GMOs and Gut Health

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GMOs (genetically modified organisms) have genes from another species transplanted into their DNA. This is done to increase production or yield or add some other previously nonexistent quality to the organism.

These experimental organisms have so far been mostly plants, but animals are also being modified.

This is not the same as hybridizing. Hybrids are created through breeding. Genetic modification is actual transferral of DNA material from one species into another in order to achieve some desired characteristic.

To be able to insert the foreign DNA into the recipient plant or animal DNA, either a virus or bacteria must be used as a sort of carrier.

As bizarre as the genetic transfer may seem, perhaps the bigger problem is the use of these viral and bacterial carriers. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

One of the targeted characteristics of GMOs is called Roundup Ready. This means that the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) can be sprayed on the crop without killing it. Evidently the weeds must be developing tolerance for this herbicide, because more and more of it is being used every year. Much of this glyphosate is absorbed into the plant and ends up in our food.

Glyphosate acts like a highly targeted antibiotic in the guts of animals and people. Unfortunately, it targets only our beneficial bacteria- the microbes that help with digestion, detoxification, hormonal balance, immune system and more. It has no effect on pathogenic bacteria like E. Coli and botulism. This throws off the delicate balance of friendlies and unfriendlies, which will become a big problem sooner or later.

Another characteristic that has been added to GM corn is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)a pesticide that occurs naturally as a soil microbe. It has been sprayed on crops for decades by organic farmers to deter insect damage.

Now the middleman has been eliminated by inserting the pesticide directly into the plant. It wasn’t supposed to affect animals, only insects. It kills pests by creating holes in the cell walls in their digestive tracts.

Surprise! That’s also what it does to cows that are fed GM corn, and to humans, too. Destroying the integrity of the cells naturally leads to leaky gut and to all that it entails.

Believe it or not, it gets worse. When we eat plants, we chew and digest the plant material. Under normal circumstances, the DNA from that plant doesn’t impose itself on us like some sort of invader. Instead, we extract the nutrients from the plant to use in our own body processes.

Bt is a bacteria that has been forcefully inserted into plants.  Somehow this bacterial DNA is separating itself from the plant material being digested. It appears that Bt can survive and replicate itself in our own gut Microbiome, essentially turning us into pesticide factories. Basically the Bt can continually injure the gut lining because instead of flushing out of the system within a few hours, what it’s supposed to do, it’s moving in and raising a very destructive family.

Similar to this scenario, those bacterial and viral genetic carriers mentioned above have been discovered in the digestive tracts of bees. It’s normal for bacterium to exchange genetic material with one another. It’s part of the way they communicate.
But these microbes appear to be cross breeding with the bees’ natural bacteria and creating new varieties.

The gut biomes of bees and humans are closely related. It’s being theorized that maybe the same thing is happening in human digestive tracts as well. And that it could be a part of the cause of the explosive increase in food allergies in recent years.

Realistically, we don’t know the extent of damage that has already been done, or what is still to be discovered. Sometimes the wisest move is to assume the worst, and do your best to avoid GMOs until we know how to fix the problems.

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Essential Oils and Gut Health

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We typically think of using essential oils for their marvelous fragrance, or as a spa treatment. These uses are certainly valid, but you should know that plant essences have been used as medicine for thousands of years.

First, let me be clear that I’m referring to essential oils, not fragrance oils. Fragrances are synthetics based on petrochemicals and do not share the therapeutic qualities of natural high grade essential oils. They are cheap copies of the real thing.

Also, a quick disclaimer. If you are having health problems, you should consult your healthcare professional. This article outlines historical uses of essential oils for digestive issues, and shouldn’t be considered as medical advice.

One of the most popular oils for improving digestion is peppermint. It relaxes the smooth muscles of your intestines, and has long been used to help relieve gas pressure. But it also helps to calm down reflux. Instead of popping an antacid when you have heartburn, you might want to try a drop or two of peppermint oil in a bit of warm water, and drink it down.

Or if you’d rather not ingest it, add a couple drops of peppermint essential oil to a teaspoon of olive or coconut oil and rub it on your abdomen in a slow and gentle clockwise motion. This is really great for kids’ tummy upsets.

