Monday, August 25, 2014

5 Tips For Quickly Packing Awesome School Lunches

I can't believe how fast the summer has flown! School is starting soon for my kids and many children have already gone back. Packing school lunches can definitely get tedious after a while. These 5 helpful hints will give you lots of ideas for packing easy, healthy and awesome lunches your kids will love!

Mac and Cheese, mangoes, blackberries, tomatoes and steamed baby peas.

1. "Something fresh and real with every meal" - Try to include at least one fresh, raw fruit or veggie with every lunch. It doesn't need to be fancy - just a real, fresh, whole food. Keep it simple, keep it fresh and buy organic whenever possible.

Homemade zucchini muffin, blueberries, raspberries, cucumber sticks, tomatoes, eggplant hummus and pretzels

2. Dinner for Lunch - I love leftovers! When you're preparing dinner, make extra so you can add it to the next day's school lunch. Doing this will save you so much time. Plus, it adds variety to the lunches. Throw in a handful of berries and veggie sticks and you have a quick lunch that's also healthy. No need to heat the meal at school, leftovers taste great cool

Roast chicken strips, grapes, carrot sticks, hummus, pretzels, raw sprouted pumpkin seeds.

3. Preparation Is Your Best Friend - Make the kids' lunches before you go to bed and put them in the fridge. They'll be ready to grab and go in the morning. So much better than trying to pack lunches during the morning rush.

Yogurt with beet puree, kiwi slices, Annie's cheddar bunnies, blueberries and "Ants On A Log" with peanut butter, celery and dried cherries.

4. Spinach as sandwich "lettuce" - Try substituting fresh, baby leaf spinach as the lettuce in sandwiches. It is one of the healthiest foods on the planet and has a very mild taste.

Applegate turkey bologna sandwich with baby spinach, steamed asparagus, tomatoes, raw sprouted pumpkin seeds and a chocolate dipped pretzel

5. Trade in all of the separate baggies for 1 container - We love using stainless steel bento boxes, like Planetbox, for lunch. It saves so much time by not having to individually wrap everything. Plus, these containers are dishwasher safe and leave no waste.

Hummus with chia seed chips, roasted broccoli, blackberries, blueberries and Annie's gummy bunnies.

Happy back to school!!!

What are some of your favorite tips for packing lunch?


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hidden Dangers In The Freezer Aisle

It's the season for grabbing frozen treats to cool down on a hot day, but before you buy a box of traditional freezer pops from the grocery store, take a good look at the ingredient list. It probably reads more like a science experiment than a refreshing, icy treat that should be given to children.


Here's how it all breaks down and how truly unhealthy these store bought "frozen treats" really can be.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
This is a highly-refined, industrial food product. It is not the same as naturally occurring fructose in fruit, which is part of a complex of nutrients and fiber. High Fructose Corn Syrup has become a leading source of calories in the United States and is found in nearly all processed foods. It may contribute to the development of diabetes, obesity, cancer and more. Additionally, HFCS is mostly made from GMO corn and Mercury has even been found in certain brands of HFCS. No thank you. There would be no need for High Fructose Corn Syrup in these freezer pops if they actually used any real fruit.

Citric Acid 
A natural acid that is found in many fruits. The acidic pH of citric acid makes it useful as a preservative. Since many bacteria are unable to grow in an acidic environment, citric acid is often added to processed foods as a preservative.

Artificial flavors 
These flavors are chemical mixtures that try to mimic a natural flavor. To approximate the actual flavor of a food, scientists may blend dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of different chemicals in a lab. It is scary to think that we don’t fully know what we are eating. Artificial flavors may cause cancer. This labeling should be far more extensive, rather than the vague term "artificial flavors."

Sodium Benzoate 
This food preservative helps inhibit the growth of mold in processed food and may increase hyperactivity in children.

