All About Sugar

All About Sugar {}
photo credit: D Shannon Pruitt

By Andrea Green, Contributing Writer

According to the USDA, the average American consumes over 90 pounds of sugar a year.

90 pounds a year!

The recommendation from the World Health Organization is to eat just 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. This includes the natural sugar that occurs in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

When you consider that the average soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar, it’s easy to see how we are averaging those 90 pounds of sugar a year.

Sugar In Our Bodies

We are biologically programmed to love sweet flavors, so it is safe to assume we will be making food choices that include some sweet treats.

So what happens when we ingest the most common sweetener, refined sugar?

There are two main components to refined sugar, also known as sucrose: glucose and fructose.

Glucose is both vital and necessary for us to survive. It is the fuel our cells burn, and when we ingest it, our bodies immediately set to work to convert glucose to energy.

Should you consume more glucose than your body immediately needs, your body converts the excess glucose into fat to be stored for future energy. If you don’t ever use that future energy, you store that fat indefinitely.

Isn’t that interesting? It’s not fat that causes fat stores in the body. It’s excess sugar that causes fat stores in the body!

Ingesting too much glucose not only leads to fat stores, it also disrupts the blood sugar balance, setting off a vicious cycle of sugar cravings.

All About Sugar {}
photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

Here’s how our blood sugar balance works:

  • When we consume too much glucose, our blood sugar spikes.
  • In reaction to the blood sugar spike, our pancreas secretes insulin.
  • Our body uses the insulin to help even out our blood sugar.
  • When the amount of insulin our body produces becomes too much, our body then has low blood sugar.
  • Low blood sugar then triggers our body to crave sugar.
  • Since refined sugars will shoot our blood sugar levels up quickly, that’s what our body craves most.

Identifying the sugar craving cycle is the first step to beating it.

Types of Sugar

The problem with sugar is it comes in many different forms.

First, you have the sugars that naturally occur in fruit, vegetables and whole grains. If you are eating a healthy, balanced diet, you will be eating just the right amount of natural sugars.

Next, you have those sugars that are in processed foods. The most notorious of these is high fructose corn syrup. But sugar hides in processed foods under several different names.

Your best defense against added sugars is to read labels. It is almost never labeled “sugar” on a nutritional label, so you’ll need to find the hidden sugars.

The following is a list of names for hidden sugars you are likely to find in your food:

Agave nectar, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose and syrup.

One strategy to avoid excess hidden sugars is to avoid the majority of prepackaged foods and to cook for yourself. When you do the cooking, you can limit the amount and type of sugar you are using.

But let’s face it. Living a life without sugar isn’t reasonable. As I mentioned previously, we are programmed to enjoy sweets. Therefore, it is important to remember not all sugars are created equal.

For example, sucrose contains no protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber. When we consume sucrose, we are getting calories without any nutritious elements.

There are some naturally occurring sugars that have trace minerals and some vitamins. By using these whole food sweeteners, you can at least get a little nutritional benefit in your sweet treats.

It’s easy to replace refined sugars with whole food sweeteners to satisfy your sweet tooth. To adapt your favorite recipes, use this Whole Food Replacements for Sugar Printable Baking Guide.

All About Sugar {}
photo credit: D Shannon Pruitt

Beat Sugar Cravings

How can you beat those sugar cravings?

The first step is to know what triggers your desire for sweets. 

When you experience a sugar craving, ask yourself what might be the trigger. Then look for a healthy way to ward off the craving.

My strategy to ditch the sugar craving is to use one of these 15 Things to Do Instead of Eating. They really work!

If you find that sugar cravings have taken over your life, you may want to try a sugar detox. My husband and I successfully completed a 30-day sugar detox last year. It wasn’t always easy. But I discovered some sugar detox tips and tricks that helped us to be successful. They are also tips and tricks I continue to use to be able to enjoy sugar but in a limited and controlled way.

Do you limit your sugar intake?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through our links, we earn a small commission, which helps to keep this site going so that we can continue to offer free and useful content, so thanks!