Since it relaxes those digesting muscles, many people find that peppermint tones down IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), a frustrating combination of constipation and diarrhea. (Also helpful for IBS are cumin, coriander, and lemon balm oils.)

Overall, peppermint has a balancing effect on your bowel flora, the bacteria and other microbes that coexist with you inside your intestinal tract. And that’s a community you’ll want to keep happy, as it’s very necessary for your good health.

Like peppermint, clove oil also relaxes the intestinal smooth muscle. In addition, it calms inflammation in the gut lining and reduces intestinal spasms. It has often been used to relieve nausea, bloating, and diarrhea. Clove has antiviral and antifungal properties and can be used to eliminate Candida yeast overgrowth and parasite eggs.

If you just need a little help getting things started, cardamom, ginger, and tarragon essential oils all stimulate production of the gastric juices. Appropriate amounts of stomach acids and bile can discourage reflux while balancing peristaltic action (motility). Really helpful if you have a tendency toward constipation.

Got morning sickness? Instead of eating saltine crackers to quell the nausea, try taking a whiff of lemon essential oil. It’s even gluten free!

Essential oils can also be helpful for maintaining good gut health in indirect ways.

It is well known that antibiotics kill our beneficial bacteria along with the pathogens they are meant for.
This is a terrible situation as far as your gut is concerned. There are a number of essential oils that can get the job done even though they are not technically antibiotics.

Tea tree oil (also known as melaleuca) is commonly used as a topical antiseptic. Some people prefer to dilute this strong smelling oil but it can also be used full strength on cuts and scrapes. It can also be applied to the skin behind the ear (not inside the ear canal) if you suspect an ear infection.

Lavender essential oil is probably the most popular scent used in aromatherapy. And it is also a great antiseptic. Good for cuts, scrapes, and burns, it can be used alone, but is often combined with tea tree oil or aloe vera gel.

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Digestive Health Advantages for Your Baby

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Of course you want to give your baby every feasible chance of her best possible life and health. Some things are difficult, even impossible, to control. Others are fairly simple and straightforward.

Ideally, you should resolve your own health issues – including gut health – before getting pregnant. This gives your baby many advantages, some of which last a lifetime.

During pregnancy, obviously it’s important to eat healthy, nutritious food. Go for organic, when possible, and avoid GMOs. We don’t yet know the long term effects of these engineered organisms but the short term effects don’t look great.

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables of various colors, particularly low starch vegetables, for optimal vitamin and mineral levels. Pregnancy is well known as a cause of constipation, and the natural fiber should help keep things moving along as they ought to. This fiber is also the food that keeps the beneficial flora in your own digestive tract happy and productive.

It has long been believed that the womb is a sterile place, and that baby isn’t exposed to any microbes until after birth. But that view is now being challenged. It appears that beneficial bacteria can cross the placenta, and begin colonizing baby’s own gut even before birth.

If possible, eat a small amount of fermented food every day. I’m not talking fermented as in alcohol. More like sauerkraut, kimchee, fermented seed pates, and live yogurt, kefir, or kombucha. With all the body changes that pregnancy brings, having a steady supply of beneficial inner organisms can help on many health fronts.

Consider taking quality digestive enzyme and probiotic supplements. Many of those weird pregnancy cravings are the result of nutritional deficiencies, and these specialty supplements will help your body wring as many nutrients as possible from the food you eat. Plus, keeping your own microflora in balance means you can also manufacture many important nutrients yourself.

Sometimes antibiotics are necessary, but if they aren’t, try to avoid them before and after the birth. You may want to talk to your doctor or midwife about this early on, because antibiotics are often given to mother and baby prophylactically as part of the birthing process. These drugs kill off your baby’s delicate protective microbial community. And since Nature abhors a vacuum, the more undesirable microbes from a hospital environment will likely take their place.

Besides this, antibiotics administered in infancy and childhood have been definitively linked to allergies, asthma, more frequent infections, and even obesity, later on. This would appear to indicate that a healthy balance of microbes is more than desirable- it’s essential for optimum health.

