How to Throw a Freezer Meal Party!

If there’s one thing I love, it’s getting to spend time with my best friends while making delicious food in the kitchen. There’s a sense of togetherness that comes with preparing food together that creates a bond that makes the “breaking of the bread” together all the more special.

However, I have to admit that there’s one thing that I love even more than cooking with good people… and that’s NOT having to spend ridiculous amounts of time in the kitchen every… single… night… of the week desperately trying to come up with something nutritious to feed my starving crew.

That’s why having a Freezer Meal Party is awesome… it mixes two of my favorite things into one magical event that will leave you with endless nights of care-free dinners your family will love and thank you for, and will probably give you an award for “Best Mom” or something. Well, maybe.

Either way, it’s totally worth it because you’ll save time and money (hello!!) and have loads of fun in the process!

Throwing a freezer meal party makes the task of making freezer meals even more fun and exciting! Save money on real food while hanging with friends! #freezermealprep #freezermeals #healthyfreezermeals #friendsandfamily ~ For more healthy living tips visit TheFamilyApothecary.com

How to throw a freezer meal party!

BEFORE YOUR PARTY (PLANNING)…

Gather a group of 4-5 friends who share your love for saving time & money and, of course, having fun!

Things to keep in mind: You know your friends best and you know who will work best together. As a general rule, I’ve found it’s easiest to work with friends who have similar standards for dietary requirements. It’s fun to explore, and everyone will bring their own ideas about what’s “best” which can add to the fun, but also can be a little challenging. Keep this in mind when organizing your group.

Designate one person as “leader”

This doesn’t necessarily have to be you. Your gathered group can take a vote if necessary, but I think this role should typically default to the person who is most diplomatic and awesome at organization, because there can end up being a bit of work involved for this person. (see #5 for more info on leader responsibilities.

Throwing a freezer meal party makes the task of making freezer meals even more fun and exciting! Save money on real food while hanging with friends! #freezermealprep #freezermeals #healthyfreezermeals #friendsandfamily ~ For more healthy living tips visit TheFamilyApothecary.com

Leader responsibilities: Once the recipes are decided on, it will be the leader’s responsibility to coordinate getting the ingredients and delegate specific pre-party to-dos, as well as coming up with a game plan for how it’s going to go down on party day. The leader will also need to be prepared to handle the responsibility of making sure everyone has shared equally in the expense of the meals.
This doesn’t have to be complicated… For one party we had our leader purchase most of the groceries at the store, while I supplied all the meat from our local farmer since we got a super good deal on a bulk order of ground water buffalo. I’m lucky to have adventurous (and trusting!) friends, because none of them had tried water buffalo before, and were all afraid it was going to taste too “gamey”… thankfully they agreed with me after tasting all the meals that it was, in fact, delicious! Anyways, after all was bought and paid for she divvied up the expenses and each person wrote her a check to cover the costs.

Pick an event location

Preferably the friend’s house with the most kitchen and prep space… but you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish even in a tiny kitchen!

Pick the freezer meal recipes to make together at your freezer meal party

Pick 1-2 favorite, tried & true freezer meal recipes for each person to share with the group, and then vote on the top 3-4 recipes that you’re going to make at your freezer meal party. Be mindful that more than 4 recipes is quite ambitious, so I recommend taking it easy until you’ve got a couple parties under your belt! You’ll probably also want to lean towards more simple recipes to make it easier on everyone. The recipes should then be doubled to maximize the whole deal, so each person will go home with 6-8 freezer meals total.

**Pro Party Planning Tip** Create a Facebook event for the big day and have this as a general meeting place before the party to share all of your ideas with each other. For instance, once you’ve all shared the recipes you love, you can easily create a poll for everyone to vote on which ones they want to make at the party. This is a fun and easy way to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Throwing a freezer meal party makes the task of making freezer meals even more fun and exciting! Save money on real food while hanging with friends! #freezermealprep #freezermeals #healthyfreezermeals #friendsandfamily ~ For more healthy living tips visit TheFamilyApothecary.com

Gather your supplies

Make sure you have appropriate containers for all the prepped meals… I always prefer glass to plastic, but for things like chili or soups, gallon size Ziploc bags can work well and cut down on freezer space used (just remember to let food cool before putting in anything plastic to cut down on any chemical transfer that may happen when food touches the plastic).
*Leaders: It can be very helpful to provide recipe “packets” (with information about the recipes you’ve made that day) for each person to take home with them. I personally think it’s most helpful to have these printed, but you could also email them to each person if you prefer.

**Pro Party Planning Tip #2** Bring a laundry basket to put all your meals in to take home. Trust me, this is a HUGE help. If any of your meals happen to leak on the transfer home, no worries, you’ve got easy clean up with a quick wipe down of the basket!

 

NOW ON TO PARTY DAY (LET’S GET TO WORK!)…

Get to work & Assemble your meals

Now’s when the fun really begins. Your leader should have a clear game-plan of what needs to be prepped and when. We usually start with chopping veggies and cooking the meats.

Once you’ve got your ingredients ready to go… veggies chopped, meat pre-cooked, sauce ready… you divvy them up in everyone’s containers based on the recipes you’ve chosen. I recommend getting all your prep-work done first, and then assembling one recipe at a time. This cuts down on confusion and any potential mishaps… (ie: putting coconut aminos in the mix for tacos… whoops!)

Throwing a freezer meal party makes the task of making freezer meals even more fun and exciting! Save money on real food while hanging with friends! #freezermealprep #freezermeals #healthyfreezermeals #friendsandfamily ~ For more healthy living tips visit TheFamilyApothecary.com

Enjoy the time together

I know that too many cooks in the kitchen and all that can sometimes be a little stressful… but remember that part of what makes this experience awesome and memorable is actually spending time together and talking! Having a good game plan for tackling the meals can majorly cut down on stress, but the main point is to just relax and enjoy the process together.

**Pro Party Planning Tip #3** Have everyone bring a snack or meal item to munch on while you’re cooking all the food and assembling your freezer meals… It is a party after all! Plus, smelling the delicious food being prepared is sure to make everyone hungry, so be prepared!

 

Bring home the goodness!

Hopefully you’ve gotten your freezer ready before getting home, because you should have 6-8 meals prepped and ready for some chill time! After a hard day’s work, we usually end up eating one of our meals that night, but of course you can do whatever you like… save them for a rainy day, or enjoy having the next week “off” from meal duty!

Need some inspiration? Check out over 65 of my favorite real-food freezer meal recipes here!

The Easiest Natural Sunscreen Recipe Ever! (Only 2 Ingredients!)

Hey Local Peeps! If you’re local to the Gwinnett, North Georgia Area…

I’m leading a special workshop on Saturday, July 20th, 2019 from 10:30am-12:30pm!

Come join me and learn how to make your own Natural Sunscreen and After-Sun Spray…

all supplies provided and you get a great take-home you can use right away!

Click here to learn more and register.

If you’re trying to avoid toxic sunscreen this summer, while still protecting your skin, you could choose from a list of the best sunscreen options on the market… OR (my preference)… save a little money by DIY’ing it! If you’re up for it, this is by far the easiest natural sunscreen recipe I’ve made.

Easiest natural sunscreen recipe there is! DIY your own sunscreen this summer and save money, and limit chemicals with this super easy recipe. For more tips to support your healthy lifestyle, visit TheFamilyApothecary.com

…week before last we were up north visiting family and celebrating my grandfather’s 90th birthday. The last day we were there I thought we were going to freeze our tails off! Who else experienced the glorious-ness of fall rolling in unexpectedly? I was so excited, but got a reality check this past week when summer made it very clear she wasn’t ready to leave just yet. Highs in the 90’s anyone? Eww.

Anyways, I’m admittedly ready for fall, but trying to soak up and savor these last few weeks of summer before the cold comes and it’s harder to get some natural Vitamin D! If you’re like me, as the weather cools and we spend more time outside in the sun, it’s easy to forget that we still need to be protecting our skin. Just because it’s cooler doesn’t necessarily mean that the sun’s power is any less to affect lasting damage. We don’t always wear sunscreen, even in the summer, but if we’re going to be out for long periods of time, it’s a good idea to apply a sunblock since we don’t always have heat as an indicator of damage being done.

