Is Organic Always Green? 5 Tips on Knowing the Difference

As a mom, it makes sense that you would want to surround your children with a healthy environment and feed them in the best way possible. Chances are that you’ve been looking for green or organic options when it comes to the things that your child comes into contact with. Did you know, however, that organic isn’t always green?

It’s a fact that shocks most people because the terms have become somewhat synonymous with each other. Green, eco-friendly, environmentally-friendly, all-natural and organic have all taken on the same context in our minds, thanks to advertising. It’s important that you know, though, that by simply choosing organic, you may not be selecting the greenest option. Here are five facts that you should know:

1. The Definition of Organic

When you see a product labeled as “organic”, you probably assume that it is more natural than its counterparts, and you would be correct. The term organic refers to the way products are both grown and processed. Organic products are grown without the use of synthetic chemicals and are free of toxins. Organic products also lack heavy metals, thus increasing their biodegradability.

2. The Definition of Certified Organic

The USDA now oversees the NOP, or National Organic Program. To be certified organic, a product or item must have been grown in accordance with the strict standards set forth by the NOP. In addition, any food labeled as certified organic must meet the standards of the Organic Foods Production Act, established in 1990.

Parents should know, however, that there is no regulatory committee that oversees the labeling of a product as organic, green, natural or hypo-allergenic. If you are looking for organic products specifically, you must look for a label that states that the product is “certified organic” to be sure that it has been grown and produced in accordance with these standards.

3. Organic Furniture

If you are looking for furniture, you should know that there is really no such thing as organic furniture. You can find reclaimed or recycled furniture, but you’ll never find truly organic furniture. The good news is that when furniture is labeled as organic, what it means is that the materials used to paint, stain, stuff or cover the frame of the furniture is organic. There’s nothing wrong with buying organic furniture, it’s often the safer, less-toxic choice, but you should know that the label can be misleading.

4. Organic Food

Many people wonder what makes food organic. Organic food is that which is produce using no synthetic chemicals like pesticides and growth hormone. Organic food can be more expensive but is the perfect choice for those with allergies or sensitivities to chemicals commonly used to grow or preserve foods.

5. Organic v. Green

When you are trying to buy green, you need to consider many factors. How much energy was expended making the product you are considering buying? How much fuel was used to transport the product to your local store? For instance, if your grocery store is stocked with organic apples from Washington, they may be less green than choosing apples grown at the local orchard.

Don’t assume that because a product is labeled as organic that you are making the kindest choice for the environment. Rather than concentrating on the label, look, instead, for items and foods that are produced locally. Additionally, reclaimed or recycled items may be greener than those labeled as organic. By purchasing recycled and reclaimed items, you will be saving space in the landfill. Knowledge is power when it comes to making smart choices; it pays to know the difference between green and organic!

About the Author

Lindsey Harris is an environmentalist and Eco-interior decorator. When she’s not designing she blogs for erikorganic.com, a great site to find custom dining room tables and other furniture!

*Image: ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

Once you learn how easy it is to make your own delicious granola, you’ll never buy the expensive packaged varieties again. This recipe can be customized according to your own taste. Use maple syrup in place of the honey, for instance, or substitute your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Serve this granola over yogurt or ice cream, with milk, or just to eat out of your hand.

Honey-Cinnamon Granola

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup quinoa flakes
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
⅓ cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons flax seeds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
⅓ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅔ cup raisins or dried cranberries

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, quinoa flakes, almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut, and flax seeds.

3. Place the butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at 60 percent power, repeating as needed in 10-second increments until the butter is melted. Or, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the honey until the butter and honey are completely incorporated into a thick, smooth mixture. Stir in the vanilla and cinnamon. Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture, using a spatula to coat the dry ingredients completely with the honey mixture. Turn the mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer.

4. Bake until all the ingredients are browned, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. When cool, sprinkle the granola with the raisins or dried cranberries, then transfer to an airtight container or zip-top plastic bag. The granola will keep for 1 to 2 weeks, getting crunchier over time if stored properly.

Makes 4 Cups.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Quinoa Cuisine.*

Being Vegan does not just mean changes to your diet, it is a lifestyle choice, as well! Check out these amazingly Vegan and all-natural beauty products from top brands such as Aubrey Organics® and JĀSÖN® that will leave you feeling fabulous from head to toe!