And this brings up another issue: C-section. Again, sometimes absolutely necessary and life saving. But many times, they are elective, scheduling birth around vacation times or other conveniences. These days in the US, as many as 1 in 3 births are by Caesarian; the numbers are even higher in some countries.

A natural vaginal birth will inoculate baby with a heavy duty dose of mother’s microflora to give him a healthy boost as he comes into the world. This is beginning to be better understood, and forward thinking doctors are bathing the new babe with mother’s vaginal juices when a C-section is unavoidable, to give him the same head start as in a non-surgical birth.

Assuming mom is healthy, breastfeeding is usually best for most babies. It’s pretty much impossible to totally duplicate mother’s milk in a formula. And baby’s system relies on the delicate balance of nutrients created especially for him in mom’s body. Even the specific sugars found in breast milk appear to be there to encourage the evolution of a healthy microbial community in baby’s digestive tract.

Going forward, allow your child to get dirty, within reason. They put everything into their mouths because they are exploring and learning. But they are also expanding their microbial repertoire… training their little immune systems to learn to handle new situations.

When it’s wash time, forego the antibacterial soap and sanitizer, and just use regular soap and water. It works just as well without the risk of destroying your child’s immune system.

It’s probably impossible to make your child’s life and health perfect in every way. But I say, do the best you can, considering your circumstances, and go from there. Tweak when needed, stay flexible, and enjoy your child. They grow up far too fast as it is.

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Digestive Enzymes and Gut Health

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Your body is designed to digest the food you eat; it creates hydrochloric acid along with various enzymes for just that purpose. So why might you consider taking them as a supplement?

Well if you seem to get gas no matter you eat, or you often suffer from heartburn or indigestion, or if constipation is an issue for you, it probably means that there is something not quite right with your enzyme production. In order to be able to absorb nutrients, your food has to be broken down microscopic particles. Anything that’s not totally broken down starts composting somewhere in your intestinal tract, leading to any number of problems.

But before you start taking pills, let’s look at how the digestive process works, or at least, how it’s supposed to.

Digestion actually starts before you ever pick up your fork. Ever notice that smelling something delicious can make your stomach growl? That’s your body realizing that food is on the way, and starting to pump out digestive juices to get ready for it.

And as woo woo as it may sound, it’s important to look at your food and appreciate it before you begin eating. Gratitude for the cook, the farmer, the grocery store, for the Creator, feeling thankful allows your digestion to work better.

Next, chew your food thoroughly. Yes, just like your Grandma probably told you when you were little. This obviously mechanical step also stimulates the production of saliva, which contains the first round of digestive enzymes.

Your stomach produces acid that begins breaking down proteins. This acid also signals your gall bladder to release bile, which begins breaking down fats into fatty acids your body can use.

After this mixture churns for awhile, your pancreas takes over. It neutralizes the stomach acid and releases enzymes that further break down the food.

If all has gone well, by the time it gets to your small intestine, macronutrients have been broken down into micronutrients, which can be absorbed into your bloodstream.

If not, well, that’s how you get those symptoms we talked about earlier.

All of the different digestive actions are necessary for the whole thing to work. Remove or inhibit one piece, and the rest of the process suffers.

There are a few diseases that affect enzyme production, but one of the biggest causes of enzyme deficiency is Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS). This is ironic, because enzyme therapy is also crucial to heal leaky gut.

Depending on your situation, your healthcare practitioner may suggest the use of hydrochloric acid therapy, or other enzyme combinations. Proper use of supplemental enzymes can help to heal your body’s ability to once again create the enzymes it needs.

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But Whole Grains Are Supposed To Be Good For You

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For years, we’ve been taught that eating whole grain foods – from bread to pasta – is what’s best for building good health. And whole grain truly is better than the refined version of foods: more vitamins are retained, a lot more of the beneficial fiber is available. And many would say there is more flavor, as well.

But recently, it seems as though wheat has gone totally out of style. Everywhere you look, you see gluten free this or that.

And not just the gluten free aisle at the grocery store… Many restaurants now feature a no gluten section in their menus. Gluten free birthday parties for the kids, and gluten free snacks for soccer practice.

So what happened? How did we get from whole wheat to no wheat, and how did it happen so quickly?

