#4 on the LIST – Begin using a natural toothpaste

I was shopping at Trader Joe’s the other day and saw that they had a number of natural toothpastes to choose from so I decided to pick one up. They had both Tom’s and a Trader Joe’s brand. I opted for the Trader Joe’s brand and picked this one:
Haven’t tried it yet but honestly, I grabbed it without much thought and without doing my homework first.  So I started looking at the label a little closer when I got home.  Here are some of the things it says:

  • Contains no artificial sweeteners.  Ya!  one of my goals with a natural toothpaste!
  • No Sodium Laurel Sulfate  Sweet!  Also on my list!
  • No Propylene Glycol Cool – according to EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database: “Propylene glycol is a small organic alcohol commonly used as a skin conditioning agent. It has been associated with irritant and allergic contact dermatitis as well as contact urticaria in humans; these sensitization effects can be manifested at propylene glycol concentrations as low as 2%.”
  • Active Ingredient:  Sodium Monofluorophosphate .76% – anticavity toothpaste This doesn’t sound very natural but it’s basically fluoride.  I think for now I’m ok with using a fluoride toothpaste for me and my husband.  Baby’s toothpaste is fluoride free.
  • Inactive ingredients: Calcium Carbonate, Glycerin, water, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Hydrated Silica, Menta Piperita (Peppermint) oil, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Chrondos Crispus (Carrageenan).
  • All Natural.  No animal testing.  No animal products.  I like that.

I’m confused though.  I don’t understand the definition of “natural.”  So I thought I’d break down some of these ingredients (and PLEASE take this with a grain of salt.  I did this research at a very surface level.  I’m no expert with this type of thing):

  1. Sodium Monofluorophosphate: (MFP) – inorganic compound that is a salt, that is believed to protect tooth enamel from cavity causing bacteria
  2. Calcium Carbonate – commonly found in rocks, and is the main component of egg shells, pearls, snails.  According to wikipedia, the majority of calcium carbonate used is extracted by mining or quarrying
  3. Glycerin – This one confused me somewhat.  Again, according to wikipedia, glycerol is largely created as a by-product of soap making.  I don’t understand how this is natural.
  4. Sodium Bicarbonate – Baking soda…I’ve often wondered why this is considered natural.  Apparently it is commonly extracted from the ashes of many plants but is synthetically produced in large quantities for industry.  I wonder where the sodium bicarbonate in my toothpaste came from..
  5. Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate – A foaming agent and sugar replacer that is non-toxic, biodegradable and safe.  But I don’t see how it’s natural either.  My gut tells me it’s better than SLS and artificial sweeteners, though.
  6. Hydrated Silica – Found in opal.  Used as an abrasive to clean away plaque.
  7. Peppermint OIl – Not going to research this one 🙂
  8. Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate – Extremely mild, gently sudsing surfactant derived from the amino acid glutamic acid and coconut fatty acid
  9. Chrondos Crispus – Irish Algae used as a thickening agent.

Man a few minutes of googling and you learn a lot.  So I’m not 100% satisfied that it’s ALL NATURAL but I’ve drank the Kool-Aid for now and do think it’s better for me than my usual Colgate or Crest.  Aww…I’ve been a Crest kid my whole life.  Times are a-changing.  In case you’re wondering, here’s what’s in the Colgate tube in my cabinet:

  • Active Ingredients:  Potassium Nitrate, Sodium Fluoride
  • Inactive Ingredients: water, hydrated Silica, glycerin, sorbitol, PEG-12, PVM/MA copolymer, sodium laurel sulfate, flavor, poloxamer 407, trisodium phosphate, sodium hydroxide, cellulose gum, sodium saccharine, xanthan gum, titanium dioxide

Some of the same suspects but way more chemicals, especially in the inactive ingredients.  I’m glad I don’t swallow too much of this stuff.

 

Two-Zero-One-Two…Now Whatcha Gonna Do?

