Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Day Requirement

It's snowing!  And, has been since yesterday afternoon!  We've had some sleet, but mostly, just snow.  It's wonderful.  Where we live in North Carolina, we often get freezing rain, but not inches of nice, powdery snow.   We're up to about 6 inches and counting.  It's been years since we've had this much.  The kids have already been outside and are now back in warming up.  Abigail's first request upon entering the house was for hot chocolate.

I didn't have any packets of hot cocoa so we improvised.  It actually turned out really good, and I don't mind at all that Abigail drank the whole mug.  I purchase organic chocolate soy milk for my 2 year old son to drink at lunch.  I heated a mug of the milk in the microwave for 45 seconds, stirred it and then heated it again for another 45 seconds.  Topped with a couple of marshmallows, it was not only a very rich cup of hot chocolate, but probably more nutritious than any of the powdered kind.

Recently, I contacted Nestle about their hot cocoa.  Abigail's class was having it for a treat one day at school, and I needed to find out if it was safe for her peanut allergy.  Here's an excerpt from their response:

There is no risk of peanut or tree nut contamination in our cocoa products.....

Factories that use a critical allergen as an ingredient take all precautions to avoid cross-contact of products that do not normally contain these allergens and products that do not carry a specific mention in the ingredient statement. Precautionary measures include efficient cleaning of production lines and equipment and strict separation of materials that may contain critical allergens. If an allergen does not appear on the ingredient statement, then it has not been added to the product and the likelihood of cross-contact is so extremely low that the risk is insignificant.

Please note that ingredients and manufacturing conditions can and do change. If you do need to pay attention to allergens in your diet, we strongly encourage you to always check the product label and the list of ingredients.

Now that I know I can just heat up our organic soy milk, I won't be purchasing any more "snow day" packets of cocoa mix. They're too "processed" anyway. But, I do have a question.  How do you moms that have kids with life-threatening nut allergies, or you adults with an allergy, feel about that statement "the likelihood of cross-contact is so extremely low that the risk is insignificant"?  I ask because I feel it's a "CYA" statement from Nestle.  But mostly, I ask because when I initially read the statement, my first thought was that any risk was too much.  I then started thinking that I'm just being over-the-top cautious (and many would think I was).  In this case, I let Abigail drink the hot chocolate at school, but I did so hesitantly.  So, if you have an allergy in your household, I'd really like to hear your opinion.  Too risky? Or not?

One side note for purchasers of soy milk.  The "Silk" brand soy milk is no longer organic.  Dean Foods, the new owner of the "Silk" brand removed the "organic" label on the packaging without alerting the public.  They state on their website, that the "Silk" product is not made with genetically modified soybeans, however there is a large movement in the organic community to boycott this brand.  Organizations like the The Cornucopia Institute are stating that Dean Foods are using conventional soy beans from China, not disclosing important information and are purposely trying to confuse consumers.  Something to consider.

For those of you with snow...hope you are having fun too!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Doughnuts....Just another reason!

I remember fondly back in college heading to Krispy Kreme for a late night study break. Seeing the "Hot and Now" sign lit up was a real treat. My friends and I would easily consume a dozen doughnuts before we even got back to our dorm room. After I got married, there were many Saturday morning trips to Krispy Kreme to celebrate the start of a weekend. That tradition continued until we moved to our current house only to find that there was not a Krispy Kreme within a 20 mile radius. Instead everyone talked about Dunkin' Doughnuts (I never could understand preferring DD over KK). It's just as well anyway, now that I'm "older", consuming 12 grams of fat in one glazed doughnut is not nearly as appealing.

Not thinking that doughnuts would be one of those items that she shouldn't have, Abigail has had both brands, usually as a special treat. In doing research though, both warn of the risk of peanut cross-contamination. Dunkin' Doughnuts warns of it right on the front page of their Nutritional Link..."Please be advised that any of our products may contain allergens, including peanuts. Please see nutrition details for specific products for allergen information."  I had to e-mail Krispy Kreme for their information.  Here's their response:  

We often receive questions from consumers like you about the likelihood of peanuts in our doughnuts. We recognize how serious peanut allergies can be, and are unable to make a "nut-free" claim for any of our locations or products. Let us give you a little background into why. While we currently do not knowingly add any peanuts or other nut derivatives to our doughnuts, we do purchase from some suppliers who do have products that are not nut-free. In addition, we are in the process of testing an ice cream concept in several stores throughout the country in which nuts may be selected as a topping. The final decision to consume Krispy Kreme doughnuts will always rest with the consumer. 