Likely this move began a number of years back when it was discovered that there seems to be a connection between a child’s ADHD and their diet. And one of the villainous foods turned out to be wheat.

Typically this was a bit rough on both kids and parents, because it was so unusual not to be able to eat bread, or cake, or even that childhood staple, spaghetti. Having to eat differently can really set a kid apart, which is usually the last thing children want to happen. But gradually, this no- wheat requirement became better known, and much less a stigma. But knowledge spread slowly.

And then there was Paleo.

Ridiculed at first, eating like a caveman was touted as the perfect way to lose weight. You could eat red meat. And bacon. Don’t forget the bacon!

The business of weight loss is huge. More than 60 billion dollars spent in the U.S. in 2014 alone. That much money can make for some powerful momentum.

And the Paleo way of eating for weight loss really does work for most people. Especially when vegetables take up at least as much room on the plate as does that coveted meat.

Probably the biggest reason for its ability to help people take off those extra pounds is that sugar and most grains aren’t allowed on the diet.

Humans have likely been eating wheat in many forms for about 10,000 years, and will probably continue to do so. But I’ll wager that having the choice of eating wheat free won’t be going away any time soon.

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Tips for Making Kombucha Tea

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Kombucha tea has been around for about 2,000 years now. Chinese people refer to it as “the Immortal Health Elixir” because of the many health benefits it offers. Kombucha is made from sweetened tea; only it is fermented by a colony of bacteria and yeast.

The flavor of this tea is somewhat interesting. You’d be able to taste the original sweet tea flavor but the acidic, vinegar-like flavor definitely kicks in. It is available at most health food stores but if you are interested in making kombucha tea at home, read the tips below:

1. Some people prefer using low-grade teas as they end up tasting better than more expensive teas. Do not use teas containing oils (E.g. bergamot oils in Earl Grey) because they can harm your bacterial host: the kombucha fungi. The kombucha culture is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Some of the best teas to use are echinacea, green, black, oolong, red, white and herbal tea.

2. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you can use decaffeinated tea. You can also try this trick: let your regular tea to steep in the cup of hot water for 60 seconds then discard the water. Use the teabags to make your kombucha tea. About 80{2576162dc87fac637fb05d96ed224a3a1f9916e34036ef411848967d76917bf7} to 90{2576162dc87fac637fb05d96ed224a3a1f9916e34036ef411848967d76917bf7} of the caffeine will be released by doing this method.

3. DO NOT wash your hands with an antibacterial soap before making kombucha tea. Doing so can destroy the good bacteria produced by the culture. Just wash your hands with hot water or use plain vinegar to wash your hands and the material you’ll be using. You may want to use non-latex gloves when touching the culture directly.

4. For kombucha tea, refined white sugar works great but you can also use organic evaporated cane juice. Raw sugars are not recommended because they are difficult for the SCOBY to digest. Do not use raw honey either; its anti-microbial properties can kill the culture.

5. Use a big mason jar or any wide-mouthed glass jar as your brewing container. Most people like using sun tea container. Stay away from plastic containers because they can leach into the kombucha. Metals are not good either because they can corrode or damage the SCOBY.

6. You don’t need to sterilize the jar. Just wash the container with dish soap, hot water and a little white vinegar or ACV. Don’t use bleach to clean your jars.

7. When adding culture to the tea, put the jar somewhere warm and dark. The temperature should be between 70F and 86F. Colder temperatures will make the culture grow slowly.
Kombucha tea is healthy for everyone in the family. Yes, even the kids can drink it! You can flavor the tea by adding strawberries, lemons, peaches, apple or pineapple. Wait for at least 12 to 24 hours for the flavors to come together before serving. Enjoy!

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6 Fermentation Myths Busted

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Fermented foods can help to improve your health and wellness. But there’s a lot of misinformation about these probiotic foods. Read on to learn the truth behind some of the myths and misconceptions.

Myth #1: Bacteria are bad for you

While it’s true that some bacteria are bad for your body and can cause illness, the majority of bacteria found in foods is beneficial for you. The fermentation process works to culture the good bacteria so that you get their benefits.

Probiotic fermented foods can improve your immune system, digestion, and reduce your risk of many diseases.

