Embrace

Last summer we took our kids to a waterpark. It was a stinkin’ hot day and we had a blast zipping down slides and cooling off in the wave pool. At one point, my husband and the older kids decided to try a toilet-bowl style ride geared for an older crowd, so my littlest and I stood at the bottom waiting for them to poop out into the basin below.

As we watched the riders happily splash down in front of us, little K pulled on my arm and pointed to a child exiting the water nearby – “Hey mommy, I don’t like that girl” he stated . “Why not?” I asked. I’d never seen her before. “Because she’s fat” he answered matter-of-factly.

I just about fell over backwards! Body image has been the monkey on my back for as long as I can remember, and I’ve worked hard to overcome my own insecurities and to foster an environment of acceptance and kindness within my own family. And goddamn it – no child of mine was going to shame someone because of the shape of their body!

I knelt down and spent the next ten minutes lecturing my son about the beauty in all body shapes and the importance of never, ever judging other people. Trust me, he got an earful. He listened intently, then ran off with his siblings to enjoy another slide. “Crazy kid” I mumbled to myself. I figured he must have picked up that nonsense on television.

Then a few months later I had dinner with a group of girlfriends- all of them brilliant, beautiful women with high-powered careers, incredible families, strong opinions and the passion and means to affect change in the world.

And yet. Our conversations that night kept coming back to the same thing – body image. We shared stories of how weight has impacted our sex lives, and contributed to feeling too physically disgusting to appear naked in front of our spouses – even with the lights off. We talked about caloric intake and the restrictive cleanses we’d endured – all the while feeling sick and deprived. We discussed our boobs (too small, too big, too saggy) and our butts (too big, too small, too saggy) – and we even dissected our individual diets and compared notes about what foods and drinks (or lack thereof) would help us achieve thinner, happier, sexier, less-wrinkly versions of ourselves.

As I laughed and commiserated and chimed in, something struck me: that friggin’ monkey is still clinging stubbornly to my back. Because for all of my lip service about acceptance and self love – a really big part of me still believes that being thin is equated with being better. And the fact that I have droopy post-nursing boobs and a squishy belly – in my own mind, ultimately means that I am losing at womanhood..and at life.

Then I came across a “before and after” photo on social media that changed my whole perspective. Taryn Brumfitt posted side-by-side images of herself posing with a muscular body-builders physique (before) and then with a softer, curvier body (after). It was revolutionary!

taryn-brumfitt-image_05c57715545da1ac93abb959899947bb.today-inline-large

Here was a woman actually showing off her curves, and rolls, and stretch marks. Proudly! Her impish smile belied the fact that she was actually HAPPIER with her less-toned and heavier body. My mind was blown.

I learned that Taryn had gone on a crusade to  uncover “why poor body image has become a global epidemic and what women everywhere can do to have a brighter future.” She turned her findings into a documentary called Embrace “A funny, touching, at times gut wrenching but above all, life changing documentary, the heart of Embrace is Taryn’s story. How she went from a body hater to a body lover. From being devastated by her perceived ugliness to proudly posing nude for the whole world to see.”

I downloaded Embrace as soon as it was released and sobbed my heart out through almost the entire thing. I could relate to so many of the women in the film who shared feelings of inadequacy and failure when discussing their bodies, and I felt inspired to make a change.

So can I do it? Can I move my body in an effort to be strong and healthy without obsessing over the calories I’ve burned, or whether or not I’ll be able to squeeze into my old jeans after a long run? Can I enjoy food without worrying about each and every bite? Can I show my children that I am a confident and fully-actualized woman no matter what size my body is? I honestly don’t know. But I am willing to try. And Embrace is the perfect place to start.

Taryn - ornament

I am beyond thrilled to be co-hosting a special community screening of the life-changing/perspective-shifting/monkey-on-back-destroying documentary Embrace – right here in Burlington, Ontario.