How I Feed My Family Real Food for $350 a Month

How I Feed My Family Real Food for $350 a Month {}

Guest post by Tiffany Crumbs

Every year, people across the world are making New Year’s resolutions. The goals are big and wide, ranging from eating healthier to saving up for a down payment on a house.

When we first got married, my husband and I simply wanted to get out of debt.

We worked really, really hard for a long time, but we didn’t truly see the fruits of our efforts until we hit year two and finally created a grocery budget.

Despite everything else, creating a grocery budget was not just key to getting ahead, but actually saving money each month instead of just making ends meet. Just when I thought we found our rhythm between food and finances, my husband threw me a curve ball. He said he wanted to eat real food, and politely asked me to stop cooking dinner from a box.

This seemed to be an easy request at first, but after just a few weeks, I struggled big time with finding the balance between healthy food and our grocery budget (being a former couponer). Real food seemed so expensive, and our grocery budget at the time was only $330/month. How could I possibly make the puzzle pieces fit?!

How I Feed My Family Real Food for $350 a Month {}

Is eating real food on a budget even possible?

A few of the blogs I was reading kept touting the amazingness of meal planning and how it made eating on a budget easier. I had never tried it, but given the fact that I was desperate to find a solution, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try… right?

So I made a commitment to meal plan for one month – just January 2013. I figured if it DID work, then I could re-commit and do it again. If it DIDN’T work, then I could call the whole thing quits. No harm, no foul.

Reaping the rewards of meal planning after just one month, I continued the resolution and made another plan month after month, and eventually sharing these plans on my blog.

Soon those monthly meal plans churned up shopping lists that kept my spending on track and practical prep lists to help me get ahead for the week. I incorporated slow-cooker meals for the busy weeknights and made a second batch for the freezer when there was extra time.

On top of all of this, I routinely used my tried-and-true money-saving tips and tricks to keep my grocery budget in line. And you know what? It finally worked! It’s not in my character though, to sit idly on the sidelines while others struggle with the same problem I had. That’s why I created Frugal Real Food Meal Plans.

How I Feed My Family Real Food for $350 a Month {}

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans Not Only Makes it Possible, but Practical!

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans is everything the frugal foodie you could want in a meal plan. Dinners every night. Ideas for breakfast and lunches every week. Even suggestions for dessert, hosting company and bringing a dish to a pot-luck! There are shopping lists, prep lists and pricing guides. Tools to help you keep track of what’s already in the kitchen and advice on how to re-use random leftovers.

Need ideas for what to do with leftover diced apples? Or what foods you should stock up on this season? This plan has you covered, because it’s how I keep our grocery budget at $330 each month.

How I Feed My Family Real Food for $350 a Month {}

We’ve held absolutely nothing back in this meal planning subscription. With free budgeting tools on top of an already information-packed meal plan, Frugal Real Food Meal Plans is a complete guidebook teaching you step-by-step how to eat real food on a budget!

It’s my passion to share Frugal Real Food Meal Plans with you, but I know that it won’t be the right fit for every family. That’s why I encourage you to first visit Frugal Real Food Meal Plans to learn more. Then download the free 14-day sample plan to see what a meal plan looks like, the detail and pricing guide in the shopping lists and ideas for getting ahead in the kitchen each week.

After you test the user-friendliness of the program, visit again because Frugal Real Food Meal Plans is celebrating it’s debut in true budgeting style – with HUGE discounts!

Plans are available for as little as $7.99/month through January 5, 2015. After this, the price goes up.

From one frugal mom to another, if you’re interested, don’t wait to check out Frugal Real Food Meal Plans! For as little as $1.84 each week, you can feed your family real food in a practical way, without going broke. My family and I are proof that real food doesn’t have to be expensive. If you struggle in this area, we would be honored to help.

Let me ask you this – how big is your family and what is your grocery budget? I’ll go first. We’re a family of four and we spend $330 a month.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through our links, we earn a small commission, which helps to keep this site going so that we can continue to offer free and useful content, so thanks!

