Just How Bad Is Blue Light for Your Eyes?

Until recently, the only factor that affected which LED light bulb I chose revolved around my home décor. Warmer, yellow-colored light feels relaxing while cool blue light seems more energizing. But now, some eye doctors are warning people about health dangers from blue light. Can the type of light you choose really hurt your eyes?

About Blue Light

Most people would tell you that blue light is “artificial” and yellow light is “natural.” But that’s not really true. Actually, the biggest source of blue light is the sun!

If you remember your science classes from high school, normal sunlight is white. When white light passes through a prism, It splits into a rainbow of colors, or wavelengths. This ranges from ultraviolet (UV) rays to infrared. Blue light is the next step up from UV rays.

Common Places You Can Find Blue Light in the Home

There’s more blue light in your home and workplace than you may think:

  • Laptop screens and computer monitors

  • LED TVs

  • Smartphones

  • Tablets

  • Compact fluorescent or LED lights

The Dangers of Blue Light

Because blue light is so close to UV light on the color spectrum, some scientists wonder if it can damage your eyes. Here are some potential effects that make health experts nervous:

  • Eyestrain

  • Dry eyes

  • Blurry vision

  • Cataracts

  • Macular degeneration (damage to the retina)

Blue light is powerful and very bright, especially up close. The retina doesn’t have a way to shield itself from this wavelength, so intense exposure can lead to permanent vision problems.

Time To Get Rid of Blue Light?

After reading this, you’re probably wondering if you should toss out your high-definition TV or stop using your tablet to read books. Do you need to buy one of those expensive screen filters for blue light? The truth is that you have nothing to worry about.

But wait, didn’t I just say that blue light is dangerous for your eyes? Yes, but only with a powerful light source.

The maximum brightness from electronic gadgets isn’t nearly enough to hurt your retina. Staring at a laptop all day can dry your eyes or cause eye strain, but these are temporary conditions that go away with a little rest.

You should be careful with industrial blue lights, however. These include military-grade flashlights, flood lights, tanning beds, blue lights used for psoriasis treatment and other high-power LEDs.

Benefits of Blue Light

In fact, normal blue light has benefits for your mood and health. Some bright light can help you feel alert in the morning and give you more energy. It can boost your memory and concentration. That’s one reason why I like to go for a short walk if I’m having trouble focusing. Most people feel happier with some daylight shining into the home.

Tips To Protect Your Eye Health

If you're worried about the effect of blue light on your eyes, there are two things you can do. First, give your eyes a rest periodically. Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off the computer screen and grab a glass of water, hug your kids or water your plants. Second, make sure you're getting antioxidants for eye health, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and omega-3s. These nutrients help protect your eyes.

Do Essential Oil Diffusers Actually Do Anything for Your Health or Mood?

Wouldn't it be great if moms could squeeze in little bits of relaxation all day long? That’s what essential oil diffusers promise to do: create a positive, refreshing and energizing ambience that makes you happier and healthier. Do they work?

What Are Essential Oils and Diffusers?

Essential Oils

Essential oils are plant extracts. These natural compounds come from a variety of flowers, herbs, trees and other plants. Some of my favorites are tea tree, lavender, sandalwood, lemon and (of course) rose. Essential oils are often used in aromatherapy to promote wellbeing for body and emotions.

Essential Oil Diffusers

Essential oil diffusers deliver these plant scents into the air as aromatic molecules. That way you can smell relaxing aroma as you’re going about your daily activities. The tiny particles reach your nose’s receptors and send signals to your brain, especially to the area involved with emotions. Today's oil diffusers are similar to the air fresheners of yesteryear, but using comforting natural plant extracts instead of synthetic chemicals.

How Effective Are Essential Oils?

Do essential oils work? To be honest, scientists aren’t completely sure. Some research has shown that essential oils such as lavender can have benefits:

  • Relief from anxiety

  • Help with depression symptoms

  • Sleep quality improvements

  • Calming effects for dementia

  • Pain relief for osteoarthritis

In other words, aromatherapy may help your mood and emotional health, but scientists can’t confirm it. That's why doctors aren't actually writing prescriptions for lavender oil or tea tree oil.