Please join me and my friends Sue Abell and Joelle Cooling on Thursday, June 1st at 7pm at the Art Gallery of Burlington . Tickets are $10 and are available for purchase by contacting me directly at lori@vaportek.ca, or by emailing Sue at sue@treadpowerfully.com, or by visiting Joelle’s clothing store at 457 Brant Street in downtown Burlington.

Come and enjoy a glass of wine, a bag of popcorn and an opportunity to fully love and embrace your body. Together – we can be part of a movement to create positive global change. Let’s Embrace!

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9 Healthful Products That I Adore

As we head into warmer spring days, I felt inspired to share with you some of my favourite finds, foodie items and all-around awesome products that have all enriched my life in different ways. Some of them help me to relax, others make me feel my best, a couple of them have improved my health and some are just for fun!

So if you are looking to treat yourself or someone you love to something special – these 9 items have the patented “Lori Wilson” stamp of approval:

1. Spoonk Mat – I’m not sure if it’s all the time I spend writing at my computer or that fact that I am getting older but I’ve noticed some persistent achiness in my lower back. A friend told me about this amazing acupressure mat so I rushed right out to buy one and it was definitely a stellar purchase. I’ll admit that having over 6000 stimulation points pressed into your body is a little uncomfortable at first but the results are well worth it. Benefits include: increased circulation, decreased pain, relaxation of sore muscles, release of endorphins, improved sleep and stress relief. My husband and I are both hooked!

spoonk 1

2. Saje Perfume – I had dinner with a few girlfriends this past winter and I couldn’t stop sniffing my friend who was seated right next to me – she smelled so darn good! (At one point I’m pretty sure she thought I was hitting on her ; ) She was wearing a pure essential oil  blend from Saje Wellness called “Stress Release” that has a lovely clean and fresh scent. Saje started in western Canada and they are committed to using pure 100% natural ingredients in their products that are all are guaranteed free of “parabens, SLS, SLES, PEGS, glycols, petrochemicals, synthetic colours and synthetic fragrances.” Plus they smell amazing!

saje

3. Joy For Beginners by Erica Bauermeister – I am a regular at our local Chapters book store and I always seek out my favourite employee whenever I visit for book suggestions. Margaret is my go-to girl and she never fails to find me something fantastic – and this book is no exception. It’s moving and thought-provoking and I still find myself thinking about the characters and their unique situations months after I finished reading the book.

joy for beginners

4. Living Libations Rose Best Skin Ever – I know what you are thinking – how the heck does Lori keep her face looking so youthful and glowy? You’d never know she was about to turn 44. Well I’m glad you asked! I’m kidding but I did luck out by inheriting good skin from my mom and grandmother. I also like to keep my skin routine simple – I can’t be bothered with tons of different lotions and potions. My go-to items are Witch Hazel toner and this incredible Rose Oil from Living Libations. It smells incredible and keeps my face fresh and blemish free.

rosebse_1

5. 100% Pure Makeup – it is incredibly difficult to find makeup that is truly clean and safe in addition to working well. I’ve tried a few brands that were guaranteed all-natural but left me looking pretty frightening – mascara running under my eye, concealer the colour of mustard and garish pink lipstick that felt like I was smearing silly putty on my lips. Not flattering! I don’t wear much makeup but for my money the cleanest and most effective brand on the market is 100% Pure. It’s a bit on the pricey side but their fruit-pigmented make-up delivers on quality and looks great on the face. Win-win. (Black Tea Mascara and Berry Blush are two of my favourites)

100% pure

6. Zazubean Chocolate– I’m pretty sure the most amazing thing I’ve learned about healthy eating is that chocolate is actually a superfood! Who knew?! However, I have come to realize that all chocolate is not created equally. Those candy bars that line the check-out aisles of convenience stores are far from super – they are full of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients and nasty chemicals. But thankfully there are brands that are committed to fair-trade practices and produce delicious organic delights that will make you forget all about that stinkin’ Kit Kat bar. My absolute favourite is Zazubean’s Smooch Bar – decadent chocolate with vanilla caramel and a pinch of sea salt. Heaven!