12 Deceptive Words Food Manufacturers Are Using to Trick You

Deep down, we know it’s bunk, but these messages and buzzwords are created with psychology in mind. They’re made to trick us, even when we know better, even when we’re becoming more informed about our food supply and what we put into our bodies. Today I’m going to pull the curtain back on some of these terms of trickery, these clever ways they’re attempting to deceive us. Perhaps you’ve fallen for some of them. I know I have. They’re good, these marketing departments. They know their stuff.

When you start digging into what it means to eat healthy, wholesome, “real” foods, you’ll hear person after person tell you that these foods can really only be found around the perimeter of the supermarket, not in the inner aisles.

Yet if you were to actually walk those aisles and read the claims on the packages, you’d hear a vastly different story. Told by the manufacturers. And clever marketers. Who want you to think this fake, processed, chemical-laden, harmful, nothing-real-about-it food is actually life-giving and beneficial for you and your family.

So who’s right?

Well, I think that’s pretty clear. We’ve been learning, many of us the hard way after years of terrible health, that truly nutritious, healing, wholesome food does not come in colorful, cartoon-character laden packages and cellophane wrappers. Rather it comes from foods that are whole, fresh, local, seasonal, organically or ecologically grown and raised, and so on.

And yet, today I saw the phrase “farm fed”on a package of chicken and I had to ask myself, “What on earth does that even mean? Aren’t all chickens fed on a farm? They all eat, right?” (Of course, the oh-so-scientific answer to my question would be “absolutely nothing”. But I digress…)

Each and every time we go out to shop, we’re bombarded with messages from those fancy marketing experts, trying to make us believe (whether consciously or un-consicously) that their processed package actually contains something healthier than the others. That their product is indeed fresh, natural, pure, wholesome, full of nutrients, from quaint farms and happy, healthy animals.

I love how Bryan Marcel put it in his article on deceptive advertising:

Food packaging is designed to entice you.  The manufacturer—that word, manufacturer, in relation to food, should scare you—wants you to buy their product.  They have become masters at “cherry picking” the only redeemable qualities of their food products and exploiting those qualities to lure you into a purchase.  But beware.  It’s a shell game.

Peter Pan Creamy Peanut Butter’s front label boasts “No Sugar Added”.  That sounds healthy. Let’s buy it. Wait!  Remember that the front of the package is only designed to sell the product. The truth can usually be found on the back.  Read the ingredients.  It’s true, there isn’t any sugar added.  But the second ingredient is partially hydrogenated cottonseed and rapeseed (canola) oil and the fourth is sucralose (Splenda).  Sugar in this case isn’t the problem.  Trans fats and artificial sweeteners are.

Deep down, we know it’s bunk, but these messages and buzzwords are created with psychology in mind. They’re made to trick us, even when we know better, even when we’re becoming more informed about our food supply and what we put into our bodies.

Today I’m going to pull the curtain back on some of these terms of trickery, these clever ways they’re attempting to deceive us. Perhaps you’ve fallen for some of them. I know I have. They’re good, these marketing departments. They know their stuff.

(And warning… this post is a bit epic. But that’s how much information there is you need to know. Don’t worry, I included lots of pictures and headlines and made it super easy to scroll through.)

fresh eggs and noodles

Eggs labeled as fresh, I get… dry packaged noodles that you heat in a microwave? Fresh? I’m confused.

1. Fresh

Technically, this term is only meant to distinguish between meat (specifically poultry) that has or hasn’t been handled at a temperature below 26 F (ie. it hasn’t been frozen). Beyond that, this term has no technical meaning on a label.

Another variation on this is “farm fresh”, which literally means nothing. All food, at some point or another, technically came from a farm (goodness gracious, we hope). But when a food is labelled as “farm fresh” it does not in any way indicate the manner in which the food was raised. For example, an egg from both a cramped, caged chicken that has never seen the light of day AND an egg from a chicken freely roaming on pasture, eating worms and grubs and getting exercise and fresh air — both of these eggs can be labelled as “fresh”.

