How to Wash Produce

How to Wash Produce #ygbt #oams #cleanfood Don’t you just love a tip that saves you time and money… and is good for you in the process? You can’t beat that, right?! Well, that’s the sort of tip I’ve got for you today.

  • I’ll save you TIME by showing you how to wash your produce all at once (and if you only go grocery shopping once a month, it saves you even more time).
  • I’ll save you MONEY by showing you how washing your produce all at once will make it last longer and stay fresher.
  • It’s GOOD FOR YOU because washing your produce and having fresher produce means fewer pesticides entering your body and more nutrition.

It’s a win-win all around, my friend! Here’s how to wash produce in big batches to save you time and money.

How to Wash Your Produce (and save time and money in the process)

First of all, I want to highly recommend that you go grocery shopping once a month if you’re really interested in saving yourself significant time and money. It might sound crazy, but trust me, it’s totally doable and it works. You’ll find all the info you need to get started in my eBook, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox.

Once you’ve gone on your monthly shopping trip, you’ll have a mountain of produce that you want to last as long as possible. There are a lot of ways to do that, and many of them are discussed in the book, but one of the best ways is simply to wash all the produce before you put it away. So pile up all the produce on the counter next to the sink, and then get started!

1. Fill the sink with water and some vinegar.

You can also add a couple drops of Thieves oil for added cleaning power! You don’t need a huge amount of vinegar; I just add a few generous splashes and call it good.

Place your produce gently in the water. Be sure not to put things like apples and blackberries in at the same time, because that could be seriously bad news for the blackberries. Depending on how much produce you have, you may need to do several batches.

Let the produce sit in the water for a minute or two.

2. Rinse the produce in a colander.

Remove the produce from the sink and place in a colander. If you have a double sink, you can rinse it right away; otherwise, you might need to wait to rinse until you’ve run all the produce through the vinegar bath.

Be sure to rinse the produce very thoroughly to get off all the remaining pesticides and bacteria, as well as all the vinegar.

3. Place the produce on a towel to dry.

Set out some towels on your countertops and put the produce on the towels in a single layer to dry. I sometimes leave it on the countertops overnight, depending on the time I get started with it, but generally it will take only a couple hours.

Carefully store the produce in the appropriate spot in the fridge or pantry.

This whole process takes 10-15 minutes plus drying time and saves you a lot of money in the long run! You’ll find that your produce lasts significantly longer when you wash it this way before storing it, which means less produce dumped in the trash. And, of course, your produce will be cleaner and fresher for you when you go to eat it, which is good for your health as well.

Helping you save money on your groceries is one of my favorite things to do ever, so I’m super excited about my latest project. I’m working on updating and slightly revising the ebook I mentioned earlier, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox. It’s going to be an even better resource to help you keep your money in your pocket while purchasing the highest quality  of food possible for your family. Once the second edition of YGBT is released, I’ll be working on a spiral-bound print copy as well! And on top of all that, pretty soon after that I’ll be releasing an eCourse that personally walks you through the process of saving money on your groceries. I’m not a squee-in’ kinda girl normally, but I’m so excited about what I’ve got in store for you that I’m about to do just that! So make sure you sign up for email updates so you know when all of this brand new awesomeness is released. Here’s to healthy food… and more money in your pocket!

 

Remembering {and Reviving} the True Story of Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann, a Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

As a child, I remember feeling a certain affinity for Raggedy Ann simply because she (sorta) bore my name. I didn’t really have a passionate interest in the doll (frankly, I didn’t love dolls much at all), but I did feel a kinship with my namesake doll.

Fast forward to 2015… I’m all grown up now and I still have an affinity for Raggedy Ann, but for entirely different reasons. As the vaccine storm whips up into a frenzy, I’m reminded that Raggedy Ann was a potent symbol of one of the earliest anti-vaccine movements that holds eery similarities to today.

Raggedy Ann, a Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

The Sad Story of Raggedy Ann

Johnny Gruelle was the creator and inventor of Raggedy Ann, a creation intended for the enjoyment of his daughter Marcella. Around the same time he was developing the story and character of Raggedy Ann to prepare for publishing, Marcella was given the smallpox vaccination at school without the consent of her parents. Shockingly, although she developed an infection from the vaccination, they inoculated her several more times. Marcella died a slow and painful death, eventually becoming so weak she could not move her muscles, and so was much like a rag doll in appearance. After her death, Johnny became a staunch supporter of the anti-vaccine movement and Raggedy Ann became a symbol of that movement. You can read more about the Raggedy Ann story here.

At a time when scared and angry parents are calling for compulsory and mandatory vaccinations across the board – no exemptions – it behooves us to remember the hard-won freedoms of earlier generations who had valid concerns about that very practice. 

Raggedy Ann, Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

I know many of us who have questions about vaccines have been feeling rather attacked lately in social media and mommy wars. The insults, the threats, the anger, and the hate are bullets that, while they may not change our course, certainly leave wounds behind. Many of my fellow vaccine-questioners have expressed to me that they are tired of dealing with the onslaught, tired of debating, tired of the hatred directed at them. Most of them have come to the conclusion that they’d rather not get into these heated debates – not with people they love, and not with strangers online – and so have resigned themselves to silence.

I’m torn myself because I am also heartily tired of the debate, and I’m tired of the vitriol. It’s exhausting to be constantly defending myself and trying to educate folks on the very real dangers of vaccination. But I feel like the heat of the battle means that it’s almost over, and if we don’t keep pressing on, we’ll lose. We’ll lose the right to make medical decisions for ourselves and our children, and that’s a slippery slope I don’t want to take a ride on.

So. I have an idea. Let’s all take up the symbol of previous generations who fought the very same battle and faced the same foes. Johnny Gruelle fought with ink and paper, let’s fight on social media. But you don’t have to say a thing! All you need to do is replace your profile pic on all your social media accounts with a picture of Raggedy Ann. It’s a seemingly innocuous image that won’t get in people’s faces and it won’t anger anyone. But it will represent what you stand for and it will remind you of your historic right to fight for that stand.

And if enough of us do it, then we’ll have a sea of Raggedy Ann profile pictures all across Facebook, across Twitter, across Instagram. Folks will see all those Raggedy Anns and will start wondering. And when they do, you can point them to the history of Raggedy Ann by posting a simple link. You don’t have to say a word. Let Raggedy Ann speak for you.

Are you in? Let’s do this thing!

Raggedy Ann Social Media Storm

  1. Download a free graphic of Raggedy Ann.
  2. Upload it as your profile picture to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… wherever you are on social media.
  3. If anybody asks you why, direct them to this link that explains the story of Raggedy Ann.