What Are the Best Types of Essential Oil Diffusers?

There are many types of diffusers to choose from. Each has pros and cons, and you should look at the price tag, too:

  • Electric diffusers: You add essential oil to water and an electric fan disperses the air and oil droplets into the air.
  • Reed diffusers: Small sticks absorb essential oils from a jar and release them into the room naturally. This can take a while, but it’s silent. Reed diffusers are my favorites for the bedroom.
  • Ceramic diffusers: Terracotta or ceramic absorb and gradually release essential oil into the surrounding space. These diffusers don’t have much reach, so they’re best for a bathroom countertop, tub, or another small space.
  • Heat diffusers: Heating essential oils can change their chemical properties and take away therapeutic benefits. Skip these diffusers unless you’re only after the scent.
  • Ultrasonic diffusers: These high-tech devices use vibrations to create a fine mist of essential oils and water. These are great all-around diffusers for large spaces, and they can also humidify the air in dry homes.
  • Nebulizer diffusers: For fast dispersion you can smell throughout the house, nebulizers are hard to beat. I don’t like them personally because I’m always afraid of breaking the glass container. They also go through more essential oil than other options.

What's the Bottom Line for Essential Oil Diffusers?

My point of view is that you should find out whether essential oils work for you personally. Don’t believe crazy claims or miracle cures you read online. Try your favorite aromatic scents with an essential oil diffuser for a month or two. Write down how you feel at the beginning and compare again at the end. If you notice you feel less stressed or that you’re sleeping better at night, keep going!

Sugar-Free Gum: Good for Your Child’s Teeth or Not?

As a parent, you want to take good care of your child’s teeth. At the same time, getting them to brush after every meal probably isn’t realistic. Can sugar-free gum help prevent cavities?

Is Chewing Gum Good for Your Kids’ Teeth?

Chewing is a great way to reduce cavities for kids and adults alike. When kids chew, their mouths produce more saliva. This helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing the acid that causes cavities. Saliva also washes away leftover food particles. Sugar-free gum isn’t a replacement for some good old-fashioned brushing, but it’s a nice way provide dental hygiene after lunch or dinner.

That said, the type of gum you choose is very important. The kind of gum your kids want you to buy — bubble gum with fruit fillings — is definitely NOT good for teeth. Instead of preventing tooth decay, bubble gum encourages bacteria to grow. It also pushes the sugar right up against your child’s teeth, easily causing a bunch of cavities.

Is Sugar-Free Gum Safe for Kids?

This is a tricky question because it actually involves two things: if artificial sweeteners are safe for kids and if gum is dangerous as far as choking is concerned. The answers can vary depending on your child and your family.

The Oral Health Foundation recommends not giving gum to kids under the age of seven. At the same time, it acknowledges that parents are the best judges of when children are ready.

As far as the safety of artificial sweeteners goes, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that there’s no evidence these ingredients can hurt children at all (unless you have a rare condition called phenylketonuria). Also, sugar-free gum has relatively tiny levels of artificial sweeteners compared to other products.

To give you an idea of the amount, a stick of chewing gum has around 6–8 milligrams while a can of diet soda has 180 milligrams. Your kids would need to eat the equivalent of 24 sweetener packets to meet the FDA’s max limit. If you’re still concerned, choose gum made with xylitol, erythritol or other natural sugar alcohols.

Is It Bad for Kids To Swallow Gum?

This is part myth and part rare-but-weird concern. First, nothing usually happens if school-age kids swallow gum. It will literally be out of their systems in a day or two. The only exception to this is if children are constipated and swallow a LOT of gum. So, take this urban legend with a grain of salt.

Are There Any Alternatives to Sugar-Free Gum That Kids Like?

Remember, it’s the act of chewing, not sugar-free gum itself, that helps prevent cavities. Depending on the age of your kids, you can offer them naturally crispy or chewy foods instead. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Carrot sticks
  • Apple slices
  • Celery sticks
  • Snap peas
  • Jicama
  • Cucumber sticks
  • Rice cakes
  • Whole grain bagels

My kids love foods with a crunchy texture, so these veggies are a big hit. I also keep a few packs of sugar-free gum around for when we need something quick to chew. I’ve noticed that as long as I have everything already cut in the fridge, they actually go for the fresh fruit and veggies more often than gum.