Myth #2: You must have a starter to ferment all foods

There are some fermented products such as sourdough bread or kombucha that do require a starter. But for fermenting vegetables you don’t need anything special to get started.

Myth #3: Fermented foods are spoiled or rotten

Fermented foods are foods broken down by bacteria and yeast. However, they’re not so broken down that they’re rotten and unhealthy. Typically when you ferment a food you add salt which stops the process before it goes too far.

Myth #4: There’s only one way to ferment a specific food

Many people worry about getting the fermenting process just right. But there’s more than one way to ferment just about any food. You may have learned how to do it one way from a friend only to find a relative does it differently. In the end, there can be more than one method that works.

Myth #5: Fermentation is just a food fad

Fermentation may seem popular these days and can be trendy. but it’s not a fad. This is a process that?s actually been used for thousands of years by people all over the world. It’s been used to create drinks, breads, dairy foods, and to preserve vegetables.

As we’re learning more and more about nutrition and food as medicine, fermentation has experienced popularity as a health choice.

And if you think about it, there are plenty of fermented foods that have been on the shelves in every supermarket for many years. This includes pickles, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and sourdough bread. The idea of fermentation is nothing new.

Myth #6: I can just take supplements instead of eating fermented foods

It’s true that you can purchase probiotic supplements that will help your body. But the best way to add probiotics or any other nutrient to your body is through food. Naturally occurring fermentation produces cultures of bacteria that your body can use more readily.

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Probiotics Are Pro-Health

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You’ve probably been prescribed antibiotics throughout your life to fight infections. And you’ve definitely seen antibacterial soaps and detergents. That must mean all bacteria are bad, right?

The truth is that many bacteria are actually very good for the body. Antibiotics don’t just kill off bacteria that cause illness, they also get rid of the bacteria we need for good immunity and digestion. And as a result of killing off all the bacteria, we can actually experience a different set of diseases.

It’s critical that you have plenty of healthy bacteria in your body. One of the best ways to introduce these healthy bacteria is through probiotic foods. These are also called cultured foods or fermented foods.

Fermented foods are those that have been exposed to bacteria.  The bacteria are allowed to eat the sugars from the foods and grow. In turn, it helps to break down the nutrients in the food and make them easier to digest. At the same time eating these foods gives you a healthy dose of probiotics bacteria and enzymes.

While you can purchase probiotic supplements from just about any pharmacy or health food store, your body can use them much more readily when they come from sources of food.Probiotics can reduce your risk of yeast infections, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, colds, flu, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even heart disease.  It?s imperative that you find ways to add them to your

Probiotics can reduce your risk of yeast infections, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, colds, flu, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even heart disease. It’s imperative that you find ways to add them to your diet, and it’s a lot easier than you might think.

Foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, and kefir. These are products you’ve probably seen in your grocery store and even consumed on your own.  You can also find probiotics in foods that are a little more obscure such as kimchi, miso, and kombucha. These are foods that are enjoyed around the world but are less commonly known in the west.

However, as the health benefits of probiotics become more evident these foods have been afforded a place of honor.  If you take a trip to your local health foods store you’ll no doubt see many of them available on the shelves.

In addition to purchasing them commercially, you can also make many of them at home.  However, you?ll need starters to help get the cultures developing. Eating probiotic foods is a great step toward improving your wellness and reducing your risk of disease.

So there you have it! There are some bacteria that can cause damage to you, many bacteria are necessary for you to enjoy good health.

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About Organic Foods

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The Honest-to-Goodness Truth About Organic Foods

Organic foods are becoming more and more popular these days as people are increasingly becoming more health-conscious. After all, what could be safer and more natural than organic foods? Researchers say that organic foods are more healthful because they are free from chemical pesticides. However, there are some who argue that organic foods are just like any other types of foods and that eating them won’t make any difference at all. So what’s the real score?

Why Organic Foods are Good

Organic foods offer benefits that nobody can refute. Farmers who grow organic fruits and vegetables steer clear of harsh and possibly toxic chemicals. Instead, they find other ways to control weeds, insects, and diseases. They use natural fertilizers rather than synthetic chemical fertilizers.

