EALM Product Review: Garden Lites Muffins

EALM Product Review:

Garden Lites Carrot Berry Muffins

These muffins are so tasty, even my picky eater approves of them!

Photo Courtesy of Garden Lites
Photo Courtesy of Garden Lites

With the most delicious taste accented by blueberries, everyone will love these adorable little muffins. The first ingredient is carrots so that is an obvious thumbs up. The second is egg whites so another thumbs up. And the third, a gluten free flour blend that contains brown rice, and flaxseed meal. Screen shot 2014-12-15 at 2.00.46 PMThis is a great snack option for kids. Especially those who need to consume more veggies. Plus, they’re allergy-friendly and make a great snack for parents!

Sustainable Agriculture

You may have heard the word “sustainability” used quite often over the last few years, but what does it mean? Read on to learn what sustainable agriculture is, and how our everyday decisions can make a lasting impact on future generations.

What is Sustainable Agriculture?

Sustainable agriculture is somewhat of an umbrella term used to group several food-related topics under one roof. Sustainable agriculture is a method of producing foods in such a way so that it is mindful of the ecosystem; including but not limited to environmentally friendly practices, health of humans and animals, economic profitability, respects animal welfare, and promotes social and economic equity through fair wages.

Sustainable vs. Industrial

With the many food labels scattered across grocery shelves, it becomes all the more important to understand what sustainable farming is, and what it is not. Since there isn’t a legal definition or rules, a farm’s way of practicing sustainable agriculture may vary.

As you now know, part of sustainable agriculture may include respecting animal welfare. Yet when food shopping, it can be easy to mistaken “cage-free” eggs to be sustainable. While the chicken may not have lived in cages, they may have been raised in overcrowded indoor farms. Today, most of our meat supply is produced on factory farms, otherwise known as Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). CAFOs are industrial facilities where animals are raised in confined areas for mass production. Since the animals are raised in tight quarters, they are often mutilated to adapt to the living conditions, i.e. often chickens are de-beaked. Caged animals are restricted from moving, confined for their entire lives until slaughter. Due to the large scale of animals living in an enclosed area, the result is poor and unsanitary conditions. The method in which factory farms dispose of animal waste also ends up in run off, contaminating our water system. Moreover, with factory farming and mass production came the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormone use and development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria—the list goes on and on.

Sustainable agriculture is important because every action we take and every decision we make can protect the planet.

Sustainable Farms:

  • Recycle manure as fertilizer – this helps eliminate pollution in air and water systems and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers
  • Controlled use of antibiotics – animals are not given antibiotics on a daily basis but only when they are sick (animal products labeled organic are not labeled organic if they have been treated with antibiotics)
  • Animal welfare – animals are respected and treated humanely
  • Energy – they tend to save energy and decrease use of fossil fuels by using techniques like crop rotation to naturally enhance the soil
  • Food miles – sustainably grown foods are usually sold locally which not only cuts down on gas pollution, but the result is healthier and tastier food
  • Build Community – supporting local business help drive the local economy not only in terms of profits, but by providing jobs and building community rapport

These are just a few examples of how sustainable farming affects the planet. For more information on how sustainable farming compares to industrial farming, check out Sustainable Table.

Certified Organic, Not Certified Sustainable

Many people often confuse the terms “sustainable agriculture” with “organic farming.” Although both have to do with sensible food production methods, sustainable agriculture doesn’t always mean organic and organic farming doesn’t always mean sustainable practices!

A product labeled as organic means that the food was produced without the use of certain chemicals, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified organisms. Organic meats, poultry, eggs and dairy products mean that it comes from farms where the animals were not raised with antibiotics or growth hormones.

While many farms that are certified-organic do not produce foods with certain chemicals, antibiotics, growth hormones, etc., the food may still be produced on an industrial farm setting. For example, some farms that produce organic dairy products still confine cows in CAFOs. For many large corporations that are certified-organic, it is through industrial farming that they are able to drive down consumer prices. Although they are able to meet minimum requirements that allow them to be USDA certified-organic, the farm may disregard animal welfare, denying animals space to carry out their natural behaviors (which can also result to poor health and unsanitary conditions!) Therefore, if you are looking to support sustainable agriculture, it is important to keep in mind that organic can — but doesn’t always mean sustainable.

On the other hand, some sustainable farms that are not certified-organic by the USDA do produce organic foods. In order for a product to be labeled “USDA certified-organic,” it must have gone through a national certification process, which requires both additional time and money. The additional fees can make it difficult for small farmers to receive organic-certification by the USDA. In turn, grassroot organizations like Oregon Tilth, California Certified Organic Farmers, Demeter Certified Biodynamic provide less costly organic-certification that either follow USDA organic standards guidelines or have their own strict production standards.

If you prefer organic foods and wish to support sustainable agriculture, the good news is that there are farms who do produce organic foods and practice sustainable agriculture. When in doubt, try buying directly from a local farmer. The best way to find out if your food is organic and sustainable is to ask! To find the closest sustainable farm near you, check out U.S. Department of Agriculture and LocalHarvest.