Potassium Sorbate 
This is a preservative used in processed foods to help prevent mold, fungi and yeast growth. Potassium sorbate is currently considered non-toxic and safe for use in food. However, many people, including myself, believe that the addition of synthetic ingredients to food, especially food consumed regularly by children, can cause long term side effects which can be harmful.

Food Dyes Red 40 and Blue 1
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), artificial food dyes can be very dangerous to one's health. They pose risks of cancer, hyperactivity in children and allergic reactions. CSPI wants food dyes to be banned because they are a threat to public health. According to the CSPI, in a handful of studies, Red 40 damaged the DNA of mice. The European union requires a warning label on products containing Red 40, yet no warning label is required here. Shameful.

Blue 1 is banned in many countries. This artificial food dye is linked to ADHD, allergies and asthma. It crosses the blood brain barrier and can actually enter the bloodstream via the skin or through the digestive tract. When your child is licking a lollipop and his tongue turns blue, he may think it's funny, but his body is actually absorbing this harmful chemical through his tongue and into the bloodstream. Avoid any food product that contains artificial food dyes as much as possible.

We all want the best for our kids and I think the main reason why so many people buy these chemical filled foods is because there are no warning labels - so they are considered safe. Many people don't realize just how dangerous these food additives and artificial ingredients can be.

The good news is that it's an easy switch. Making homemade frozen treats is extremely easy, quick and affordable. Just blend your chosen fruits and freeze in your Sage Spoonfuls jars with a popsicle stick. They're healthy and taste great! Plus, you get the same vibrant colors without any of that nasty artificial stuff.



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dried Fruit: Choose the Ugly Ones



Dried fruit is a healthy snack right? Well, not so fast. It depends on what kind you choose. Most dried fruits are treated with Sulpher Dioxide to prevent spoiling and to preserve the fruit's beautiful color. That is why dried fruit not treated with Sulpher Dioxide loses it's color and tends to look brown. 

While unsulphered dried fruit doesn't look as appetizing as the chemically treated fruit, consider this; Sulfur Dioxide is a gas that's created by burning oil or coal and smells like rotten eggs. It is also an air pollutant that can cause severe health problems in humans. That is far less appetizing than naturally sun dried fruit that has lost it's color. 

Many dried fruit brands using Sulpher Dioxide also contain added sugar, which seems really unnecessary considering how sweet fruit is on it's own. Additionally, Sulpher Dioxide is used in products as a bleaching agent or disinfectant. How this chemical can then also be used as a food preservative is really beyond me, and sadly, it is in so many foods, including your favorite glass of wine. While it is unavoidable in some instances, like wine, I feel we should steer clear of this preservative wherever possible, especially for children.

Some people actually have a sensitivity to it and can have serious health issues as a result. If you are sensitive to Sulpher Dioxide, being exposed to it can lead to breathing problems such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and respiratory disease. Eating foods treated with Sulpher Dioxide when you have a sensitivity may cause an upset stomach, an asthma attack or a skin rash. 

The FDA considers Sulpher Dioxide safe in small doses, but it doesn't sound very safe to me, especially in food for children. I recommend buying organic, unsulphered dried fruits whenever possible. They are available at most natural food stores like Whole Foods and Fairway Farms.



Sunday, June 8, 2014

How Did Processed Baby Food Become The Norm?

As parents, we want to do what's best for our babies. It's our instinct.



As women, when we find out we are pregnant, we do everything we can for our developing baby. We want to give them the best start to life. We try and have as healthy a pregnancy as possible. We stop smoking, drinking, we eat as healthy as we can, we find out what medications we can and can't take, we do whatever needs to be done for the health of the baby, even if it means being on bed rest or a complete lifestyle change. We do what's best for the baby. It's our instinct.

When planning for our baby's arrival, we research products, we make sure we choose the safest car seat, we read books and get advice from trusted friends and loved ones. We make sure our baby's environment will be as safe, cozy and loving as possible. It's our instinct.

When our baby is born, we nurse or pump our milk, because we know that breast milk is best. It takes a lot of time and commitment and can be painful at times, but it's best for the baby so we do it. If we are not able to provide breast milk to our baby, we research formula to find the best one that is closest to breast milk, because our babies deserve the very best. It's our instinct.