As for organic meats, there’s a whole lot of difference there, too. For instance, it is common for farmers who raise livestock for food to inject these animals with hormones, antibiotics, and other types of medication to make them grow faster and larger. This is a no-no for organic farmers. Instead, they feed their animals organic foods, allow them to roam freely, and take measures to prevent their livestock from getting sick. Overall, organic farming is better for the animals, the environment, and you.

The Trouble with Organic Foods

Just like anything, organic foods have their disadvantages. Price is the first thing that would come to mind. Organic foods are more expensive because the costs to produce them are high. The consumer bears the production costs. If you are living on a tight budget, you may want to pass up buying organic produce.

Organic foods are not easy to find. While many grocery stores now carry organic foods, quite a number of them, especially those located in smaller cities, have very limited choices. You may have to look for a specialty store to buy what you want.

Other Things to Consider When Buying Organic Foods

You must keep in mind that not all organic foods are created equal. The USDA follows certain guidelines when certifying organic foods. Interestingly, when you buy food that is labeled “organic,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the ingredients in the product are organic. For USDA to certify a food product as organic, at least 95 percent of the ingredients should be organic. Products that are 70 percent organic are not labeled with the USDA seal. Instead, they are marked “made with organic ingredients.”

When you’re at the grocery store trying to decide whether to go organic or not, remember a few things. Studies have not conclusively shown that organic foods are more nutritious than other types of foods. The USDA certifies organic food products but does not say that they are safer or more nutritious. Also, organic foods may look different from their non-organic counterparts. That’s because no wax or preservatives have been used to improve their appearance and prolong their shelf lives. They spoil faster, too.

While the USDA doesn’t vouch for the safety and the nutritional benefits of organic foods, it is quite obvious that the risk of ingesting harmful chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides is virtually zero with organic food products. When it comes to safety, money should be your secondary concern. Then it wouldn’t be difficult to decide whether you should go organic or not.

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Healthy Breakfast Ideas Your Kids Will Love

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Kids are picky eaters; there’s no getting around it. While it’s so tempting to go for an easy fix and just give them a bowl of Fruity Pebbles every morning, you have to realize that this is not healthy for your child. Cereals are highly processed and they are almost 100{2576162dc87fac637fb05d96ed224a3a1f9916e34036ef411848967d76917bf7} refined carbohydrates. Cooking breakfast for your kids doesn’t have to be a production number each time. In fact, you can whip up a healthy meal in as little as 10 minutes!

Check out these healthy breakfast ideas below that your kids will go crazy about:

Ham and Egg Panini

Ingredients

Cooked ham (you can use any kind of ham like turkey, prosciutto, smoked or farmer’s ham), 1 large egg, salt and pepper, 2 slices of wheat or multigrain bread and a slice of low-fat cheddar or Swiss cheese.

Directions

1. beat the egg in a small ball and add a dash of salt and pepper

2. put a few drops of olive oil into your nonstick skillet, pour in the egg and scramble until fluffy.

3. transfer the cooked egg to the sliced bread then top it with ham and cheese

4. put the other slice of bread on top and then grill it in a Panini press for 2 to 6 minutes depending how brown you want the bread to be. If you don’t have a Panini press, you can just grill the sandwich on your skillet.

Homemade Granola Bars

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups rolled oats, 1 cup dates, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup almond or sunflower seed butter,  1 cup chopped roasted almonds (unsalted) and 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.

Directions

1. put the dates in your food processor and process until it forms a dough-like consistency

2.pour the honey and almond or sunflower seed butter into a small saucepan and warm over low heat until well-combined.

3. combine the oats, almonds, dates and cranberries in a bowl and then pour in the honey and nut butter mixture

4. mix everything together and press the mixture into a 8×8 baking dish lined with parchment paper

5. cover the pan with a plastic wrap and allow everything to set in the fridge for 20 minutes before chopping the bars.

*This is a great make-ahead recipe that the kids can eat as a snack.

Breakfast Parfait

Ingredients

3/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt, 1 cup blueberries or any fruit that your kid likes and 2 teaspoons wheat germ.

Directions

place yogurt in an ice cream/dessert dish and top it with fruits and wheat germ. That’s it! It couldn’t be easier than that.

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