I’ve been wanting to make my own sunscreen for like 2 years now, but honestly I’ve just been too lazy to do it. It’s seriously like the easiest thing in the world to make though, so I’m kicking myself now for having spent this long not making my own. The non-toxic options we’ve been using for sunscreen are fantastic, but honestly can be somewhat expensive, especially compared to most conventional sunblocks on the market right now… so I’m really happy to have an alternative that’s not only safe, but is also extremely cost-effective! My new friends over at Raise Them Well were kind enough to send me a container of their very first launch product of Zinc Oxide Powder to try out, so now I really don’t have an excuse not to make it myself!

(Hey, just so we’re clear, I’m big on honesty, so even though I was provided a free container of zinc oxide powder to review, the words here are All my own. If I ever receive products for review like this, you can rest assured that my review will be honest, fair, and unbiased. I can’t imagine writing a review any other way. If you’d like to read more about my affiliate & sponsorship disclosure you can check that out here. thanks!)

A little bit of background about my friends at Raise Them Well…

Dr. Saunders and his wife Emily are the brains and beauty behind this charming upstart company. I had the pleasure of “meeting” Emily over the phone, and she is just so genuine and shared with me she and her husband’s passion for wellness and for providing safe alternatives for families that would help them raise Well kids! Their site is a wonderful resource for educating families on how to live toxic free and for helping parents raise happy and healthy kids based on Christian principles. Through their site they have helpful articles on non-toxic living, as well as a select group of products (with lots of new things in the works and coming soon!) that are geared towards parents who are looking for affordable and convenient solutions for keeping their families healthy. You can learn more about them here, and be sure to “like” Raise Them Well on Facebook to keep up with all the latest happenings and new products!

As for the zinc oxide powder that I’m super excited to share with you guys… it’s not only great for making a quick, easy, and very effective sunscreen… it’s also great for making homemade diaper creams, acne creams, and more! I’ll be writing a follow up post on using it for supporting healthy skin here soon after giving it a try for myself, but I’m really looking forward to that. Oh, and just so you know, whenever you purchase a container of Raise Them Well’s zinc oxide, you also get a free e-book with tons of recipes to get you started with using it, which was incredibly helpful!

RTW zinc oxide recipe bookThings to consider when choosing a zinc oxide powder…

  • Particle Size. There is some debate over toxicity in nanoparticles in sunscreen. This article from EWG provided me with a lot of insight into the issue, and gave me comfort in using even nanoparticle zine oxide in a topical application sunscreen. But, the debate still exists. If given the option, I would always choose a non-nano particle zinc oxide. Essentially this means a larger particle… which lends itself to mean a couple different things… for one thing, it will be harder for those particles to penetrate the skin, leaving less risk for potential damage, and also that the UVA protection provided is greater with a non-nano zinc oxide. The smaller the particles are, the better the SPF/UVB protection and the less UVA protection… so there needs to be a balance here. Raise Them Well states their zinc oxide has the largest particle size on the market at 480nm, which ensures that it will be non-toxic and not absorbed through the skin.
    • **Important** Although zinc oxide isn’t known to be harmful when applied topically, it can be dangerous when inhaled. For this reason, I recommend wearing a mask while mixing your sunscreen to make sure that you don’t breathe in any of the particles.
  • Sourcing. Many cheap sources of zinc oxide have lead in them, not exactly something you want to be applying topically to your kiddo (or yourself)… Raise Them Well states that their zinc oxide is “lead free”, confirmed by independent labs to be <10 parts per million. It’s great to have a source you can trust!

I feel very confident that Raise Them Well’s zinc oxide powder is one of the safest and most effective brands on the market, and I’m happy to be able to recommend them.

The easiest, most cost-effective, & safe Natural Sunscreen Recipe of all time!

zinc oxide sunscreen recipe

Ingredients

  1. zinc oxide powder (buy here)
  2. coconut oil (here’s the one we get for topical use, you can also find it at Costco)

Directions

  1. Melt 1 cup of coconut oil, either in a microwave safe dish or in a double boiler pot over the stove. It doesn’t have to be a complete liquid, just enough to be able to mix well.
  2. Measure 1-3 tablespoons of zinc oxide powder and add to the coconut oil. *The more you use, the better barrier protection provided.
  3. Stir well and place into a seal-able container. I’ve seen people use a squeezable container (like these) for this as well, but if the solution solidifies, just run the container under warm water and mix/shake before use.
  4. Apply on dry skin for sun protection, and remember to reapply about every 30 minutes when in full, direct sunlight.

And… Done! Wasn’t that easy?? I love this new option for making great sunscreen for my family that I can trust to be safe and effective!

What do you think… would you try this easy natural sunscreen recipe?

photo creds: raisethemwell.com

Best Sunscreen Options & How to Spot the Toxic Stuff

Hey Local Peeps! If you’re local to the Gwinnett, North Georgia Area…

I’m leading a special workshop on Saturday, July 20th, 2019 from 10:30am-12:30pm!

Come join me and learn how to make your own Natural Sunscreen and After-Sun Spray…

all supplies provided and you get a great take-home you can use right away!

Click here to learn more and register.

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2019: A new clinical trial study was recently posted to the Journal of the American Medical Association that, yet again, begs to question the safety of commonly used sunscreen products widely available to consumers. Are the options we find on supermarket shelves really the best sunscreen options available? This study suggests the need for a much more critical look at the ingredients used in common sunscreens and how they interact in the body.

Although the authors still insist that the “results do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of sunscreen” (and I concur)… the conclusion of the study, states that “in this preliminary study involving healthy volunteers, application of 4 commercially available sunscreens under maximal use conditions resulted in plasma concentrations that exceeded the threshold established by the FDA for potentially waiving some nonclinical toxicology studies for sunscreens. The systemic absorption of sunscreen ingredients supports the need for further studies to determine the clinical significance of these findings.”

This means that chemicals found in these commonly used sunscreen (sprays and lotions), that have no business entering the blood stream, ARE… and at rates much higher than what the FDA has deemed “safe”.

The findings presented in this trial should concern you. This only adds to the mounting evidence that you should take extra precautions when preparing your sun-safe plan for the summer.

Why we're skipping the (toxic) sunscreen this summer, and what we're doing instead! Top recommendations for best sunscreen and DIY sunblock, and how nutrition aids in having safe summer fun. #summer #safesunexposure #nonnano #sunscreen #naturalbeauty #safesummer ~ For more tips for healthy living visit TheFamilyApothecary.com

You want to do what’s best for your family to protect them and keep them safe. You eat organic (as often as possible), you use natural remedies like lavender essential oil, and you do your research to make sure you’re providing your family with only the best. But, when it comes to sun protection, the facts are still a little hazy… is spraying them down with the latest and greatest sun-guard spray or lathering them up with SPF 2000+ really the best way to protect them? Keep reading to find out which are the best sunscreen options and how to spot the ingredients you want to avoid.

Why do we use sunscreen?

If you’re like most people (including me) you may not have even given  much thought to it. It’s to prevent cancer, right? is it to make sure you don’t burn in the scalding sun? Maybe you’ve been doing it ’cause it’s the “thing to do”… recommended by the “experts”… who are those experts anyways?

If you’ve ever been confused or absentminded about the whole sunscreen thing… you’re not alone. I’d like to share some of the research I’ve done on the topic, and let you in on a few of our family secrets so you can do your best with the information provided to make healthier choices for yourself and your families.

Best Sunscreen Options & How to Spot the Toxic Ingredients you want to Avoid

So, let’s begin with…

What are we attempting to protect ourselves from in the first place?

Too much of a good thing…
Sunlight has a lot of good to offer us, including improving our moods, helping us sleep better, offering us a certain level of vitamin D, among plenty of other benefits… however, you know how the saying goes… Too much of a good thing… is… something to do with being bad?? (I can’t remember it exactly!)

Anyways…

I’m sure you’re no stranger to the idea that
too much sun exposure = risk of sunburn = increased risk of developing skin cancer
The conclusion, obviously, is that too much sun exposure is a bad thing.

What we do know is that the sun emits ultraviolet radiation (UV rays), UVA and UVB rays to be exact… there are also UVC rays, but apparently those get absorbed by the ozone layer, so we don’t have to worry about them (yet).