JĀSÖN® C-Effects Creme

Infused with green tea and vitamin C, JĀSÖN® C-Effects Creme is vegan-friendly and works wonders on dry, stressed skin. Extremely hydrating, “Mom” found that this creme also smells divine – the slight hint of citrus will certainly perk things up for you in the morning! Plus, it does not contain Parabens or Phthalates.

Aubrey Organics® Rosa Mosqueta® Rose Hip Moisturizing Cream

Made with Organic Rosa Mosqueta® Oil, Organic Aloe Vera, Horsetail and Coltsfoot, Aubrey Organics has developed an amazingly Vegan moisturizer that helps to keep your skin moisturized, as well as prevent wrinkles and age marks. It is an excellent source of linolenic and linoleic acids, which are essential for healthy skin.

Aubrey Organics® Rosa Mosqueta® Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner

For hair that has been frazzled by sleet, wind, and the elements all winter long, use this moisturizing shampoo and conditioner to replenish your hair. The benefits of the rose shine again, as both rose and honeysuckle extract will leave your hair irresistibly fragrant and extremely soft. Vegan and organic, this dynamic duo smells amazing too!

hellomellow no itch and stretch mark butter

All-natural and vegan, this is a must-have for the expecting mama-to-be! It is obvious that hellomellow knows what the body of a pregnant mother needs, and that is to pampered from head to toe! Since “Mom” is expecting herself, she found the no itch and stretch mark butter to be especially soothing when rubbed all over the areas that will get larger and more stretched out by the week! Made with decadent, rich mango-avocado butter, your skin will thank you!

*Companies generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

How To Get Your Plate In Shape

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it’s important to increase your focus on fruits and vegetables and your understanding of proper portion sizes. A properly balanced plate can provide the nutrients you need with fewer calories and less fat—and still taste great. To help, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) offers suggestions on how to “Get Your Plate in Shape.”

Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

• Whether fresh, frozen or canned, a variety of vegetables—especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables, plus beans and peas—is an important part of your diet. Choose “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” canned vegetables.
• Add fruits to meals and snacks. Buy fresh fruits and those that are dried, frozen or canned in water or 100 percent juice.

Make at least half your grains whole.

• Choose 100 percent whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice.
• Check the ingredients list on food packages to find whole-grain foods.

Drink fat-free or low-fat milk.

• Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk but less fat and fewer calories.
• If you’re lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.

Vary your protein choices.

• The protein food group in¬cludes seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs.
• Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate and keep meat and poultry portions small and lean.

Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.

• Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Choose 100 percent fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks.
• Compare sodium in foods and choose those with lower numbers. Add spices or herbs to season food instead of salt.
• Switch from solid fats to oils when preparing food.

“Foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean-protein foods contain the nutrients you need without too many calories,” explains registered dietitian and Academy spokesperson Andrea Giancoli. She also recommends avoiding oversized portions by using a smaller plate, bowl or glass.

Learn More

For more information on getting your plate in shape, visit www.eatright.org.

This quick smoothie not only satisfies for breakfast but also makes a great snack, especially before any energy-burning activity. You can substitute almond, soy, or any other type of milk for the whole milk in this recipe.

Tri-berry Smoothie

Ingredients

⅓ cup white quinoa, rinsed
⅔ cup water
2 cups whole milk
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons honey

Preparation

1. In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Turn the quinoa out onto a rimmed baking sheet, spread into an even layer, and refrigerate to cool completely.

2. Combine the cooked quinoa and the milk in the jar of a blender and purée until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and honey; purée until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Thin with additional milk, as needed. Pour into 4 glasses and serve cold.

Makes 4 (8-ounce) Servings.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Quinoa Cuisine.*

Boost Your Immunity This Spring with Plant Based Fare

If you suffer from allergies, it’s in your best interest to boost your immunity this spring. Nothing works better to boost your immune system than eating a healthy diet. If you’re already a vegan, you know that a diet rich in plant-based nutrition is one of the healthiest options available. What you may not know, however, are that there are some foods on the vegetarian or vegan menu that are considered “super foods”.

Here are several super foods that can be useful in boosting your immunity:

1. Pumpkin Seeds

These little wonders contain almost every nutrient the body needs to work and maintain its proper functioning. Pumpkin seeds are rich in: B vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids, amino acids, potassium, calcium, niacin, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, tryptophan, iron, protein and zinc. That’s quite a list of nutrients packed into one powerful little seed!