smooch-bar

7. Strawsome – I don’t know about you but my kids are crazy for straws. Apparently drinks just taste better when you sip them through a tube (or a piece of licorice for that matter…) But I’ve never been a fan of cheap plastic straws – I work my butt of to prepare green smoothies each morning and I hate to see them consumed through something that is made with BPA and other harmful plastic ingredients. Luckily for me I found an amazing company that makes the coolest glass straws on the planet. They come in many funky colours and designs so that we can each have our own unique straw and they come with a nifty device to keep them sparkling clean.

strawsome

8. Four Sigma Foods Mushroom Teas – Back in the fall, I had the pleasure of getting to hear the president of Four Sigma Foods give a presentation on the superpowers of mushrooms. I was absolutely blown away. Apparently these little fungi are incredible healers, immunity boosters and hormone balancers. And the “Funguys” at Four Sigma are committed to unlocking the maximum power from all of their mushroom products. Each blend is specially formulated to address specific conditions in the body and they have a mild and pleasant taste. Their new XOCO Hot Chocolate is downright sinful!

chaga

9. Headspace – Although I fully realize the positive impact meditation has had on my life, I have struggled over the years to maintain a regular practice. I will go for weeks at a time and then get too “busy” and fall completely off the wagon. This easy-to-use app on my iPhone has made all the difference in the world. I am a huge fan of creator Andy Puddicombe and his easy-going and approachable manner. Somehow he manages to make meditation accessible to everyone – no incense or fancy mat required. You can download the app for free and sample a 10-day trial and then decide if you’d like to buy the full program. I have been especially enjoying the different themed meditation sessions on creativity, anxiety and relationships.

headspace

Those are my current favs and I’d love to hear about yours! What products or services are you loving right now? How are they impacting your life? And better yet – have you got another chocolate to recommend? Please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Creamy Mushroom Soup (Dairy-Free!)

I love mushrooms. They are without a doubt my favourite veggie in the world. My love affair with fungi started way back when I was little and my mom would buy canned mushroom pieces to make english muffin pizzas for my sister and I – and we would slurp those slimy little suckers straight out of the tin. Yum!

Once I switched to a plant-based diet, mushrooms became my go-to meat replacement. Marinated Portobello mushrooms instead of burgers, ground mushrooms in chili, burritos and sauces and mixed mushrooms in soups, stirfrys and pasta. I could honestly eat them every day.

mushrooms 1

Unfortunately for me – my family isn’t so keen. My husband will pretty much eat anything I prepare without complaint (bless his heart) but I would go so far as to say that my kids downright hate them. Even my impassioned speeches about the health benefits of mushrooms have had no impact. They just roll their eyes and push a sad-looking pile of brown bits to the side of their plates at mealtime.

My daughter is at an age now that she likes to take a bigger role in preparing meals and I am only too happy to step aside and let her create. But I have noticed that she “conveniently” seems to skip the mushrooms in the dishes she prepares. And that inevitably leaves me with extras at the end of the week.

Just recently I opened my fridge to discover 4 lonely looking containers of mixed mushrooms staring back at me. And I immediately had a craving for cream of mushroom soup! Yes I know it’s spring but this particular day was chilly and rainy and soup sounded just about perfect. And the kids were off at school so I knew I wouldn’t have to listen to their bitter complaints about how gross mushrooms are…..and as an added bonus I could eat the whole batch myself : )

This soup has only a few ingredients, it’s super easy to throw together and it tastes amazing. So if you are a fellow fungus-lover – give this soup a try and slurp up the healthy mushroom-y goodness. It’s a winner!