5 Indisputable Facts About Vaccines

5 Indisputable Facts About VaccinesI don’t normally get controversial here on the blog but some things weigh heavily on my heart and this is one of them. I’m concerned by the growing number of people who are angrily shouting “You dumb anti-vaxers with your pseudo-science! You’re killing everybody else with your stupid refusal to vaccinate!”; they are so blinded by their anger (fueled by media reports funded by pharmaceutical companies) that they don’t stop, take a breath and listen to actual facts. Well at any rate, that’s the impression I get from their ranting internet comments.

First of all, I’m not technically an “anti-vaxer”. My children have been partially vaccinated  on a delayed schedule and I myself have had at least one vaccine as an adult. I do believe strongly, however, that vaccines carry an inherent risk and that every parent should have the freedom to decide if they want their children to take that risk or not. There are valid, logical, science-based reasons why some parents choose not to vaccinate, and I think everybody needs to take a step back and acknowledge that truth.

So here we go. Five indisputable facts about vaccines:

1. Vaccines Contain Toxic Ingredients

A vaccine does not contain merely the active vaccinating ingredient (i.e., a virus in some form or other) and the culture media required for its development, it also contains additional ingredients that are intended to either increase the effectiveness of the vaccine, or to stabilize and preserve it. The CDC has published a little booklet called The Guide to Vaccine Contraindications and Precautions, for your perusal. Among other things, this booklet informs you of all the known ingredients in the vaccines currently available today. Here are a few selections detailing some of the ingredients in commonly administered vaccines, copied and pasted directly from the bookDTaP (Daptacel) – Aluminum Phosphate, Ammonium Sulfate, Casamino Acid, Dimethyl-beta-cyclodextrin, Formaldehyde or Formalin, Glutaraldehyde, 2-Phenoxyethanol, Aluminum Hydroxid MMR (MMR-II) – Amino Acid, Bovine Albumin or Serum, Chick Embryo Fibroblasts, Human Serum Albumin,  Gelatin, Glutamate, Neomycin, Phosphate Buffers, Sorbitol, Sucrose, Vitamins Pneumococcal (Prevnar) – Aluminum Phosphate, Amino Acid, Soy Peptone,  Yeast Extract Rotavirus (RotaTeq) – Cell Culture Media, Fetal Bovine Serum, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Phosphate Monobasic Monohydrate, Sodium Hydroxide Sucrose, Polysorbate 80 Other vaccines have very similar lists. To sum up, vaccines contain a cocktail of the following ingredients:

  • Antibiotics
  • Aluminum
  • Animal and Human Cells, including from monkeys, chickens, cows, and aborted human fetuses
  • Formaldehyde
  • MSG
  • and of course, the infamous Thimerasol

Additional facts for your consideration:

  • It’s important to know that in order to protect the trade secrets of vaccine manufacturers, they are only required to disclose inactive ingredients “when a safety factor”. One would assume that vaccine manufacturers abide by this stipulation, and therefore those undisclosed ingredients should fall under the category of “Generally Recognized as Safe” by the FDA. Unfortunately, potential allergens and other ingredients many people choose to avoid are considered GRAS by the FDA, and thereby could be included in vaccines without anyone’s knowledge. One can only speculate about potential additional ingredients, but let’s stick to the facts, which are: there are additional unlisted ingredients in vaccines.
  • Another fact to consider is that by utilizing animal and human tissue for the development of vaccines, a whole assortment of various contaminants can potentially find their way into vaccines. The FDA has discussed the difficulty of ensuring that “adventitious agents” do not make their way into the final vaccine product. This is a valid concern because it has actually happened on several different occasions, the contamination of the polio vaccine with SV40 being the most infamous. Of course, vaccine manufacturers do their very best to ensure that such things don’t happen; but consider how difficult it would be to effectively test every batch of a vaccine, in each step of the process, for any number of known and unknown pathogens and other undesirable materials. The fact is: developing vaccines with animal and human tissue increases the risk of “adventitious agents” finding their way into vaccines.
  • The CDC and FDA and all vaccine manufacturers insist that the majority of these ingredients are present only in trace amounts, but keep in mind that a child following the CDC schedule will have received 16-18 shots by the time they are 6 months old. Those trace amounts (of multiple toxins and other potentially dangerous ingredients) add up quickly at that rate. Those who say a child could encounter that much or more of the same toxins environmentally fail to take into consideration that these toxins are injected into the bloodstream, bypassing the body’s natural defenses.

My Conclusion: I go to great lengths to ensure that my children eat a healthy diet that is as free as possible of GMO’s, pesticides, artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, refined sugars, and refined flours. I purchase only grass-fed pastured meats and dairy products to avoid overexposure to antibiotics and hormones. I avoid antibiotics as medication whenever possible. In fact, I avoid pretty much all medication, finding instead that natural remedies are at least as effective as the pharmaceutical options. I also breastfed both of my babies, avoiding introducing food until they were at least 6 months of age, and continued to breastfeed as long as I could. In short, I do everything I can to reduce my family’s exposure to chemicals and toxins to the extent it is possible. Based on this working philosophy, why would I intentionally repeatedly inject the very ingredients I otherwise work diligently to avoid, into my infants’ developing body? To do so would contradict all my efforts to ensure their maximum health. 

