Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Fishy Affair

I was never a big fish person. As a kid, I loved shellfish but despite having a boat-owning grandfather with a passion for fishing, I never had a taste for it. Until recently, that is, when I discovered wild Alaskan salmon. And then my love affair began. Pan seared, oil poached, grilled - now I can't seem to get enough. The best part is that my new addiction also happens to be good for me.

Fatty fish, such as wild salmon, are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association, Omega-3s may help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels, slowing the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and lowering blood pressure. Even beyond that, new studies have indicated that bioactive peptides in salmon may help reduce digestive inflammation, stabilize insulin levels, and decrease joint and cartilage inflammation. Salmon is also a great source of vitamin B12, potassium, and selenium.

Keep in mind, however, that we are talking about wild caught salmon. Farmed salmon poses health risks - from the chemicals and contaminants involved in the farming process itself to the parasites that are present in the pens. For a detailed report on the sustainability risks of farmed salmon, visit Seafood Watch. Additionally, farmed salmon has less protein, more fat, and fewer omega-3s than wild salmon so the nutritional profile is not nearly as positive.

Unfortunately for moms, many of us have believed that reducing fish consumption during pregnancy is important to avoid mercury intake, which is in part true. However, the omega-3s in fish are also vitally important for the development of a baby's brain and nervous system, according to Dr. Andrew Weil. In fact, Dr. Weil cites an important study showing a correlation between low fish consumption during pregnancy and lower IQ among children. While decreased IQ is also associated with high levels of mercury in pregnancy, the drop off is more significant for those avoiding fish than for those eating it. The solution? Consume low-mercury, sustainable fish including wild salmon and freshwater trout and avoid swordfish, marlin, shark and bluefish which are all high in mercury. For a detailed list from the Natural Resources Defense Council, click here.

For me, I'm all about the salmon. Oh sure, there are plenty of fish in the sea but I'm still fawning over salmon and our fishy affair. I am partial to Vital Choice as well, not only as a supporter of the Holistic Moms Network but because their salmon is among the most delicious I have had. If ever I had a positive obsession, this would be it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What is Holistic Moms?

The Holistic Moms Network is a national community spanning across the United States, embracing thousands of members and is a significant voice for holistic parenting. But "what" or more appropriately who is HMN?

The Holistic Moms Network is moms. Moms just like you. Real moms who change dirty diapers, struggle to put food on the table, and wipe away tears. Sure, we may be changing cloth diapers and cooking up some local, organic fare but we are ordinary moms. I’m not referring to our members. I’m talking about the women who run and manage our National organization.

We are not an “entity”, we’re people. We are leaders and mothers. We are passionate about Holistic Moms because each and every one of us has felt alienated and alone. We have struggled with our parenting choices and decisions. We have been criticized and questioned. We know what it feels like when someone doesn’t “get it” or understand us. And we recognize how powerful and affirming it is to have support. We have shed tears of joy to have found others like us and we spend hours, each and every week, dedicating our time to our organization.

We juggle children and spouses, laundry and schooling. We have newborns and teenagers. Many of us have children with special needs. We stretch ourselves too thin but know that what we do each and every day makes a difference.

When people refer to us as a formidable corporation, we laugh (although we're flattered). Many of us work at home, from our kitchen tables. We work odd hours – during school, early in the morning, and late at night. You might hear our kids in the background on a conference call or see them at a Team meeting. Corporate doesn’t quite fit our mode of operation, although we are professional, creative, and driven. For the first eight years of existence, our home base was the guest bedroom in my house, piled high with papers and fliers, brochures, and files. For the first time in our history, we have finally moved into an “official” office: a small, comfortable space where we can connect as a team. We painted it with non-toxic Mythic paint (Veggie Green, in case you were wondering!) and with the generous help of one of our sponsors, Smart Little House, laid eco-friendly Marmoleum flooring. We searched Craiglist for freebies and used furniture to create our office. We are proud of all that we have built – our families, our community, our organization, and our little space.

We take it personally when people criticize us for not doing enough – or for doing too much. We agonize when people want us to take sides on single issues, instead of trying to reach out and support as many moms as we can with tolerance and respect. We take it personally, because it is personal. We’re people. We are the faces behind the national community. Often invisible, often silent but real people who make HMN happen each and every day.

Just this past weekend, our National Team gathered in our new office to brainstorm. We met on a Sunday morning – the only time that worked for many of us and our families. A couple of our far away Team members Skyped in to participate. Together we brainstormed about how to do more and make our community stronger. We shared food, as we often do, each contributing to an amazing healthy potluck (from vegan to paleo), and celebrated our new space. And then we rushed off to our families, to tend to our children, our partners, and dinner.