Creamy Dairy-Free Mushroom Soup

mushrooms 2

4 containers mixed mushrooms (I used button, cremini and shitake)
1 red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt (plus extra for seasoning)
1/2 tsp black pepper (plus extra for seasoning)
1 tsp dried sage
6 cups of vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup of raw cashews (soaked for 1 hour in cold water)
Water (to cover cashews)

Remove mushroom stems and chop into pieces. Heat a soup pot over medium heat and pour in oil. Add onion and saute for 1-2 minutes until starting to soften. Add in mushrooms, salt, pepper and sage and stir to combine. Cook for 6-8 minutes until very soft. Add vegetable broth and bay leaf and bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make cashew cream by rinsing soaked cashews under cold water and putting them into a high-speed blender. Add water so that they are covered over by 1-inch and blend for 1-2 minutes until very smooth.

Once soup has simmered, remove bay leaf and pour in the cashew cream. Stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Plant Powered Kids & A Delicious Square Recipe

I recently had the pleasure of presenting a workshop to an awesome group of parents and children. It was called Plant-Powered Kids and I transformed my living room and kitchen into 5 different food-making stations so that I could get the gang busy chopping, grating, stirring, wrapping, blending and baking.

What a fun afternoon! I gave a quick chat when everyone first arrived and appealed to their athletic lifestyles to introduce foods that would power up their activities. I encouraged the kids to become detectives when it comes to the food they eat and asked them to think about 3 things: How do particular foods make them feel when they eat them? What the heck is actually in the foods we eat? And are the glitzy food advertisements in the media telling us the truth?

I also chatted briefly about some foods to avoid like refined sugar (did you know a bottle of Gatorade has a whopping 9 tsp of sugar!), nasty trans fats and toxic MSG and touted the benefits of plant-based protein, healthy fats and fiber. After about 15 minutes I noticed the kids staring at the floor and dreamily looking around the room so I knew it was time to stop talking and get them up and cooking.

kaden kale chips

And I’ve gotta say – they really rose to the challenge! Not only did they do a bang up job of preparing the foods I had planned for them but they were brave about sampling pretty much everything they made. In addition to an All-Natural Hydrating Sports Drink and some Kale Chips that I whipped up myself – they prepared Raw Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce, Fresh Veggie Salad with Zucchini Noodles, Homemade Hummus Dip, Granola Bar Squares and a Protein Rich Chocolate Shake. It was a feast!

I wandered around the stations with my husband and daughter to make sure everyone was on track and comfortable with the equipment. It made me smile to see the kids and parents talking and working together to make incredible healthy food. And I was able to overhear some of the funny things the kids said as they cooked- here are a few of my favourite quotes from the afternoon:

“I don’t know how to cook but I want to learn. It’s a life skill.” Liam age 10

“So is this like food? Are we going to eat it?” Lucas age 11

“Remember if you eat the beets your poop is going to be bright red tomorrow.” Izzy age 11

It was the first time I tried out this particular workshop and I think everyone had a good time. I was very impressed with the way the kids jumped right in and were willing to try new things. And I feel so fortunate that I had such an adventurous bunch for my first attempt…..I will definitely do it again!

And now for a recipe: of all of the things we whipped up together – the granola bar squares were by far the biggest hit. And I have to admit they are delicious. Super easy to make and the kids and parents alike gobbled them up. So here is the recipe in case you’d like to give them a whirl:

Granola Bar Squares

granola bar

1 cup almonds (or nut of choice), chopped
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 ½ cups crispy rice cereal
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup raw honey
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup raw almond butter
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and line a square pan with parchment paper.

Place nuts and coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes, stirring once or twice to avoid burning.

Combine oats, cereal, salt and cranberries in a large bowl. Add toasted nuts and coconut.

In a saucepan, heat honey, syrup and almond butter on medium high heat and bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour over dry mixture and stir to combine.

Press firmly into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool. Once cooled completely, place squares in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight before cutting. (they are very soft and will fall apart if you try to cut them before they set in the fridge – although the kids didn’t mind at all and ate the warm crumbles straight from the pan : )

Enjoy!

P.S. Intrigued by this workshop? Wondering what other awesome classes I offer? Wanna come to my kitchen?  Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll hook you up!