Ranking Salad Dressings From Most Healthy to Least Healthy

There's nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy a variety of salad dressings. These days, you have a lot of options for giving salads a kick of flavor. What are the best healthy salad dressings?

The Healthiest Salad Dressings

These are my favorite dressings, and they won't add to your waistline:

  1. Vinaigrette: These dressings are full of flavor and focus on a few simple ingredients. What I love is the endless variety. You can go for balsamic vinegar, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar — even strawberries! And with basil, cilantro and other herbs, all I can say is “yum.”
  2. Green Goddess: It’s easy to find green goddess dressing made with a base of Greek yogurt. This gives you the creaminess you crave without the fat. Along with probiotics from the yogurt, you’re getting lots of vitamins from olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and green onions.
  3. Greek or Mediterranean Dressings: Think creamy Italian dressing, minus the cream. Many Greek dressings use avocado oil and extra-virgin olive oil for thickness. Both of these oils give you lots of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant vitamins.
  4. Sesame Ginger: My kids love Asian-style dressings, and I think they spice up meals at home. Look for real garlic, ginger and rice wine vinegar in the ingredients, and try to keep sugar down with nut butter.
  5. Honey Dijon: Both Dijon mustard and honey make dressings thicker and smoother naturally. If you’re adding a salad to a meat-and-potatoes meal, try this dressing. The reason it's near the bottom is that you have to keep an eye on sugar and calories with store-bought versions.

The Least Healthy Salad Dressings

Basically, anything with the word “creamy” in its name is going to shock you into falling backwards when you look at the fat content and calories. This includes blue cheese, Caesar dressing, thousand island, French and (sigh) everyone’s favorite ranch dressing.

Now the good news. You can find reasonably healthy alternatives to each. Some replace mayo with avocado oil, coconut milk or Greek yogurt. Others go big on flavor from high-quality ingredients (like more blue cheese) to reduce the amount of other ingredients. Herbs and spices such as chipotle, jalapenos, basil, dill, parsley and chives add a boost of flavor all by themselves.

The Benefits of Homemade Salad Dressings

Homemade dressings offer a lot of benefits:

  • You control salt and sugar levels
  • Non-refined, natural oils give you more heart benefits than many store-bought dressings
  • Fresh ingredients provide more vitamins and minerals
  • Homemade dressings offer more flavor with less fat
  • Dressing you make at home doesn’t have any preservatives

That said, as a mom, it’s not always easy to find the time. Don't feel guilty if organic from the store is the best you can do.

A Sensible View of Dressings

I like to take a balanced view of mom-hood and weight loss. Focusing too strictly on every calorie can make healthy eating a chore. Isn’t encouraging your family to eat more salad a good thing?

It keeps you and your kids munching on fresh ingredients: romaine lettuce, arugula, alfalfa sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, yellow peppers and avocados. That's WAY better kids begging for pizza every night because they're tired of plain vinaigrette with every salad.

More salad + healthy dressing options = more omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate and more! That’s a win in my book. So, don't punish yourself if you buy (gasp!) the tiniest bottle of (double gasp!) Ranch dressing sometimes.

Do Most Coffee Creamers Have Dangerous Chemicals?

I’m a “no sugar, two creams, please” type of girl. So you can imagine my surprise when a friend of mine sent me an article saying that coffee creamers aren’t good for you — more than that, they’re downright dangerous! Every fiber of my being wanted to shout “that’s blasphemy!” Are coffee creamers really bad for you?

What’s In Your Favorite Coffee Creamer?

The first shocker for me is that most coffee creamers are loaded with sugar — more than a teaspoon per serving! But that’s not the worst part by a long shot:

Hydrogenated Oil

This is just another name for trans fats. To make this artificial fat, manufacturers add powdered nickel or other metals to vegetable oil. Hydrogenated oil adds a "creamier" texture. According to the FDA, partially hydrogenated oils are not Generally Recognized as Safe in food. They raise bad cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Cellulose Gel

I’ll give you a hint: cellulose is another name for “wood.” That’s right, some popular coffee creamers add small amounts of wood pulp to help thicken the consistency of cheaper ingredients. Don’t want wood particles in your coffee? Yeah, me either.