UVA rays are the ones that are always around, even on cloudy days. They can penetrate deeper into the skin cells, and contribute majorly to skin aging, wrinkling, and may even initiate the development of skin cancers. Indoor tanning booths primarily use UVA rays to work their magic…

The high-pressure sunlamps used in tanning salons emit doses of UVA as much as 12 times that of the sun. Not surprisingly, people who use tanning salons are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. According to recent research, first exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent. (source)

I’m ashamed to admit that I used to enjoy going to the tanning bed off and on for several years. Yes, I was even a nurse then, and yes the words “it’s just skin cancer” came out of my mouth when questioned by a couple of my wiser friends. I’m not proud of this, I just felt the need to be honest.

Obviously, tanning beds are now a thing of the past for me, a thing which I so wish I could undo… Consistent skin checks are now a very real necessity, and unfortunately I live with the understanding that I’ve increased my risk of cancer immeasurably.

UVB rays are to blame for redness and blistering sunburns and can cause the most damage to the superficial layers of skin. The intensity of UVB rays depends on your location, the season, and time of day… 10 am to 4 pm, April through October are when UVB rays are at their worst in the U.S. (source) so you can actually prevent exposure to a large degree if you can be mindful of it.

We want protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Many sunscreens on the market now claim to offer protection against both, and have some sort of SPF rating… SPF numbers can be misleading, however. For instance, SPF 50 offers approximately 98% coverage, where as SPF 30 offers about 97%, and SPF 15 gives about 93% protection from UVB rays. Anything higher than SPF 50 sort of just plateaus to a general 99% coverage… so if you’re thinking you’re super duper protected with an SPF 1000, think again. (source – skincancer.org) The FDA is working to prevent false advertising, and protect unsuspecting sunbathers by limiting a label to “SPF 50+” and having stricter guidelines on who can put “Broad Spectrum” (UVA & UVB coverage) on their products. (source)

Here’s my concern…

Have you heard that sunscreens can actually increase your risk for cancer? (source)
I’m sure you can imagine my confusion when I began to delve into this subject… isn’t sunscreen supposed to prevent a level of sun exposure that can cause cancer?!

Well yes, yes it is… the problem isn’t necessarily the sun protection… the problem is the extra stuff they throw in the solution… for shelf stability or so they can put good-sounding marketing labels on the bottle.

Besides that, some of the chemicals used can interact with sunlight in such a way that they change from helpful to harmful. Vitamin A added to formulas, which sounds like a good thing at first, has been shown that it may actually speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight. Eeek! (source)

Ingredients to avoid in a sunscreen:

(Not a comprehensive list, but at least a start!)

Oxybenzone

Used to absorb UV light, but has inconclusive data showing that it can be absorbed through the skin and cause hormone disruption and potentially be linked to cell damage that may lead to skin cancer. (sort of defeats the purpose doesn’t it?!)

Vitamin A (aka: Retinyl Palmitate)

“Vitamin A is an antioxidant added to skin products because manufacturers believe it slows skin aging. They may be right in the case of lotions and night creams used indoors, but the federal study (ntp_annual_report_fy2012_508) raised the possibility that it may speed the growth of cancerous tumors when used on skin exposed to sunlight. Scientists have found that vitamin A can spur excess skin growth, known as hyperplasia and that in sunlight retinyl palmitate can form free radicals that damage DNA.” (source – EWG’s The Problem with Vitamin A – emphasis mine)

Benzophenone-3 (B-3)

Acts as a stabilizer and also to absorb UV light, you can also find this chemical in nail polish. Unfortunately, it has also been shown to cause photo-sensitivity. “In some studies, the presence of benzophenone-3 has demonstrated an increase in the production of harmful free radicals and an ability to attack DNA cells. For this reason, it is believed to be a contributing factor in the recent rise of melanoma cases with sunscreen users. Some studies have shown it to behave similarly to the hormone estrogen, suggesting that it may cause breast cancer (source). It has also been linked to contact eczema and allergies.” (source – emphasis mine) There is also concern about our bodies’ ability to store Benzophenone-3. This study conducted by the CDC found traces of BP-3 in 96.8% of urine samples. Another study, showed that BP-3 was found in urine samples collected 5 days after sunscreen was applied. This is of particular concern when applying a sunscreen with this chemical on small children!

There has been some conflicting data about Nanoparticles in sunscreen, however, after seeing this report from the Environmental Working Group regarding nanomaterials in sunscreen, I feel a bit safer with a sunblock cream that isn’t specifically non-nano particle zinc oxide. According to the EWG, nanoparticles are not able to cross through the skin… BUT, nanoparticles can cause internal damage if inhaled! For this reason, I will absolutely be avoiding store-bought spray sunscreens (nano or non-nano) this year.

Why we're skipping the (toxic) sunscreen this summer, and what we're doing instead! Top recommendations for best sunscreen and DIY sunblock, and how nutrition aids in having safe summer fun. #summer #safesunexposure #nonnano #sunscreen #naturalbeauty #safesummer ~ For more tips for healthy living visit SarahMichalMcLain.com

Since we want to protect ourselves from potentially harmful sun exposure, AND protect ourselves from the unsafe ingredients added to most store-bought sunscreens…

Here’s what we’re doing this year as an alternative… (& Best Sunscreen Options)

Ease into it

Adjusting slowly to sun exposure is a serious must-do. We have a planned vacation to the beach (YAY!) coming up in July, and in order to not totally wreak havoc on our skin by exposing it to the harsh beach rays all at once, leaving ourselves at major risk for burnage… we will ease into sun exposure. We set up the kiddie pool in the back yard (family fun for everyone!) and will spend about 10-15 minutes a day (initially) outside as we build a healthy tolerance, and decrease our risk for damaging burns.

Location, Location, Location… and Time

By location, I mean under an umbrella.. beneath a tree.. covered by a hat or well-placed clothing or piece of fabric, etc. You can get really creative with this. The point is to avoid those harsh and nasty UVB rays that make your skin red and blistery. Especially for the little ones. If you can be proactive, before you even see pink, keep ’em in the shade or with a T-Shirt on. A damp towel draped across the legs, or a wide-brimmed hat (like this one, that I love!) can be a miracle worker for protecting your precious epidermis from over-exposure.

Besides location, time is also key. SkinCancer.org recommends that you avoid being out between the hours of 10 am to 4 pm… but I realize how problematic this can be! Isn’t that like the whole day?! Our family does our best to try to be mindful of time, and not be out at the peak of UVB exposure. As a general rule of thumb, we avoid being out between noon to 2, which actually works for us right now since that’s usually T’s nap time!

Vitamins & Antioxidants

What do red & purple grapes, nuts, dark green veggies, fish, and sweet potatoes all have in common?
They’re all antioxidant powerhouses, of course! (source) Antioxidants work by preventing damage that can be done by harmful free-radicals. Free radicals are produced when oxygen interacts with cells and cause oxidation, or changes in the cells, that damage cells and turn them into something potentially harmful. Oxidation is the same thing that happens when you leave a half-eaten apple on the counter and it begins to turn brown. I’m not gonna go into all the sciency stuff here about why free radicals are bad for your health, but here’s a really good article on how antioxidants work as a great reference. Basically, when our skin comes in contact with harmful UV light, it changes the cellular structure of our skin cells which in turn can produce free-radicals that can produce skin cancer… simple enough?

Because antioxidants work to rid our bodies of these damaging free-radicals, they make an excellent solution to sun protection and cancer risk reduction! I wish I had known so long ago how incredible antioxidants are at protecting us against harmful UV rays. It’s an even greater excuse to eat more delicious blueberries! 😉 This is one of my favorite articles comparing antioxidants and sunscreen, written by Heather over at Mommypotamus. As you’ll note, it’s not just about eating more fish while you’re at the beach, the key is maintaining a nutrient-dense diet, rich in (among other things) healthy fats & antioxidants.

How I plan to incorporate this concept for my family is simple… we will maintain our nutrient-rich diet, and be extra sure to include lots of foods with healthy omega-3s and dark purple & green anti-oxidants on a daily basis.

This article by Wellness Mama on Diets & Supplements for Sun Protection is another great resource exploring how nutrition can aid in protecting our skin and creating a great barrier from potential sun damage. It is Well worth your while to read. I especially like her recommendation for fermented cod liver/high vitamin butter oil supplementation.