 

The Student Becomes The Teacher

Hello my name is Lori and I am addicted to taking courses. I love learning (yep – former brown-noser here ; ), I’m curious about new ideas and I am almost always game to try something new. Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about, in the past year alone I have taken classes in: Voice-Over Animation, Democratic Parenting, Culinary Nutrition, Business Development, Meditation, Vegetarian Cooking, Writing, Wine Tasting, Vision Board Making and Yoga.

I have even gone so far as to get certified in a few of these endeavours. But although I am an eager student, I haven’t yet found the confidence to step into the role of teacher. If I’m being completely honest, I always find one excuse or another to convince myself that I am just not ready. That voice in my head keeps chattering away about the fact that I’m not educated enough or I don’t know as much as other people or that no one will be interested or that I don’t look the right way or act the right way or eat the right way or live my life the right way. It’s paralyzing quite frankly.

icarus deception

On the advice of a friend of mine, I recently purchased marketing entrepreneur Seth Godin’s book “The Icarus Deception” and I had a total break through. In his book, Seth challenges readers to look at their work as art and to approach each day as artists. There were so many light bulb moments for me while reading this book that I had to go back and read it twice so that they would sink in. Perhaps the section that resonated the loudest was called “Pick Yourself”:

“Authority? You want authority to create, to be noticed, and to make a difference? You’re waiting for permission to stand up and speak up and ship? Sorry. There’s no authority left. Oprah has left the building. She can’t choose you to be on her show because her show is gone……Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission, authority, and safety that come from a publisher or a talk-show host or even a blogger who says ‘I pick you’…..Once you realize that there are problems waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound. The opportunity is not to have your resume picked from the pile but to lead…..when we buckle down, confront the lizard brain and ship our best work, we’re becoming the artists we are capable of becoming. No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

Hold on a minute – what would it look like if I treated some my interests and passions as art? Then perhaps all of those things that stop me in my tracks – my flaws and imperfections and vulnerabilities – would transform into the very things that make me relatable and human and artistic (dare I say it?) a good teacher.

So I decided throw myself out there and be brave. I contacted a huge company in the US and offered up my skills as a voice over actress…and they hired me! I used a coupon to book some studio time, warmed up my rusty singing voice and recorded my very own CD..and it was a blast!

And I decided to step up from behind my desk and start teaching some of the incredible knowledge I’ve learned over the past 6 1/2 years as a plant-based foodie and the past 4 months as a student of the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program…and I didn’t die! Quite the opposite actually – it was so much fun. I whipped up a green smoothie, fresh almond milk, fresh granola, quinoa salad, rice noodles with cream sauce and chocolate caramels and the crowd went wild. Well not wild per say but everyone seemed to have a great time. Was it perfect? Heck no! But we all laughed and drank and ate and learned from each other.

lori kitchen

Did that annoying voice in my head speak up during my first class? You bet your ass it did! But I drowned it out with the sound of my Vitamix whirring up a smoothie and I kept right on going. Because I’m an artist gosh darn it and I’m finally ready to teach.

*GTA friends – I still have spots available in my April & May plant-based cooking workshops if you’d like to come to my kitchen to see an artist at work : )  I’m teaching about All-Natural Beauty in April and Liquid Nutrition in May. If you are interested – respond in the comments and I’ll send you all the details.

 

 

6 Ways to Get Your Kids To Eat More Healthy Foods

I grew up eating a lot of junk food. I mean A LOT. There were a couple of convenience stores close to our house and my sister and I spent a considerable amount of time walking or biking to these treasure troves of candy for our beloved treats- potato chips, jujubes, chocolate bars, chewy big feet, ring pops, garbage pail candies, ice cream bars, hamburger shaped gum, freezies and much, much more. In fact, aside from Archie comic books and stickers, most of our money went directly to candy.

candy 1

And I mean – we are still alive and thriving. We lived to tell the tale. And I’m happy to report that we have both adopted much healthier eating habits. But I will tell you this from my perspective: making that transition was and continues to be really freakin’ hard. Honestly, it’s something that I struggle with almost every single day (if you want to test that theory just put a bag of Doritos in front of me and see how long it takes for them to disappear ; )

So what’s wrong with treating our children with junk food? As parents, we love our kids and we want them to be happy and nothing makes them happier than a gooey caramel chocolate bar right? Well, here’s the rub – the occasional treat might be okay but routinely plying our kids with goodies actually makes it much more difficult to convince them to taste and enjoy healthier foods.