Carrageenan

This additive and preservative is technically “natural” because it comes from a type of moss (mmm!). But carrageenan has been linked to a bunch of health problems, from IBS and bloating to colon cancer and arthritis.

Why do companies use these weird ingredients if they’re so bad for you? Because they’re cheap. Some corporations are happy to make a profit whether it hurts you or not.

What Are the Best Alternatives to Coffee Creamer?

Now for the good news. There are a lot of tasty, natural and healthy alternatives you can add to your joe. And the flavor is WAY better:

  • Milk: Simple, heathy and easy. Depending on whether you choose whole or 2%, milk isn’t as thick as other options, but it has less total fat and gives you calcium, vitamin D… the whole shebang.
  • Heavy cream: This has more fat than milk (1 tsp has 50 calories), but you also don’t need to use much. This is my favorite option for “treating myself” for the first cup of coffee in the day, but I don’t use it for other cups.
  • Almond milk: Tons of vitamin B12, a creamy texture and a nutty flavor make almond milk amazing for coffee.
  • Coconut oil: If you’re on a keto diet, coconut oil in your coffee is a must. It gives you a rush of energy, boosts your metabolism and provides healthy MCT oil for burning fat. This is how you make Bulletproof coffee at home.
  • Coconut milk: Some brands add a lot of sugar, but you can find coconut milk that is just pureed coconut and water. Trust me, this option is really creamy and it adds an irresistible aroma to your coffee.
  • Unsweetened nut milk: You don’t need to buy an artificial creamer to enjoy hazelnut, vanilla or macadamia nut in your coffee. Just go straight to the source. Macadamia nut milk has all that delicious flavor you want, and zero weird ingredients.

Some cheapskate companies still try to sneak in carrageenan into these natural alternatives, so look at the label before you buy. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy creamy coffee and stay healthy at the same time. Now I’m going to celebrate with … you know what!

Best Natural Sleep Aids

Remember the days when you slept like a baby and always woke up feeling refreshed and energized? The last time I slept that way was when I was a teenager. It seems like sleep has become more evasive the older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve had to “adult.” If you’re like me and you can’t seem to get enough shuteye at night no matter what you do, here are some of the best natural sleep aids I’ve discovered.

Valerian

This herbal medicine is made from a plant’s root. Though it’s not very well-known, it’s a great ingredient for achieving deep, restful sleep. If you have trouble finding it at your grocery store, look for it at your local health food store. Most people add it to tea and take it an hour or so before bedtime.

Though valerian is a great sleep aid, it may interact with some medications. So before you give it a try, talk to your doctor. You should also know that if you take valerian regularly, you shouldn’t suddenly stop taking it. Doing so can cause some anxiety or withdrawal symptoms (eek!)

Chamomile

Chamomile flowers are some of my favorites because they’re so bright and cheerful. They look a lot like daisies. But as energetic as their appearance may be, these little flowers are very effective at helping you sleep. Chamomile tea promotes relaxation and can help you wind down in the hours leading up to bedtime. You may also find that drinking chamomile tea before bed improves your quality of sleep as well.

Just make sure you don’t consume more than the recommended dose. Taking too much chamomile may cause you to get nauseous or to throw up. You may also want to consult with your allergist or doctor before consuming if you have known allergies to flowers in the daisy family.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone your body naturally produces in the pineal gland. It helps control circadian rhythms so you sleep better. Unfortunately, some of us don’t seem to create sufficient melatonin to help us nod off at night. Taking anywhere between 1 and 5 mg of melatonin right before bed may help induce sleep.

If you decide to try melatonin, only use it for a maximum of two weeks. Using it longer than that could potentially hamper your ability to produce your own melatonin going forward. Some people may discover that melatonin helps them fall asleep quickly, but causes them to wake frequently in the night. Others may feel more depressed or irritable when using melatonin as a sleep aid. If these things happen to you, discontinue using melatonin products right away.