Coconut Oil & Peppermint Essential Oil

According to this study, coconut oil has an SPF of about a 7 or 8, and there are a few essential oils that offer some relatively good protection as well. We make a simple blend of fractionated coconut oil and essential oils mixed in a spray bottle for easy application. Obviously it’s not the highest SPF protection you can get, but, it’s perfect for those days when we actually want a light protection and the added benefits from the coconut and essential oils, including repelling pesky bugs!

Best Sunscreen & DIY Natural Sunblocks

Okay, so maybe the title was a little misleading… the truth is, that when we are going to be out in the sun for extended periods of time, when we can’t find shade, or it’s especially blazing, we need some extra help with a good sunscreen. Luckily there are some really good options!

here are my favorites so far…

Best sunscreen {non toxic sunscreen, natural sunscreen, organic sunscreen}:

Best DIY sunscreen recipes:

How do you plan to protect yourself and your family this summer?

*Originally posted May 27, 2014, updated May 22, 2019.

Hot Buttered Apple Cider Recipe (with optional “hot toddy” version)

Serve this delicious hot apple-y goodness at your next Christmas gathering, and I promise they’ll be begging for the recipe! With creamy butter and festive spices this delicious apple cider recipe totally hits the spot for the holiday season, and will warm you to the core. 😉

This delicious hot toddy buttered apple cider recipe will warm you to the core ;) Perfect for the holiday to serve at a party or to enjoy all by yourself! #hotapplecider #winterrecipes #hottoddy #naturalremedies ~ For more great recipes & healthy living tips, visit TheFamilyApothecary.com

The “hot toddy” version is totally optional, but certainly adds to the warmth. Hot toddies are an age-old remedy that many people have found to have added medicinal benefits, finding relief from common cold & flu symptoms. Obviously, use caution when drinking, since the alcohol content could interact with any other medications you may be taking for recovery or otherwise, and too much alcohol can have the opposite effect and inflame nasal membranes and dehydrate the body. One serving (maximum) should be sufficient. 😉

Hot Buttered Apple Cider Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon organic apple cider (or organic apple juice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/8 cup sucanat
  • bourbon (*optional, one shot per cup of served cider)
  • cinnamon sticks & apple slices for garnish

Directions

  1. In a large pot, bring cider/juice to a low simmer on medium heat, then reduce to low.
  2. Add butter, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, & sucanat.
  3. Stir until all the butter is melted and continue to let spice marinate for another 5-10 minutes.
  4. Strain out the cloves prior to transferring to mugs.
  5. Add one shot of bourbon to each glass (*if desired).
  6. Serve with apple slices and cinnamon sticks for extra pizzaz.
  7. Enjoy slowly as you take in the spicy aroma and savor the fall season!

A note on bourbon: Since bourbon is made with a variety of corn, rye, and barley malt, some might be concerned about GMO corn being used to produce the alcohol (understandably, as genetically modified corn is relatively new to the human diet and many countries around the world are banning their growth and requiring that food products containing them be labeled as such). Although it may not be a concern for everyone, I thought I’d mention the few brands I’m aware of (Wild Turkey, Four Roses, & Buffalo Trace) that state they use 100% GMO free corn in their bourbon.

Best Natural Flu Remedies to Help you Recover Faster

Getting the flu is the worst! Hopefully you can find some relief in one of the best natural flu remedies I’ve listed below, to help you recover faster.

You hold a large bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup in one hand and cradle a box of tissues against you with the other. Every fiber of your body aches and the noodles from your soup feel like sandpaper sliding down your throat. Not to mention, you are isolated to your room so you don’t infect the whole family. You’ve noticed the little heads straining around the door  to get a glimpse of you to make sure you are still alive. It’s flu season and you are now another statistic for this year’s victims.

Even if you dutifully get a flu shot,  it doesn’t guarantee protection from all the various strains that are floating around in the air you breathe. Having a head cold, with all the sneezing and puffy eyes that accompany it, is much less of an impact than the dreaded flu. Flu symptoms can run the gamut from a high fever, sore throat, and body aches to headaches and respiratory symptoms. Those are just a few of a host of symptoms the flu thrusts on your body.

“Can’t we just run to the doctor and get some meds to conquer the flu?”, you ask.

Well, yes… and no.

Conventional medicine doesn’t  “cure” the flu. What it really does for you is control the symptoms of the flu…and potentially not so great at that. By now, you’ve likely heard of Tamiflu, the “wonder drug” for speeding your recovery from the flu. Despite claims made (and fabulous marketing) on the part of the makers of Tamiflu, unfortunately, it may not be so wondrous after all.

In fact, a recent Cochrane review suggests that Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is not only NOT as effective as initial claims made it out to be…but it could also potentially be dangerous.

“Oseltamivir reduced the time to first alleviation of symptoms by 16.8 hours… and by 29 hours… in healthy children. [source] The benefit of oseltamivir in asthmatic patients was insignificant. Pneumonia, hospitalization, and virus transmission were the major concerns with the disease for which benefits have been claimed in various studies. However, Cochrane review failed to establish any definitive benefit on these parameters.” (source)

“There had been no mention of adverse effects associated with the use of this drug in the published trials. Post-marketing surveillance had uncovered adverse effects like raised liver enzymes, hepatitis, neuropsychiatric events, cardiac arrhythmia, skin hypersensitivity reactions including toxic epidermal necrolysis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome and erythema multiforme, metabolic side effects and renal events.[source] In some cases, increased QTc prolongation was seen in ECG in the treatment group compared with placebo during on-treatment periods. The most important serious adverse events which raised concerns were neuropsychiatric events such as depressed mood, behavior disturbance, panic attack, suicidal ideation, delusion, delirium, convulsion, and encephalitis. These were reported more frequently in children than in adults and generally occurred within 48 h of drug intake.[source]” (source)

You can also purchase all kinds of over-the-counter remedies. There are multiple shelves full of medicines to treat just about everything you have on your complaint list. You can even choose just ONE that treats them all at the same time! (Although that’s not what I’d recommend!)

Best Natural Flu Remedies to Help you Recover Faster

If you’re looking for a natural (and possibly healthier) alternative to prescription and over-the-counter medications, here are some of the natural herbal remedies that have been proven to be effective at treating symptoms of the flu as well as providing antiviral aids. Herbal remedies are nature’s offering to ease many of the symptoms that plague our bodies when we are sick. When the flu strikes, your first course of action should be rest, hydration, and good nourishment. Along with these, this list of remedies will go a long way to make the flu more bearable and shorten the duration of your suffering.

Best Natural Flu Remedies (Herbal Preparations)

  • Thyme Oil or Dried Thyme

Getting the flu is the worst! Hopefully you can find some relief in one of the best natural flu remedies I've listed below, to help you recover faster. #naturalfluremedies #beattheflu #coldandflu #stayhealthy For more healthy living tips, visit SarahMichalMcLain.com

The oil from thyme is loaded with antimicrobials to fight against infections in the body. Thyme is excellent for respiratory infections and chest congestion.  Historically it’s been used as an expectorant to loosen up phlegm in the chest and promote easier breathing. (Who doesn’t like to breathe, right?)

For congestion, try this tea made with thyme:

Steep (2) teaspoons of fresh or dried thyme in (1) cup of hot water for ten minutes.  (Just breathing in the steam will help!)

You can also  add thyme essential oil or fresh thyme to a warm bath or diffuse for aromatic respiratory support.

 

  • Licorice Root

Getting the flu is the worst! Hopefully you can find some relief in one of the best natural flu remedies I've listed below, to help you recover faster. #naturalfluremedies #beattheflu #coldandflu #stayhealthy For more healthy living tips, visit SarahMichalMcLain.com

In Ayurvedic medicine, licorice root is used as an expectorant. It works to loosen phlegm in your upper respiratory system and contains antiviral properties. Although it may be much more fun to just eat licorice candy while you are down with the flu, you actually need the licorice root for the medicinal benefits. You can make a soothing tea from licorice root.

Boil (4) ounces of water. Add about (1) teaspoon of dried licorice root and remove from heat. Allow to steep for five minutes and strain out the root before drinking.

*Warning: Not recommended for pregnant women. Licorice can interact with certain prescription medications and/or potentially increase blood pressure. As with any medication or supplement, herbal or otherwise, be sure to discuss treatment options with your primary care provider before starting any new treatment.

