Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Healthy Halloween!

by the Green Granny, Carolann Stefanco

It is not just on Halloween that we consume sugars. On a daily basis, the majority of the population eats some form of sugar, whether it be fructose, lactose or sucrose, maltose, maple syrup, corn syrup or brown sugar. All of these can become problematic to your health.

Sugar can change your healthy body by feeding cancer cells, triggering weight gain, and promoting premature aging. It can create metabolic imbalances, increase cholesterol, weaken eye sight, cause food allergies, contribute to diabetes and even osteoporosis.

White sugar is physically addictive and humans have had a strong desire for sweets as far back as 327 B.C. when raw sugar was used in India. But you don't have to give up your sweetness of sugar, just replace it with better alternatives, such as stevia and xylitol, that are safe and natural.

In order to make your Halloween healthier you can enjoy and hand out the following to trick or treaters: dried fruit, trail mix, baked pretzels, nuts and seeds, raisins, sugar free gum, fig cookies, low sugar cereal bars and low fat popcorn. Some children may have food allergies to nuts, so it might be best to ask first before handing out a packet of peanuts.

You may want to consider handing out non-edible treats to trick or treaters such as stickers, spider rings, bubbles and vampire teeth. If your child receives a lot of sugary candy you can always try to recycle it by giving it away at work or donating it to charities or using it for other events.

If you are considering a Halloween party for children, serve healthier snacks and natural drinks for them to enjoy. Parents will be appreciative knowing that their youngsters will not be consuming tons of sugary sweets and coming home with a Halloween tummy ache!

At Halloween parties a fun game to play, that is also nutritious, is bobbing for organic apples. Children can also have a fun time creating a vegetable pizza, making pumpkin cookies or pumpkin bread, and baking pumpkin seeds or apple pie. Craft activities can be quite fun for children, such as decorating Halloween masks for their friends, making ghosts out of old fabrics stuffed with cotton balls, or the traditional carving of pumpkins as an activity supervised by adults with safe implements.

By getting creative and finding healthier alternatives, Halloween can be a very nutritious as well as enjoyable time for adults and children.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thinking Green

The world is all abuzz with the idea of thinking green. What exactly does this mean? For some, it means living in a home made by hand of mud and straw from the earth. For others it means recycling and reusing. No matter what you do, the most important part is simply to act. Actions come from thoughts, so let’s explore how to think green.

It seems that some people automatically look around them, whether outside or indoors, and immediately assess where and how certain things can be altered to be more environmentally friendly. For example a neighbor who sees her vegetable waste as an opportunity to start a compost pile or her children’s empty shoeboxes as a great way to store all of those sewing supplies she uses.

Then, there are those, and we have all sadly seen them, who flick their cigarette butts out of their car windows onto the roads as if the world is their trash can. Where do we begin so that we can not only incorporate green thinking into our lives, but also into the lives of others?

First, for ourselves, the best place to start is to imagine that you wear green colored glasses when you are looking at the world around you. This visual image is quite powerful at coloring your thoughts to become more eco-friendly. Every time I leave the house for work, or to go for a walk or out shopping, I imagine I am wearing these green tinted glasses. This makes it much easier for me to start to think about the world from a more eco-friendly perspective. For example, as I drive to work I notice the smoggy Southern California air and the traffic. Then, I begin to think about ways to help improve the air quality and that is when I notice the hybrid and electric cars on the road, and then the metro train whizzing by parallel to the freeway. When I get home I research the costs of hybrid and electric cars, as well as a metro commuter pass. These are all actions I can can take now because I looked at my commute with green thinking.

Second, to help improve others’ level of green thinking, simple role modeling and education goes a long way. Every time we recycle and inform our neighbors about the town recycling program, or we send our children to school with reusable lunch containers rather than plastic bags, we are modeling the idea of thinking and acting green. It doesn’t take much as evidenced by the spread of the green movement to the present day point of electric cars and mass eco-friendly behavioral change.

So, get out there with your green tinted glasses, think green as often as you can, and see how many other people you can inspire to think green too!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Natural Outdoor Activities for Kids

by Guest Author, the Green Granny

Times certainly have changed from the walks I took as a kid listening to my transistor radio that received only three stations and playing my old 45's on the record player to dance to. Technology may have surpassed those times countless times over, but I wouldn't change or trade the fun I had growing up in the times of the fifties. Obesity problems and boredom was practically non-existent. Kids were way too active and creative in so many different ways.

During the winter months long walks to the other side of town brought you to the town lake for ice skating. Sledding took place at the river's falls, where the path started near the top of the falls, and stopped just a few feet from the river itself. It took a lot of energy to climb back up that steep hill and sled down over and over again.

Springtime offered opportunities to play hide and seek with friends and neighbors as well as collecting clover flowers to make a necklace chain. A simple blade of crabgrass was thick enough to hold between your thumbs and blow a screeching sound that could be heard from a distance. The magnolia trees had seed pods filled with tiny red seeds, that of which we all were curious about and liked to find them in places on the tree. We picked red berries from the bushes and placed them in pails to count later in the day to see who had found the most. Lucky was the person who also found a four leaf clover in the lawn.

On the side street the kids gathered to play 1-2-3- red light and tag. Someone always brought a laundry rope for several of us to jump in at the same time. We brought along out roller skates and of course carried the skate key around our neck to have handy for tightening our skates. If you were lucky enough to have a pinkie ball you could organize a punch ball game for all to enjoy.

The days of summer were wonderfully long and using your imagination you could make mud pies after a summer rain as well as make "soup" with leaves and twigs and stir it up in the rain barrel. It was fun to cool off in the lawn sprinkler or just simply pick up the garden hose and run the water over your head and body to feel cool in the summer heat. Lolling in the canvas hammock in the shade and reading a good Nancy Drew mystery book certainly made the day. Running down to the corner confectionery store for a chocolate or lemon ice was all that was needed to quench our taste buds.

It was fun to sharpen our Crayola crayons and color the afternoon away and sometimes cut out the Hollywood stars paper dolls, like Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds. Many times we just made our own from cardboard found in the house.

Nighttime was the time to catch those lightning bugs and place them in old pickle jars with lids filled with holes, only to let them escape right back into the night.

Once Fall came around and school was back in session, the days became shorter for outside play. Late afternoon was time for a bike adventure to a nearby field, where there was always a thick rope someone hung from a tree that you could hang onto and swing yourself across a brook. Sometimes a fun walk with a friend on the deserted railroad tracks would take you right through most of the town. If you stepped on a track nail you would get an alphabet letter and you would lose the game if you spelled donkey.

Each season brought new and exciting adventures with family and friends.All the activities helped to keep us healthy physically as well as in mind, heart and spirit. It certainly was a time of good old fashioned, carefree fun and innocence, and most of all childhood happiness.