It wouldn’t be a new year without some mention of resolutions or goals of some sort and I’m no different.  I don’t think I’ve ever made the “I’m gonna lose 10 pounds this year” goal but weight loss is definitely on my mind.  I gained somewhere between 22-25 pounds with my pregnancy and then in 2011, I dropped about 30 pounds, so i was in pretty good shape.  Unfortunately I’ve since put on some pounds and would like to lose about 10.  The good news is that several of the goals I put on THE List align with that (drink more water, reduce fast food, reduce soda, eat at home, exercise).  So I think it’s possible.  Here is a run-down of what I’m going to tackle next:

#4 – Begin using a natural toothpaste

I was going to wait until we were all done with the toothpaste in the house to start this but I probably should keep a couple tubes of “normal” toothpaste around just in case.  Just in case of what?  I don’t know.  Anyhoo, I do want to start using a natural toothpaste because I want to reduce the amount of chemicals I’m using but I want to make sure our teeth aren’t suffering.  So I’ll need to find one endorsed by the ADA (Tom’s of Maine is) and figure out if I want one with Fluoride or not.  Unfortunately there is no clear definition of what “natural” means in this space but it seems that it’s generally agreed that it’s free of dyes, preservatives, artificial flavors or sweeteners.  I want to find one that is free of SLS, menthols and eucalyptols.  Almost all commercial toothpastes have SLS, which makes it so latherific.  I think I read that there’s a link between SLS and canker sores, too.  And I’ve suffered from canker sores for a long time, especially during times of stress.  If all else fails, I could always try just plain ol’ baking soda and water.  Didn’t work for my hair but might work on my teeth.

#12 – Reduce the amount of high fructose corn syrup in my diet

HFCS is considered unhealthy because it causes nicks in your arteries.  Weakened arteries can collapse or become clogged and then you have fun situations like heart attacks and strokes.  And I think HFCS has contributed to my gut (that now expanded to encircle my entire trunk).  I don’t know exactly how much HFCS I consume but I want to be more aware.  So step one will be figuring out where it’s popping up in my diet and finding substitutions or eliminations.  Soda was a big culprit and now I drink flavored iced teas.  Well the flavor comes from a syrup that I’m quite certain is made with HFCS.  Sigh.  Will likely need to eliminate those too.  And of course HFCS shows up in all kinds of salad dressings, breads, sweet treats, ketchup, etc.  The good news is if I continue to eliminate  processed foods from diet, I’ll cut this out too.  It starts with awareness, I guess.

#13 – Exercise

I’ve been avoiding this one.  Why?  Don’t know.  I went to the gym a few weeks ago and it felt really really good.  Not just while I was there but for two days afterwards.  Yet I haven’t returned.  Lame.  So here’s the goal: yoga once a week (I have videos and a Wii that might help with that), gym twice a week (for at least 45 minutes) and a walk/run once a week that is a minimum of 2 miles.  I’m supposed to run a half marathon this summer so I need to start training anyway.  My baby likes being in her stroller so the walk/run will be nice with her.  We took her for a 3 mile walk yesterday.  There are a lot of hills where we live so it’s good exercise; I break a sweat every time and I was tired afterwards.

#14 – Switch to cloth wipes

I have about eight more packs of disposable wipes that I need to get through before I do this.  I wash diapers anyway, so why not use wipes too?  I’ll still need disposable wipes for traveling and emergencies so maybe I’ll start making the switch when we’re down to four packs.  I have to research what kind of solution to use…some people just use water, others make a solution of soap, essential oils, and water, others use some tea tree oil in it.  Just need to see what will work best for our baby.  I was shocked when I started reading about wipes.  I thought they were safe to wipe my baby’s face with but then it turns out that most wipes have benzyl alcohol in them, which is toxic when inhaled.  I used to wipe her face and nose with them until I learned this.  Yucko.

#15 – Drink more water

I have so many water bottles.  Plastic, stainless steel, combo.  Yet I drink hardly any water.  This one SHOULD be easy but it’s not for me.  So I have to come up with a plan to make sure I do this one.  The goal is to drink 64 ounces per day.  I have had no water today.  Better get to drinkin’!

I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.  What’s on your list this year?  Conversely, what are you going to KEEP doing this year?

November Update

We worked on a lot of things in the month of November.  Some went well, some…not so well.  Let’s do a monthly round-up!

