How to Eat “REAL” at Social Gatherings

Do you ever feel like you have to choose between fellowship with friends and family or maintaining your dietary preferences? Does it seem unfair that every social situation revolves around food that you can’t (or aren’t willing to) eat?

In her guest post below, Heather Smith shares with us a few of her tips for handling these situations. So what about you? Have you ever encountered this dilemma? What tips do you have for dealing with these situations? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below….

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“Chances are you have a group of friends that like to meet up every once in a while to socialize and catch up, however not everyone shares the same “real foods” lifestyle that you do. This doesn’t mean you have to skip out on the next hang out session, it’s learning how to make do with what you have and work it so that you still stick to your choices:

  • Eat beforehand: Sometimes it is just easier to plan ahead and decide to eat beforehand. The main reason you are meeting up with your friends is to enjoy their company and talk. Eat a solid meal before you meet up and sip on some water once you arrive. Plus, it saves money!
  • Modify: Find out where the meeting place is and view the menu beforehand. Try to find something on the menu that would be easy to modify to fit your specifications and needs. Most restaurants are happy to please their customers by doing so.
  • Host it: Instead of going out to meet, offer to host a get together at your own home and provide the food. Hosting the get together will help you have full control over the menu and what is being served. You may have a mess to clean up afterwards, but definitely a mess you are willing to make.
  • Pick it: Throw out some suggestions to your friends of places that you like and that they may like. Chances are if you are the first one to give their opinion the faster everyone will be on board with your idea.
  • Pot luck: Another way to ensure that your diet is not being tainted, offer to go pot luck at your next gathering. Not only is this helpful to the host but it’s a fun way for everyone to get involved. Be sure that your dish is hearty and plentiful.

Eating real in social gatherings is really easy; it just requires that you plan ahead. Find out the location beforehand and view the menu or offer to help host or bring a dish to the next hang out. Remember the real reason you are meeting up with your friends and don’t let the food waiver your decision to see them. Have fun catching up and enjoy!”

Author Bio
Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to www.nanny.net/ service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

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Grow your OWN natural produce at home

One family’s backyard vegetable garden.

In this post, guest author Peter McAllister shares with us why it’s important to start your own garden. He also explains a few of the first steps you’ll need to take to transition your yard from grass to produce.

So what about you? Do you grow your own food? If so, why do you think it’s important? What tips do you have for others who are just getting started? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below….
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“There is growing awareness about the level of chemical fertilizers and pesticides going into our fresh produce. Commercial producers of fruit and vegetables often use chemical fertilizers and pesticides to control the yield and health of their crops. From the producer’s perspective they want the highest yields with the lowest losses to pests possible because their business is more profitable this way.

However, there is growing awareness about some of the adverse effects of the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Because of this, a growing number of consumers are choosing to eat organically produced fruit and vegetables. This can be done either by purchasing organic produce from stores or growing your own produce.

Adverse effects of the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides

  • Chemical poisons are carried on through the food chain and can have a knock on effect in harming animals.
  • When you eat fruit and vegetables that have had chemical pesticides applied to them you too are ingesting this poison.
  • The production of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has a far greater impact on the global environment than natural substances.

Growing your own fruit and vegetables is easier than you may think. All it takes is a well maintained growing patch that receives ample sunlight, water and nutrients.

How to set up your own vegetable patch

The first thing you want to consider is the position of the vegetable patch. The position of your growing area will vastly affect the yield you gain. One of the biggest considerations is sunlight. You want to position your growing area so that it achieves the most sunlight possible throughout the day. You can do this as scientifically or as instinctively as you like. One way of accurately measuring the sunlight exposure your garden gets is to set up a camera at a fixed point that has a good overall view. Once an hour take a picture of your yard for an entire day. You can then look at these pictures in a “timeline” to see which areas have the most sun for longest over the course of a day. Or, if this is not your style, you can set up the growing area in a position that you know has good general light exposure (at least 6 hours for most vegetables).

Once you have decided upon an area in which to grow your produce you need to set it up properly. If you just dig up some earth and plant seeds, the chances are you will get less than satisfactory results.

Rotavators/tillers make working the soil much easier!

The first thing to do is mark out the area you want to have designated for growing. You can then lift up the grass (if there is any) by using a turf cutter to cleanly remove the top grass layer. The next stage is to prepare the bed for planting. The best way to do this is to circulate and loosen up the soil. This can be done manually by digging or automatically using a rotavator.

Add organic fertilizer/compost to your garden!

For optimal results you will also want to mix in some organic fertilizer with this soil. The type of compost/fertilizer you use will differ depending on what you want to grow. For example, tomatoes require a high amount of nitrogen, where as carrots/peas are not as dependent on this nutrient. Ask at your local garden centre to get the most appropriate fertilizer mix for your purposes.