When young children routinely indulge on sugar-laden foods,their taste buds become conditioned to crave sugar, creating unhealthy habits that follow them into adulthood.

Dr. David Sack

It has taken a considerable amount of effort and will-power on my part to reprogram my taste buds to embrace healthy whole foods. And because it has been such an uphill battle for me, I am passionate about instilling healthier eating habits into my own children. Yes they certainly enjoy their treats but I want to make sure that they eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains and nuts. And it’s not simply to establish healthier eating habits but also to safeguard them from the fallout of excessive junk food consumption including; obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and tooth decay. Not to mention the research that suggests sugar may be as addictive as cocaine and other drugs.

Instead of getting overwhelmed or trying to overhaul your whole diet, I recommend making a few simple changes to encourage children to eat more nutritious foods. Here are 6 suggestions:

1. One Chug or One Bite – in our house we have a “one chug” or “one bite” policy on all new foods and drinks. It can take quite a few tries for children’s’ taste buds to adapt to a new veggie, smoothie or tofu stir fry so as long as everyone at least samples something new I don’t force the issue.

2. Be a Supermodel – Do you make negative comments about your own body or eating habits? Are you open and willing to try new foods? Our children are like little sponges and they are much more likely to pay attention to our actions than our words. Instead of lecturing kids about their eating habits, model healthy eating yourself by limiting sugary desserts and processed foods in favour of more nutrient dense choices.

3. Get Cooking – my children are much more likely to try something if they’ve had a hand in preparing it. I encourage them to pick their favourite recipes from my collection of cookbooks and I get them in the kitchen to help with chopping, stirring, blending and simmering.

4. Healthify Your Favs– there are tons of great blogs and websites featuring healthier versions of classic kid-friendly dishes. Think about some of your kids favourites and do a search for equally delicious but more nutritious recipes. Here are a few goodies for Mac and Cheese, Nachos, French Fries, Veggie Burgers and Lasagna.

5. Make It Fun – depending on the age of your children, new foods can become much more appealing if they are cut into fun shapes or given interesting names (“Green Monster Smoothie” or “Power Athlete Chocolate Almond Milk”). I’ve also had good luck with these funky straws and food games like “vote for your favourite colour of grape” or “blindfolded taste tests”.

6. Eat Together – Although our busy schedules do not allow for us to eat together as a family every night of the week, we do try to sit down together for dinner as much as possible. This gives me an opportunity to try out new dishes and to model healthier eating habits for my kiddos. And I try to refrain from making separate “child-friendly” meals because studies have also shown that children who eat the same foods as their parents actually have much healthier diets.

Most importantly of all – don’t get stressed out! There is enough stress in our lives that we don’t need the added burden of monitoring every bite that goes into our children’s mouths. Stock up your fridge and pantry with lots of healthy choices, offer up a variety of nutritious foods at meal times and do your best to embrace healthy eating habits for your children to model.

I keep reminding myself that if I do my best to encourage nutritious foods then perhaps my own children won’t suffer from the same internal strife every time they pass by the chocolate bar display at the drug store or walk through the chip aisle at the grocery store. It’s an uphill battle but I’m winning goddamit! (Curse you all-dressed chips!)