 

  • Garlic

Getting the flu is the worst! Hopefully you can find some relief in one of the best natural flu remedies I've listed below, to help you recover faster. #naturalfluremedies #beattheflu #coldandflu #stayhealthy For more healthy living tips, visit SarahMichalMcLain.com

For most people, just the smell of garlic soothes the senses (if your nose isn’t too stuffed to enjoy it). Garlic can naturally boost your immune system and helps prevent respiratory infections such as the common cold and flu.

It won’t cure the flu (the influenza viruses that cause the flu are pretty resilient), but garlic may  help you recover faster. If you’re tough, you could chew on a raw garlic clove (maybe crush it and mix it with honey to sweeten it??), but for most people, to help ease flu symptoms, you can take garlic supplements. Naturally, you can always throw a little garlic in your food to continually partake of its preventative properties as well as enjoying  its food-enhancing flavor as well!

 

  • Echinacea

Getting the flu is the worst! Hopefully you can find some relief in one of the best natural flu remedies I've listed below, to help you recover faster. #naturalfluremedies #beattheflu #coldandflu #stayhealthy For more healthy living tips, visit SarahMichalMcLain.com

This herb is a powerhouse of prevention for colds and the flu. Research has shown that echinacea actually binds to white blood cells and activates them for action against infections.

A study done in 2015 on dogs (not humans, but still) showed that “these extracts (echinacea hydroethanolic) might have appreciable immunostimulatory activity.

More research is really needed, but echinacea is a time-tested immune supportive herb, used by many for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.

It can be a little difficult to sort through information on how much to take. I prefer to drink echinacea in tea form, which is especially comforting when suffering from a nasty cold. You could also take echinacea in tincture or supplement form. But, most important is to make sure it comes from a reputable, organic source.

*Allergy Alert: If you have allergies to ragweed, be cautious when considering supplementing with echinacea, as those with ragweed allergies have reported a similar reaction to echinacea.

 

  • Elderberry Extract or Syrup

Getting the flu is the worst! Hopefully you can find some relief in one of the best natural flu remedies I've listed below, to help you recover faster. #naturalfluremedies #beattheflu #coldandflu #stayhealthy For more healthy living tips, visit SarahMichalMcLain.com

Elderberries are by far one of the most delicious natural flu remedies! You will most likely find this extract at your local drugstore under the name of Sambucol or Sambucus. The name derives from the name Sambucus nigra, the Latin term for elderberry. You can also purchase on Amazon here, although, I prefer to make it myself using organic elderberries.

Elderberry has been proven to be very effective in fighting viruses and is a strong antioxidant. It also revs up the immune system and is reputed to shorten the duration of a cold or flu. You will be up and running in no time! You can use the liquid supplement mixed with warm water  to make a tea, but, be aware that elderberry syrup can be a little acidic on the stomach and you certainly don’t want another side issue to deal with on top of the flu.

There is a little more background and some other benefits listed here: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry

Research has shown that taking elderberry extract (or elderberry syrup) during a flu can greatly shorten the duration of illness from 6(ish) days to around 2-3 days. (source)

Compared to Tamiflu, that’s actually pretty awesome… much cheaper and sans the nasty potential side-effects.

Check out our new DIY Elderberry Syrup Kit!

  • Oil of Oregano

Oil of oregano is an excellent source for anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral benefits. It is also used to ease upper respiratory symptoms, which makes this natural flu remedy a good one to keep on standby. The oil should be mixed with a carrier (coconut or olive) oil when considering topical application, and rubbing the dilution on the chest to open up the airways and ease breathing.

* Be mindful that oregano oil is a “hot” oil and can be caustic to sensitive skin. Use caution.

Getting the flu is the worst! Hopefully you can find some relief in one of the best natural flu remedies I've listed below, to help you recover faster. #naturalfluremedies #beattheflu #coldandflu #stayhealthy For more healthy living tips, visit SarahMichalMcLain.com

You could also add drops of oregano essential oil to a vaporizer and inhale the steam for additional relief, and/or add a few drops to a diffuser to help fight off cold and flu viruses in your home or workspace.

 

Other Natural Flu Remedies

  • Homemade Bone Broth

Getting the flu is the worst! Hopefully you can find some relief in one of the best natural flu remedies I've listed below, to help you recover faster. #naturalfluremedies #beattheflu #coldandflu #stayhealthy For more healthy living tips, visit SarahMichalMcLain.com

I’ve written an article on the benefits of bone broth and how I make my own continuous bone broth in the crock pot. A broth, also called a “stock”, is made by boiling the bones of animals and adding vegetables and other spices to enrich its flavor and benefits. A bone broth is full of immune-boosting minerals and just sipping on it can make you feel better with the warm comfort it provides. Coupled with a good herbal tea, you are setting down a fast path for recovery.

 

  • Vitamin C

We know that vitamin C is the “Mr. Olympian” of the vitamin world. Sadly, with all the stresses we face in life, it is easily depleted from our systems. Vitamin C is known to be most effective either before or shortly after the onset of flu symptoms and comes packed with rich immune-boosters and antioxidant properties, which can make it a wonderful addition to your arsenal of natural flu remedies.

When the symptoms of the flu arrive, consider taking high doses of vitamin C to get your immune system kicked in. It is generally recommended to take around 3000 mg spread throughout each day until you are on the mend. After that, you can reduce your intake to 500 mg per day and continue this routine daily for immune system health. As with any supplement, please consult with your primary care provider before starting any new treatment.

 

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has become mega-popular over the last few years to remedy everything from moldy showers to mirror streaks, but the real power behind this liquid is when it’s taken internally.  ACV is highly acidic, so it should be diluted before use.

You would think that since ACV is highly acidic, it would be bad for the body, and this may be true in part. However, ACV has been shown to actually have alkaline-forming effects on the body. Our bodies optimum states are naturally more alkaline (with a pH around 7.4) so, this is typically a good thing, and bodies at their ideal alkalinity can help support a healthy and thriving immune system.

You can try drinking (1) tablespoon of vinegar mixed with (8) ounces of water every three hours to kill yeast and many other unwelcome visitors in the body.

*Warning: Apple Cider Vinegar can theoretically interact with laxatives, diuretics, or medicines taken for diabetes or heart disease. If taken undiluted over long periods of time, it can also be abrasive to the teeth or esophagus. Be sure to discuss with your doctor first before supplementing with ACV.  

I will also say that when choosing a quality apple cider vinegar, look for one that still contains the “mother” (this is a sign of quality fermentation) and is organic, since apples are one of the most heavily sprayed produce. This is the brand of ACV I personally use and recommend.

 

Getting the flu is pretty rotten, and, in some cases, can be downright scary. I hope you’ll find some relief in at least one of the natural flu remedies listed here. I also have a free informative download of my Top 20 ways to keep your family healthy through cold & flu season! <– Click here for instant download.

Hopefully, you can soon store that box of tissues back on the shelf and safely hug your family again. Keep that pot of chicken noodle soup around though. It’s not just a good choice for the cold and flu season, but great all year round! Stay healthy!

Choline Health Benefits… are you getting enough of this vital nutrient?

Choline is a vital nutrient that is often overlooked, because of misinformation or lack of knowing… find out why you need choline in your diet and whether or not you’re already getting enough (heads up, you’re probably not)…


This post has been sponsored in part by MegaFoods, a company I trust to provide products of highest quality with integrity. As always, despite any compensation, monetary or otherwise, all thoughts, views, and words are my own.

I recently attended a conference where I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Tieraona Low Dog speak about nutrition, more specifically, how we’re deficient in certain nutrients that are seriously vital to our health. She discussed scientific developments in the importance of certain vitamins and minerals that I was familiar with, including Magnesium and Vitamin D, etc. And, she surprised us by making us think outside the organic box and opening our eyes to the fact that unfortunately, most organic cereals aren’t vitamin-fortified like their conventional counterparts.

This may not seem like a big deal, but when you think of iron, for example, most kids aren’t getting enough in their diets… so to compound that by feeding them non-iron-fortified cereal in the morning for breakfast… although I still believe organic is best… it’s something to be mindful of that our kiddos may not be getting the vital nutrients they need!

The most surprising of the choice nutrients she talked about for me though, was choline. I’d heard of it, but really didn’t understand how important it is to so many of our bodily functions, including supporting our livers for detox, preventing/treating fatty liver, helpful in brain function, and more.

Pregger-ladies, are you with me? Pay attention to this next part!