Phytosterol is the compound in pumpkin seeds that researchers believe enhances the immune system. A single serving of pumpkin seeds will help reduce inflammation, help to regulate cholesterol levels and have a helping hand in the treatment of arthritis. Throw some on a salad or in your morning shake!

2. Goji Berries

These tiny red berries have gained popularity over the last year and now top any super food list. With beta carotene, vitamin C, amino acids and Physalin, Goji berries are purported to help with everything from vision, a clear complexion and enhanced memory.

In addition to these amazing effects on the human body, the berry also boosts the immune system; helpful if you are fighting allergies this season.

3. Sweet Potatoes

By replacing white potatoes with sweet potatoes, you can help improve your night vision, help stabilize blood sugar levels and alleviate symptoms associated with lupus and arthritis. These root vegetables are packed with vitamin C, carotenoids, manganese, vitamin B6, copper, iron and potassium.

Not only are these potatoes good for you, they are incredibly versatile. Sweet potatoes can be fried, baked, mashed or made into French fries or hash browns; all of the dishes you would normally use white potatoes for. You can even put them through the juicer with some oranges for a great treat.

4. Blueberries

If you eat a handful of blueberries every few days, you can help to preserve your vision, prevent the damage caused by free-radicals and reduce inflammation. Blueberries can also prevent and treat urinary tract infections; the bane of women everywhere. With high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C, these berries are a wonderful addition to any diet.

5. Nuts

Nuts, almonds and Brazil nuts, in particular, are perfect for anyone who desires to detoxify, lower their cholesterol and protect themselves against disease and aging. Raw nuts are the most beneficial but can be hard to come by. If you have to settle for canned or jarred nuts, go ahead and grab them. Full of vitamins and minerals, nuts are the perfect snack choice in between meals or as an addition to any breakfast, lunch or dinner.

6. Garlic

Though it may not do you any favors when it comes to your breath, garlic is an amazing member of the onion family. Garlic stimulates the replication of white cells, boosts cell activity and increases the production of antibodies. Garlic can also reduce free-radicals in the bloodstream, protect against cancer and help stave off heart disease. Garlic can easily be added to any meal in its whole, chopped or minced forms.

Along with exercise, a healthy diet is one of the best ways to boost your immune system. When your immune system is running at its peak, your allergy symptoms will be less severe and shorter in duration. If you are an allergy sufferer, adding these six super foods to your diet can help you get through the season easier than you have in the past.

About the Author

Megan Hoffsted is a freelance writer and nutritionist. She often writes for allergycontrol.com where you can find an assortment of products to help fight allergies like allergy bedding. She also frequently writes for allergyguarddirect.com where you can get dust mite proof bedding.

This healthy springtime salad recipe from Nielsen-Massey can help keep diets on track while including a splash of sweetness.

Spa Salad with Almond Vinaigrette

Ingredients

10 ounces baby spinach leaves, torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup strawberries, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Almond vinaigrette (below)
Additional strawberries and almonds for garnish

Preparation

Toss the spinach, onion, strawberries and almonds gently in a large bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to combine. Garnish with additional strawberries and almonds.

Serves 2

Almond Vinaigrette

Ingredients

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Almond Extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup natural rice vinegar

Preparation

Whisk the Dijon mustard, syrup, vanilla extract, almond extract, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the canola oil in a fine stream, whisking constantly until incorporated. This will emulsify your salad dressing and it will not separate. Add the vinegar slowly, whisking constantly.

Note: Emulsified liquids are generally unmixable and whisking them together gradually will force them to combine.

Makes 3/4 cup.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Nielsen-Massey.*

Providing soothing relief to common ailments wee ones will experience – from rashes, redness (especially under the nose from runny noses!), chapped lips, and extremely dry skin – the new Soothing Balm from Little Green is a must-have for any parent! Its convenient size makes it perfect for tucking in diaper bags, purses, or backpacks, and a little goes a long way when used on baby’s tender skin!