Then, when baby is 4-6 months and ready to start solids....we're supposed to feed them processed food for every meal, every day? That's a very different mindset from everything we've been doing for our baby leading up to this point. It's not our instinct to feed our babies processed food - it's marketing.

How did this happen? How did feeding babies processed food for every meal, every day become the norm? 

Store bought baby food in jars first hit the shelves in the late 1920's. Over decades and with very aggressive marketing, store bought baby food became the norm. Brands marketed to parents that their manufactured food was the best. That it was specifically made for babies, was better for them and safer than what a parent could make at home. It was also marketed that making your own baby food was laborious and inconvenient. With that kind of advertising, it's no wonder parents flocked to store bought. They truly believed, and were led to believe, that it was the best food available for their babies.


We know better now. It has been proven time and time again that homemade is the best choice. Store bought baby food has it's place and may come in handy at times, but I don't feel it should be the norm. It should not be for every meal every day, especially when homemade is so easy. All you have to do is look at these side by side comparisons to see how much more appealing the homemade baby food is.
 
Pea Puree
Store bought on the left and homemade on the right. Doesn't even look like the same food.
Butternut Squash Puree
Store bought on the left and homemade on the right. The difference in taste and texture is substantial.

Chicken Noodle
Store bought on the left and homemade on the right. The store bought looks like melted cheese. Where are the veggies? Where is the texture? This is supposed to be a Stage 3 meal. 

Mango, Kiwi & Apple
Store bought on the left and homemade on the right. The jar only said "kiwi juice" it doesn't even contain the actual fruit. Plus, it's apparently "good" until 2016. 
 
Homemade baby food benefits
  • Healthier - Homemade baby food is healthier, because it's fresh and not processed. Homemade baby food is only lightly steamed or roasted so it can retain the most nutrients. Plus, as soon as your baby is 7 months, you can puree fresh fruits without cooking. This gives your baby 100% of the wonderful raw nutrients and antioxidants in the food. It has also been shown that babies fed a diet of homemade fresh fruits and veggies have a lower risk of developing a food allergy by age 2 than babies fed a steady diet of processed foods. Store bought baby food is processed for a long shelf life. This process destroys nutrients, taste, texture, aroma and color of the food. Many store bought baby foods also contain fillers, additives and preservatives. Additionally, some brands are not even organic, exposing our babies to potentially harmful pesticides and GMOs. Yuk. 
  • Cheaper - Homemade baby food is hands down the most affordable option when it comes to feeding your baby. Homemade can actually be up to 5x LESS than store bought! Some of the more expensive organic pouch brands can be as much as $2.00 per pouch. You can make a serving of organic homemade baby food for as little as $0.12 per ounce!
  • Tastier - Homemade baby food is absolutely delicious, because it's fresh. In my opinion, there is no comparison between the taste of store bought and homemade. Sadly, I feel we are unintentionally breeding picky eaters with all of this store bought baby food. So much of it just doesn't taste right. A baby's taste buds are developing the first 12-18 months of life. We need to be feeding them a wide variety of fresh, delicious foods to help them develop their palate. If we feed babies a steady diet of processed store bought baby food that doesn't taste as good as homemade, we are most definitely affecting their developing taste buds. I can't tell you how many moms have told me that their 1st child was fed exclusively store bought and has grown into a picky eater, but the 2nd child was fed homemade and will eat anything.
  • Correct texture - With homemade baby food you can expose your baby to many different textures and consistencies, whereas store bought baby food is mainly just purees. If kids are basically fed only pureed foods out of a jar or pouch the first 18 months of life, it's no wonder they can become adverse to different textures. Most babies only need puree until about 6 months while they are learning to swallow food from a spoon. After that, you can start giving them mushy and then chunky consistencies until they are basically on bite sized table food at a year old.
  • Eco-friendly - Can you imagine how many baby food jars, pouches and lids get thrown away every year? Unfortunately, only a small percentage gets recycled, leaving the rest to either be incinerated or put in a landfill. With homemade, there is very little waste and everything is reusable. 
The bright, vibrant colors of homemade baby food.
 