The thing that Really made me listen, was that choline’s been shown to help protect a developing fetus at the placenta from it’s mother’s stress hormones, which can offer life long protection for resilience in stressful times along with increased IQ levels.

Who doesn’t want a smarter baby who can handle themselves under pressure?? Pretty impressive! It’s safe to say we’ve all heard about supplementing folic acid during pregnancy (for cognitive support), but it definitely made me want to learn more about this new kid nutrient on the block, choline!

What is choline?

So for starters… let’s address what choline is, and then we can find out if you’re getting enough (heads up, you’re probably not)… and we’ll talk about how you can get this vital nutrient into your diet more consistently.

Choline is a vitamin-like nutrient that’s essential to the body for a multitude of purposes. It’s not technically a vitamin, but it’s considered to be in the B-vitamin family along with others like Folate. It’s water-soluble, which means it dissolves in water, and the kidneys will work to remove excess amounts of it if that ends up being an issue.

Humans make a small amount of choline in the liver, and so, up until recently, it was thought this was enough, and that we didn’t need to incorporate it additionally in the diet. The recommendations were changed in 1998, however, when it was discovered that humans actually don’t make enough choline to sustain proper functionality, and an “Adequate Intake” level was established to help people make sure they’re actually getting enough.

Health Benefits of Choline (aka…What does choline do exactly?)

Choline is beneficial in so many different capacities, but here’s an overview of it’s primary functions…

  1. Metabolic Syndrome, Homocysteine, & Liver Function – Research suggests that choline deficiency can result in something called “metabolic syndrome“, putting the body at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Although choline supplementation alone may not improve the outcome for all of these issues, it certainly can contribute to healthier liver function and metabolic process for clearing the body of fat cells and toxins. (source) Studies have shown that a choline-rich diet contributes to lowered homocysteine levels in the body, which in turn can reduce risks for heart disease, blood clot formation, and stroke. (source)
  2. Decreased Inflammation – Inflammation in the body can have negative effects in numerous ways, most concerning would be contributing to cognitive decline (developing Alzheimer’s, etc), arthritis, heart disease, and even making cells more susceptible to cancer growth. Numerous studies have shown that a choline-rich diet can act to decrease inflammation in a multitude of ways to benefit the body. For example, here’s an interesting study on the benefits of phosphatidylcholine therapy in patients with ulcerative colitis.
  3. Fetal & Early Childhood Development – As mentioned before, like folic acid, choline plays a role in preventing birth defects, and may also provide life-long protection against anxiety and exaggerated responses to stressors. According to a study published in 2014 in the Public Health Nutrition Journal, 95% of pregnant women had a sub-optimal intake of choline. (source) Babies have a higher need for choline in their diets while their brains and nervous systems are rapidly growing as choline supports brain development and cognitive function. (source)
  4. Normal Cell Function & Methylation – Okay, so, methylation is still a little bit intangible for me… but here’s how Chris Kresser explains it, “Methylation is a vital metabolic process that happens in every cell and every organ of our body.  Life would simply not exist without it.  It takes place more than a billion times per second in the body. That should give you some idea of how important methylation is.  Anything that’s happening a billion times per second is probably pretty crucial to our survival and well-being.  It happens when one molecule passes a methyl group, which is a carbon atom linked to three hydrogens, to another molecule, so it’s a pretty basic biochemical process.” Choline is one of those key nutrients in supporting healthy cell function proliferation and methylation. I won’t get any more in-depth on this here, but this goes along with the whole anti-inflammation, metabolic process, homocysteine deal… for example: betaine, which is a metabolite of choline, is critical in methylation of homocysteine. (source)
  5. Mental Health – In short, if your body isn’t “methylating” properly, imbalances in neuro-function (and possibly inflammation) can lead to anxiety and other mood disorders. This may be particularly true for vegetarians and vegans who aren’t getting essential vitamins in their diet (such as those found in liver, eggs, etc, which are sources rich in choline among other vital nutrients). (source)

Signs of Choline deficiency

There is some evidence to suggest that even though you may be getting “enough” choline in your diet, you might still be at risk for deficiency. This may be at least in part due to the fact that some people are genetically at a disadvantage for choline absorption… meaning that even if they’re eating a choline-rich diet, their body may not be able to utilize it for some reason. In this case, increasing choline intake seems to help offset some of that issue.

That’s why I wanted to talk about some of the signs of choline deficiency, because even if you’re eating a choline-rich diet, you may be one of those who needs an even greater intake to get adequate levels.

Some of the signs of choline deficiency include diagnosis of “Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease” (NAFLD), fat accumulation in the liver cells which make it harder for the liver to function properly. (source) This issue seems to be compounded by the fact that someone who HAS fatty liver disease is at an increased risk for choline deficiency. It may be hard to tell whether or not this is an issue since imaging is required to confirm a diagnosis of FLD, however elevated liver enzymes on lab markers are a less costly alternative and can offer insight on whether or not there may be a problem.

Other symptoms of choline deficiency may include signs of cognitive decline or muscle fatigue, since choline is key in supporting neuro & muscular function.

For someone deficient in choline, this might look like low energy levels, muscle aches, memory loss, brain fog, learning disabilities (particularly in children), nerve damage or pain, and possibly even mood alterations or disorders.

Most of the research suggests that once adequate intake of choline is achieved, the ailing symptoms (including fatty liver) resolve.

For something pretty simple to remedy, I think taking a look at your choline intake and making sure you’re getting enough is absolutely necessary!

How much Choline should you be getting?

Choline was officially recognized as an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1998, but data gathered from a 2007-2008 NHANES study shows that roughly 90% of Americans don’t get enough choline. That’s a HUGE bummer, and what’s even worse is that many people (an estimated 40%+) have a genetic disposition that increases their need for choline even greater than the baseline intake recommendation.

Although studies are still being done on choline, most experts are in agreement that Adequate Intake for choline is as follows (source):

  • Infants (0-6 mths): 125 mg/day
  • Babies (7-12 mths): 150 mg/day
  • Children (1-3 years): 200 mg/day
  • Children (4-8 years): 250 mg/day
  • Children (9-13 years): 375 mg/day
  • Girls (14-18 years): 400 mg/day
  • Boys (14-18 years): 550 mg/day
  • Women (19+): 425 mg/day
  • Men (19+): 550 mg/day
  • *Pregnant Women (14+): 450 mg/day
  • *Lactating Women (14+): 550 mg/day

Increased need for Choline during Pregnancy & Lactation

As I’ve researched more, it also seems that there’s an association between optimal choline intake and a decrease for risk of pre-eclampsia and premature birth… possibly as a result of choline’s connection to lowered homocysteine levels. We still don’t fully understand what causes pre-eclampsia… but as someone who has suffered personally from pre-eclampsia, this definitely piqued my interest and at the very least I believe is cause to mindfully increase choline intake especially during pregnancy.

For lactating women, the increased need should be somewhat obvious. The baby is needing this vital nutrient through it’s mother’s milk and if Momma isn’t getting enough… neither is baby. For the record, the FDA requires that store-bought formulas have to have choline, but I would double check the label to make sure it’s in there.

Foods high in Choline…

Here are some of the foods highest in choline to help you reach your recommended adequate daily intake. (source)

Table 2. Some Food Sources of Choline (source)
Food Serving Total Choline (mg)
Beef liver, pan fried 3 ounces* 356
Wheat germ, toasted 1 cup 202
Egg 1 large 147
Beef, trim cut, cooked 3 ounces 97
Scallop, cooked, steamed 3 ounces 94
Salmon, pink, canned 3 ounces 75
Chicken, breast, cooked, roasted 3 ounces 73
Atlantic cod, cooked 3 ounces 71
Shrimp, canned 3 ounces 69
Brussel sprouts, cooked, boiled 1 cup 63
Broccoli, cooked, boiled 1 cup, chopped 63
Milk, skim 8 fluid ounces 38
Peanut butter, smooth 2 tablespoons 20
Milk chocolate 1.5-ounce bar 20
Peanuts 1 ounce 15

Choline Supplementation…

I think it’s always best to try to get vitamins and nutrients through a real-food diet, but certain factors may make this challenging.

Some individuals, particularly those at risk for additional deficiency through a genetic-variation or those with increased need during pregnancy and lactation, or who have made dietary choices that don’t include choline-rich foods (veganism for example) may find it especially difficult to get enough choline. This may be the truth for all kinds of vitamins/nutrients, and so for me, it seems like a no-brainer that adding a quality nutrient supplement to your diet will help to close any nutritional gaps that may exist.