Growing can be a tricky procedure and you will learn as you go along. Over time your yields should get bigger and your plants’ health improve. Growing your own food is not only rewarding but also fun; eating food you have grown from scratch yourself is endlessly more rewarding than going to the grocery store.”

About the Author

Peter McAllister is employed by SGM contracts who supply equipment and services such
as
 rotavators for sale. We support sustainable living and like to encourage green projects such as home food growing. For more information see http://www.sgm-uk.com

“Living Abroad: My Personal Revelation about Real Foods”

In the guest post below, Mariana Ashley shares with us her story of how it took living in another country for her to truly understand what it meant to eat a natural diet composed of REAL foods – – truly real foods; not the pseudo-“natural” processed stuff promoted by much of the American food industry.

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“If you live in America, you know how difficult it can be to maintain a diet completely composed of whole, unadulterated foods. Of course, the slow food, green movement that’s blossomed in America over the past decade or so has made it easier in some ways, but there’s just as much marketing of supposedly “healthy, natural” foods that has served only to confuse consumers who want to live a genuinely natural lifestyle.

After years of subsisting on American staples, eating fast food several times a week, going out for dinner, etc., my mother tried to switch things up by committing to natural, organic foods. Unfortunately, most of these foods were processed and packaged, and they paid only lip service to natural foods. If it was labeled natural, organic, or diet, my mother–God bless her–just assumed it was healthy and wholesome.

It wasn’t until I studied abroad in Russia my junior year of college that I realized what it means to actually consume “real food.” Of course, don’t get me wrong—there are plenty of McDonald’s and other American fast food chains in Russia, and there were lots of food items at the grocery store that were far from being healthy or unprocessed. But in Russia, especially outside very urban areas, eating whole foods is far from being an expression of trendiness as it is in many parts of the developed, Westernized world. It’s just a fact of life.

Grocery stores in Russia are very unassuming places. Most of them are the size of convenient stores in America and carry only the essentials, like milk, eggs, cheese, a few selections of meat and produce. If the vegetables and fruits are not in season, they don’t carry them. For most items, there are only two or three brands available at the most. Some items, like milk, had only one choice. The simple, red-and-white label read “Milk.” No skim, no two percent, no brand label with pictures and marketing. Just milk.

For someone like me, who is completely overwhelmed by the overabundance of brand choice in your typical American grocery store, going to a Russian grocery store became an actually enjoyable experience precisely because of this simplicity. Look at your typical grocery store item in Russia, and you could bet your bottom dollar that the number of listed ingredients could be counted on one hand.

Most Russian families make quick trips to these grocery stores. When it came to purchasing items for making full-fledged meals, it was off to one of the many outdoor markets, which is an experience in and of itself. The Russian family I lived with loved food and loved the bonding experience endemic to meal times in your typical Russian home. I’d never experienced anything like it.

In America, it almost seems that families eat together out of a certain sense of anxiety about the breakdown of family values. Children and teens in America cannot wait to leave the table and get on with their lives on their cell phones or televisions. In Russia, at least in my experience, the whole family, both young and old, genuinely enjoyed meal times. There were always several courses, dessert, beer, wine, or vodka for the adults, free-flowing conversation, banter, joking—in a word, joy.

And it was through this experience of living abroad in a culture that doesn’t fetishize real food but actually and truly enjoys it—partly because they don’t really have much of a choice–that I learned to embrace whole foods. I’ve carried with me this Russian gusto for real food and meaningful conversation, and it’s truly changed my life.”

About the Author

Mariana Ashley is a blogger and freelance writer, whose posts offer a college guide and news for prospective students and parents. She also enjoys writing about sustainable living, parenting, personal finance, and more. She welcomes comments via email at mariana.ashley031@gmail.com.

Food Additives Affect Children’s Health & Behavior

Have you ever wondered whether our children’s diet is affecting their health…or maybe even the way they feel or behave? Do you assume that certain children can “handle” food additives just fine just because they aren’t overweight or diagnosed with a behavior disorder or medical condition?

I encourage you to view the 5-minute video overview below that details the improvements experienced by children at one elementary school when their parents and school administrators worked together for 2 full weeks to eliminate food additives (colorings, flavorings, flavor enhancers, preservatives, etc.) from their diets.

Would it surprise you to know that some of the benefits reported by the children and their parents and school staff included: increased attention skills, decreased impulsiveness & behavior problems, less difficultly falling asleep at night, decreased bed wetting, fewer headaches & skin rashes, and improved mood and anger control (leading to improved relationships with peers and family members)? Even children who appeared initially to have “nothing wrong with them” were better behaved during the 2-week trial diet.

Please view the following video; and if you would like assistance with reducing the amount of food additives in your child’s diet, check out our “Eating Additive-Free Natural Cookbook & Grocery Shopping Guide” we have created to help ease your transition!