A Circle of Responsibility

While there are a myriad of reasons why one may practice sustainable agriculture, a big part of sustainability is being aware of how current practices can affect our food chain and how making a simple change, while small, is still a step towards a more sustainable future. Now that you know what sustainable agriculture is, here are some of the ways you can join the circle of responsibility:

Always Ask –
Whether you’re dining out or grocery shopping, you have the right to know how your food was produced. Let restaurants and stores know that you care about where your foods come from.

Buy Local
– As consumers, we help voice our opinion by a show of what we buy and who we choose to buy from. You don’t have to make a 360 degree change in order to make an impact.  Start by shopping at a farmer’s market to support your local farmers’ sustainable methods or by buying one or two foods that are organic.

– Action is best backed by knowledge! Learn more and stay informed on the latest news and food policies. Visit Sustainable Table, CivilEats, or U.S. Department of Agriculture to learn more about the food system, issues and current events.

Get Involved –Tell your family and friends all you have learned about this exciting movement. Invite them to visit farmer’s market with you, to enjoy a sustainably cooked meal, or plan to have a “Meatless Monday.”

Think Before You Buy – Everything we purchase can leave a carbon footprint. Buying less than what you think you need means less waste.

A Desert Where Shopping Matters

From comparing grocery store prices to analyzing a product’s nutritional label, a weekend trip to the grocery store can turn into stressful and overwhelming task. Many of us want to eat healthier, but how can we shop for healthy foods while on a limited budget? Although price often plays a major role in influencing what we buy when we go food shopping, buying healthy foods doesn’t have to be expensive.

Many organizations are making an effort to tackle this nationwide issue by teaching nutrition education, but one organization’s unique efforts is City Harvest’s Shopping Matters, which takes place right in local grocery stores. And just like many other Americans, if money is what is keeping you from making healthy food purchases, I challenge you to think again. What if you could learn to stretch your budget, to buy and eat healthy foods? Read on to learn about the awesome efforts made by City Harvest, and the programs’ tips to get the most healthful bang for your buck.

What is Shopping Matters?

Shopping Matters is an initiative created by City Harvest in partnership with Share Our Strength. The two-hour grocery store tour is led by a qualified facilitator, who teaches the participants how to shop on a budget, read food labels, how to identify whole-grains and stretch your budget to create more than just one meal. After one hour, participants are presented with a $10 challenge to put what they’ve just learned into practice. Participants must follow specific guidelines, i.e. grain must be whole-grain bread or cereal, to buy at least one food from each food group totaling no more than $10. This part of the tour is particularly fun and exciting for the participants because it not only tests their knowledge but it offers motivation to try new foods like 2% milk rather than whole milk.

Another Kind of Desert

Can you imagine travelling 15 miles to buy a head of lettuce or some fresh fruit? Many of us are fortunate to be able to call Whole Foods or Trader Joes, our local market. With organic foods and fresh produce so readily available to us, it can be easy to forget that for many Americans, this is not the case. Imagine if the closest grocery store was too far to get to without transportation. An area where grocery stores are scarce or missing, this is called a food desert. Although there may be bodegas or take-out restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood, it would still be considered a food desert since many atimes only highly processed foods are offered. It is in these areas that poverty, obesity and health related diseases are at an all time high. City Harvest considers these factors and implements the Shopping Matters Tours in only specific neighborhoods. The tours currently take place in the following neighborhoods: 1) The South Bronx, 2) Stapleton, Staten Island 3). Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. By conducting the tours in the actual neighborhood markets like Key Foods, not only places the participants in a realistic environment, but makes the food culture relevant.

Build the Skills To Make Healthy Choices While On a Budget

A Shopping Matters Tour may not be taking place in your local market but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the tips City Harvest has to offer! Here’s the inside scoop on the skills you need to build to stretch your budget and make tasty, healthy meals for you and your family:

  • Buy Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables – Not only will your produce taste better, but during peak season fresh produce costs less.
  • Fresh, Frozen and Canned – People tend to think fresh produce is the “best” form. However, keep in mind that fresh produce often needs be used quickly and if not in season, can be expensive.  A more economical alternative is to buy frozen fruits and vegetables, which can cost less and is available year-round. If canned foods are on sale, they have a long shelf life and can be a good purchase. If opting to buy canned products, choose items without added sodium, low in fat, or 100% juice. If there is sodium in it, simply rinse off canned produce to reduce the sodium.  Surely every packaging has its pros and cons but by opening yourself up to fruits and vegetables in all their forms, in terms of prices, you’ll have more options to choose from.
  • Compare Prices – Use unit prices to find the best bang for your buck. The unit price shows ounce for ounce or pound by pound just how much you are paying for a particular item. For example, when comparing two bagged items of different sizes, it can help you identify just exactly which costs less.
  • Read Food Labels – Take a few seconds to check the serving size. If considering your family meals, this can be especially helpful in meal planning. Look at the calories, sodium and nutrients you will be getting from the product.
  • Read the Ingredients – Just because the bread is brown or says “multigrain” or even “100% wheat” doesn’t mean it is actually made with whole grain. Be a smart and saavy shopper and check for the first ingredient on the list. Some examples are: Whole wheat, bulgar, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice
  • Organic vs. Non-Organic – Some items need not be purchased organic. If you wish to purchase organic, check out this Dirty Dozen list for a better understanding of what items are better off organic and which ones you can do without. If cost is a factor however, getting your fruits and vegetables should be at the top of the list, even if its not organic.
  • Cut coupons and checkout weekly specials