Lavender

Lavender is a highly fragrant plant that is used in many sleep aid products. It produces a calming effect and may help you fall asleep more easily at night. You can use lavender in a variety of ways. My favorite way is to dilute a few drops of lavender essential oil into a diffuser in my room. I turn the diffuser on at bedtime to enjoy the relaxing benefits of the fumes.

You can also put a few drops of diluted lavender oil right on your pillowcase. Some people even rub a little diluted lavender oil around their nose before going to bed. Just keep in mind that this is a very fragrant oil, so you only need a little bit.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral that helps boost heart and brain function. However, it may also help relax the body and mind so you can get a restful sleep. Studies show that insufficient levels of magnesium are associated with insomnia and troubled sleep. You can take magnesium in supplement form before bed to see if it helps you get more rest at night.

I love each of these sleep aids and alternate between them regularly. To find out which one works best for you, give each of them a try on different nights over the next few weeks. Happy sleeping!

Does Crystal Therapy Really Work?

You hear so much talk about crystals these days, both good and bad. Some folks swear by them, while others claim their just a lot of new age nonsense. Still, you can't help but be curious when hearing all the positive stories about them.

The truth is, many people do experience benefits from crystals. They might not be able to do all the magical things people claim, like curing major illness or making your dream man fall in love with you, but they can give you a real boost spiritually and mentally when you know what you're doing with them.

Types of Therapeutic Crystals

Healing crystals are not one size fits all. There's actually a wide variety out there, each of which is associated with specific benefits:

Obsidian

Obsidian is said to have protective qualities. If you're feeling emotionally stifled or blocked, it can also help you release some of those built up emotions to achieve a sense of clarity. The stone can be identified by its glassy black color.

Turquoise

You're probably already familiar with turquoise jewelry, which is indeed quite eye catching. However, the stone offers more than just aesthetic appeal. It's also thought to bring balance to your mind and spirit, as well as having intense healing powers.

Moonstone

Looking for a new beginning? Then moonstone is your go-to crystal. It can also quell feelings of stress and anxiety, which far too many people struggle with these days. Moonstone has a sort of earthy look, with grayish-white coloring.

Rose Quartz

Pretty pink rose quartz has a strong association with love. If you're having trouble in any type of relationship, romantic or otherwise, ruminating with some rose quartz can bring you some peace. It can also help you build up the love you have for yourself.

Amethyst

Deep purple amethyst is known for its purifying qualities. It can also help you tap into a deeper spiritual nature. Its healing power is great for dispelling those negative thoughts rattling around your mind.

Tips for Using Healing Crystals

You basically have two options when using your healing crystals. Some people swear by wearing them on their bodies for all day protection through constant contact. Of course, not everyone is comfortable wearing jewelry, especially something like crystals. In this case, just carry them with you. Put them in your purse or pocket when you're out and about.

Before your crystals can do their thing, you must program them. I know what you're thinking, programming is something you do with a computer. What you're actually doing is associating your crystal with an intention. Hold the crystal in your hand and state what you wish to get from it: improved mental health, a better love life, greater self-confidence, whatever it might be. After stating your intention, be sure to thank the universe for the gift it's about to give you.

More intensive crystal therapy may be required if you're really struggling. In this case, do a crystal ritual each morning where you lay down to meditate with crystals on different parts of your body. Place crystals over your seven chakras, or energy centers on the body: base of the spine, lower abdomen, above the navel, over the heart, base of the throat, between the eyebrows, and the crown of the head.

Make sure crystals are also placed liberally throughout your home. Not only can they heal your mind and spirit, they can also make your living space feel more positive and nurturing. If you work from home, make sure there are quite a few hanging around your work desk!

The mind is a mysterious thing, and using crystals to achieve mindfulness is not as silly as it sounds. Also, having a little faith in something kind of whimsical never hurt anyone. Why not expand your mind and give it try?

How and Why To Try Hot Yoga at Home

Hot yoga is the “hot” new workout trend that offers a wide variety of benefits. If you think the idea of doing yoga in a hot and sweaty environment sounds like torture, you’re in for a treat! While it’s true that yoga isn’t “hot” unless it’s done in a humid and warm environment, it’s a much more enjoyable practice than you’re probably imagining in your head. You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Here’s how and why to try hot yoga in your own home this week.