I've started a list.  Here's one more reason to make the 2 1/2 hour drive to Duke. She'll be able to make her own late night visits to Krispy Kreme!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Duke Clinical Trial Update

I haven't written about our visits to Duke in a while simply because we haven't gone in a while.  Our last visit was the first week of December, and we don't go back until the second week in February.  Abigail is on the maintenance dose which means we no longer have to go every other week to increase her dose.  We go back in February for blood work, in April to discuss her pending food challenge and the end of May for her food challenge.

Speaking of food challenges, they've started for this study.  The first food challenge occurs 12 months after entering the study.  It's double blinded so that each child will get both a round of peanut flour and oat flour. They do that because nausea and vomiting can be a side effect of both a peanut reaction and pure anxiety. When I talked with our doctor late last week, 6 children had already completed their food challenge, and another 2 were schedule for each week over the course of the next couple of months. 

The first 3 kids to do their food challenge ended up being on the placebo, and will have to re-enter the study.  They're guaranteed to get the peanut protein this time around. There were mixed results on the other 3 that were getting the peanut protein. They didn't see particularly good results on the first two children, and it sounded like there were some extenuating circumstances for both.  However, the third child tolerated the full dose of peanut flour. Did I mention that it was the equivalent of 8 1/2 peanuts??  I know it's just one child, but I couldn't help getting very excited when I heard the news. Only time will tell, but it is very encouraging and makes our food challenge something to look forward to as opposed to dreading!

It's believed that just a small amount of daily peanut protein, over time, will re-train the immune system to accept the offending allergen as normal.  What Abigail's doctor explained was that the immune system is very slow to respond.  A year may not be long enough to re-train the immune system.  So, the results of the first food challenge aren't necessary indicative of the final outcome.  Between me and you though, I'll take 8 1/2 peanuts all day long!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Congratulations Again!

I put off announcing another winner one more day to make sure I gave Christine R. lots of time to get in touch with me.  Christine, I'm so sorry, but I've got to pick another winner!  It's been 3 days.

I gave Abigail the honor of picking our new winner.  She loved it!  I made her close her eyes, mix up all the numbered slips and pick one out.  It was a very high tech process!

Congratulations to our new winner, Ginny B. (13).  I have your contact information so I'll make arrangements for to ship you your new blender.  I hope it's as cool as it looks!

One more thanks to everyone that participated and to for sponsoring this give-away!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Healthy Change #9: Know your Plastics

Late last week, the FDA revised their opinion on the safety of BPA (Bisphenol A), a chemical component in plastic products that leaches into food and beverages, even cold ones.  In 2008, the FDA stated that they thought BPA was safe.  Regardless, many parents had long since decided to listen to the many researchers who were claiming that BPA was linked to cancer, heart disease, Type-II diabetes, obesity, sexual dysfunction and early-onset puberty.  This is very evident in the influx of new products advertising BPA-free.  Three years ago, after reading about the risks of plastic baby bottles, I had to special order BPA-free bottles for my youngest child.  Now BPA-free bottles and feeding utensils are on every shelf in every store.

Finally, the FDA looks to be getting up to speed.  They've revised their position and are "now concerned" about the chemical.  According to USA Today, however, they neither called for a ban on the chemical or called for a change in consumer purchasing behavior. They are though investing $30 million in BPA research with results expected in 2 years.  In the meantime, parents must continue to make their own decisions on the safety of this chemical.

The 3 plastics to avoid are PVC, polystyrene, and hard polycarbonates.  Can't tell?  Look for these recycling symbols on the bottom of the object.  They're typically found on clear food packaging, disposable plates and cups, meat trays, take-out trays, baby bottles and many drinking containers.  Each of these plastics have shown to leach BPA.  The website,, has a really good article on the recycling symbols on plastics, what they all mean and the benefits/risks of each.

Another source of BPA is that white lining inside cans.  Tomato base foods (higher acidic) tend to have the highest leach levels, beverage cans appear to have the least.  There's irony in the fact that my "organic" diced tomatoes are in lined cans.