#1: Throw away less, recycle more

This month I made a concerted effort to be good about recycling whenever possible.  I found myself checking the bottom of plastic containers more than ever before.  I also walked things over to the recycling bins upstairs and downstairs to make sure we were recycling instead of tossing.  I found more recyclable items than I thought I would.  Hooray!  It seemed that our recycling bin was overflowing almost every week.  I’d love to take credit for that but honestly, a lot of the recycling was boxes from stuff we purchased.  I’ll still take it as a win!  We get a smiley!

# 2 – Reduce the number of one-time plastic bags we use

The goal with this one for November was to get less than 15 plastic bags.  I thought FOR SURE we’d be a winner on this one.  And would have been, had I not forgotten my reusable produce bags when I went to the market two weeks ago.  DOH!  Of course, this was the market where I buy all my produce and I was buying groceries because we were having company over.  Darn it!  Other than that one big loser trip, I only picked up four bags – one from Albertsons (I had bags with me but even then, these folks insist on putting only one item in a bag and putting it in my cart!), one from the tools at Radio Shack, a produce bag for some ground turkey, and a taco bell bag.  Sucks but we didn’t make it this time.  I used 17 bags.

#3 – Stop using SLS/SLES shampoos

I started using shampoo again but with no Sodium Laurel Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate.  So I get a smiley.  I’m working on finishing up the bottles of soap and other items I have with SLS in it and then we’re going all natural when possible!  I bought a natural face wash from Alba that I’m looking forward to trying.  Just need to get through some of what I have already.

 

#5 – Eat Homemade meals at least four times a week

We aren’t the kind of people who sit around at home.  Between travel, family and friends, we stay pretty busy.  Also, hurting my back threw a wrench in our eating at home plans.  In general, though, I’m pretty pleased with how this is going.  I find that we opt to eat out waaaay less frequently than we used to.  In November especially, I ate lunch at home almost every weekday.  I’m not running out to go get food anymore.  I think my habits are changing.  I’m also finding that rather than saying “hey, can you pick something up on your way home from work,” I’m taking a quick look in the cupboard and the refrigerator to see what we can do that’s quick and filling.  With this goal, my intent was to change my habits and I feel that’s taking place.  So I’m kind of torn on this.  Technically, I think we met the goal only 2-3 times out of the four weeks but on the other, I do think we’re changing habits.  I’ll give it a straight face.

#10 – Limit Fast Food to Once a Month

The goal for November was to get my fast food eating down to two times or once every other week.  I only intentionally got fast food once.  So that was good.  A few days later, though, my husband asked me if I wanted anything from McDonald’s for breakfast and without even thinking about it, I said sure.  So we had McDonald’s for breakfast and it didn’t even occur to me that I had had fast food until the next day.  Sneaky sneaky.  So I refrained from getting fast food the rest of the month.  Technically I didn’t have it every other week, I had it twice in one week, but I still met the goal of having it twice in one month.  Yay!

#11 – Limit Soda to Once a Month

Starting on November 1st, hubby and I decided to give up refined sugar with the intent to start kicking our sugar habit.  In my mind, I’d go cold turkey for at least 21 days (supposedly it takes 21 days to form a habit) and then I would allow myself sweet stuff every so often.  Again, the intent here was to break a bad habit and change my behaviors.  We were successful until Thanksgiving, when I had pecan pie, pumpkin holes,a cookie and a sliver of pumpkin pie, all over the long weekend.  Oh ya and I also got a Dr. Pepper, and shared a couple iced teas with hubby.  Sigh.  BUT the good news is that I think I kicked my soda habit!  Only one soda this month even though according to my plan, I could have had two!

All in all, I think we’re headed in the right direction.  Might be time to pursue some more items on the the list!

Meal Plan Monday – November 14, 2011

It was a good weekend, full of newborn yumminess.  Our nephew arrived on Friday and has officially stolen the hearts of everyone who’s seen him.  HE’S JUST SO TINY!  I love it.  Since I had babies on the brain (mine was off the charts cute this weekend too), I hadn’t put much thought into what to eat so I guess I oughtta do that now!  Here we go:

Sunday: Had take-out pizza night.  It seems like the crunchycake family is beginning to see a trend with this ritual.

Monday:  Looks like Mr. Crunchycake will be home late.  I’ll make a soup/sammy combo of some sort for myself.