I personally have made a commitment to myself this year to be mindful of the gap between what I’m actually eating (real-food or otherwise) and what my body really needs for optimal functioning. For me, this is where the rubber meets the road… so many people wait until the “check engine” light is flashing before doing something about their health, but we’re all about preventing, right?! Making sure you’re getting adequate amounts of the vitamins and nutrients essential to your health is the first step in this equation, and one that so many of us overlook or think isn’t really all that important.

The best way I know how to MAKE SURE that I’m getting essential nutrients, like choline, in my diet daily is by taking a high-quality, real-food supplement.

MegaFood Multi for Women

I have tried several vitamin supplements over the past several years. Most have missed the mark. Many aren’t worth your money! I think we all understand this, but finding a really high quality supplement can be challenging… where do you go, how do you know what information you can trust? I hope you’ve found some valuable information here and can trust that the recommendations I make come from a place of personal extensive research. I only recommend products and companies who I feel I can fully stand behind, and that I personally use in my own home with my own family.

I was grateful for the opportunity to meet the refreshingly authentic folks from MegaFood at a real-food conference this past year. They shared MegaFood’s Multi for Women with me, and honestly at first although I enjoyed meeting people from the company, I didn’t think too much about the brand itself. Like I said, I’ve tried SEVERAL vitamin supplements through the years.

It wasn’t until I took some time to learn more about MegaFood’s values and their “Fresh from Farm to Table” process in providing high-quality vitamins at a great cost, that I truly fell in love with the heart behind the company as well as the follow through in value. I’ve been super impressed and I knew I had to introduce you!

Because as the body ages (or undergoes various developmental stages) it requires different levels of nutrients and vitamins to optimally support function… depending on your nutritional needs, MegaFood has worked with physicians and farmers to create a vitamin supplement to optimally support your body at any age. Check out the MegaFood supplement that’s right for you…

MegaFood Multi for Women

MegaFood Multi for Women 40+

MegaFood Multi for Women 55+

MegaFood Multi for Men

MegaFood Multi for Men 40+

MegaFood Multi for Men 55+

You can read more about MegaFood’s mission and values… and how they pack super nutrition into their supplements here.

Want to learn more? Check out these resources…

Fortify Your Life – Tieraona Low Dog, MD
Choline and TMAO: Eggs Still Don’t Cause Heart Disease – Chris Kresser

Health Benefits of Cranberries (Heart Healthy & Immune Boosting!)

Cranberries are an incredible source of nutrients, and are a delicious addition in holiday meals! Check out the health benefits of cranberries here! #cranberries #antioxidant #immuneboosing #winter #winternutrition For more great healthy living topics, visit www.TheFamilyApothecary.com

Cranberries are an incredible source of nutrients… they have so much more value than just being a sweet side dish for your holiday affair! Here are 5 of my favorite health benefits of cranberries, that add even more reasons why you should be eating more of this bountiful berry this season!

Top 5 Health Benefits of Cranberries

1. Rich source of Antioxidants (second only to blueberries!)

Cranberries are full of phytonutrients, many of which have been studied for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-fighting properties. Antioxidants help to reduce oxidation (aging) and can slow, and even reverse, the progression of diseases in the body.

Good to note: the bulk of these phytonutrients are found in the skins of the cranberries, so juiced cranberries will not be the best option for full nutritional benefit.

2. Prevention of UTIs

Consumption of cranberries has been shown to be an effective treatment in the prevention of urinary tract infections, particularly for middle-aged women who struggle with recurrent UTIs. It was previously thought that cranberries made the urine more acidic, therefore making the urinary tract inhospitable for bacteria. However, more recent studies have shown that a chemical in cranberries actually prevents potentially harmful bacteria from sticking to cells that line the urinary tract, therefore preventing them from multiplying and causing an infection. It’s still unclear exactly how this mechanism works, and more studies need to be done to reinforce these findings.

*Although cranberries can be an effective treatment in the prevention of UTIs, they are not the best for treating an active urinary tract infection. Please consult your primary care physician should you suspect you have an active infection.

3. Immunity boosting

Who doesn’t need a little boost in the immunity department during the cold holiday season? Cranberries are a good source of immunity boosting Vitamin C, along with manganese, vitamins E & K, and fiber. It makes sense that cranberries are in season when we need them the most!

4. Anti-inflammatory benefits & decreased risk of stomach ulcers

Once again, the phytonutrients in cranberries are to credit for some really powerful benefits, particularly in the decreasing of inflammation. The anti-inflammatory benefits cranberries have to offer specifically target cardiovascular and gastrointestinal inflammation, including the mouth & gums. Studies have also shown that regular consumption of cranberry juice can suppress H. pylori infections, which if left unchecked can cause stomach ulcers, among other complications.

5. Cardiovascular support

Regular, normal dietary consumption of cranberries has been shown to help bring cholesterol levels into a healthy balance. A decrease in inflammation and oxidative stress both play a major role in how cranberries can support a healthy cardiovascular system. By reducing oxidative stress inside the blood vessels, cranberries may help prevent overconstriction of the blood vessels and unwanted increases in blood pressure.

*Cranberries & Coumadin*

Studies have shown cranberries can actually have a detrimental effect for someone on therapy with the pharmaceutical drug Coumadin. It seems that the enzyme needed to break down the drug, so that it’s anticoagulant effect does not compound, is specifically inhibit by a chemical mechanism in cranberries. Because of this, it’s recommended that while on Coumadin therapy, you do not consume cranberries or cranberry juice.

Ideas on how to incorporate the health benefits of cranberries into your diet for wellness all season long

Personally I prefer getting nutrients in whole foods, here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy the health benefits of cranberries…

  • Incorporate cranberry sauce (or Fresh cranberries!) as a side dish for holiday meals
  • Add fresh or frozen cranberries to a smoothie
  • Substitute cranberries for blueberries, raisins, or chocolate chips in favorite holiday treats
  • Add blended cranberries & honey to plain yogurt for a deliciously tart snack
  • Top off a fresh blended spinach salad with some healthy nuts, feta cheese, & chopped fresh cranberries

If you’re not a huge fan of the cranberry’s signature tart taste, you might consider taking a supplement, like this one by MegaFood.

As always, consult with your primary care physician before making significant changes to your diet or supplementation regimen, as certain supplements may interact with any medications you may be taking or health conditions you may have.

Also, if you like using food on your face… check out my DIY Cranberry Face Mask here. You won’t be disappointed. 🙂

 

Sources:
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=145
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19441868 (cranberries & UTIs)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15810945 (cranberries & h.pylori)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16923231 (cranberries & cholesterol)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2518459/ (cranberries & Coumadin)

65+ Real Food Healthy Freezer Meals Recipes

Providing your family with nutritious, satisfying meals is SO much easier when you have healthy freezer meals prepped and ready to go. Here are 65+ recipes to get you started.

Providing your family with nutritious, satisfying meals is SO much easier when you have healthy freezer meals prepped and ready to go. Here are 65+ recipes to keep your fridge & freezer fully stocked! For more delicious recipes & resources to support healthy living visit TheFamilyApothecary.com #freezermeals #healthyfreezermeals #cleaneating

I know first hand that providing nutritious, real-food meals for your family can sometimes prove to be a challenge. For one thing, buying organic, grass-fed, pastured, (aka: blessed by God himself) food… can admittedly be more expensive. The other challenge is that you pretty much have to feed your people like Every.Single.Day… I mean, didn’t I JUST feed you?! Gaahhh….

One of my favorite ways to cut down on money & time is by stocking up on pre-prepped (real food) healthy freezer meals I can have at the ready for crazy weeknights, or, you know, whenever I just don’t feel like cooking. I save money by buying meats and other ingredients in bulk, which helps keep our food budget in check. And, honestly, we end up eating Much better by cutting down on those days when I just cannot even fathom having to cut up a vegetable or forgot to leave the meat to thaw out, and end up pulling the 80/20 rule again (I know I’m not alone here).

Having two or three days a month to cook and prep meals for the freezer is WAY better than slaving away in the kitchen everyday, plus, your kitchen stays cleaner since you don’t have to keep doing dishes every night. Winning.