Liquid infant formula is of particular concern.  Infants and pregnant women are most thought to be at risk of side-effects of leaching BPA.  According to another article in USA Today, "All U.S. manufacturers use BPA-based lining on the metal portions of the formula containers. Tests of liquid formulas by FDA and EWG show that BPA leaches into the formula from all brands tested. Enfamil formula appears to have the highest concentrations of the 20 tests."

A couple of other suggestions:  Watch out for that plastic lined coffee tumbler. Look for stainless steel that is not lined with any type of plastic.  Look at the bottom of your plastic drinkware and your children's dishes and check the symbols.  Also, watch your microwave bowls.  Make sure they don't have the improper recycling symbol.  In fact, switch to glass bowls whenever possible when heating foods in the microwave.

The USA Today article states that according to the CDC, more than 90% of Americans have traces of BPA in their urine.  That's reassuring isn't it?

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Congratulations to Christine R. (Entry #6) who commented on January 12th!  You won my first ever product give-away...a multi-purpose blender valued at almost $50.00!  I hope you're reading.  I need you to get back with me via e-mail by tomorrow evening, Friday, January 22nd.

If I don't hear from Christine, then I'll randomly select another number.  If you entered and didn't win, please check back again on Saturday morning to see if Christine claimed her new blender. 

Thanks to all of you guys that entered!  I appreciate each of you taking a minute to leave a comment.  I got a bunch of great ideas.  Julie, I want to hear how you make blender yeast rolls.  And, Mishi, I'm definitely going to try your "banana un-nut fake-out ice cream".  Thanks for leaving the recipe.  We too use a ton of sunflower butter!

I'd also like to thank  They really do have a lot very nice products.  I hope they'll considering sponsoring another give-away sometime soon!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is it really a peanut allergy?

I'm deviating from my Healthy Change posts to write about a study that was just published regarding the "over-diagnosis" of peanut allergies.  Researchers in Manchester, England are claiming that a large percentage of people diagnosed with a peanut allergy may not be at risk at all.

You can read the whole article on WebMd, but here's the jist.  The University Hospital South Manchester fed 993 eight year old, peanut allergic children a special brownie spiked with a peanut protein.  They then gave these children a blood test, presumably a new one, that looks for a reaction to a specific part of the peanut which triggers a serious allergic reaction. The difference between their blood test and a normal skin prick test is that the skin prick test looks for antibodies to more of the peanut as opposed to the part that triggers the serious allergic reaction.  These researchers believe that traditional skin prick test gives too many wrong diagnoses.

Out of these 993 children, 80% who were believed to have an allergy did not suffer any reaction after eating the peanut-laced brownies.  That's a huge percentage! Further though "the researchers admit the study only looked at a relatively small number of children, but say they have confirmed the presence of peanut allergy is substantially lower than peanut sensitisation. They write that accurate testing is needed to allow anxious parents to find out whether a child will react to peanuts."

I'm not sure how I feel about this study!  I do agree that better testing is needed, and I wonder how many children are assigned the label "peanut allergic" without complete testing, i.e., blood test, skin test and food challenge.  Unfortantely, I know that Abigail is allergic and isn't just sensitive.  She had a mild reaction from ingestion before she was 2 years old.  We then had her blood tested, and her IgE numbers confirmed the allergy.  Because she had a reaction, she didn't have a skin test until 5 years later when we started the trial at Duke.  It did also end up being positive. Incidently, part of the criteria for being part of a clinical trial is that a child or adult must have had an actual reaction, and now, each participant is food challenged at the start of every study.

Because no one knows the type of reaction they're going to have at any given time if exposed to peanuts, I still see that peanut allergic individuals have no choice but to continue a strict avoidance.  I would hope that no one would assume they were just sensitive to peanuts and not allergic until a test confirmed as much.  I am intrigued though and look forward to seeing more results of this study.  I'll be asking our doctor at Duke questions about this study next time we're there.