2. Vaccines Can Have Serious Side Effects

Most doctors will say when pressed that vaccines typically only trigger mild side effects or reactions, such as slight swelling at the injection site, a mild rash or a low fever. Those are indeed the most common reactions/side effects, but that does not mean they are the only ones. On the contrary, a brief skimming of a vaccine insert will reveal that at least two pages are required to list and explain all the possible side effects of each vaccine.  If your doctor didn’t offer you a chance to read through the vaccine insert before injecting your child, you can access the information readily online from each manufacturer’s website. Here’s a partial listing from some of the more common vaccines: MMR – Atypical measles; fever; headache; dizziness; malaise; irritability; pancreatitis; diarrhea; vomiting; nausea; diabetes mellitus; anaphylaxis and anaphylactoid reactions; arthritis; encephalitis; Guillain-Barré Syndrome; febrile convulsions; pneumonia; otitis media; conjunctivitis DTaP – Cyanosis; injection site pain; injection site rash; injection site nodule; injection site mass; cellulitis; febrile convulsion; grand mal convulsion; partial seizures; screaming Polio – lymphadenopathy; convulsion; febrile convulsion; headache; paresthesia; and somnolence Additional facts for your consideration:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services maintains a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System that catalogs all submitted vaccine reaction reports. All reactions deemed “serious” are reviewed by medical experts; and from October 2011 to August 2013, on average, 870 serious adverse event reports were filed per month. The CDC is the first to admit that one of the main limitations of VAERS is underreporting, meaning that the actual numbers of serious adverse events are significantly higher. How much higher? It’s impossible to know for sure, given the variables, but the FDA surmises that in some cases, as little as 1% of adverse reactions to medications are reported to MedWatch, the pharmaceutical product counterpart to VAERS. In the same publication, they mention that the British passive reporting system estimates underreporting to be anywhere from 2-10%. So let’s go with the highest estimate of 10%, and that means that if an average of 870 serious adverse events are reported to VAERS each month, then in all likelihood, there are at least 8700 serious reactions each month. 
  • Another limitation of VAERS is that anyone can report an adverse event, including parents of affected children. You might assume, therefore, that the database would be rife with inflated reports from militant “anti-vaxers”. However, the DHHS confirms that the majority of reports (83%) are actually filed by vaccine manufacturers, health professionals, and state immunization programs. Only 7% are reported by parents, and the remaining 10% are “other sources”.
  • The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (more on that establishment in a minute) has awarded more than two and a half BILLION dollars for vaccine-related injuries and deaths since 1989.
  • Autism and developmental disabilitiesfood allergies and asthmaType 1 diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases have all dramatically risen in number in the past couple decades. Coincidentally, the number of vaccinations has also risen dramatically. When confronted with this fact, many people say, “Correlation does not equal causation”. In other words, just because those two numbers rose concurrently does not mean the one caused the other. Interestingly, the same people will say that vaccination eradicated smallpox worldwide and polio nationwide because the decline of those diseases coincided with the increase in vaccination against them. If that is not a correlation/causation argument, then what is? Furthermore, such an argument fails to take into consideration other factors involved in the eradication of disease, namely, clean water, healthy nutrition, good hygiene, and excellent medical care. It also fails to take into consideration that cholera and typhoid disappeared in this country without the help of vaccination programs. It also fails to take into consideration that all infectious diseases -including those we currently vaccinate against – were on the decline from 1900 on, and were already well on their way out the door prior to the vaccinations that began in the forties. A fascinating study on infectious diseases (and other causes of death) during the twentieth century was conducted at the end of the last century and can be found in its entirety here. Of particular interest is Figure 4, which shows that measles, polio, and pertussis all declined rapidly during the first half of the century, and that trajectory merely continued. To say that vaccination alone caused the decline of those diseases is patently false. Now, back to our correlation/causation argument: I think it is safe to say in both instances that vaccines played a part, both in the eradication of infectious disease, and the rise of autoimmune and other diseases. One final thought on this matter: correlation does not equal causation… but does it disprove it? Hardly. Rather, it indicates a potential connection that must be explored

My Conclusion: The risk of vaccination is incredibly high. The potential side effects and possible reactions are enough to give me pause, especially considering that is the main reason I avoid most pharmaceutical medication in the first place. I prefer remedies with few to no side effects for the treatment (and prevention) of disease. 

3.Vaccine Manufacturers are Not Held Accountable For Vaccine Injuries

Due to increased concerns from parents whose children suffered serious side effects from vaccinations, and resulting lawsuits and liability costs, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was passed into law in 1986. Several measures took effect with the law, including the aforementioned VAERS, but the key element was this:

(1) No vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death associated with the administration of a vaccine after October 1, 1988, if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings.

This is astonishing, considering that any other type of pharmaceutical manufacturer can be sued by anyone who is injured by their medication. Medical malpractice laws protect patients from negligent and inept practitioners. If you or your child is injured by a vaccine (and as we have discussed, this happens with alarming regularity), your only recourse is to file a claim with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. From there, your claim is passed around to a few legal and medical experts, who add their reports to your file, which ends up in the hands of a “special master”. The special master is a lawyer who decides if the claim is worthy of compensation or not, and if so, how much. No trial, no judge, no jury. Just one lawyer who decides whether or not your case is solid. If your claim is determined to be eligible for compensation, guess where the money comes from? Not the manufactures! Oh, no, they don’t give a dime to those injured by the vaccines. The money comes from a tax excised on all vaccinations, so the injury compensation is actually paid for by the people (or their insurance companies) receiving the vaccinations.  If your claim is denied by the VICP, then you may file a civil lawsuit under certain conditions.

My Conclusion: I believe strongly that all manufacturers should be held responsible for their products and the claims they make regarding their product. This means that anyone affected by a vaccine should have the freedom to sue the manufacturer in a court of law. If vaccine makers are not held liable for the safety and efficacy of their product, then how can anyone ensure they are indeed safe and effective? 

4. Immunization From Vaccines Doesn’t Last Forever

Many people assume that once vaccinated, they are protected indefinitely, but that’s simply not the case. In truth, it’s very difficult to come up with accurate numbers regarding the duration of vaccine-induced immunity, and you’ll find that different studies come up with different numbers. There are a couple obstacles to determining exactly how effective a vaccine is, one being that scientists must first figure out what level of antibodies indicates immunity(another topic that raises important questions which we will not delve into here). Here are a few estimates for the duration of immunity from various shots:

Additionally, one should consider that it is common knowledge no vaccine is 100% effective even immediately after the shot. In other words, with some people, it just doesn’t “take” no matter how many boosters they get, perhaps due to genetic factors.

My Conclusion: This fact in and of itself may not persuade me to forego vaccines, but combined with the vaccine’s toxic ingredient list and potential side effects… to me, the risk/benefit analysis provides clear direction. 

5. Vaccines are Not the Only Way to Prevent Disease

If I should insert my opinion here, it would be to say that neither are they the best way to prevent disease. But let’s stick to established fact: Vaccines are NOT the only way to prevent disease. In fact, there are lots and lots of things you can do to boost your immunity very effectively. Some of them are simple, some of them take more time and effort. But they’re all effective.

Just to scratch the surface, here’s a little list:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Definitely before cooking, after using the restroom or changing a diaper, before and after visiting a sick person or a newborn, and any other time that it makes good sense.
  • Practice good personal hygiene. It seems obvious, but seriously. This is why in developed countries we don’t struggle so much with infectious diseases, not to the extent of developing countries at any rate.
  • Eat nutrient-rich foods. And by nutrient-rich, I do not mean “diet” foods. I mean foods that are naturally rich in nutrients like bone broth, cultured and fermented foods, fruits and vegetables of all kinds, grass-fed and pastured meat and dairy, etc.
  • Take supplements. Given the toxic environment of modern life, and the depleted nutrients in our food sources, it helps tremendously to supplement. I’d start with a good probiotic, vitamin C, vitamin D, and a few other immune supporters like elderberry syrup and Thieves oil. Up your dosage whenever you’re exposed to sickness of any kind.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid sick people. If everyone were as careful about spreading disease as they were about vaccines, we would have a lot less illness going around! If you’re sick… stay home! If your child is sick… stay home! If someone you live with or work with is sick, then limit your exposure to them and up your supplementation.

These are just a few of the simple, every day things we can do that in the end are extremely effective in fighting disease and helping our immune system out.

My Conclusion: There are easy methods of fighting disease readily at my disposal that are not only safe but actively beneficial to my overall health. They not only prevent disease, they enhance wellness. Weighing these options in the balance against injecting myself with dangerous toxins that may or may not prevent disease… for me the right choice is painfully obvious. 