Understanding the Point of Hot Yoga

I have to admit, I used to look that people who did hot yoga were a little crazy. Why in the world would you choose to exert your body in an environment that forces you to release as much sweat as possible? But now that I’ve learned more about it, I’ve come to understand the point of this unconventional form of exercise.

Hot yoga offers the same benefits as traditional yoga (you know, the standard benefits like improved strength, stress reduction and flexibility), but it also gives you an even more intense workout in less time. So if you don’t have an hour to spend on a typical yoga routine, you can spend half an hour doing hot yoga and get the same benefits! Plus, the humid environment a hot yoga session provides is meant to replicate the humid natural environment found in India, where yoga originated. So you get a more authentic experience from doing hot yoga than from doing traditional yoga in an air-conditioned environment. Just make sure you drink lots of water before you get your sweat on!

Benefits of Hot Yoga

Now that I’ve got you thinking hot yoga may not be so bad, here’s a list of some of the impressive benefits the practice can provide.

  • Increased calorie burn

  • Improved flexibility

  • Reduced stress

  • Improved mood

  • Boost in cardiovascular health

  • Improved bone density

  • Decreased blood glucose levels

Now keep in mind that in order to maximize these benefits and stay safe during your hot yoga session, you need to stay hydrated. Drink water before, during and after your hot yoga session. You may also want to guzzle a low-calorie sports drink to restore your body’s electrolyte balance.

If you’re pregnant, don’t do hot yoga unless you’ve been given the green light from your doctor. And if you have certain health conditions, such as low blood sugar, heart disease, anorexia or a history of fainting, hot yoga may be too intense for you.

How to Start Hot Yoga at Home

While prepping your space for a hot yoga session requires a little effort, it’s worth it if you don’t have a gym membership or don’t have time to go to an official hot yoga class. Here’s how to set up any room in your home for hot yoga.

  1. Designate one room in your home for you hot yoga session, and close the doors and windows.

  2. Put a small space heater in the room to bring the space to your desired temperature.

  3. Consider adding extra layers if the space heater isn’t getting the room warm enough for your liking.

  4. Bring in a humidifier and steam things up!

  5. Have a water bottle on-hand at all times.

  6. Complete your planned yoga session, making sure to take frequent water breaks throughout.

  7. If you need help coming up with your own hot yoga workout routine, look online or find a favorite workout on YouTube. You can also make things more fun by inviting a friend to come work out with you.

Hot yoga isn’t for everyone. But for those who like a challenging workout that delivers maximum benefits in minimal time, it’s a must-do routine to work into your weekly schedule. Give it a try this week to see if you’ll fall in love with it like I did!

Why You Should Care About Reducing Food Waste

If you're like most Americans, cleaning out the fridge is part of your weekly routine. You check to see which leftovers can be served for lunch and which ones should get dumped. Then there's the produce drawer, where you may find stuff you had completely forgotten about (and may not even recognize). The USDA estimates that 30-40% of the US's entire food supply ends up being wasted. That's huge! Even if less food than that gets thrown away in your household, it's still a bummer, especially if it's something you were looking forward to eating.

Every pound of wasted food has a cost, and not just in your grocery budget. Labor, energy, water, and other resources were used to produce that food, and more of the same resources will be expended in hauling it away to a landfill. As you can see, food waste is more than a personal or household problem. The good news is that there a few simple tricks to help you waste less, starting right now.

Plan Ahead

If you already meal plan, you know it's the best thing ever. If you haven't tried it yet, jump in! It's not as hard as you might imagine. You know those tried-and-true recipes you tend to fall back on for busy weeknight dinners? Go scribble those onto your calendar for next week. See? Done. To take it a step further, first check your freezer, fridge, and pantry and base your recipe choices on what you have on hand. If you're not convinced that this simple step can help fight food waste, think about this: Have you ever gone to the grocery store and grabbed something that looked yummy, only to have it shrivel up and die in your fridge before you could figure out how and when to prepare and serve it? This brings us to our next point...