Getting the whole freezer-meal-planning thing down can take a little time, so go easy on yourself at first. Choosing meals that are tried & true, good for freezing, and that your family will actually eat is a must since you don’t want food (or precious prep time) to go to waste.

I personally enjoy cooking sometimes (…but don’t get crazy), so spending a day in the kitchen really isn’t so bad for me… and, an even more fun and time-efficient, cost-effective way to do it is to have a Freezer Prep Party with a few friends.

Be sure to check out my How-to on throwing a “Freezer Meal Party” tutorial here.

As for deciding what to make, that’s one of my favorite parts… dreaming of being super-mom by serving my family #allthehealthythings while pouring over tons of deliciously photographed food is hugely motivating and just plain fun. If you’re not quite sure where to start, no worries, I’ve compiled a list of some of my fave healthy freezer meals recipes to get you started on your freezer-prepping journey. Enjoy!

65+ Real Food Healthy Freezer Meals Recipes

Breakfast

Soups & Stews

Entrees & Meat

Casseroles

*I usually prepare the casseroles and leave about 15-20 minutes left of cooking time prior to freezing, and finish cooking on the day of serving.

Freezer Crockpot Meals (most would also work well for the Instant Pot)

*Go ahead and brown meat if need be for meals that require that prior to putting in the crockpot.

Snacks, Sides & Extras

Desserts

*I mean, ’cause sometimes you need dessert on the ready… and sometimes Quinoa Carrot Cupcakes count for a meal… right?

I hope you’ve found a healthy freezer meals recipe you like in the mix… have any other recommendations? Hit me up in the comments below! 🙂

7 Simple Ways to Reduce Toxins in your Home (best non toxic cleaning products)

Your home is your haven… it should be a safe place to come and rest and not worry about chemicals and other toxins which could be putting your health at risk. If you have kids in your home, this is probably even more concerning to you. Over the past couple of years, I’ve made some big change in our home to reduce the toxic load we receive and make our home a place where we can truly rest and breath easy! From changing what I put on my skin (and spray in the air) to transitioning to completely non toxic cleaning products… I’m sharing my best tips for reducing toxins in your home here…

Want to know how you can best keep your family safe and healthy? Detoxifying your home is a really great place to start. Here are 7 Ways to Reduce Toxins in your Home to keep your family well and happy. Learn about the best non toxic cleaning products on the market and where to buy. #nontoxiccleaning #organiccleaningproducts #homehaven #diydetox #beautycounter ~ www.familyherbalco.com

7 Ways to Reduce Toxins in your Home

1. Leave your shoes at the door

This should be simple enough right? Believe it or not… dirt on your shoes should be the least of your concerns. Shoes can track in pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals used on lawns, especially those in commercial areas. Also, depending on where you work (or shop, or play), there is risk for tracking in all kinds of unknowns from who-knows-where (fellow nurses, can I get an Amen?). If you wish to have guests in your home abide by this rule as well, consider offering them a pair of slippers to make them more comfortable while in your home.

2. Transition to non toxic cleaning and home supplies

There are countless ideas floating around the internet that make it super easy to DIY your own effective home cleansers… everything from DIY all-purpose cleansers to DIY foaming liquid hand soap. Heather Dessinger’s DIY Non-Toxic Cleaning Supplies e-book is a really great place to get started (you can purchase that here).

I make a simple & fresh lemon scented cleaning solution by adding lemon slices/peels to white vinegar and letting it marinate for a few weeks. I strain the lemons then store the vinegar solution, adding about a 1 to 3 ratio in a spray bottle filled with filtered water. Occasionally I’ll add various essential oils to it as well, for a different scent, or to give it an added antibacterial boost. It’s ridiculously easy to make and works great!

{Check out my fav DIY Organic Cleaning Products recipes PINTEREST board}

Best Non Toxic Cleaning Products

If you’re not a DIY’er, no biggie… there are plenty of non-toxic solutions out there that won’t break the bank, and will keep your home tidy and clean without any extra elbow grease required! I personally use and love the Honest Company’s home cleansing line, and I’ve heard great things about Branch Basics. I’ve heard that Norwex is also a good option, although, I’ve never personally used them. I’d refer to EWG’s guide to the “Top Green Cleaning Products” if you’re looking for more store-bought options.

3. Get some indoor plants that clean the air & remove toxins

NASA actually did a study to determine if indoor plants were capable of helping to cleanse the air… the results were pretty impressive! They showed that “plants can play a major role in removal of organic chemicals from indoor air”. Among the plants found to be most effective were English Ivy, Peace Lilies, Pot Mums, Gerbera Daisies, & Aloe… I just love this! I don’t have the greenest of all thumbs, but this is totally motivation for me to keep trying my hand at some home plants.

4. Replace plugins with essential oil diffusers & natural room fresheners

Scent can be powerful for creating an environment that’s calm and inviting, too bad most store-bought plugin units have some pretty toxic chemicals in them that have been linked with reproductive and developmental disorders, cancer, and neurological damage, among other conditions. The synthetic chemicals in air fresheners can also trigger asthma and other kinds of immune response attacks.

… kinda negates that whole warm and cozy vibe you were going for, doesn’t it?

Not to worry though, essential oils have come to the rescue! When diffused, not only are they not leaking out toxic fumes into your home… they can actually have health benefits above and beyond a “feel good vibe”. My favorite is just a simple blend of lavender, lemon, and peppermint essential oils.

There are also some great DIY options for room and fabric fresheners, one of my personal favorites is this Calming Lavender Linen Spray from Kate at RealFoodRN.com.

5. Get groovy with some Himalayan salt lamps

We’ve got Himalayan salt lamps pretty much all over our house. The warm orange glow they emit is nice for a soothing ambience, but they’re also great for cleansing the air. The transaction of heat with the Himalayan salt creates negative ions which can neutralize air pollutants that have a positive charge, like mold spores and other allergens. Other electronic devices in your home (like TV’s, computers, and microwaves) also create positive ions, so having something to neutralize these charges purifies the air so everyone can breathe just a little bit easier!

(Here’s where to buy my favorite Himalayan salt lamps!)

6. Beeswax candles

Much like the Himalayan salt lamps, beeswax candles emit negative ions that can negate positively charged pollutants in the air like dust, pollen, dirt, and other allergens. Essentially, once “negated”, the pollutants fall to the ground so they aren’t floating in the air. While we’re at it, it should also be mentioned that most candles sold in stores today have fragrances added to them (like plugins) that toxify the air and are something you want to avoid. When shopping for beeswax candles, you want to make sure they are 100% Pure, Raw beeswax. (This looks like a good option.)

7. Clean up your beauty act

Growing up, I used to hang out with my mom while she got ready to leave the house… I have vivid memories of suffocating clouds of hair spray & begging her to warn me next time before she sprayed her perfume and I gagged to death. Thankfully, times are a changin’ and now toxic fragrances are going out of style just like the big pouffy hairstyles of the 80’s (thank ya’ Lawd)! If you haven’t heard yet, the skin care and cosmetics industry is pretty much one of the last ones to get on the “clean” bandwagon. Oh sure, you’ll see lots of ‘green-washed’ marketing slogans thrown around, but unfortunately they really don’t mean much in an industry that is poorly regulated.

This will take a little more effort on your part, but “detoxing” the products in your bathroom can have a Huge impact on your family’s health. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database is a fantastic place to start to assess the ingredients in each of your hygiene and beauty products. My absolute favorite for non toxic cosmetics and skincare is Beautycounter. I discovered them about 6 months ago (they launched in 2013), and it’s pretty much been a love-affair ever since. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the quality and wear-ability of all of their cosmetics (a MUST for working 12-hour shifts!), and their Countertime line & Lustro face oils have improved the clarity of my skin and made it super soft and smooth!

I’m not much of a DIY’er in this area (except of course for my awesome DIY tallow beauty balm), but if you love all things DIY, I highly recommend you check out the e-book DIY Organic Beauty Recipes. I also shared a few DIY non toxic beauty recipes in this post… where I also talk about how your makeup may be making you fat (say whaaaa?).

This is another area where essential oils have come in super handy for me as well. Not only do I add them to my tallow face cream, but I apply them diluted to my face daily and use them in my DIY root lifting spray.

What is your favorite way to reduce toxins in your home?

 

photo credits: depositphotos.com/beatabecla