So there you have it! I don’t expect everyone to agree with my conclusions (hey – we’re all individuals, free to make up our own minds!), but you cannot deny the basic facts. Each of the 5 points in this post is a confirmed, actual fact that cannot be argued against. Anyone who chooses to vaccinate needs to understand and appreciate that there are true logic-based, scientific facts that give a person pause when considering the issue. Even if you feel strongly that the benefits outweigh the risks, you have to acknowledge that there are indeed risks that some people are not comfortable taking or forcing their infants to take. Each one of us should have the freedom to weigh the risks and benefits for ourselves and choose what is best for ourselves and our children without fear of angering or alienating our friends, family… and the CDC and FDA.

PS. Because pro-vaxers are some of the most hateful and malicious commenters I have experienced in my life, I am closing comments on this post. Thanks for understanding.

75+ Questions You Need to Ask About Vaccines

75 questions about vaccines #questioneverythingIn the pro- vs. anti- vaccine debate, the “pro” side often accuses the “anti” side of being anti-science. In my observations from the sidelines, nothing could be further from the truth.

What is science but asking questions? Isn’t that the very foundation of the scientific method? The vast majority of non-vaxers that I have had the privilege of interacting with have spent countless hours asking questions and searching for the answers. Of course, they can’t pursue the scientific method themselves in the sense of performing experiments and observing responses when it comes to vaccines, so they are left with sorting through the piles of evidence left behind by other scientists of the past and present.

Science doesn’t mean accepting someone’s word for it. Science means asking questions and not resting until you get reliable answers. Following are some of the questions many moms and dads (and medical experts and yes, even scientists) have had about vaccines. Some of them don’t even have answers yet. Some of them (OK, most of them) have multiple answers that conflict – you have to think analytically and critically to figure out which answer is the right one and who is lying and/or misrepresenting information. (No easy task!) Some of the questions overlap; some of them look at the same issue from a slightly different angle.

And…. each of these questions must be asked about each vaccine. (You can see why the majority of non-vaxers have spent a great deal of time and even money getting to the bottom of these questions in the process of making their decisions.)

If you haven’t personally taken the time to ask these questions, I would encourage you to do so. And don’t assume the obvious answer for any of them; take the time to Question Everything. I guarantee more questions will pop up as you begin your pursuit of science and truth, because that’s exactly what happened to me.

Safety

  1. Are they safe?
  2. What are they made of?
  3. How are they made?
  4. What are the FDA recommended doses/limits of each ingredient contained in the vaccine?
  5. How does the body respond to the injection of these ingredients into the bloodstream?
  6. Is it more or less dangerous for toxic ingredients to be injected into the blood vs. natural exposure to the same ingredients?
  7. What sort of safety testing do vaccines undergo?
  8. Are any double-blind placebo tests conducted on the vaccines?
  9. Has the entire vaccine schedule been tested for safety (double-blind placebo) as it is given?
  10. Have the vaccines been tested on children the age and size to which they are administered?
  11. What are the potential side effects of each vaccine according to the manufacturer?
  12. How often do the side effects occur?
  13. What is the result of injecting foreign DNA into the body?
  14. What is the risk of other contaminants (foreign matter, unintended bacteria or viruses, etc.) entering the vaccines?
  15. Are some people more at risk for developing side effects or adverse reactions than others? If so, how do you determine who is?
  16. Are infants and small children more at risk than adults?
  17. How many people have died from vaccines?
  18. Given that all medical procedures and treatments carry a risk, however slight, what recourse do you have if you or your child is injured by a vaccine?
  19. Can vaccine manufacturers be sued in a court of law if their product injures, maims, or kills an individual?

Efficacy

  1. What causes infectious illness?
  2. How does it spread?
  3. How can the spread of illness be prevented?
  4. Is there any way to boost your immune system to help it fight off disease?
  5. Is a  vaccine the most reliable and effective method of preventing the spread of illness?
  6. When did we first begin to see a decline of infectious diseases in this country?
  7. How did the introduction of vaccines affect the rate of decline, if at all?
  8. Are under-developed countries at a greater risk of developing infectious disease and experiencing epidemics? If so, why?
  9. How exactly does a vaccine work in your body to prevent disease?
  10. Does the vaccine assist the immune system’s natural method of preventing disease?
  11. How exactly does the immune system work anyway?
  12. How is the immune system of an infant designed to work and how does it differ from that of an older child or adult?
  13. Is an infant’s immune system capable of responding to a vaccine in the way it was intended?
  14. Does a vaccine confer immunity in every case and with every one?
  15. How can you be sure your vaccine was effective for you?
  16. What do antibodies mean?
  17. Does the presence of antibodies always indicate immunity?
  18. Which immunity is more effective: natural (from the wild virus or bacteria) or vaccine-induced?
  19. How long does immunity from a vaccine last?
  20. How long does natural immunity last?
  21. Is there any way to guarantee you will not contract and/or spread a disease?
  22. According to CDC and WHO, vaccines are responsible for eradicating smallpox. Were other factors involved? Why haven’t other diseases been eradicated by vaccines? Will they ever be?
  23. How did the diagnostic criteria of polio change after the vaccine was introduced?
  24. How were typhoid fever and tuberculosis virtually eliminated in the United States?

Herd Immunity (or The Benefits of Vaccinating for Others)

  1. What is herd immunity?
  2. What is the basis for the theory of herd immunity?
  3. Who coined the term herd immunity and what was meant by it?
  4. Does the concept of herd immunity apply to natural immunity or vaccine-induced immunity?
  5. What is the threshold where herd immunity is said to have been achieved and how has that number changed?
  6. Have we achieved that threshold?
  7. Can vaccine-induced immunity ever create herd immunity if the immunity is known to wane following the shot?
  8. In what percentage of people does the vaccine not “take”?
  9. Given that some people will not receive immunity from their shot no matter how often they receive it, that a few people can not receive shots for medical reasons, and that immunity wanes at various rates in various people and with various vaccines (and therefore many older children and adults are effectively unvaccinated) is vaccine-driven herd immunity even achievable?
  10. Can vaccinated people carry the disease for which they are vaccinated?
  11. Do unvaccinated people automatically carry the diseases for which most are vaccinated?

Disease & Mortality

  1. What is the rate of mortality in the diseases for which we vaccinate?
  2. Of the diseases for which we vaccinate, which ones have high rates of mortality and complications?
  3. How likely are you to recover from the disease without permanent complications?
  4. How does the rate of mortality differ between developed and under-developed countries?
  5. What is the rate of complications of the various diseases?
  6. How serious are the complications?
  7. What is the likelihood of contracting the disease in the first place, vaccination aside?
  8. Is there effective treatment for the disease (either medication or natural remedies)?
  9. How does the rate of complications and mortality of the diseases compare with the rate of complications and mortality of the vaccine itself?

