Why I'm Giving Up Gluten (even though I love wheat)

So here's a little announcement for you. A couple months ago I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. While this diagnosis comes as a relief for many who have suffered from unexplained symptoms for years, I have no known symptoms and only had myself screened because my sister was recently diagnosed. So, not a relief. It has been quite an unwelcome adjustment for me in fact.

For years, I have made almost all the bread my family eats (mostly 100% whole wheat honey bread). I also have made pizza with a delicious 50% whole grain crust weekly for years. I love making and eating hot homemade breakfasts. I bake in bulk many healthy kid-friendly snacks containing whole wheat (healthy whole grain "cookies," chocolate chip snack bars, applesauce muffins) for quick, easy, and portable snacks for me and my kids.

I'm about 7 weeks into eating gluten-free, and, no, I do not feel much more fabulous. I actually felt very healthy and energetic before my diagnosis. But I still hold out hope that there will be some benefit to going gluten-free. Perhaps I will get sick less often.

Hello, Hunger

For the first month or so of eating gluten-free I was hungry. All. The. Time. No matter how much I ate. Thankfully, this phase is over. However, I am annoyed that I still need to eat more meat to ever feel full. Before my diagnosis, I was working on eating less meat and dairy, more grains, legumes, and vegetables. This whole Celiac business has really derailed that for the moment. I crave meat. How my vegan sister (diagnosed with Celiac just before me) is dealing with this new diet I have no idea.

If Al Gore Can Be an Optimist, So Can You!

Let's take a moment to reflect on some of the awesome environmental news that has come out in the last month. Hey, even Al Gore is feeling optimistic!

Decrease in Antibiotics in Chicken Manufacturing
In a big win for those of us seriously concerned about super bugs and antibiotic resistanceMcDonald'sCostco, and Tyson have all pledged to phase out chickens treated with antibiotics medically important to humans.

As Smog Thins in L.A., Dramatic Evidence of Kids' Healthier Lungs
Kids in the L.A. region "have substantially healthier lungs than they did just 20 years ago," mostly due to efforts to clean up So Cal's smog and soot. National Geographic says "it may be the biggest success story in environmental health in modern America." USC scientist Frank Gilliland stated "It's a very important message, especially for the developing world: These problems are fixable, and you can see big benefits."

3M to go green on pulp, paper purchases
3M, maker of post-it notes and one of the world’s largest manufacturers, will take new steps to ensure that its suppliers of paper, pulp and packaging provide materials that come from sustainably logged timber. What makes this huge reform of supply chain practices by a manufacturing giant particularly awesome is that it came about after relentless pressure from a little-known environmental group called ForestEthics.

For additional green good news about renewable energy, cutting food waste while feeding the homeless, transportation, wildlife, and carbon emissions, click here.

Cheap Plastic Toys Don't Inspire Ocean Conservation

Dear Monterey Bay Aquarium Manager of Merchandising,

We love the Monterey Bay Aquarium! Although the membership cost was a little steep for our family, my husband and I agreed that in addition to wanting our family to visit regularly, we also felt great about our money supporting the Aquarium's awesome mission: to inspire conservation of the oceans.

Through our regular visits, my husband and children and I are all learning a ton about ocean life, and most certainly developing a deeper appreciation of the ocean: its beauty, its enormity, its mystery, its diversity, its fragility. After visiting the Aquarium, our next trip to the library often results in us leaving with a tall stack of books about aquatic critters.

Eat Less Plastic: 33 Ways to Keep Plastic Chemicals Out of Your Family's Diet

Plastics, so convenient, so ubiquitous, so problematic. While it's probably impossible to eliminate plastics from your life entirely, you can and should try to keep them out of your food. Harmful plastic chemicals such as BPA and phthalates are in our bodies, and researchers believe they most commonly enter our bodies through ingestion via our mouths. But it's not enough to avoid BPA or other specific plastic chemicals. The absence of an effective toxic chemical policy framework means that toxic plastic chemicals (such as BPA) are often replaced with another untested chemical (BPS), which all too often is later found to be just as problematic (the so-called "toxic treadmill"). The issue is the undisclosed additives. As plastic-free living guru Beth Terry explained in an interview:
The issue is, it is impossible to know if any plastic is safe. In addition to the problems we know about, plastics can contain thousands of possible additives to affect the hardness, or softness, or slippery-ness, and manufacturers don’t disclose what their recipes are. The number on the container tells you what type of plastic it is, but it doesn’t tell you what else has been added to the plastic. If you don’t know what’s in it, you can’t tell what will leach out of it. The additives are not bound to the polymer, and when the plastic is subject to stress (light, heat) it can leach. (source)
As a 2011 study famously demonstrated, almost all commercially available plastics leach endocrine disruptors when subjected to common-use stresses, such as microwaving or the humid heat of the dishwasher. Recent studies have connected plastic chemicals to autistic behaviors, reduced sperm count, irregular heartbeats, and higher blood pressure. In fact, researchers recently concluded that "there is a greater than 99 percent chance that endocrine-disrupting chemicals [including BPA and phthalates, found in plastics] are contributing" to neurological effects (such as attention problems), obesity and diabetes, as well as infertility and other male reproductive disorders.