How to Grow a Pest-Free Organic Garden


As grocery store produce prices continue to soar, more and more people are looking elsewhere to get pricey organic produce. One way of doing this is by growing your own organic garden. However without proper preparation you can end up spending ample amounts of time and money battling bugs and pests that want your produce just as much as you do. The problem? They can be very efficient at getting what they want. The solution? Planting the right plants to keep your garden as pest free as possible. When you start your organic garden keep these things in mind:



  1. Plant basil and oregano: Both of these plants have very heavy, potent scents that repel garden pests, making them the perfect addition to an organic vegetable garden. They also are both found frequently in recipes and are usually expensive to buy in small quantities at the store, so having them in your garden will help it remain pest free and will help your wallet from taking a heavy hit in the herb section of the grocery store.
  2. Plant marigolds: If you plan on planting fruit in your garden then beware that flies will flock to the fruit plants and destroy them. Unless, of course, you decide to arm your fruit plants with their own weapons, which can be found in the form of adding marigolds around the plants. These bright flowers will help keep the flies away and add a nice pop of color to your garden.
  3. Plant rue: To keep worms and other leaf-chewing pests at bay plant rue in your garden. Rue is a type of subshrub that is well known for its robust scent, feathery leaves, and yellow flowers. Without proper repellants, leaf-chewing pests can wreak havoc on gardens.
  4. Plant onions and garlic: When planting your vegetable garden consider adding onions and garlic into the rotation as well. Bugs aren’t keen on their powerful scents, and will stay away from these types of plants, keeping your other vegetables safe as well.
  5. Plant citronella:Mosquitos may not eat your plants, but they will eat you as you work out in your garden. If spraying yourself down with bug spray every few hours or lighting citronella candles throughout the day doesn’t seem feasible then plant citronella in your garden to naturally repel mosquitos.


Growing your own organic garden will help save you tons of money at the grocery store each week if you are able to actually produce the fruits and vegetables without them getting eaten by pesky bugs, caterpillars, snails, and other garden pests first. To counteract them, however, you don’t need harmful chemicals and sprays; you just need to plant the right types of plants in between and around your produce. Use this list as a guide for arming your garden with natural defenses.

Author Bio

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to hire a nanny by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

Spring Pickings

Celebrate Spring with Fresh Fruits and Veggies!

New fruits and vegetables are coming into season. Eating local and seasonal allows you to get the freshest and most nutrient dense produce. Visit your local famer’s market to see what looks bright and crisp. Many farms offer one day opportunities to pick your produce for fun. NJ/NY residents can even pick their own produce at farms like the New WIndsor Farm in NJ. If you don’t want to pick your veggies, you can find out what is in season by searching online.  NY/NJ friends can learn more here. To truly get back to wholesome basics, start your own garden or consider joining a Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) Farm. CSA Farms are great for city dwellers with busy schedules and minimal planting space. CSA’s are located throughout Manhattan or deliver your seasonal produce weekly to your door. You can find out more about CSA’s in the Metropolitan area here and here.

What’s in season for Spring in New York?

Early Spring Fennel, Garden Peas, Parsnips, Snow Peas,Turnips

Mid Spring Asparagus, Lettuce, Radishes, Rhubarb, Spinach

Late Spring Apricots, Broccoli, Cabbage, Strawberries, Summer Squash

Here’s a nutritious kid-friendly recipe using one of my favorite Spring fruits: Whole Wheat Strawberry Pancakes

Strawberry Whole Wheat Pancakes via TasteSpotting/Adventures in Cooking
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup low-fat milk
3/4 cup diced strawberries
(Serves 2)
Directions: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the oil and milk, whisking until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet. Fold in the strawberries. Heat frying pan over medium-low heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and cook until there are bubbles on the surface and the edges start to firm up, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is nicely browned, about 1-2 minutes. Serve with a glass of low-fat milk and extra strawberries for a delicious breakfast the whole family can enjoy! 
Recipe adapted from Savvy Eat

Farm to Table

“The greatest thing you can do for your children is to cook and share food
with them. The precious moments you spend together around the family table
go way beyond the food itself; they lead to an understanding of the benefits
of healthy eating and are the basis for good family relationships.”– Jacques Pépin, national spokesperson of Spoons Across America

Jacques Pepin said it well. Fortunately, it is summer so sharing the education of where food comes from is easy. Grab your cotton, reusable tote and head to the Farmers Market. This is a great experience for you and your children to find new foods to enjoy. My favorite find at the Union Square Greenmarket – fiddleheads!

New York and LA Markets:

http://www.grownyc.org/ourmarkets and http://www.farmersmarketla.com/