Shop With Purpose

With your meals all planned out for the week, you're less likely to impulse-buy something that will later go to waste. All you need to do is look at your meal plan and then shop your kitchen first. Whatever you still need is what you'll buy at the supermarket. When you're intentional about your purchases, you not only waste less; you also avoid falling into the trap of buying lots of junk food. Double win!

Preserve What You Can

You don't have to learn canning and dehydrating to preserve leftover food. What you should do is make sure anything you put in the freezer is wrapped and labeled well. The same goes for the fridge. If you plan on packing dinner leftovers as lunch later in the week, write the date on the container so you don't end up throwing out perfectly good food just because you aren't sure how old it is.

Donate Intentionally

Donating to a local food bank is an excellent way to fight food waste and give back to your local community at the same time. However, if the food you give away is out of date or otherwise unusable, the donation center may throw it away anyway.

Who would have thought that wasting less could make such a big difference in the world and save you time and money at the same time? Do you already meal plan? What's the best advice you have for someone who's just starting out? Let me know in the comments!

How to Use Less Plastic in Your Home

Plastic is one of those persistent enemies that the world just can’t seem to get rid of. Though everyone knows how harmful it is, it’s still used in incredible amounts. Take a 10-minute walk around your house and briefly note everything you see that’s made of plastic. You may be surprised to discover just how much of this undesirable material you have in your own home.

Fortunately, you can do what I did and make these lifestyle changes to turn yourself and your family from plastic consumers to plastic shunners.

Buy Boxed Instead of Bottled Products

This tip may seem nearly impossible at first, but it is possible to avoid some bottled products by looking for boxed alternatives. For example, instead of buying liquid laundry detergent in plastic bottles, shop for laundry detergent in powder form that comes in cardboard boxes. If you absolutely must purchase plastic bottles for food or hygiene items (sometimes it’s unavoidable), choose only bottles that have the recycle symbol on the bottom.

Invest in Reusable Straws

Straws are small and may seem harmless, but they’re used in huge quantities and contribute to the world’s plastic waste problem. If you love straws and don’t want to give them up, don’t worry! There are reusable options available. Consider purchasing a pack of reusable glass or stainless-steel straws and keeping one or two in your purse or car so you can use it when you go out to restaurants.

Ditch the Plasticware

No one likes to do dishes, but if you regularly use plasticware to eat your meals, it’s time to consider how you’re impacting the environment. It’s best to use reusable silverware, even if it means spending a few extra minutes doing the dishes. When you request take-out from nearby restaurants, specifically request no plasticware with your order.

Use a Reusable Water Bottle

Reusable water bottles are so much better for you and the environment than their plastic counterparts. Plus, they often come with cute patterns that match your personality. Drinking from plastic water bottles can leave a bad flavor in your mouth, so you’ll love switching to reusable bottles for the taste alone.

Invest in a Water Purifier

If you like to drink bottled water because your tap water is gross, why not invest in a water purifier? You’ll not only save money, but you’ll help save the environment as well. Every year, billions of plastic water bottles make their way to the landfill. You can make a small dent in that number by ditching your bottled water habit and using a purifier instead.

Make Your Own Cleaning Products

Cleaning products are not only bottled in plastic containers, but they’re also full of toxic chemicals that are harmful to the environment and to you. Instead of purchasing commercial cleaners, consider making your own using natural ingredients such as vinegar, antibacterial essential oils, lemon juice, and/or baking soda. There are plenty of recipes for cleaners online. Use glass spray bottles to store and use your environmentally safe cleaning products.

Use Reusable Produce Bags

Did you know a single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to fully degrade? Instead of using single-use plastic bags, opt for reusable produce bags. Just make sure you wash them frequently to cut back on germs.

Drink Fresh-Squeezed Juice

Do you love drinking juice? Try squeezing it fresh from oranges or apples. You’ll be using less plastic, and you’ll also maximize the health benefits fresh juice can offer. Fresh-squeezed juice is not processed and it hasn’t been sitting on the shelf for days or weeks, so it’s packed full of nutrients.

Once you make it a habit to avoid plastic whenever possible, the task will become easier (I promise!). You’ll also have greater peace of mind knowing you’re doing your part to protect this beautiful planet we call home.