Information and Conflicts of Interest

  1. Who is a reliable source of information regarding vaccinations?
  2. Do government organizations like CDC, FDA and the international WHO profit in any way from vaccinations? If so, is their information trustworthy and accurate?
  3. Is it true that the CDC has covered up information regarding vaccines, and/or has misrepresented facts and figures?
  4. Who funds the studies regarding safety and efficacy of vaccines? Is there a conflict of interest there?
  5. Are there any doctors, immunologists, epidemiologists,or other scientists who disagree with the current vaccination schedule?
  6. If so, what are their qualifications and what led them to question vaccination as it is practiced today?
  7. Are their concerns valid? Is their research sound?
  8. Where can I find unbiased research on vaccinations?
  9. Has anyone studied the health of the vaccinated vs.the unvaccinated?  Why or why not? And if so, what were the results?
  10. How much education do doctors receive on the topic of immunology and vaccination?
  11. Do doctors learn about the ingredients in vaccines, how they interact with the immune system, the process of vaccination and how it works? If so, do they share this information with their parents when recommending vaccines?
  12. Do doctors receive financial kickbacks for vaccinations? If so, does this present a conflict of interest?
  13. Will the doctor know what to do in the event of an adverse reaction to a vaccine?
  14. Who has the best interests of my child at heart?

PS. You’ll notice I didn’t link to any information sources or resources in this post. That’s intentional. You can get accurate information from ANY source as long as you’re reading critically and asking questions as you go. Don’t believe everything you read, whether on a government website, a scientist’s journal, or an anti-vaccine site. Dig to the sources, analyze the information you uncover and be a real scientist.  

Question Everything.

 

5 Questions to Ask Your Essential Oil Company (Or, How to Find a Reputable Source for Essential Oils)

5 Questions You Need to Ask your Essential Oil  Company #essentialoils #youngliving #ylessentialoilsTo say that there is a lot of confusion out there about essential oils is sort of like saying that Niagara Falls is kinda big. In other words, it’s a gross understatement. No matter your query or how it’s worded, any internet search about essential oils is bound to bring up conflicting information, making it extremely difficult for a novice to sort through it all and find the kernels of truth hidden in all the hyperbole.

One of the most difficult questions to settle is the most basic: how do I know if the essential oils I’m using are quality oils? One fact that is uncontested in the aromatherapy world is that essential oils are notorious for being adulterated, and even experts admit it can be difficult for them to determine for certain if oils have indeed been adulterated. If even the experts have trouble, where does that leave the rest of us?!

I have been researching this question (and many others regarding aromatherapy) for the past couple years; and although I haven’t come up with any “foolproof” way to determine the quality of an essential oil, my research has taught me what I should look for in an essential oil company, and what kinds of questions I should ask when considering a purchase.  My growing knowledge of essential oils and essential oil quality has only confirmed for me that I made the right choice in my source of essential oils, and I hope to help others achieve the same confidence! So many people are curious about the oils and interested in using them, but overwhelmed by the options and the questions that abound.

Companies throw around terms like “therapeutic grade”, “natural”, and “organic” to the extent that those terms have become almost meaningless, so it’s difficult to sort through the marketing hype and find out what’s really going into the bottles they sell. Any company trying to sell you some of their oils is going to insist that theirs is the real deal, and unadulterated, but clearly they’re not all telling the truth. If you’re searching for a reliable source of pure essential oils, I have a list of 5 questions you need to ask any company that you are researching to determine if they really are selling the real deal or not. 

5 Questions You Need to Ask your Essential Oil  Company #essentialoils #youngliving #ylessentialoils1. Do the oils come from indigenous plants?

Plants are living things, and the essential oils that come from them prove that by their widely varying makeup. A lavender plant grown in France will produce a very different oil from a plant grown in, say, Canada. The reason is because the compounds in the essential oil are developed specifically for the protection, nourishment, and propagation of the plant they come from; and the needs of the plant will vary depending on a lot of factors including soil, climate, and pests. Aromatherapy has developed around the concept that certain plants have certain therapeutic properties… but those properties aren’t guaranteed to exist in a plant that has been grown outside its natural habitat. One oft-recommended essential oil company sources many of its oils from India, which is fine if you’re in the market for jasmine oil (actually an absolute), but not so fine if you’re looking for eucalyptus, which is native to Australia.

2. Do you own any of the farms or distilleries?

The majority of essential companies out there are merely distributors and not producers. This is an important distinction, because the further removed the distributor is from the process, the more opportunity there is for the oil to be adulterated. And the less a company has control over the essential oil production, the less they even know about the possibility of the oil being adulterated. Their sources may swear to the integrity of their oils, but how can a distributor know that for sure unless they are involved in the daily production process? I am much more comfortable purchasing from a company that has their hands in the process from beginning to end; and I’m extremely confident in a company that controls the process from beginning to end. 

3. What kind of tests do you run on the oils?

Most companies will boast that they run a GC/MS (Gas Chromotography Mass Spectrometry) test on the oils, and that’s a good start. Much has been made of the GC/MS test in online circles in recent years, but honestly, that particular test doesn’t really tell you a whole lot about the oil. It can tell you if there are any chemical solvents added to the essential oil, and it can tell you if the oil has the generally expected number of various chemical compounds that it should… but it can’t tell you if each of those compounds are natural or manufactured, and it can’t tell you if they all came from the same plant or were pulled from a variety of different plants.

An essential oil can pass the GC/MS test and be declared 100% natural when that might not, in fact, be the case. It’s entirely possible (and actually happens all the time according to chemists and aromatherapists in the know) for an essential oil to be labeled as “lavender”, for example, when it’s really compounded from several different other (cheaper) plants. The problem is that when the oil is pieced together like this, it doesn’t work as it should for therapeutic purposes, because – as I mentioned at the beginning – plants are living things. Genuine plant oils cannot simply be manufactured from this and that; an effective essential oil is the oil in its entirety.

4. What quality control measures do you have in place?

This question ties in directly to the last 2 questions. Because most companies are merely distributing an end product, and not actually producing said product, the only quality control measure they can take is on the back end. Their control over the seeds, cultivation, harvest, and distillation is minimal at best because they have no actual say over the production process. Their only option is to accept or refuse the final product based on their own observations and/or tests. And typically, the only test they run is the GC/MS test, which as I have shown is limited in its scope.

Having said that, there are a few companies that either own the farms and distilleries producing the oils, or they have an ownership investment of some kind (almost like share-cropping) in the farms and/or distilleries. Those companies are the ones that can actually control the production process to one extent or another, and those companies should have some quality control measures in place. Such quality control measures should include things like the choice of seeds used for planting (Heirloom? GMO?), quality of soil, pest prevention measures, harvesting procedures, distillation standards, etc. The more a company can tell you about the measures they take, the more confident you can be in their final product. 