Little Green Soothing Balm has been formulated with Beeswax and Jojoba to moisturize and nourish, and Avocado Oil and Evening Primrose to soothe and protect against summer and winter skin conditions including bug bites, sun & wind burn – making it a wonderful choice through every season. Free of sulfates and paraben, Little Green Soothing Balm can be used all over your child’s body and can even be used by adults with sensitive skin.

To learn more about Little Green, to locate a retailer near you, or to order online, visit LittleGreenCares.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Five Colleges That Have Gone Green

The green revolution is in full swing, and plenty of universities are taking steps to make their campuses more eco-friendly. From waste management to energy efficiency, these colleges are some of the greenest in the country:

1.Warren Wilson College

Located in Swannanoa, North Carolina, Warren Wilson college practically sustains itself. Lumber and wood come from its own gardens and managed forests. The campus vehicles are powered by biodiesel, solar and hybrid energy, and the streetlamps are solar powered. Students are encouraged to recycle, and a “free store” offers used items to new owners on campus to prevent useable items from being thrown out. Warren Wilson is a leader in designing green-friendly buildings as well.

2. Evergreen State College

Located in Olympia, Washington, Evergreen State College includes 800 acres of forest and beaches augmented by a 13-acre organic farm and native plants and gardens. As an alternative methods university, Evergreen State buys only clean power and is purchasing purely electric vehicles. Students are encouraged to take part in the organic farming initiatives on campus so that they can have hands-on experience with sustainable techniques.

3. Oberlin College

Located in Oberlin, Ohio, Oberlin college has been at the forefront of green design since 2005. The university continuously monitors water and energy usage in the dorms through a web program, leading to substantial reductions in use since that time. Oberlin college also has the largest solar array in the state and its Lewis Center for Environmental Studies features geothermic heating and construction from recycled materials.

4. Harvard University

Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard is a well-known name in education. It’s also a progressive leader in green design practices. School trucks work on biodiesel converted from the school’s own cafeterias, and buildings across campus have experienced a 73 percent reduction in waste. Harvard is a purchaser of renewable energy and the university uses only recycled paper printed on both sides for all communications.

5. Middlebury College

Located in Middlebury, Vermont, Middlebury College is the home of renowned environmental activist Bill McKibben. Middlebury College hosts energy-saving competitions in its dorms, challenging students to reduce their carbon footprints. The college also boasts green building habits, and any building that is torn down is dismantled into recyclable parts.

Colleges are often on the leading edge of social and technological advancements. With so many schools embracing eco-friendly design principles and choosing to be green, more businesses in the area may begin to follow suit. Students also get a first-hand glimpse at a green lifestyle, which can help them foster their own eco-friendly habits all through their lives.

About the Author

Author Adam Miller has an avid interest in leading an eco-friendly life and is earning his online masters degree for public relations while working part time.

The secret ingredient in this gluten-free tea cake is Mélange du Cap, a delicious herbal tea blend combining all-natural rooibos with cacao nibs and vanilla pods. The tea lends rich color and heightens the flavor of this good-for-you treat studded with walnuts and orange zest. Perfect for a morning or afternoon tea break.

Walnut Tea Loaf

Ingredients

Canola oil cooking spray
1/2 cup prepared Mélange du Cap Rooibos tea by Le Palais des Thés (see brewing note), at room temperature
1 1/4 cups gluten-free flour mix
3/4 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp grated orange zest
2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8-inch x 4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In small bowl, whisk together the gluten-free and almond flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, combine the applesauce, oil, and tea. Set both bowls aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until well blended and airy, about one minute.

Add the white and brown sugars, beat together, then add wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients and zest and mix just until they are combined with other ingredients; there will be many small lumps. Using rubber spatula, blend in most of the small lumps, taking care not to over-mix. Stir in the nuts. Scoop the batter into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a straw inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn the loaf out of pan and cool completely.

This tea loaf is best served after wrapping in foil for 8-24 hours, which allows flavors to ripen and loaf to become more moist.

Makes 8 servings.

Adapted from Something Different by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and Cook & Freeze: 150 Dishes to Make Now, Serve Later.

Brewing Note: In a heatproof measuring cup, steep 1 tablespoon Mélange du Cap in ½ cup of 195 degrees (not-qu ite-boiling) water for five minutes. Strain out the tea leaves, and cool to room temperature.

Mélange du Cap is available at www.palaisdesthes.com; $10 for 3.5 oz/100g resealable pouch of loose tea.