I'm also a tad bit anxious when a study like this is published.  There is a large population that think we are making too big a deal of peanut allergies especially if it means they are inconvenienced.  These type of studies just add fuel to the fire, and are quite frustrating.  This one tells us that there is a chance that our children, or even ourselves, might just be sensitive, but it doesn't give us the means to find out. So, in the meantime, we have to continue to live by what we are told, and in many cases, what we've experienced.  Right now, we know that there is a risk of possible death if a peanut allergic person ingests a peanut product.  Until more is learned, that has to be our driving force!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Healthy Change #8: Natural vs. Organic Meat

A couple of days earlier I touched on the difference between "Organic" and "Natural".  I also mentioned that I purchase a combination of both.  Meat is one of those items that I tend to purchase "Natural."  For one, I haven't come across true "Organic" meat in my shopping expeditions.  Second, the dangers of meat that I most want to avoid seem to be addressed in some of the "Natural" brands.

I'm attaching a link to an article entitled, "Why Eat Organic Meat?"  When I purchase meat, I want to avoid antibiotics, added growth hormones and artificial ingredients as well as I want my meat to have had a vegetarian diet and be minimally processed.  If I am purchasing a pork product, then I also look for products that do not contain nitrates.  From what I can tell in this article, by not purchasing certified organic, I assume a greater risk of getting meat with BSE or mad-cow disease.  I also am buying meat that is processed with a lot less regulation. So, there are trade-offs.

I thought I'd give you a couple of brands that I stick to.  If you have a few or know of an issue with the brands I mention, please leave a comment.

I like to keep ground beef on hand in the freezer for soups, sauces, casseroles, and of course, hamburgers.  I purchase Laura's Lean Beef as well as Harris Teeter's Natural brand. Neither are certified organic.  I usually end up paying around $4.99/lb.  Occasionally, I can find it on sale for $3.99.

I've switched to Hormel Natural Choice for sandwich meat and bacon.  I can find the sandwich meat pretty much everywhere.  I purchase the bacon at Super Target which has the best price at $3.49 versus $5.25 at Harris Teeter.  We swear we can taste the difference in the bacon!

John Morrell's Bistro Naturals is a really good brand of hot dogs.  The hot dogs are also gluten free and contain no MSG.  The cost $4.25 at Harris Teeter.  I used to be able to purchase Bistro Naturals link sausage, but Harris Teeter (the only store I've found to carry the sausage) discontinued it due to lack of sales.  Now, the only place I can find a natural sausage link is Trader Joe's.

I'd like to state that I'm not compensated by any of these brands.  I mention them simply because I've done the research, used the product and my family likes the taste.  But....if a company ever wants to send me their product to review...I'll definitely do that.  Just be prepared for an honest one!

There's just one more day to enter my give-away so be sure to take a minute and do so!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Healthy Change #7: I smell something fishy. Fish truths.

There are a ton of benefits from eating fish, and lucky for me, everyone in my house likes it.  While my kids would rather have it in the form of a rectangle, they will eat it grilled, broiled, and of course, breaded.

I'm finding it harder and harder to find fish that was not only caught in the wild, but also fish that was processed in the country it was caught.  A while back, I stopped buying anything "farm-raised".  I also stopped purchasing anything coming out of Asia.  Considering about half of the fish on the market comes from a fish farm ( and more than 80 percent, about 10.7 billion pounds of the seafood Americans eat, comes from outside the United States, mostly from countries with sketchy regulations (Food and Water Watch), we're not eating as much fish as I'd like.

In a 2008 FDA inspection, 7% of the samples of farm-raised fish contained up to 3 different banned antibiotics and 2 banned fungicides.  Most violations occurred in farmed fish imported from Asia, mainly China, Vietnam, and Indonesia and South America.  In the article, 7 Foods That Should Never Cross Your Lips, one of those foods was farm-raised salmon, "nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT."

The article on goes on to explain that another problematic trend is that U.S. companies export a good amount of wild-caught seafood to China where it is processed under more lax food safety and labor laws.  They then ship it back to the U.S.  Approximately 15 percent of U.S. wild-caught salmon and 12 percent of cod is exported to China unprocessed and then imported back from China.

What about organic farm-raised fish?  Well, there are no such standards in the U.S.   It's being marketed as organic, but without government oversight.

Here are a couple of tips:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Healthy Change #6: Avoid Chemicals in Foods

When I started this journey to share our experience in a Peanut Clinical Trial at the Duke Clinical Research Unit, I didn't realize that it was going to lead me down the path to also sharing what I'm learning about the food we eat.  I feel though that it all ties together. We're at Duke because Abigail has a peanut allergy.  I'm now reading labels and questioning ingredients because Abigail has a food allergy.  I also believe that the food we are eating and the environment that we now live in is a major contributor to the rise in food allergies.

