddies

images-13. Do some spring cleaning to fun music

4. Make these beautiful spring centerpieces, using simple glass jars and lemons for a touch of color!

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6. Plan a “staycation” with these cool ideas

7. Take pictures of wildflowers

5847087633_598af01050_z-18. Make this delicious “dirt cake”:

6309663259aac1a07cbdb3f4d3e9cf879. Walk barefoot on cool grass

10. Make a fairy garden like this one!

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The Science and Value of Organic

There are (literally) tons of benefits of choosing organic products. Check out this report from The Organic Center recently released by the USDA about the impact you can have by making an organic purchasing choice.   

The Organic Center Organic Report

For the full report click HERE.

Soupy Decisions

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With the weather getting cooler and the food getting warmer, soup is the first thing I start to crave. Favorites like chicken soup and tomato soup are always great, but this fall I wanted to try something new. There are so many great ingredients that you can throw together to make a delicious-tasting (and healthy) soup! These great recipes are sure to broaden your soup horizon.

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From Top Left to Right:

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Carrot Ginger Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

Asparagus Soup

Broccoli White Cheddar Soup

Mushroom Chestnut Soup

Creamy Broccoli Basil Soup

 

 

 

Back to School, Easy as 1-2-3

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It is time for the kiddos to go back to school. Whether they are starting off their first year of school in kindergarten or finishing their last semesters at college, every student can take a step toward being more conscious of the world we all live in.

Here are some great first leaps to make to help preserve our precious resources!

1. Recycled Supplies:

TreeSmart is a company based in Oregon that makes pencils and rulers out of recycled newspapers! They also make recycled crayons, pens and coloring booklets that have educational messages about recycling, endangered species and ways to help the environment.

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Have a small nub of a crayon left that seems unusable? Donate it to Crazy Crayons, which makes 100% recycled crayons from unwanted crayons collected by The National Crayon Recycle Program. They collect old crayon stubs and melt them down to liquid, then pour them into cute and funky moulds to give the crayons new life!

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2. Pack it in:

One of the best ways to recycle for the coming school year, is to reuse your old backpack, or swapping with a sibling or a friend can give everyone a new pack. If you are in need of a new one however, EcoGear provides very stylish and certified organic cotton backpacks for kids of every age. The Panda Eco-Pack Backpack in particular is great because it uses minimal plastic as well as being the perfect smaller size for young kids in school.

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3. Lunch with Love:

It might be adorable to tell your lil’ one on their first day of school how much you love them on the outside of their brown bagged lunch. By getting reusable containers for your kids to take lunch in. Reusable bottles for liquids instead of juiceboxes, as well as reusable forks, spoons, or even sporks, can help reduce the amount of plastic and paper going into our landfills every day. Plus, you can still stick a sweet note in their lunch box.

Extra Credit! First Day Outfit:

It feels great as a kid to go shopping for the first day of schools’ outfit. Second-hand stores are a great way to recycle old clothing and buy something “new” for your kids to wear, at a fraction of the cost of brand-new clothing.

For those of you with kids going off to college (or if you are a college student yourself), check out our tips for getting your dorm room ready.

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