We are the faces of the Holistic Moms Network. We are you, you are us. We are grateful for every single member and Chapter Leader who is part of our community and we are committed to making HMN a stronger and bigger voice for all of us. It is because of members, donors, and Sponsors that we are able to build this community and continue to run it each year. Like your corner store or local business, it takes work, supplies, and services to run our local Chapters and our non-profit. You make it possible.

Come check out our photos of our new space and our Team on our Facebook page here.

And join us! Become a member, volunteer to help your local Chapter, or even get involved with our community as a Leader! Contact us to say hello or to share an idea. Stop by our office to chat. Drop by our Facebook page and “like” us. You may see us virtually, but we’re also real. And we believe in the power of people and strength of community.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Motherhood is Messy

I’ve never been one for the “Leave it to Beaver” family model. It doesn’t resonate with my personal experience of growing up in a large, loud, and moderately dysfunctional Italian American family. Like media portrayals of childbirth as quick, intense, and amazingly clean, visions of motherhood and its reality are often incongruous.

Motherhood is messy. It’s filled with vomit and diapers, milk stains and runny noses. There are nighttime accidents and crayon on the walls. There are broken toys and seemingly insurmountable messes of play things – from dough and crayons, to itty bitty Legos™ that you wind up stepping on, over and over. There are messy tantrums, in public and private, and meltdowns too numerous to count. Being a parent isn’t a Hallmark moment, it’s a marathon. And just because it isn’t a smiling family portrait all – or even most – of the time, does not make you a bad parent.

Mothers are particularly hard on themselves. The “bad mommy” syndrome persists across generations. We feel guilty because our child didn’t devour our gourmet kale and organic salmon dinner and instead ate frozen French fries and burgers. We admonish ourselves for losing our patience as our kids throw teary, fist-pumping fits in the mall and wonder what we did wrong. We blame ourselves for each and every mistake – real or imagined – that we have made along the journey. We all need to lighten up.

If your motherhood journey is messy, celebrate it. Laugh at it. Embrace it. And forgive it – and yourself. We each do the best we can with the resources that we have at the moment – whether that means our physical and environmental tools (such as information and finances), or our emotional stores (think patience). Being part of a community is one of the ways we begin to acknowledge the challenges of motherhood. It is the ultimate reality show. Seeing, knowing, feeling, and sensing that you are not the only one who has piles of dirty laundry or a hard time getting yourself into the shower is reaffirming. Parenting challenges you and stretches you. It should – and it ain’t always pretty. Knowing that you are not alone (and are not crazy) gives you the inner strength to continue. And having the opportunity to share your travails with other parents helps us all put things in perspective.

At Holistic Moms, we welcome parents from all walks of life and strive to create a supportive environment where we can connect, share, and learn. We honor the mess and the ups and downs. It is all part of the journey.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Keeping Pets Healthy: What's in the Can?

Are you a label reader? Do you know the ins and outs of organics, GMOs, food additives, and allergens? Do you scan kids' snacks for artificial ingredients and avoid the drive thru in your quest for wellness?

You are not alone! Many of us begin our journey into holistic living through nutrition. Whether the result of chronic condition or just a desire to be healthier or more fit, we often begin to understand wellness through diet. We make the simple connection between food and health and slowly make positive changes for ourselves and our families. But what about for our pets? Yes, pets! How far do you take your holistic principles? Do you think about the kibble or treats you share with your four-legged family members?

The pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar market. Commercial pet foods, like many commercial food brands, are often owned by corporate conglomerates whose first priority is not on the nutritional value or wellness potential of the products they are selling. What's really in your pet food? According to the Born Free Foundation: a whole lot of stuff that ought to concern you. Most dry pet foods are extruded - a process that essentially uses high heat to process grains into small shapes and bits, leaving little by way of nutritional value according to Sally A. Fallon, author and co-founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Although these kibbles are later sprayed with animal fats and flavors to make them more palatable, like processed breakfast cereals, they are devoid of many of the vitamins and minerals found in whole foods.

Canned foods may not provide a much better option. Wet pet foods are largely made from animal by-products "heads, feet, bones, blood, intestines, lungs, spleens, livers, ligaments, fat trimmings, unborn babies, and other parts not generally consumed by humans." To these parts many conventional pet foods add an extensive list of additives from colorings and flavorings to lubricants, leavening agents, and thickeners.

Chemical residues from pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial flavorings and colorings, and a wide variety of preservatives (such as BHA and BHT) are frequently found in commercial pet food. The dangers? As with all junk foods and chemicals in our diets, increasing evidence links these ingredients to cancer, digestive problems, and heart disease among pets.

What to do? Take your own nutritional guidelines and carry them over to your pets! Become informed and learn how to read pet food labels. Learn how to find a better quality pet food, review the benefits of removing grains from your pet's diet, read up on raw foods, and consider organics and supplementation. Your pets can benefit from a healthy, holistic lifestyle change as well!