Tuesday:  Egg rolls, Bok Choy Salad, possibly tofu and fried rice.  Hoping to take this over to my SIL’s house.  If in-laws join us, I’ll make the tofu and rice too.  If not, we might just stick to egg rolls and salad.  By the way, is it eggrolls or is it egg rolls?  WordPress is  correcting the spelling of eggrolls so maybe it’s egg rolls…Although it’s also correcting WordPress, so I don’t know what to believe.

Wednesday:  Pasta with Arrabiata sauce and Roasted Butternut Squash – saw these recipes on babycenter.com and they sound awesome.

Thursday:  If we don’t make the tofu on Tuesday, I’ll make Green Curry Tofu and RiceIf we do make it on Tuesday, I think I’ll just make some Mediterranean Puff Pastry Chicken

Friday: Out

Saturday:  Chipotle Enchiladas, Guacamole, Cilantro Lime Rice, Salsa, Chips, and some sort of dessert.  Some friends are coming over for dinner and the husband likes spicy food.  I thought this would fit the bill.

 

Feeding the Beast

I spend a lot of time thinking about what to feed our daughter and how much to feed our daughter.  She’s almost ten months old and has been eating solids since she was six months old.  So far she’s been a pretty good eater but lately I’m noticing she tends to eat at two extremes of the spectrum.  Either she wants soft, easy to swallow purees that I spoon feed to her OR she wants finger foods that she can pick up and eat herself.  The latter of these seems to take forever and makes a mess, which honestly, makes me not want to do it but I know she needs to develop her skill in this area.  So I give her stuff like toast, scrambled eggs, cheerios, and puffs that she can pick up and stuff in her mouth.

I’m trying to ease her into table food but am still worried about some foods – are they too spicy?  Too much salt?  Does it have sugar?  She has no teeth – will she be ok or will she choke?  I’ve also found that as she’s eating more like us and less like a baby, I am buying more processed foods.  For example, over the last week, she’s had bread, butter, frozen peas and blueberries, canned lentil soup, store bought apple sauce, mixed grain cereal and canned pumpkin.  I actually don’t like giving her puffs – I feel like it’s just baby junk food.  The label says Organic, so I feel a little better but really, so what if it’s organic?  Does it have any natural nutritional value?  I’m still feeding her fresh foods like bananas, avocados, oatmeal, quinoa, eggs, edamame, persimmons, sweet potatoes, yams,  and zucchini but if I’m buying her store bought apple sauce, how is that any “better” than buying gerber baby foods?

I guess what I’m struggling with is what’s best for our baby to eat?  In general, I’m keeping her away from too much sodium, stuff that is barely food, and foods that have been stripped of their nutrients.  The crazy part is that most of what we eat DOES have sugar and it DOES have sodium and it IS stripped of so many nutrients.  I’m trying to give my family better food choices but it’s hard in today’s world.  We’ve developed a taste for unhealthy, non-nutrient-rich “foods.”  It’s been a week now that we’ve cut out refined sugars.  And every single day, I feel like drinking soda or an iced tea with high fructose corn syrup based flavors or some halloween candy.  I’ve committed to less fast food too. So what do I do?  I buy chips and some nacho cheese and eat it at home.  It’s my loop hole.  Reality is that it’s really tough for me to be good all the time so we’re taking it one day at a time.

What I’m hoping for is to have significantly reduced all that bad food by the time my daughter can recognize what we’re eating and ask for it too.  I just want her to have good eating habits.  But I also know that if I shelter her from normal foods too much, she might become an overly picky eater.  There must be a balance we can find.  i think the key is to make foods at home as often as possible.  Be in control of our food choices, rather than succumbing to whatever is convenient and offered out there in the world.  Although looking at this week’s meal plan, I realize there are very few veggies and fruits on the list.  And the holidays are coming up.  It won’t be easy to avoid all the sweets.  Man.  I thought feeding our little beast was hard.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that battling what the beastly food industry is feeding us is harder!

Meal Plan Monday – November 7, 2011

Well, it’s a new week and time to figure out what we’re going to eat.  Looks like nothing crazy at this point since I haven’t really put much thought into it.  Today’s been a busy day already and dinner’s right around the corner!!!