When trying to keep plastic out of your diet, keep in mind the following:
  • Children are more susceptible to health problems caused by plastic chemicals due to the fact that they consume a greater amount of food relative to their body weight and because of their rapid pace of development. The safety of children's dishware and foods should be top priorities. Because fetuses are also particularly vulnerable, pregnant women too should take particular care to avoid eating plastic. 
  • Fat, salt, acid, heat, UV light all promote the leaching of plastic chemicals into food. This is why if you leave your plastic water bottle in your car on a hot day, your water tastes "plasticky." It is also why canned foods that are acidic (pasta sauce), fatty (coconut milk) or salty (soup) contain higher levels of BPA. Naturally, plastic chemicals more readily migrate into liquid foods as well. This is why I pay special attention to how high fat, salty, acidic, and liquid food products are packaged. 
  • Styrofoam, PVC/ vinyl, PFCs (such as Teflon), and hard clear plastics (originally made with BPA and now the no-better BPS) are especially to be avoided. While all plastics are suspect due to undisclosed ingredients, these plastics are widely accepted to be harmful to human health. 

With those general guidelines in mind, here are 33 specific tips to help you and your family ingest less plastic.

The Best Potties for Early Potty Training

Early potty training isn't about never putting a diaper on your newborn. It isn't about getting your 9-month-old to pee every single time in a potty. It's about sometimes giving your baby an opportunity to do her business somewhere besides her diaper. And if you are interested in saving money, reducing landfill waste, conserving water and energy, fewer diaper rashes, wiping fewer poopy bottoms, or reducing your child's risk of illnesses, infections, constipation, or voiding disorders, then early potty training is for you! And it's as simple as taking off your baby's diaper and plopping her on the potty.

But you do need a potty. And you need a potty that is the right size for a baby. (Most potties are designed for toddlers.)

How to Prevent Early Puberty in Girls

Early puberty. A phrase that strikes fear in the heart of this mother of two young girls. I don’t think any parent wants her daughter to deal with breasts at the age of 6, or menstruation in the 4th grade. So several weeks ago, when I happened upon an interview with pediatric endocrinologist Louise Greenspan and clinical psychologist Julie Deardorff on the topic of early puberty in girls, I listened with great interest.

Shoes, Sand, Sofas, and Cereal Boxes

In case you missed them the first time around, here are the 14 most popular Eco-novice posts published during 2014. I'll list them from 14 to 1 (most popular) for maximum dramatic effect.

Eco-novice's Top Fourteen 2014 Posts 

And the most popular post published in 2014 was:

Accentuate the Positive: December's Green Good News

It's not all doom and gloom in the world of environmental news. Hope you enjoy this month's edition of feel-good stories.

12 Wins for Wildlife in 2014 That YOU Made Possible
In my own home state of California, President Obama permanently protected 346,000 acres of critical habitat for mountain lions and other wildlife, such as California condors, yellow-legged frogs and Nelson’s bighorn sheep. What wins for wildlife have happened in your area?

Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State
Not a fan of fracking? Neither is Governor Cuomo. Despite the tantalizing economic opportunities for depressed communities, the administration has decided that fracking poses "inestimable public-health risks." Acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker said "his review boiled down to a simple question: Would he want his family to live in a community where fracking was taking place? His answer was no."

Click here to continue reading at the Green Phone Booth.

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

Ask Kroger to Keep Toxic Chemicals Out of Your Family's Food

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and their partners have been working on a campaign called Mind the Store for nearly a year. I love the Mind the Store campaign, because while we certainly need and should continue to seek governmental action on toxic chemicals, the regulatory and legislative process can at times be painfully slow and disappointingly political. #MindtheStore is a fabulous way for consumers to directly demand quick action from businesses, who will in turn have a stake in pressuring the government to adopt meaningful reform. In response to the efforts of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and pressure from everyday consumers like you, big retailers like Walmart and Target have developed their own comprehensive policies to screen out over 1,000 chemicals in products on their store shelves.

Yet Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the United States and one of the largest worldwide, with over 3,500 stores and sales of over $98 billion, still doesn’t have a policy to screen out and eliminate toxic chemicals in their products. Yet we especially need grocery stores to keep toxic chemicals out of the products they sell. Recent studies show that food packaging is a primary route of exposure to dangerous toxins such as phthalates. Another study published earlier this year found 175 different toxic chemicals in materials that come into contact with food.

15 Favorite Children's Christmas Books

Growing up my mom always put out a big basket of children's books about Christmas and the holidays during December. Now with my own children we count down to Christmas by unwrapping and reading a beloved children's book about Christmas each night, some from the library and some from our own collection. (As a former elementary school teacher, I've always had a soft spot for children's books, and always keep my eyes open for Christmas ones at thrift stores and library sales.)

Here are 15 of our favorites. Many of these are out of print but easily obtained from your local library or used online. I have noted as "secular" the books that do not assume a belief in Jesus Christ for those who celebrate a nonreligious Christmas.


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