Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Few of Our Favorite Things

This past weekend, HMN headed up to Boston for the Natural Products Expo East to check out what’s hot in all things natural and organic. It was a fabulous show packed with products from foodstuffs and supplements to personal care items and organic clothing. While some of the companies represented were not so healthy or sustainable on the green spectrum, we were delighted to find many companies operating with an authentic passion and purpose for creating better products for you, for your families, and for the planet. Here are a few of our favorites:

• We were already enamored with our HMN Sponsors Boiron, Motherlove, Organic Spa Magazine, and Organic Valley before ever stepping foot in ExpoEast, but now we love them even more! The integrity and commitment of each of these companies to making healthy products and their sincere passion for helping moms and families is remarkable. We loved meeting Organic Valley farmers from NY who were green and sustainable before it was hip; sharing tips for homeopathic remedies with Boiron; hearing about the exciting projects of Organic Spa Magazine, and embracing the vision and passion of Kathryn Higgins, Motherlove’s founder. We are honored and proud to work with these companies!

• We had fun chatting with Matt Seiler, the founder of Maine Root. Okay, we already love all things Maine but here’s a company that makes healthy, organically sweetened soda that not only tastes great but is fair trade certified. That’s pop you feel good about!

• What respect we have for Badger and their “working mom” program allowing their employees to bring their babes into the office! We loved hearing Bill Whyte’s story of how much fun it made the office to be surrounded by adorable babies while making safe, natural products like their Badger Natural Sunscreen and their Night Night Balm that we use ourselves!

• Looking for some healthy snacks? We were thrilled to discover Sun Cups and Yoga Vive at the Expo. Sun Cups makes a dark chocolate, allergen-free chocolate candy cup filled with organic sunflower butter. As a mom of children with food allergies, these were a huge find. And they taste great, too! Yoga Vive also gave us great samples of crispy, delicious USDA organic apple chips with handy snack packs perfect for lunches!

• Everyone wants to feed their babies healthy food and Yummy Spoonfuls and Happy Baby are two awesome baby food companies making this possible. Organic, whole baby foods that are neatly packaged and filled with nothing but real food. As the kiddos grow, we're sure they will be fans of Mom Made Foods – USDA organic packaged meals with wholesome ingredients. We loved the Cheesy Mac with organic butternut squash and sweet potato!

• We found a new tribe! We love Nubian Heritage products, especially their Mango Butter Lotion that smells divine and uses shea butter to soothe our dry winter skin!

• Do you know Bob? We do and he’s fabulous. That’s Bob Moore (in the picture here with HMN Founder Nancy Massotto) of Bob’s Red Mill – an employee owned company making grains, flours, mixes, and cereals for your family. Their gluten-free line is a regular staple in our pantry!

• Speaking of gluten-free all we can say is WOW! There are so many products out there now for all the parents struggling with food allergies. Who did we love? The delicious GF breads and products by Udi’s, the baking mixes by Purely Elizabeth, Pamela's Products' yummy cookies, and the snack bars by Larabar.

• Want to buy bulk from a company that walks the walk? Tierra Farms has certified organic dried fruit, nuts, and fair trade coffee, has solar panels on their facility and an organic garden and chickens – just for their employees.

• Did you know that xylitol is not only a natural sweetener that can help reduce cavities, but is also used by Xlear in sinus spray can help alleviate dryness and help with seasonal allergies? We learned a great deal from Dr. Alonzo H. Jones, D.O. and Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Texas Tech University Medical School, about the many health benefits of xylitol.

• We may be healthy, but we still enjoy our treats. Two companies made us feel really good about our habits – Glee Gum and VerMints. Glee Gum makes their addictive products from sustainably harvested rainforest chicle while VerMints sweetens their mints with natural Vermont maple syrup instead of artificial ingredients or high fructose corn syrup.

We enjoyed meeting all of these fabulous companies (and more!) and hope you will too!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kids and Electronics

A new study, published online yesterday by the journal Pediatrics, found that kids who spend more than 2 hours per day in front of the television or computer "were at greater risk of having psychological problems." The study found that "the risk of psychological difficulties increased by about 60 percent" for kids between 10 and 11 who spent more than 2 hours plugged in. Among the psychological difficulties cited were "hyperactivity, difficulty with peers and friends, poor conduct and antisocial kinds of behaviors."