Sunday: Take out (pizza)

Monday: Burritos

Tuesday: Arroz con Pollo

Wednesday:  Mac and Cheese, Broccoli, tomato and Avocado salad

Thursday: Vegetarian Chili

Friday:  Out

Saturday:  Quiche

Lots of carry-overs from last week!

Miss K. STILL hasn’t tried yogurt so we’re going to do it for sure this week!

 

Using fewer plastic bags

Now that we’ve been trying for a month, I thought it would be a good time to do an update on #2 on the LIST – Reduce the number of one-time use plastic bags we use.  This one has been going surprisingly well.  In October, my goal was to use 15 bags or less.  I believe we used only SEVEN bags:

  • One from Target for some books I bought for my daughter
  • One from The LEGO store – I was chatting with the cashier and didn’t even realize that he handed me a bag.  This one really chapped my hide because I didn’t even need it!  It was just one little box that I could have put in the stroller basket!  Argh.
  • Bags that came with our take-out meals – probably about 5 times.  Eep.

After about a week of this, I realized I needed to have some more rules around this goal.  I decided that it’s ok if my husband brings bags in if I’m not with him – I’m not trying to shove my stuff down his throat but the good news is that I know he’s giving it an earnest try to avoid bags – I know he said “I don’t need a bag” a couple times this month.  I encourage him to take bags with him to the grocery store and he does.  Yay him!

The first week, I actually didn’t have my reusable produce bags so I took plastic bags that I had from before back to the market and reused them.  I felt a little funny but it was no big deal; the cashier didn’t even seem to notice that some weren’t their bags. I had bought 10 of them and that seems to be enough for us so far.  If I need more, I might try to make some with my mom with some tulle.

I’ve also been keeping and using the reusable bags I bought in my purse/diaper bag.  They’ve really come in handy and I like the way they look – so that encourages me to use them!  Score!  I think it was a good buy.

It’s funny – Even though I say “I don’t need a bag for that” to cashiers, I’m surprised at how often they start stuffing my items into a bag anyway.  It’s just habit, I guess.  So sometimes I have to interrupt them and remind them.  It’s working!

 

Meal Plan Monday – October 31, 2011

It’s a spooky meal plan this week, folks! Okay, fine.  There’s nothing spooky about it. I just feel like there oughtta be since today’s Halloween. OHere’s what we’re thinking we’ll dine on for the next several days:

Sunday: Returned from our trip so we picked up dinner.

Monday: Meeting some friends for Trick-or-Treating so we’ll be eating at their place.

Tuesday:  Pad Thai and Asian Salad

Wednesday: Soup and Sammies

Thursday:  Quiche and Salad

Friday:  Arroz con Pollo

Saturday:  Going to my mom’s house to celebrate Indian New Year (Diwali).  Plan is to pig out.

As for Miss K, we’re going to be introducing Yogurt and possibly persimmons into her diet this week.  My in-laws sent a whole bunch of delicious home grown persimmons for us to enjoy so my goal is to not waste a single one of them.  I have to do some research to see if it’s ok for Miss K to eat them.  They’re the super awesome crunchy sweet kind so I may need to steam them a little to soften them.  I have a feeling she’s going to love them, especially since they were grown with love by her very own grandparents.  Happy Halloween and be safe out there!

 

The Snowball Effect

You know how when one thing in your life gets knocked out of whack, it seems like everything else starts to follow suit?  That’s how it’s felt for the last week or so and it’s crazy how much of it is related to the LIST.  As I mentioned earlier, I pulled a muscle in my back last week.  This led me to fall off the wagon and throw my goals of eating less fast food and drinking less soda out the window.  Which then led me to the drive-thru, where the fry prince and princesses handed us more one-time use bags that we’re trying to avoid.  Since we ate out, I wasn’t able to stick to my goal of cooking at home four days a week.  Which led me to throw away more food from the refrigerator.  And because I’m trying to recycle more and throw away less, I was required to scoop out expired foods from their plastic containers so that the containers could be recycled.  Sheesh.  Everything just snowballed into one big crazy ass goal buster.

The crazy part about all this?  If I had just pursued my goal of exercising, the likelihood of this injury would have been far less.  Seriously, I think this crazy ass snowball is a sign.  I just need to actually do what I’m supposed to be doing.  My life would be so much better if I just did what was on the list.  I’ve always been goal oriented.  Let’s do this.