Having to read the label of every single item that I purchase and spending hours reading about the latest news and trends in my search to better understand peanut allergies has opened my eyes to a myriad of nastiness in the food that I was serving my family.  I feel like I might have been able to prevent Abigail's peanut allergy had I known then what I know now, but I try not to beat myself up about it. I was in a different time and place back in 2003.  What I can do in 2010 and the years following just by modifying our diet is try to prevent cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression and other illnesses, attention deficit in my kids (and myself), asthma and other allergies.  That I have control over.  So, in addition to avoiding rGBH, conventional meat and produce, GMO products and farm-raised fish (both still to be discussed) we also try to avoid trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, sodium nitrate, artificial sweeteners and artificial food dyes.

It's the weekend, and I'm not going to go through a long list of the pros and cons of different ingredients.  I will though, provide you with a great tool to use when you look at a label and don't have any idea what the ingredient is, much less how to pronounce it.  It's an alphabetical listing of all of the chemicals that food manufacturers add to processed foods.  It's got a great guide that indicates whether the chemical is safe, if you should cut back, if you should try to avoid the food and lastly if you should avoid the food at all costs.  It's not light reading.  I admit, I've not printed it out, studied it in great detail or anything like that.  I did note the chemicals that we should avoid at all cost and 9 times out of 10 will put a product back on the grocery shelf if I see one of those in the ingredient list.

Here's the link:  Center for Science in the Public Interest, Chemical Cuisine.  I'd wish you happy reading, but it's neither light or entertaining!  It is, however, an eye-opener!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Healthy Change #5: Examine Your Cookware

Last year we stopped using our 10 year old set of scratched, Teflon coated T-Fal cookware and switched to stainless steel.  In hindsight, after learning the risks, we should have done that 8 years earlier (Teflon cookware should be replaced every 2 to 3 years).  I also pulled out a cast iron skillet that I'd never used, and for Christmas this year I got a new 5 quart porcelain covered casserole that I can put on the stove top or in the oven. I loved it!

Cookware is expensive.  There are also so many types and brands that it's almost over-whelming to shop for it.  And, how do you pick the safest?  Here's are a few reasons as to why I selected the types that I did.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Healthy Change #4: Chicken Safety 101

Maybe I should title this "Chicken Safety 102" because cooks everywhere understand the importance of storing and handling chicken. But that's after we get it home to our own kitchens. What about while it's at the store?

Consumer Reports tested hundreds of chickens at stores across the nation and found that two-thirds of the chickens harbored either one or both of the bacterias that cause campylobacter and salmonella.  The cleanest chicken they found was "air-chilled" organic chicken (about 60% tested were clean).  Just another reason to purchase organic!  Here's something I learned in the report.  "Air-chilled" is a process where carcasses are refrigerated and misted rather than dunked in cold, chlorinated water.  Chlorinated water?  Did you know that chicken was bathed in chlorinated water?  I didn't!

Here's another scary fact.  Out of those hundreds of chickens tested, 68% percent of the salmonella and 60% of the campylobacter bacteria was resistant to one or more antibiotics.  My 2 1/2 year old son is prone to upper respiratory infections.  He's been on more antibiotics in his 2 1/2 years than I've taken my entire life.  Tubes helped with the ear infections and now we battle sinus infections. The last one took 3 different antibiotics and almost 2 months to clear up.  He definitely does not need more antibiotics in the foods he eats!

According to the CDC, approximately 3.4 million Americans suffer from eating chicken and other foods infected with salmonella and campylobacter, 25,500 end up in hospitals and 500 die.  The USDA requires chicken to be tested for salmonella, but not campylobacter.

If you are interested in reading how individual chicken brands scored in the test as well as more tips on what you can do to until chicken becomes "cleaner", check out the article on chicken safety.

Don't forget to enter my give-away for a free blender.  No strings attached...promise!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Healthy Change #3: Understand the "Natural" Label

True or False?
1.  "Organic" foods are better for me?
2.  Foods labeled "Organic" are usually more expensive?
3.  "Natural" products are better for me than conventional products?
4.  "Natural" products are just as good as "Organic" products?