Newsworthy, certainly. Surprising? Not so much. What is surprising is the degree to which our kids are engaged in electronic media. A study out earlier this year found that "kids 8 to 18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes daily to media use, or about 53 hours a week, which is more than a full-time job." From television and computers to iPods and cell phones, our kids are walking, talking, playing, and connecting electronically all day long - at home and at school. And so are we. As adults, if we counted up the number of times we check email, tweet, or scan our Facebook pages, watch the news, or listen to music, we'd also be pretty amazed at the results. We have only one television in our home, shocking by today's standards, according to the cable service representative who was here just last week, but one PC, three laptops, an iPhone, cell phones, an iPod and who knows how many other gadgets - and that's just for the two adults in residence. It's hypocritical for us to ban and limit electronics in our children's world when we are always plugged in. Even when we do place limits, our kids have smart boards and computers in their school systems and engage in electronics throughout the day. We are teaching them to plug in and connect all the time. Stand in line anywhere - your grocery store, coffee shop, or at the bank and count the people waiting who are plugged in. They're checking their emails, listening to music, talking on their cell phones - and so are we. I picked up a stuffed animal at the toy store the other day and it came complete with a USB cable to download music, my son's name, and monitor his play experience. Seriously! And I thought it was just a toy dog.

So how is it surprising that our kids are surrounded by electronics? It's not. We're setting the examples for them and they are taking it all in. But should we? Are we putting their psychological and physical well-being at risk? Many experts think so. An article in The New Atlantis from 2007 cites the "limited and repetitive activity" of children engaging in electronic toys and notes the limited social interaction, shorter attention spans, and lack of dramatic and creative play among younger generations. High-tech toys are not going to disappear, nor is our fast-paced electronic world. So what's a parent to do? Focus on balance, the experts recommend. Limit your child's exposure and provide basic toys that empower them, feed their creativity and imagination, and allow them to manipulate and control their environment. When kids - and adults - expect everything to happen at the push of a button and to sit back and simply be entertained, we're all at risk. Be a model for your kids and engage in a creative hobby or pursuit. Remember that they mimic what they see. Unplugging, slowing down, and taking time to connect would do us all some good!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ethical Chocolate

I seriously love chocolate. Every Halloween, as a child, I was more than happy to trade away candy corns, licorice, or any sugary treat that was not chocolate. But chocolate I guarded like a hawk. I still love chocolate but as a holistic-minded parent, I have definitely changed my chocolate ways. Oh, I still consume copious amounts of the stuff, but now it's organic and fair trade. It's one of those simple changes we can all make that has an impact.

Why? First, because cocoa farmers are some of the poorest people on the planet. Small family cocoa farms have little access to safe and effective practices and, in many cases, are worked by children (both voluntarily and through slave trade). According to the Fair Trade Federation, an estimated 1.4 billion people survive on less than $1.25 per day. Organizations like the International Cocoa Initiative are working to end exploitative and forced child labor, but consumer support is also critical to success. The principles of fair trade are simple: create opportunities for disadvantaged producers, do not maximize profit at the expense of the producers, pay a fair price, abolish child and forced labor, and encourage sustainable technologies, among others.

How can you help? Start by looking for and buying fair trade chocolate. As you plan your Halloween treats, choose a fair trade alternative. Check out Global Exchange's Reverse Trick-or-Treating Program and consider sharing a flyer with your neighbors or friends about the importance of buying fair trade. Get involved in changing the coffee and chocolate industries through the Sweet Smarts curriculum and teach your children the power of their choices. Look for Fair Trade certification labels and request your local store carry products that are fair trade. Visit some of the Global Exchange stores in your area or online to see a variety of products that support fair trade.

Questions? Visit Global Exchange's questions page to learn more! And join us Tuesday, October 5th at 10 pm ET for a Twitter Party at #holisticmoms to chat with Global Exchange about reverse trick-or-treating, fair trade, and to share healthy Halloween tips!