#1 on the LIST – Recycle More, Throw Away Less

I’ve always liked recycling.  I remember being excited that the city was giving us bins to separate paper, glass, etc. from trash.  Even now, I find that I’ll leave clutter around in the name of recycling.  But I think we still produce a lot of trash that could be recycled instead.  So it’s time to figure out how.

The stuff that is obvious and easy has been recycled at our house for a long time.  Newspapers, tin cans, glass bottles, soda cans, boxes, and plastic milk jugs all get recycled without a second thought.  But I’m never sure what other plastics I could be recycling.  Is this pizza box ok to recycle?  I thought greasy pizza boxes were off limits but my brother-in-law said they were fine.

I like those Domino’s pizza proverbs.  I find them funny, along with whatever silly stuff is written on taco bell sauce packets.  Anyhoo, what about this cup and straw from the iced tea we got the other day?  It’s plastic..  Can I recycle that too?

Is this bag of pop chips recyclable?  It looks to be aluminum foil-y on the inside.  Is it ok?

For some reason, I thought water bottles were ok for recycling but their caps weren’t.  Do I need to rinse food containers before throwing them in the bin?  Lots of questions.  So I went to my go-to solution finder:  google.

Found this awesome resource for our city:  http://www.cityofirvine.us/programs/recycling/household-recycling/grey-cart-items/.  It helped me make sense of what’s ok and what’s not.  Oh!  How great – I can pretty much recycle plastic items that are labeled 1-9!  That’s a lot of stuff!  And I CAN drop the shredded paper into the recycling bin – I just have to put it in a bag.  Awesome.  I just need to take some time and figure out what gets the thumbs up and what gets filed in the round file.  I’ve always thought that phrase was corny.  That’s why it’s so important I use it right now.

We’re one step ahead of the game because we don’t buy much soda in cans or bottled water or two-liters or get a daily newspaper, so that limits our waste.  Since we cloth diaper, that saves us tons (literally) of diaper trash too.  I’ve been taking my own bags to the grocery store and other retailers, so we’ve cut back considerably on that.  So how can we reduce some more trash?

I think I need to be more diligent about paper, paper towels, tissue boxes, tp and paper towel rolls, and plastic wrapping.  I really want to reduce the amount of trash we produce by using cloth wipes for baby’s bum too but I’m using up the large supply of disposable wipes we’ve purchased (because just throwing them away would be even more wasteful, wouldn’t it?).

Also, I think there’s some opportunity to just buy and consume less or at least buy items with less packaging.  I don’t know what yet but there’s gotta be some options out there.  Just the fact that we’re using more fresh fruits and vegetables helps, and especially because it’s from the farmer’s market, we have less clam shell and bag packaging.  I love that our garbage can is filling up more and more with pitts and peels and less with styrofoam.  One area that does bother me is that we order a lot from Amazon.  So often we’re doubling and sometimes tripling up on trash because the item we bought is in it’s manufacturer’s box within a shipping box that’s also full of packing materials.  Not good.  I’m not sure what to do about that, other than doing our best to recycle and reuse as much of that packing material and boxes as we can.

But back to recycling more.  My goal with this is to have more items in the recycle bin than we have in the trash bin on a regular basis. What can I do to make this more likely (ie easier?)  Well, for one, I bought one of these oh-so-attractive recycling cans for upstairs.

I was finding that we were throwing a bunch of stuff away because it wasn’t convenient to recycle it.  Well, this takes care of that, since our upstairs area is pretty small.  Secondly, I added a shortcut to the city’s recycling guidelines in our browser on the laptop so that if there is an item in question, I have easy access to what’s ok so I can quickly decide what to do with it.  Little steps, but I’m hoping for good results. Maybe we can even swap our medium sized garbage can for a small one!  My in-laws live in a huge house and they get by with a small trash can – I’m so impressed by that.  They recycle often – I love it!

I also want to look into buying biodegradable trash bags.  It’s no good to throw away biodegradable diaper inserts when they sit inside a trash bag that doesn’t biodegrade, is it?  So I encourage you to take a few minutes and look up your local recycling resource and find out what you can do…what do you do today to recycle more?