Answers: 1. T, 2. T, 3. T, 4. F

I would expect that everyone got the first two answers correct.  We've all heard about the benefits of eating organic foods. It's a huge and growing trend and even Wal-mart now has a good selection. Organic foods are usually more expensive, but the big box stores are helping drive the prices down.  I imagine that you got question three correct, but what about the 4th question?  Did you answer true or false?

In order for a product to be certified "Organic", it has to be produced under a strict set of guidelines and is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA only defines "Natural" for meat and poultry indicating that it has been "minimally processed", i.e., not injected to make it juicier/plumper and color has not been added.  There is no regulation for the rest of the food industry leaving it up to the interpretation of the food producer.

"Natural" products aren't all that bad.  They usually do not contain added hormones, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup.  So, yes, they are better for you than conventional products.  However, if you want a food that is not produced with pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics or other drugs or genetically modified feed crops or from cows that are confined to factory farm feedlots, then you better stick to "organic."

So, the answer to number four is false. "Natural" is usually cheaper, but it's not better than "organic."  My recommendation though is to find a good balance.  I personally purchase quite a few "natural" products especially when an organic version is not available.  Bottom line is take the time to read the back of the label and understand what you are eating. 

Don't forget to enter the give-away!!

For more reading:
'Natural' On The Label Can Be Misleading
Looking Behind the 'Natural' Label  
Manufacturers and consumers lose faith in natural label claims

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Healthy Change #2: Don't Eat Microwave Popcorn

The smell of popcorn can fill a room.  It's been touted as a healthy snack for years.  It's a favorite of kids and adults alike and often a safe snack alternative for many allergy kids. Or is it??

In my recent research, I'm finding that the risk of eating microwave popcorn isn't exactly new news; however, it hasn't exactly been a top news story at my house.  Maybe not at your house either.  My husband recently forwarded me a link to an article written the end of last year on the Top 7 Foods that Should Never Cross Your Lips.  One of those was microwave popcorn.  We very rarely eat popcorn at our house.  I don't like the smell or taste unless it's coated with caramel and comes in a decorative tin (which means I don't eat much of it, it's not safe for Abigail or good for me).  However, my husband and daughter enjoy it so when we make it, we use kernels out of a jar and microwave them in a special microwave popping bowl.  But there are lots of you out there that throw in a bag for a quick snack.  Here's why you shouldn't.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Healthy Change #1: Buy rBST/rBGH-free

As I mentioned in previous posts, one huge and very positive side effect of Abigail's peanut allergy is that I've started reading food labels and researching the food our family consumes.  It's a task that feels quite over-whelming at times!  I'm learning so much about how the quality of food we eat impacts us day to day from allergies/asthma and ADHD to long term diagnosis of diseases and cancer.  I'm also finding that big business and our government aren't doing much, if anything to protect us. 

There is no way I can cover in a couple of posts all of the information out there that should make us all consider every bite of food we put in our mouths.  I can however try to summarize briefly a few of the top changes you can make for yourself and your family that will have the biggest impact on your overall health.

Change #1:  Buy rBST/rBGH free dairy products.

What is rBST/rBGH?  In the 90's Monsanto derived an artificial growth hormone using DNA technology.  This hormone (rBST/rBGH, hereafter referred to as simply rBGH) is given to cows to increase their milk production by about 10% (I've also seen it as high as 20%).  According to, as of 2007, approximately 17% of dairy cows are given this hormone.  The FDA has ruled this hormone safe, but it has not been approved for use in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all 25 members of the European Union. 

What are the affects?  I turned to the Cancer Prevention Coalition for an explanation on the impact of rBGH on IGF-1 which is a normal growth factor in both cows and humans.  However, excess levels of IGF-1 are linked to cancer, specifically breast, colon and prostate cancer.  The rBGH hormone causes cows to produce more IGF-1 which is then further increased by the pasteurization process.  IGF-1 is easily passed through the human intestines into the bloodstream where it can promote transformation of, for example, normal breast cells to breast cancers.  Personally, that's enough for me, but there's more and it's just gross.  The rBGH hormone increases the rate of mastitis, an udder infection.  According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, "industry data shows up to an 80 percent incidence of mastitis in hormone-treated cattle, resulting in the contamination of milk with significant levels of pus."  Yuck...pus!  Guess what is then given to cows to treat the mastitis.  Yep...antibiotics.  Guess who then consumes the antibiotics.  Cancer, pus and harmful antibiotics....