5. Are the plants grown organically?

This is a no-brainer, really. You don’t want chemical pesticides ending up in your bottle of therapeutic essential oil! Organic labeling gets complicated, though, with the vast majority of oils being sourced internationally with different countries regulating “organic” in very different ways. So it’s better to ask some pointed questions about how exactly the plants are protected from insects and disease. The best oil companies use organic and natural planting methods that do not leave any kind of chemical residue on the plants that could make its way into the essential oil. 

As I mentioned in the beginning, the more I learn, the more confident I am in my own personal choice of essential oil brand. I’m sure there are other reputable and reliable brands out there, but to date I have not found any that answer these questions more satisfactorily.

Edited to Add: A fellow “oiler” actually did her homework and called a bunch of different popular essential oil companies, and asked them these and other questions. Here is a chart she made showing their answers:

questions to ask an essential oil company

If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils, how they are made, how they are adulterated, and how you can use them medicinally, I highly recommend the book “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils” by Kurt Schnaubelt.  (That’s an affiliate link there; you’ve been warned!)

5 Steps to a Healthier You {and Me!}

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Authentic Simplicity!5 steps to a healthier you #gethealthy #health #fitnessOK, folks, there’s nothing earth-shattering or groundbreaking here. Just some simple (do I really need to say that still?!) basic truths that we all need to be reminded of occasionally.

This gentle reminder is intended largely for myself, because I have totally let these healthy habits slide in recent years, and it’s time to reclaim them. I have some minor little health issues that keep niggling at me, and I can’t help but feel that if I just took better care of myself, they would disappear.

So here goes: my 5-step plan to improving my health! These basic steps are applicable to anybody, no matter the circumstances, so this post serves as a reminder for you, too.

Here’s to good health!

5 Steps to Improving Your Health

1. Reduce Caffeine Intake

At this point in time, I’m not ready to say definitively that coffee must be completely eradicated from my diet. However, I’ll readily admit I have allowed myself to indulge in it far too much in the past year or so, and it’s time to cut way back! It used to be that I drank only one cup a day, maybe two. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with various coffee substitutes like Teeccino  and Pero, and they’ve actually been a lot more satisfying than I had anticipated. I’ve also started drinking more tea, especially chai, which delivers a nice bold flavor that I love, and helps me forget that it’s not coffee. I still do drink coffee in the morning, but I’ve successfully eliminated caffeinated beverages in the evening, and my overall coffee consumption is back to no more than two a day.

2. Drink More Water {And Then Some}

I have always, always been bad at this: I can remember even as a child my mother telling me to drink more water. I’m pretty sure that, as a result, I’m walking around with a permanent case of dehydration, and I’ve got to get better at increasing my water intake! I’ve already started this one (so maybe it should have been step one?) by drinking a glass before going to work, drinking two glasses at work, and then drinking at least 2 more glasses in the evening. That’s probably 60-75% of what I should be drinking, so I’m getting there!

3. Exercise

Ugh. I hate exercising, frankly. I just don’t find it fun – I’m totally not one of those perky kind of fitness people. (Sorry if I totally wrecked all your illusions about me there.) I do enjoy Pilates, and when I have exercised regularly in the past, that’s been my chosen poison (albeit a relatively pleasant one). However, recently, I finally took the plunge and bought Teresa Tapp’s  book “Fit and Fabulous in 15 Minutes a Day”, which details her basic “T-Tapp” workout. I’m currently on Day 4 of the 2-week “bootcamp” kickstart, and am anxious to see how it goes. If it works as well as everyone says it does, it seems like it’s pretty much the perfect exercise routine! I’m also interested in purchasing a small trampoline for exercise purposes – it seems like a fun and energetic way to stay fit and healthy, yes?!

4. Avoid Sugar

I go back and forth on this one; sometimes I’m good at this, and sometimes I’m not. Back before I had kids, I used to be perfectly happy going a whole day without anything sweet; but I find that harder and harder to do as I get older. Generally, my rule nowadays is one sweet a day. When I stick to that, I feel so much better! I’m hoping that I can get to a place where I am once again allowing days to pass before I realize I haven’t had any sugar… that would be marvelous!

5. Sleep!

This is another one I’ve already started working on. Over the holidays, my DH and I developed a really bad habit of staying up until almost midnight, and I feel like it’s really taken a toll on me. Now I’m trying to go to bed between 10 and 10:30, with a wake-up time of around 7:00, which gives me 8+ hours of sleep. I feel so much better when I manage to do this, so hopefully that feeling will motivate me to continue!

5 Reasons Why I Use Essential Oils

5 Reasons to Use Essential Oils

When I first signed up as a distributor with Young Living Essential Oils, I wrote a lengthy post about that decision. (You can read that post here, and you can sign up as a distributor yourself here, because once you’re done reading this post, you’ll probably want to. *wink*) I detailed then the mental and physical journey that led me to essential oils, but I didn’t specifically address the reasons why I chose essential oils as the primary healing modality, if you will, in my  home.

Now that I have over a year invested in learning about and using the oils, I figured it was past time to put into words the reasons why I chose to go with essential oils. Naturally, I believe these reasons are good reasons for you also to choose essential oils, but please keep in mind this is only a post about my experience and it is not to be construed as medical advice because I am not a doctor. If you  have any concerns or questions, please do speak with your medical practitioner before experimenting with the oils.

1. Essential Oils are Safe

Did you realize you have probably been ingesting essential oils and rubbing them onto your body already without even knowing it? That’s because many of them (here’s an itemized list) are categorized as “GRAS” (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA and approved as such to be used as food additives. Companies add GRAS essential oils to food and toiletry items for flavor and fragrance purposes all the time.

And if you don’t trust the FDA (Ahem. I don’t blame you.), here’s an interesting analysis by Dr. Robert Tisserand, an expert on essential oils, about the safety and various concerns regarding the use of oils. I encourage you to read through for yourself, but my conclusion after reading it myself was that he was hard pressed to find any hard evidence of any sort of serious negative side effects or reactions from the usage of oils. A quote from this article: “As used in aromatherapy today, essential oils have not caused a single death.” The same cannot be said for modern chemical medicine!

Certainly, we need to respect the power of essential oils and use them wisely and with a heavy dose of common sense. First of all, we need to make sure the oils we use are of the highest quality to avoid the adulteration and chemical exposure referred to in the above referenced article by Tisserand. Secondly, it is a good idea to dilute essential oils for both topical and internal use.  And it goes without saying that caution should be exercised when using oils on children (although I have read that studies done on children reveal no negative effects when they are used properly). With all that in mind, I think one can say that aromatherapy is just as safe as any other readily available therapy, if not safer. 