Unfortunately, egg labels are particularly confusing. Organic and free-range might not mean a chicken that’s pecking around outside, despite the pretty farm field pictured on the carton. Omega-3 eggs are mostly likely from caged eggs eating a fortified diet, but doesn’t imply anything about their living conditions. Grain Fed isn’t a good thing; it’s actually the opposite. You want a hen that forages on worms and grubs it finds in the dirt and grass. And on it goes… check out this post for a really good look at deciphering egg labels.

natural meats

Natural? This back bacon is “naturally smoked”, but yet the ingredients contain several preservatives and the use of sodium nitrite, known to have links to cancer. Or how about the Country Naturals Chicken Strips? The ingredients don’t seem too bad, except that they contain MSG (yeast extract) and refined vegetable oils (bad fats), and did you notice the claim about the chicken being raised without antibiotics? Yet with no other substantiation for this claim, all they’re likely referring to is the legally-required withdrawal period before an animal is allowed to be killed, after it has received antibiotics.

2. Natural (or All-Natural)

The term “fresh” is child’s play when it comes to food terminology. It’s when we get to “natural” that the stakes get a whole lot higher.

So high, in fact, that many brands are being sued over the use of the word “natural” when their products contain ingredients that are clearly not:

When the federal government fails to act to protect the public, we often see private lawyers filling in the gap. Such is the case with a spate of recent lawsuits claiming that food companies are deceiving customers over “natural” products that really aren’t. Examples include Kashi (a division of Kellogg), sued for using “unnaturally processed and synthetic ingredients” in its GoLean brand; Arizona brand iced tea for using high fructose corn syrup; and ConAgra, over the GMO content in its Wesson line of cooking oils. (source)

The only official definition of “natural” when it comes to food labelling comes from the USDA (which actually refers to meat and poultry), which states that a food product or ingredient is “all natural” or contains “nothing artificial”, or that it is not natural if it contains synthetic or artificial ingredients (source).

But, when it comes to all other packaged foods, the FDA has not actually come up with a definition for the word “natural”. Which allows companies the freedom to define it however they want.

go lean shakes

But let’s look more in-depth at that Kashi example. This is taken from the official complaint filed with the United States Distrcit Court in Southern California (and though I don’t usually make a point of reading legal documents for fun, this is actually pretty fascinating stuff):

Consumers lack the ability to test or independently ascertain the accuracy of a food label, especially at the point of sale. Reasonable consumers must and do rely on the food company to honestly report the nature of a food’s ingredients… As a result of their false and misleading labeling, Defendants were able to sell these products to hundreds of thousands of consumers throughout the United States and to profit handsomely from these transactions…

…For example, Kashi’s All Natural GoLean Shakes are composed almost entirely of synthetic and unnaturally processed ingredients, including sodium molybdate, phytonadione, sodium selenite, magnesium phosphate, niacinamide, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamin hydrochloride, potassium iodide and other substances that have been declared to be synthetic substances by federal regulations. (bold mine)

Essentially, when we see “natural” or “all-natural” on a food label, it should mean that it does not contain anything synthetic or artificial. Which would be good news.

Except that we can find example after example of product labelling in complete opposition to that, and even including ingredients like High Fructose Corn Syrup or GMOs.

natural fruit gushers

See that claim “Naturally Flavored” on the front of the box? Even a quick look over the ingredients will tell you that they are essentially made up of various types of sugar, starch, hydrogenated oil, preservatives and emulsifiers, with a bit of pear puree and grape juice added in. About the only “natural flavor” I can really see is, oh yes, the words “natural flavor” which mean precisely nothing .

What can we gather from this? That “natural” is not a term we can trust, and we need to go straight to the ingredients instead. 

3. Healthy

Although this word is not always overtly used, it is frequently implied.

One example of a product being promoted as healthy, even if they don’t use the actual word in their advertising, is Nutella, a chocolate-hazlenut spread very popular in Europe.

