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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Discovering Resources for Natural Living


Nine years ago, when my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, I was drowning in motherhood overwhelm. I was a first-time mama, and a holistic one at that, trying to navigate the challenging road of parenthood while also living as naturally and sustainably as I could. When we were told to go gluten, dairy, soy, and corn free, my head started spinning. How, where, when would I ever find a way to eat this way?

Radically changing your lifestyle is never easy but when faced with no choice, you find your way. And, nine years later, I’m happy to say that living with food allergies has gotten a whole lot easier thanks to the enormous growth in the natural foods industry. And, as a holistic mom, finding non-toxic products for my family and home has also become easier as the market continues to grow. It’s still easy to get overwhelmed, but there are options.

In order to explore these options a bit more, I headed out to California this month with HMN’s Social Networking Coordinator to see what the Natural Products Expo West was all about. This enormous trade show is packed with thousands of vendors for all things organic, natural, and green (to varying degrees). What is amazing to me is how many fabulous products now exist for families dealing with food allergies like mine. I could get lost in aisles and aisles of gluten-free and dairy-free options. Overwhelming still, but also exciting! Here’s a little of the excitement we found:

One of our family’s favorites, Pamela’s Products, makes handy baking mixes that are great for gluten-free birthday parties and GF cheesecakes that are a delicious treat. And if you need a way to entertain and still make gluten-free foods, check out Pamela’s website for great recipes to inspire all you gluten-free chefs! My older son is a fan of Udi’s Gluten-Free breads – perfect for sandwiches and french toast. And now, much to my surprise, there’s gluten free mac and cheese and bunny crackers (who needs goldfish?) from Annie’s! We even found organic, gluten-free nail polish from Keeki that is safe during pregnancy and for girls and teens who might be nail biters!

If you are looking for dairy-free products to swap out some of your current favorites, you are also in luck! Coconut milk was big at the Expo and two companies were real standouts in this area: So Delicious for their dairy-free creamers, egg nog, and ice cream and Coconut Bliss for their divine ice cream and new flavors (we really liked the Chocolate Walnut Brownie).

As a confessed chocoholic, I was amazed at all the organic, fair trade options we found at the expo. We made sure to visit Flora Health more than once for their amazing Bija Omega Truffles with omega oils built right in them, and Alter Eco’s Dark Quinoa Chocolate, a crispy chocolate bar that’s gluten free, organic, and fair trade!

While walking through Expo West, we also had an opportunity to meet with some of HMN’s amazing sponsors who help support our growing non-profit community. We found that Boiron has a new Medicine Finder available on their website and coming to stores near you, care of Aisle 7 who makes handy kiosks for retail locations. This will make it so much easier for busy moms to find a natural remedy for whatever condition they need and help them explore homeopathy. We also visited with Motherlove and its founder Kathryn Higgins, whose passion for natural living is inspiring! Their green salve is the perfect solution for bee stings, bug bites, and poison ivy (and HMN members can save on Motherlove purchases using our Online Member Savings Book) – a great time to get ready for outdoor fun!

We always love to see our friends at Organic Valley. Local Organic Valley farmers attend our annual Natural Living Conference each year and also come to expos such as this. Knowing the people behind the brand makes a huge difference for moms in being comfortable with the choices we make. They also had some tasty new organic coffee creamers - a delicious way to start your day!

Getting to know the people behind these companies is so valuable. You can see and hear their passion for what they do. We met the founders of Zukay Live Foods a non-dairy pro-biotic food company; the lively family behind Matt’s Munchies (with amazing all-natural, organic chocolate banana fruit leather), and the women behind People Towels, an organic reusable alternative to paper towels! Finally, we met the women of Eco-Me - natural cleaning products that you would make at home if you had time – with simple ingredients like vinegar and essential oils.

Last, but certainly not least, we were pleasantly surprised to run into HMN Advisory Board member Peggy O’Mara, Founder of Mothering Magazine while walking through the show. We were honored to have an opportunity to see Peggy and thank her for all the wonderful years of hard work on Mothering, a legacy from which Holistic Moms was born. She is an inspiration to many of us.

Although the path to living naturally isn’t always easy, more and more companies are heeding the call of moms like us! The market is growing and if we continue to use our buying power to tell manufacturers what we expect and what we need, many of these companies are happy to create it! It’s still easy to get overwhelmed and hard to make healthy changes, but it is reassuring to know that there is a growing demand for healthy products and a number of honest, passionate people building companies to fulfill these needs!

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