What can you do?  Buy rBST/rBGH free products.  Organic milk is rBGH-free, free of pesticides or antibiotics and is more expensive than conventional rBGH-free milk.  You can expect to pay $1.00 to $3.00 more for organic and $.50 to $1.00 more a gallon for rBGH-free conventional.  On average, that's anywhere from $25 to $150 more per year depending on the product you choose and your market.  I waiver back and forth between organic and conventional rBGH-free milk.  A lot depends on where I'm shopping and what's on sale.  Yes, we're paying more now for milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products, but we see it as an investment in our health.

Lastly, manufacturers are prohibited from completely labeling the benefits of rBGH-free.  We can thank Monsanto and their influence with our government for that.  A manufacturer may label a product rBGH-free if they also include a statement that there is no significant difference found between milk produced with rBGH and milk not produced with it.  Some states have even stricter laws and many brands don't include anything about being rBGH-free.  For a long time, I didn't purchase any of Trader Joe's cheeses because their label just had the statement that there is no significant difference.  I assumed that meant it was not rBGH-free.  It's very confusing especially now that more and more brands are switching to rBGH-free.   I've attached a link at the bottom for a NC rGBH-free buying guide.  You can find a state specific guide by doing a Google search.

So, drink a big glass of rBST/rBGH-free milk and think about how much healthier you already feel!

Don't forget to enter my blender give-away!

For more resources:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

First Ever Product Give-away!!

Well, it's finally here, my first ever product give-away!  I'm so excited to be able to team up with and offer one of their fabulous products to one of my fabulous readers!  I've been browsing their extensive online selection for days now looking for the perfect give-away item.  They carry a ton of name brands including Rachel Ray Cookware (I'm loving the colorful cast iron collection), Cuisinart, LeCreuset, Paula Deen, All-Clad and J.A. Henckels to name just a few.  I should say that I'm not receiving anything from  This is all about you!

In celebration of the New Year and a new you, I've selected this great multi-purpose blender from Back to Basics. With 2 interchangeable blade bases, 2 blending containers and 2 drinking tumblers, this is the perfect kitchen tool for a nutritious breakfast, fun and healthy snack, or quick and easy dinner.

Here's how to enter for a chance to win this great kitchen tool: 

Starting Monday, January, 11th, simply leave a comment sharing your favorite blender concoction.  Think shakes, smoothies, salsa, soups, dips, cocktails, pie fillings, sauces, etc.  I'm looking forward to getting a bunch of great ideas to try.  You can can enter once a day for ten days.

Want extra give-away entries?  For 5 additional entries, copy this text ( is giving away a Blender Express Plus from Post a comment with your favorite blender concoction for a chance to win.  Last day to enter is January 20th.) and link to my blog from your blog, website, Facebook page, etc.  Make sure you post back with your site link so I can check it out.  For 2 additional entries, become a Follower of my blog. 

All entries will go into a hat and one lucky reader will be randomly selected.  I'll announce the winner on January 21st so make sure you check back then.  The blender will be shipped to the winner directly from the great folks at

Also, during that ten days, I will be doing my own Top 10 list of changes to make this year for a better, healthier family.  So, look for that post after you leave your daily comment.

Good luck!

The fine print:
There is no purchase necessary.  Shipping is included in the give-away.  Due to international shipping fees, the give-away is limited to U.S. and Canadian residents only.  Cut-off for entry is 12:00 a.m. EST, January 20th.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification e-mail or a new winner will be selected.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Girl Scout Cookies

It's that time of year.  I both dread it and look forward to it at the same time.  Probably because I can single-handedly consume a box of Thin Mint cookies in just a few days.  They are so good, but really...a whole box good?
This year, Abigail is in Daisy Scouts and will be selling cookies.  I admit that in the past, I've let her eat a few Thin Mint cookies.  And, it's not what you are thinking.  It wasn't because I didn't want to share, well maybe a little of that, but because according to the box label it is only one of two cookies that are safe for people with peanut/tree nut allergies. 