2. Essential Oils are Effective

I have experienced the effectiveness of essential oils personally and in my own family, and I have heard the testimonies of many others’ positive experiences. Browse through Oil Testimonials and see how many people have benefited from the life-blood of a plant that is called its “essential oil”.

3. Essential Oils Very Rarely Have Side Effects

The most common side effect of an oil is that it can cause a minor reaction in sensitive skin, like a tingling, stinging sensation or even a slight rash. The best way to avoid this reaction is to dilute the oil with a carrier oil.

Some people respond strongly to some oils think they are having an allergic reaction. However, it is more likely that any reaction to an oil is actually part of the detox process, which can be a good thing. (Even so, it’s a good idea to stop using any oil when you experience detox symptoms and allow your body time to recover before using it again.) There’s some debate about whether or not oils can be allergenic at all, but here’s a good rule of thumb: if reactions strengthen with each use of the oil, it’s probably an allergic reaction. If the reactions reduce in intensity, it’s probably detox.

One thing worth mentioning here, although it’s not the purpose of this post, is that some medical conditions do not tolerate certain oils. Epilepsy comes to mind, since I recently had a friend with this concern. If you have a chronic medical illness or condition, do your research and make sure the oils you want to use will not aggravate your condition.

4. Essential Oils Have a Long History

The aforementioned Dr. Robert Tisserand gives a brief history of essential oil usage here, but suffice it to say that ancient cultures (Rome, Egyptian) regularly used essential oils medicinally. And, of course, the Bible is filled with mentions of oils (distilled and infused) used for many purposes, including physical and emotional health.

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot more trust in something that has stood the test of time! Modern medicine miracles exist and are not to be discounted, but give me a time-tested remedy any day over!

5. Essential Oils are Easy to Use

You know how I like things to be simple! I find aromatherapy to be the most accessible of all modern alternative remedies: Chiropractic care is expensive and time-consuming (although very beneficial!); acupuncture is also expensive and exclusive in that it’s not really something you can do at home; homeopathy is just downright confusing; and I confess that I find herbal medicine to be much the same.

Essential oils are easy to use at home – simply diffusing them into the air is an effective way to use them, as is rubbing the diluted oil into the skin. Although there is much to learn about the science of aromatherapy, at its very basic level, it can be used at home by even the most inexperienced person. (Provided, of course, that inexperienced person is willing to learn the basics of safety and usage!)

They are also neither expensive nor exclusive like the other therapies I mentioned. The average wholesale price of a bottle of essential oil from Young Living is around $20 and contains several hundred drops. (Ask me how you can get the wholesale price for yourself!) When you consider that you use only one or two drops at a time, that price is actually minimal in comparison to most other alternative meds out there. (Hey, it’s even cheaper than most run of the mill OTC meds!)

 

Why I Use Young Living Essential Oils

Young Living Essential Oils #yleo #essential oils If you are interested in using essential oils as an alternative to chemical-based medications, then you’ve probably come across at least a few different brands, all of them claiming to be the best for one reason or another. The information out there is often conflicting, always biased, and extremely difficult to sort through.

I can’t tell you definitively which brand of essential oils (EO’s) is the best, but I can tell you why I chose to use Young Living oils almost exclusively. I’m not writing this post to bash any other essential oil companies out there – I have no reason to do that – but simply to explain what benefits led me to choose YL over other brands in the event that my decision-making process is helpful to someone else out there researching the available options.

Why I Use Young Living Essential Oils

  • History – Young Living has over 20 years built into the industry, giving them plenty of time to learn about and invest into the oils they sell, as well as plenty of time to develop a reputation. Many of the brands out there have popped up seemingly overnight (certainly that is not true of all of them, and surely there are companies even older than YL, but I am not speaking of those on this point), and are relative unknowns as far as I am concerned. It is awfully easy for those start-ups to be here today and gone tomorrow. Young Living is not a start-up or an unknown entity, and that’s enough to edge it out over others that were recommended to me.
  • Reputation – Twenty years has given Young Living plenty of time to develop a reputation, and aside from those who are skeptical of any alternative medicine, that reputation is a very good one. The vast majority of people who have used Young Living oils have been very pleased with them and found them to be of high quality. I can count on one hand the number of negative reviews I’ve read in terms of the performance of Young Living’s oils. 
  • Quality – The quality of the oils is what is behind their strong reputation. Much has been made online of Gas Chromatography /Mass Spectrometry testing, but in reality that test only tells the beginning of the story when it comes to essential oils. Young Living performs a total of 7 tests on every batch of oil that passes through their facilities and onto their customers, and if the oils don’t pass the tests, they don’t sell them. Even so, that’s not enough to establish the quality of the oils, because once again, each of those tests tells only part of the story. The chemical makeup of an essential oils depends on so many factors, all of which are highly variable, so YL makes sure that optimum conditions exists in all those factors. Starting with the seed of the plant, and continuing with its cultivation and harvest, YL monitors every step of the way to ensure that the highest quality oil is the end result. If you don’t believe me, read this summary from a chemist that explains in detail all the efforts YL takes to ensure a quality product.
  • Training and Support – If I ordered a random oil from a random company online, chances are I’m left to sink or swim when it comes to using that oil. Sure, a quick google search will tell me the basics about any particular oil. Or I could read tomes and tomes of textbooks about oils, their chemistry, their usage, etc, and I probably will (I’ve already read a few!). But what has helped me more than anything has been the support of my sponsor and the rest of the folks on her team. Any time I have a question, I know where to go, and someone on the team always has an answer for me! Young Living’s company structure was intended to create that network of support so that no one is left in the dark on how to use their oils. As my own team grows, my desire is to create that same environment of training and support that has been so beneficial to me.
  • Thieves’ Oil! – This proprietary blend is produced only by Young Living, and although others have similar products, this is the one I kept hearing about over and over and over again. I haven’t been disappointed with this powerful oil, and I always make sure to have some on hand. I clean and disinfect with it, and I use it whenever someone in my family gets sick! I have seen it first hand cut colds and the like short when they’ve already started, and I’ve also seen it prevent various sicknesses from passing through the family from one person to the next. Good stuff, I tell you.

Reasons Why YOU Might Like Young Living Oils

Some more for you to consider as you make your decision:

  • Young Living has grown 75% in the past year! That’s some pretty incredibly amazing word-of-mouth sales going on there!
  • Young Living’s wholesale price (available to distributors) is comparable to a lot of the companies I’ve seen online, plus you have the option to enroll in their Essential Rewards autoship program, which allows you to earn bonus points you can use towards free oils! I’ve received 4 or 5 free bottles of oil in the past 6-8 months. When other companies imply that they are cheaper than YL, that’s probably because they’re comparing against the full retail price.
  • Young Living makes it easy for you to get the wholesale price – all you have to do is purchase a starter kit (from $40-150) and then make another $50 purchase within the year. No other commitment, but all the benefits of having a wholesale account.
  • Of the major brands, Young Living is the only one I know of that owns and operates their own farms and produces their own oils. Not all of their oils are produced in this way, but quite a few of them are. Some of those farms are based in the US, and some of those farms are based in other countries where the plants are indigenous to that area.