Common misconceptions about homemade baby food
  • "I don't have the time" - This is the biggest misconception when it comes to homemade baby food and it couldn't be further from the truth. The key is preparing it in bulk and storing it in the freezer. In an airtight container, like our Sage Spoonfuls jars, most baby food will stay fresh for up to 3 days in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer. You can make 2 weeks of baby food in only 10 minutes. You literally go shopping in your freezer instead of wasting your time and money schlepping to the store to buy baby food. With the right tools, homemade can be just as convenient as store bought.
  • "I don't cook" - You absolutely do not need to be a cook to prepare homemade baby food. It does not need to be, and should not be, fancy or complicated. It's all about single whole foods served on their own or mixed together with other whole foods. It's truly as simple as boiling water. A great place to start is with a no cook food like banana or avocado. Just peel and mash with the back of a fork - so easy! 
  • "I'm afraid I will do something wrong and hurt my baby" - As long as you follow simple guidelines and the recommendations of your pediatrician, you can't go wrong.
  • "I buy organic in the pouch, it's the same as homemade" - While organic is a better choice than conventional, it's not the same as homemade, because it's still processed for shelf life and can also contain additives, fillers and preservatives.
 
 
As more and more parents learn the wonderful benefits of homemade baby food and switch to making their own, sales of store bought are declining. Baby food manufacturers have recognized the move toward homemade and are doing everything they can to be more like homemade.

Companies are changing their marketing and some are even re-branding themselves to appear more like homemade. Through their very own advertising, baby food companies are telling us that homemade is best. Even if it's "just green beans" in the jar, it's still "just green beans" that have been processed.

While they are striving to be as close to homemade as possible, store bought baby food is processed for shelf life. Feeding your baby a food that claims to be "good" for nearly 2 years is not what's best. Fresh is best. Homemade baby food should be the norm.
 
 
If you haven't tried making your own baby food yet, give it a chance.  Homemade is super easy, crazy inexpensive, not at all time consuming and can be as convenient as store bought. It's your instinct to give your little one the very best and you'll know you are giving your baby the freshest, healthiest start to life.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Mother's Wisdom

 



Growing up with a mother who was very successful both personally and professionally, I knew I wanted the same for myself. She followed her professional dreams and achieved goals that were her own, but she also fulfilled her dream to have a family and be an amazing mother. I was, and continue to be, inspired by her and everything she has been able to accomplish. 
 
Although she had a high profile career that demanded a lot of her attention, she was always there for us. I don't think she ever missed a soccer game or a performance my entire childhood. It was a difficult balance, but she found a way to make it happen. She taught me to believe in myself and to chase my dreams. She showed me first hand that you can have a career and still be a fantastic mom. I am forever grateful to her for the wonderful example she was, and is, for me.
 
 


With a hectic day-to-day schedule and the ever present balancing act between work and family, there is nothing I like more than to be home on a holiday. Just to be home. Quiet, casual, no computers or phones. Just family and being mom. That was my only wish for Mother's Day.
 
























 
 






 
I hope to be the same inspiration to my children that my mother has been for me. I want to pass along to them her words of wisdom and some of my own lessons I've learned along the way: 
 
-The goal is not perfection. Perfection is unattainable and boring. The goal is to be the best you can so that when you put your head on the pillow at night you know you've tried your best.
-Take pride in your work, most importantly take pride in yourself.
-If it's a choice between work and the kids, choose the kids....work will always be there. 
-Have the courage to lead a big life.
-Help others whenever and however you can.
-Respect yourself always.
-No matter how busy you are between work and your children, always make time for your marriage.
-Forgive yourself when you make mistakes and forgive others when they do the same.
-Believe in yourself and don't be afraid to fail. Know that the road to success is long, winding and full of potholes.
-If you have to force it, let it go
-Don't be afraid to raise your hand and ask a question.
-Chase your dreams, don't follow the crowd.
-Be good to people and don't judge. 
-It's all about balance, you can have it all...just not all at the same time.
 