Here's what Little Brownie Bakers, the manufacturer of the Girl Scout Cookies in our region, says about food allergens:

On each of our cookie packages, we label for the top 8 allergens directly below the ingredient statement on the Nutrition Facts side panel. For peanuts and tree nuts, we have chosen to include cautionary labeling in the form of a "may contain" statement. This indicates that the product shares processing equipment with another product that contains peanuts or tree nuts.

If the allergen in concern is not listed below the ingredient statement, we are confident that the product is safe for consumption.

Since cookie time last year though, I've learned a lot. While the FDA has Allergen Advisory Labeling guidelines in place, a good portion of it is voluntary.  And according to a 2008 report by the FDA, cross-contamination can occur at almost any step of the manufacturing process.  "Cross-contact can occur due to allergens in raw ingredients or in processing aids, allergens in reworked product and allergen carry-over from the use of shared equipment. Such potential sources of unintentional allergen cross-contact exist regardless of the manufacturer's size or food product."

While a lot of food manufacturers do not have proper controls in place, a good many do.  By using dedicated facilities or production lines, they can prevent cross-contamination.  However, when I read a vague statement like the one above that "they are confident that the product is safe for consumption", I still question the product's safety.  Is it because they have a dedicated line or do they feel like they just do a good job cleaning the production line?  Part of me thinks that if Little Brownie Bakery is willing to go on record and make a statement like that then it must be okay.  Can you imagine what Legal would say if there was any question of safety at all?  I've contacted the company, and hopefully they will quantify their statement.

There's a whole other issue here though, and that's why does an organization like Girl Scouts not recognize the seriousness of food allergies and address the fact that out of 8 types of cookies, only 2 are safe for peanut/tree nut allergies when only 2 of them actually contain peanuts and none of them contain tree nuts.  Wouldn't you think that an organization the size of the Girl Scouts could require their cookie manufacturer to use dedicated lines so that there was no risk of cross-contamination for those cookies not containing peanuts/tree nuts?

I'm just thankful that Abigail is such a good sport.  She's willing to go out and sell cookies that she can't eat.  And, if it turns out that it's not safe for her to eat Thin Mints and Samoas, then she'll be okay eating a cookie that she can have.  Unfortunately, it happens all the time.

As for me, I've really got to show some restraint this year especially now that I'm advocating a healthier diet.  Luckily it's just one time a year....and's for a good cause!

Click to read follow up and reply from Little Brownie Bakers:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Eve

Happy New Year!!  I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday season.

We spent New Year's Eve with friends.  My best friend/neighbor came over with her family.  Our kids have grown up together, and our girls are "BFF's".  For those without young girls, that stands for "Best Friends Forever."  We had a nice dinner, played Rock Band on the Wii and the kids managed to stay up to watch the ball drop.  They were having an easier time of it than us adults.

Planning the dinner menu was a bit challenging.  Not only were we accommodating each others' family traditions, but also accommodating Abigail's peanut allergy and her son who has Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EE) which is an allergic inflammation disease that occurs in the Esophagus.  Their family always does fondue on New Year's Eve so she brought a delicious cheese fondue for our appetizer and a chocolate fondue for dessert.  She had a time finding a bakery bread for the cheese fondue that was safe for Abigail and ended up also having to bake a scratch pound cake for the chocolate fondue.  Thanks to my dear friend for doing that!  I usually put a beef brisket in the crock pot and make a really good tangy barbecue beef dish.  By using her barbecue sauce and substituting ginger ale for the beer, it was then safe for her son. There is so very little he can eat and my friend had to bring over most of his food.  If we could make what we were eating safe for him, we did. In the end, the food was fabulous, everyone stayed healthy and we had a great evening!

Here's a link to some more information on Eosinophilic Esophagitis.  My prayers are with my friend, her son and the rest of their family today.  Her son who is just 7 has been on an elimination diet for months now with no significant improvement to his condition.  They are starting an elemental diet today and he will be drinking his meals for the next 8 weeks or so.  That's got to be extremely tough for a 7 year old, but he's a brave little boy!  We love you guys!  Hang in there!

Coming soon, my first ever give-away and my own Top 10 list of healthy eating habits for the new year.  And, I'm still waiting anxiously for the food challenge results for the first Sublingual Peanut Clinical Trial participants.