The Sweet Smell of Poison In Your Home

Saturdays were “house cleaning” days when I was growing up. We would haul out the bathroom scrubbing bubbles, streak-free window cleaner, disinfectant spray, furniture polish and other assorted cleaning products and get busy removing dust, dirt and germs. By the time we were finished, the house would be spotless and smell wonderfully fresh. Even today nothing takes me back to my childhood like a whiff of lemon-scented Pledge.

cleaners 1

All of our efforts were done to achieve a clean home but the scary truth is that the vast majority of the products we associate with cleanliness and fresh smells are often loaded with harsh toxic chemicals that can seriously damage our health.  Just because a house has the aroma of mountain air or spring daisy air freshener doesn’t necessarily mean that its clean. But most of us have been brainwashed into equating the smell of our cleaning products with their efficacy and not only is that a false assumption, it is also putting us directly in harm’s way.

According  to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Canadians spend more than $275 million on household cleaning products in a year.”  The familiar labels on so many of these products warn of immediate dangers like “poison”, “corrosive” and “irritant” but “there is no requirement in Canada for manufacturers to warn consumers about the health and environmental hazards associated with chronic, or long-term, exposure to chemical ingredients in household cleaning products. Most of us are exposed to cleaning products and their residues at low levels on a daily basis.” 

cleaners 2

Due to the artificial fragrances in the vast majority of cleaners, the very scents that we find so pleasing can lead to allergic reactions, rashes and asthma. And even more troubling are the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) that are in chemically-derived household products.

The list of VOCs commonly used in cleaners and air fresheners is shockingly long but a few of the most frightening ones include propane, butane, ethanol, and phthalates. “Propane is a suspected neurotoxin and respiratory toxicant. Butane is a neurotoxicant. Ethanol has been reported to be a carcinogen as well as an endocrine toxicant, liver toxicant, neurotoxicant, and reproductive toxicant. And phthalates are suspected endocrine disrupters associated with reproductive effects, including reduced sperm count in men.” Seriously scary stuff!

How do these nasty toxins get into our bodies? Well, when we scrub and spray our homes the chemicals linger in the air and we breathe them in. They can also enter our bodies directly through our largest organ – our skin- when we touch or rub up against the “sanitized and disinfected” surfaces and through our mouths if we swallow residues left behind on dishes. And these poisons have been shown to have a cumulative effect in our bodies and are extremely difficult to eliminate.

When switching to nontoxic cleaning products, it may take you a while to get used to not having that pine forest or lemon smell that has signaled  “clean” for, oh, your whole life! But trust me – odorless (or naturally scented) is much healthier.

Jessica Alba, The Honest Company

So what the heck should we use to safely clean our homes that will satisfy both our sniffers and our cleaning standards? Here are a few of my best suggestions:

 

1. Research: Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning – they have done exhaustive research on over 2000 products and provide ratings and toxicity levels. My own personal favourites are: Benefect Disinfectant & All-purpose Cleaner, Cleanwell Hand Santizer, Vaportek Odor Control Products, The Honest Company and Seventh Generation cleaners and detergents. They are all safe and effective products that I feel comfortable using in my home around my 3 young children.

benefect 2

 

2. Make your own – There are loads of websites and books available for whipping up your own natural and effective “homemade” supplies. Often a simple mixture of food-grade essential oils from Living Libations (lemon and tangerine are my favs) and pure water can clean and freshen up floors and surfaces. Wellness Mama and Keeper of the Home are great blogs to find recipes.

3. Kick it Old School – Real food author and activist Michael Pollan wisely advised us in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” The same can be said for our cleaning products. Our ancestors used things like vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, soap, hot water, scrub brushes and rags to keep their living spaces sparkling clean – and they still work just as well today!

My husband and his best friend have worked in the all-natural cleaning and disinfection industry for over 15 years – long before “green” cleaning was on anyone’s radar. And I’ll admit it always rubs me the wrong way when one of their customers complains about the “smell” of their products – all of which are scented exclusively with pure  essential oils (ironically it’s often these same people who freely spray toxic chemical disinfectants or rave about the wonders of an alcohol hand sanitizer from the drug store). C’mon people –  – it’s time to retrain our noses to transition to more natural and safer scents. Let’s use our buying power to support products that prioritize the health and safety of their consumers over the mass-produced chemical brands that are ultimately poisoning our homes and our bodies.