If you think you’d like to give Young Living oils a try, I’d be happy to have you join my team! Visit my Young Living website for more information. 

Please note that I am not a doctor and I am not dispensing medical advice. I’m simply sharing what I use for my own family. 

Brush Teeth with An All Natural, Affordable Toothpaste

This is not a sponsored post. Tom’s of Maine gave me some product to try, but all opinions are my own. This post does contain affiliate and referral links. Thank you for supporting Authentic Simplicity!

Although you know that healthy teeth have more to do with diet than oral hygiene, you still want to keep them clean, yes? (Ain’t nobody wants to catch wind of stinky breath, ya know?) And cleaning said teeth with toothpastes laden with nasty chemicals seems counter-productive, yes?

But natural toothpaste is so expensive, yes? 

No. 

Thankfully, affordable yet natural (even fluoride-free!) toothpaste is available at just about every grocery store, as well as the ubiquitous Walmart and Target. I’m talking about Tom’s of Maine, whose line of kids’ toothpastes I was recently able to try.

What I Like About Tom’s of Maine

  • Availability: You can find their products in just about any store, or online at Amazon.com or Vitacost.com. Some other highly recommended natural toothpastes are a little more obscure and harder to come by, so it’s nice to know there’s an option close at hand.
  • Affordability: The Silly Strawberry Kids’ Toothpaste which I tried is currently $2.61 at Vitacost (normally $5.17). A pack of 3 is currently $7.83 at Amazon.com. If you want to pick it up at Walmart, you’ll find the price to be somewhere around $3.00.
  • Skin Deep Rating: EWG’s Skin Deep Database rates products based on their safety and environmental impact. Tom’s of Maine’s kids’ toothpastes get a rating of “2”, which is an excellent rating.
  • Natural Flavors: One thing that I despise about most kids’ toothpastes is the artificial flavors they all contain. My kids love that fake flavor, but I cannot abide it! My Certain Little Someone is very particular about the flavor of his toothpaste, and has turned his nose up at other natural brands. At first, he didn’t take to the Silly Strawberry flavor (which comes from actual strawberry juice!) but it wasn’t long before he adjusted, and then he loved it as much as any of the other fake ones. Now the Wicked Cool Mint flavor, which comes from actual mint leaves, is definitely not his favorite, but that’s no surprise since he doesn’t even like peppermint candy canes!
  • Transparency: I love how Toms of Maine is very transparent in detailing the ingredients in their products so you always know what you’re getting. Their Ingredients List details what ingredients they use in their products and from what those ingredients are derived (a very important detail!).
  • Fluoride-Free: Fluoride-free toothpaste is hard to come by for children past the toddler stage, so I love that Toms of Maine makes fluoride-free versions of all their children’s toothpastes.
  • What’s Missing: Tom’s of Maine uses no artificial flavors, preservatives, fragrances, or colors.

What I Don’t Like

Honestly, there’s not a lot I don’t like about Tom’s of Maine, although some of their ingredients (sodium lauryl sulfate) are not *quite* as natural and unprocessed as I would prefer. However, the alternatives are a lot pricier and extremely difficult to find, which makes Toms of Maine an excellent choice.

 

How to Bake With Stevia {Without Affecting Flavor}

How to Bake with Stevia Extract Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about how to convert sugar measurements to stevia for cooking and baking. All of the information in that post is true and accurate, but since then I’ve fine-tuned my routine a bit and developed a method for baking with stevia that doesn’t affect the texture or flavor of the final product. I’ve baked all kinds of things this way, and it seems to work across the board with all different kinds of recipes, so for the most part, this is how I bake with stevia.

1. Use Half the Amount of Sugar

The first step is to reduce the amount of sugar called for in the recipe by at least half. Now, for most conventional recipes, I already reduce the amount of sugar by as much as half anyway. So for the purposes of baking with stevia, I reduce the amount of sugar I would personally use by half.

For example: 

  • A recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar. I think that sounds like a little bit too much sugar going on for that particular recipe, so I would probably only use 3/4 cup at most.
  • Since I’m going to also be adding stevia, I can reduce that 3/4 cup even more, and use 1/2 cup or less of sugar.
  • Most recipes can handle this without drastically affecting the final texture, but there are some recipes that for whatever reason will not work well with the reduced sugar. In those cases, I usually just forego that particular recipe!

If you’re starting with a recipe that’s already inherently fairly healthy and/or has been healthified, you can just reduce the sugar by half and move on to the next step.

2. Replace the Remaining Half of Sugar with Stevia

Now you can follow the conversion chart to replace the remaining amount of sugar the recipe requires.

For example:

  • The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of sugar. You’ll put 1/4 cup of sugar in your batter.
  • You’ll add 1/4 t. of stevia to replace the remaining 1/4 cup of sweetener.

3. Proceed As Directed

Just finish up the recipe the way it’s written. You shouldn’t need to make any other adjustments unless you want to.

And that’s it! You’ve just significantly reduced the sugar in your baked goods without sacrificing taste or texture! It’s even better if you use a “healthier” sugar like coconut sugar or sucanat.

Stevia Plant

the stevia plant before processing into extract or powder

Where to Buy Stevia (Plus Also What Kind to Use)

I like to use liquid stevia (you can find either glycerin- or alcohol-based varieties), which is essentially an extract of stevia (like peppermint or vanilla extract). The powdered stevia goes through more processing and often has a bitter after-taste, so I stay away from it. (Plus, a lot of powdered stevia contains additional sugars which totally ruins the point.)

I usually get my stevia from one of the following sources: 

  • Trader Joe’s (oh how I love Trader Joe’s!)- I *think* it costs around $7, but I’m not positive. I’ve had the same bottle for probably 6 months now, so I can’t remember exactly how much I paid. I do remember thinking it was an excellent price.
  • MOM’s – Mom’s Organic Market is a local chain and their stevia is actually a private label so I’m not sure the original manufacturer. I do know that their stevia tastes a lot better than other brands I’ve tried (NuNaturals, for example, which I like, but the stuff at Mom’s is better), so I’m thinking it’s probably from a more expensive brand that I haven’t tried yet, ha! The good news is that it is also priced very well (once again, not remembering the price, but remembering the impression that it was a great deal).
  • No access to either one of those stores? No worries! If your local health food store doesn’t carry reasonably priced stevia (and most of them don’t), you can order it online from Vitacost or Amazon (those are affiliate links right there). I ordered mine from both places before I was able to start purchasing it locally.