Commercials like this go out of their way to showcase it as a great addition to a healthy breakfast (mentioning foods like whole grain toast or waffles), and say that it is made with “simple quality ingredients like hazlenuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa”.

nutella collage with arrows

Except that in these screenshots from the official Nutella website, you can clearly see that 1) SUGAR is the first ingredient in Nutella, and 2) there are actually a whopping 31 grams of sugar in every 2 tablespoon serving! Not so simple or healthy, is it?

kozy shack pudding.jpg

Note the words “Gluten Free” under “Rice Pudding” on the left, not to mention words like “Made With Simple Ingredients”. Surely this is a healthy snack, right? Until you look on the back and see that it’s sweetened with sucralose, a completely artificial sweetener!

4. Gluten Free

Gluten free gets a lot of good press these days, being hailed as a healthier choice, even though a huge percentage of products labelled gluten-free on the market are actually highly processed, contain large amounts of sugar, as well as plenty of preservatives, artificial flavors and colors and fillers.

In other words, they’re junk food with a “Gluten Free” label slapped across the front.

Now, I’m not saying the product isn’t gluten free. It probably is. What I am saying is this is a buzzword that means nothing in the context of so many products, yet it’s added to make the consumer assume it’s a healthier choice.

Organic mac & cheese is still just that... processed mac & cheese. And this organic broth? It still contains MSG (yeast extract), sugar, and canola oil.

Organic mac & cheese is still just that… processed mac & cheese. And this organic broth? It still contains MSG (yeast extract), sugar, and canola oil.

5. Organic

Organics have seriously flooded the market over the past 5-10 years, and in many ways, that’s a really, really good thing.

But sometimes, it can also be somewhat deceptive when we see that glorious “I’m Organic!” label catch our eye, so let’s be real about what organic does and doesn’t mean.

Here are some specifics that are helpful to know:

  • As with the “Gluten Free” label, “Organic” gets slapped on a whole lot of very processed, junky foods. Just because it says it’s organic does not mean that it’s automatically good for you.
  • Packaged products which indicate they are “made with organic” ingredients means they contain at least 70% certified-organic ingredients. Which means they could also include up to 30% non-organic ingredients. This should be specified in the ingredients, as each item will be labelled (for example: Organic whole grains oats, organic sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, vanilla.) (source)
  • Specific ingredients are not required to be organic in multi-ingredient foods. Some examples include enzymes in yogurt, pectin in fruit jams, or baking soda in baked goods. You can actually see a full, detailed list of both the synthetic and non-synthetic ingredients to which this rule applies here (scroll down quite a ways).
  • There are a large number of synthetic substances allowed for use in both organic crop production and livestock production. I was particularly surprised by some on the list for livestock – they included vaccinations as well as quite a number of pharmaceuticals that may be administered by registered veterinarians or for specific health-related purposes. See the list for yourself.
  • While organic requirements are certainly a far, far cry from the standards for conventional livestock, they still do NOT guarantee that animals are grazing on pasture or free-roaming to the degree that you might think. For ruminants (ie. cows), they are required to eat outdoors during grazing season, or when the weather is not inclement (a term left up for interpretation), but between the official grazing seasons (when the grass is not actively growing, especially in more Northern climates), they are typically housed in barns and fed grains. For poultry, they are only required to have “access to the outdoors” but this does not equate to free-ranging, outdoor-roaming birds in most circumstances. Usually it’s more of an open-concept barn (ie. no cages), where there is at least one door leading outdoors which the birds may or may not take advantage of. Many of them are so used to being indoors that they don’t automatically seek out the door that will lead them to pasture if they are not specifically led there. You can read some of the rules here, or something like this very detailed organic certification document (this one is for Washington State in particular) here.

All that said, I’m not saying don’t buy organic. In fact, I will still frequently buy organic over conventional, particularly when it comes to fats, meat and poultry, dairy, and produce (like the Dirty Dozen), because I still feel that it’s a choice for the better (both environmentally and for our family).