I feel so incredibly lucky and grateful that these 4 little nuggets are mine.

I hope you all had a beautiful Mother's Day, surrounded by family and getting hugs from loving little arms.
 

 
 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Biggest Baby Shower!

Some of our favorite events of the year are Big City Moms Biggest Baby Showers. They are held all over the country and they are fantastic. Last night was the Biggest Baby Shower in NYC. These events are a great way for companies and brands to showcase their products to media, bloggers, celebs and, most importantly, expectant parents. We actually launched Sage Spoonfuls at the Biggest Baby Shower event NYC in November, 2011.






















We love getting to see so many of our friends and partners at these events. This is me with Gigi Lee Chang, who is the CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World.  She is awesome and we are huge fans of the organization.






















Alex is the best partner and pitchman I could have ever hoped for. I'm truly blessed to have a husband who believes in and supports my vision. It's so much fun for the two of us to see how Sage Spoonfuls has grown. It's gone from a start up to one of the most trusted names in baby food products in only 2 short years. This is something I am truly grateful for and extremely proud of.




















We love speaking to moms who used Sage Spoonfuls for their first babies and look forward to using it for their second. Really rewarding to hear such amazing feedback!




















I always love speaking on the panel about nutrition and the importance of homemade baby food. Last night's panel was moderated by the very fun Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner, who are Today's Moms and the authors of the popular book Sh*tty Mom. We had so much fun! I was joined on the panel by Rachel Blumenthal of Cricket's Circle, Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg and Farnoosh Torabi.





















One of the highlights of the event was meeting and chatting with Nicole Polizzi aka Snooki. She was absolutely lovely and super nice. She was at the event signing copies of her new book Baby Bumps. We talked about baby food, boobs and books!






















Last night's event was extra special - it was Big City Moms 10th Anniversary. We couldn't be happier for our good friends Risa and Leslie. They are amazing women and deserve every bit of the amazing success they have with Big City Moms!






















Can't wait for the next event!


Monday, April 21, 2014

A Sunny Easter At Home

 
 
 
I've never been so happy to see Spring as I am this year. Being in NY, we had the longest, coldest and most brutal winter I can ever remember. We all felt like bears in hibernation. Now that Spring has officially sprung and we've been flush with sunny days, we've thrown open the windows and doors and are enjoying every minute of fresh air that we can get. I can already sense a new level of happiness and joy in the kids that only long days playing outside can bring.

We were especially excited about Easter this year. It was our first Easter in our new house and we were hosting a big group of family and lifelong friends and lots of kids. We spent Saturday decorating, dying eggs and getting ready for the big day. The kids had so much fun. They love making crafts and had the best time sitting at the kitchen table together decorating Easter egg pictures to put up all over the kitchen.
 

 
 

I love holidays, entertaining and just going all out. Childhood goes by in a flash and I want to make as much magic for the kids as I can. We filled their baskets with books, puzzles, crafts, fun stuff for outside and, of course, Peeps and chocolate. As intense as I am about eating healthy, clean and organic, there are some days that the kids just need a free pass - Easter is definitely one of those days. They had gummy worms for breakfast and enjoyed every minute of it!


 

 
 

The Easter egg hunt was awesome. We had 16 kids flying all over the backyard trying to grab every egg they saw. I have to say, they were great. The older kids even left a few eggs on the ground so the littlest bunnies could have some too. We were highly impressed with their restraint.

 
 
We had a little backyard Indy 500 going on.
 
 
Serious chocolate eating about to go down
 
 
The look on Mason's face sums up the day - happy, carefree and outside. I couldn't have wished for a more perfect Easter. I hope you all had a warm and wonderful day with family and friends too.