But even better than organic? Buy local, talk to farmers, visit the actual farms, ask really good questions about how produce is grown or animals are raised. This is a far more reliable way to know what you’re getting than just looking for that certified organic logo.


Hmm… Oreos and Chips Ahoy? Methinks this is junk food with clever marketing.

6. 100 calories

Just because a package says it only contains “100 calories” doesn’t make it better or different than any other processed junk or snack food, nor does it contain healthier ingredients. All they are is smaller. Hence the 100 calories.

It’s basically just a couple bites, so the 100 calories is simply based on the serving size. Which should indicate to you how many calroies you’re getting with the regular size (most of which probably come from sugar or bad fats, but that’s another story)!

Trans fat? Ain't nobody here by that name. (What's that? Hydrogenated oil IS trans fat? Dang it!)

Trans fat? Ain’t nobody here by that name. (What’s that? Hydrogenated oil IS trans fat? Dang it!)

7. No Trans Fat

This one is interesting. Food manufacturers can claim this even if the food actually contains trans fat. What, you say? Isn’t that straight out lying?

Well, here’s the thing: If the total amount of trans fat is less than 0.5 grams per serving, then the package and nutrition facts label can state that the product contains 0 grams of trans fat. It’s madness, right? And yet, completely legal. Check out the FDA information on ingredients, packaging and labeling.

The better way to avoid trans fats (other than simply avoiding processed foods, refined oils and bad fats themselves, which is the very BEST way), is to look carefully at the ingredients list.

What you want to avoid is anything with the words “hydrogenated oils” OR “partially-hydrogenated oils” or even “shortening” (some kinds of shortening are great, like palm shortening, but when we’re talking about processed foods, you want to just avoid it).

pepsi next smaller

8. Naturally Sweetened

What does a “natural sweetener” mean in the food industry? It’s hard to say. Take for instance Pepsi Next, which came out a couple years ago. It’s advertised as being “sweetened naturally”, and yet a quick glance at the ingredients confirms that the second ingredient (after water) is still plain old, white, refined sugar.

So where does the “naturally” claim come in? The fact that the sugar  content is reduced with the use of Stevia. But that’s only 30% of the sweetening. The other 70% means we’re still drinking a canful of sugar.

Another trick in the food industry is to use fancy-schmancy sounding names like “evaporated cane juice”, which sounds nicer than sugar, doesn’t it? Except that’s all it is. It isn’t raw or unrefined, and it’s a far cry from raw honey. It’s just sugar cane that’s been ground up, dried and turned into granulated sugar. Oh wait… isn’t that??? Right. Sugar.


Can you read the small print at the bottom? This ketchup is sweetened with sucralose (same as Splenda), an artificial sweetener.

9. No Sugar/Reduced Sugar

Possibly even worse than false claims of being naturally sweetened are the bold claims of “no sugar” or “reduced sugar” or “no added sugar”. Which sounds really good at first glance.

Except that what this equates to is not a sweetener-free product, but rather an artificially-sweetened product. In almost every instance you see this term (unless it’s something that doesn’t actually need sugar, like plain applesauce), turn to the ingredients and you’ll find something like:

  • sucralose
  • aspartame
  • maltodextrin
  • sacharin, to name a few.

Though consuming less sugar is a good thing, accomplishing it by way of artificial sweeteners is not so great (in fact, it’s actually dangerous).

vitamin water

10. With vitamins and minerals

Yes, but are they naturally occurring in the food OR are they synthetic and added in during processing???

Vitamin Water is an example I love to rant about. For all of their cute marketing quips on the side of the bottle, there’s nothing wholesome about this drink. For one thing, sugar is the second ingredient next to water. Strike one. (Well, unless it’s sugar alcohols and color in the 0 calorie version…)

For another, there is absolutely no food substance in these drinks that is contributing to the vitamins and minerals they contain. Which means they’re as synthetic as what you’d get from a Flinstone or Centrum multi-vitamin. Strike two. This isn’t real food, and these aren’t the nutrients you’re looking for.

whole grain chex

11. Whole Grains

These “Whole Grain” labels are popping up more and more, but there are a few tricks to watch out for.

1) The whole grains might exist, but they could be wayyyy down the ingredient list in a supporting, not starring role. In other words, you’re getting a mostly refined product with just enough whole grains so they can stick it on the label.

2) It could be whole grains that really don’t give you any health benefit. Take this Chex cereal, for example. The “whole grain” in this is “whole grain corn”. Which we know is a GMO product, full of pesticides, not to mention the fact that we already get too much in our diets, and its not a particularly nutrient-dense grain to start out with, but especially in its processed state.

(Then add in all the hydrogenated fats, canola/soybean oil, preservatives, and sugars in this cereal and I really couldn’t give a rip whether it’s “whole grain”, “gluten free” and has “no artificial colors or flavors”.)

This "cranberry/pomegranate" juice blend may be made with 100% juices... except that the great majority of those juices aren't cranberry or pomegranate -- they're apple, grape, pear and plum!

This “cranberry/pomegranate” juice blend may be made with 100% juices… except that the great majority of those juices aren’t cranberry or pomegranate — they’re apple, grape, pear and plum!

12. Made with…

Often the “real” thing a food is supposedly made with (ie. the cranberry in your cranberry juice, the fruit in a child’s fruit snack, the strawberries in the Strawberries’n’Cream oatmeal) is actually so far down the ingredient list you might miss it.

Which means there’s hardly any of it. Ingredient lists work by starting with the most-used ingredients then going down (in order) to the ones used in only very small amounts (like the salt, baking soda or spices).

And many times, the name itself has nothing to do with the ingredients at all. Take many maple-flavored foods. The maple flavoring is just that – fake flavoring and coloring, but NOT maple syrup itself.

I couldn’t help but pick on Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal and Instant Grits. In both instances, they don’t contain a speck of the food flavor suggested in the product name.

Screenshot 2014-12-29 13.34.32

Note the severe absence of bacon anywhere in the ingredients (although they do contain a fake, meat-subtstiute made out of soy, dolled up with some hydrogenated starch and soy protein, and artificial flavors. Mmm, I love me a strip of some artificially flavored hydrogenated soy protein.

Or how about this one…

Screenshot 2014-12-29 13.33.59

Again, this Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cup contains exactly zero maple syrup or even brown sugar. Instead you’ve got plain old white sugar fancied up with caramel color. Yummy.

Phew… did that make your head spin? Has all of the marketing mumbo-jumbo got you confused yet? Or angry?

What deceptive words or phrases have you noticed? How do you make sure that you don’t fall for their marketing?

Images from: ilovebuttertheimpulsivebuyJeepers Mediam01229. Top image by Tim Samoff.

101 Simple, Healthy Changes to Make in 2015

101 Simple, Healthy Changes to Make in 2015!

Are you eager to make changes that will help you and your family to get healthier this New Year?

I am, too!

One of the most exciting things about celebrating the arrival of a new year is the thought of a fresh start and reaching for new goals. There’s something so hopeful and even a little intoxicating about it.

But here’s my problem… I tend to make my goals too big. Too lofty. Too all-at-once, change-everything-in-my-life-in-one-fell-swoop. Know what I mean?

When it comes to healthy living, that’s not what I would recommend. Not at all.

In my own journey (which you can read about here), I had to take it slow. It was definitely a process, made up of small, but intentional steps, with a fair bit of stumbling and mistake-making mixed in.

I didn’t do it all at once. I didn’t revamp my entire life overnight.

That would have been too much for me, and chances are, it’s too much for you. That said, it shouldn’t diminish our desire to a) set big, awesome goals, and b) work diligently towards them.

Once we know what we want to work towards, we simply need to take it one step at a time. Little by little, we get closer to where we want to be. Each small habit we create, each substitution we make, each new skill we learn, it all adds up to saying “yes” to our health.

And no matter where you’re at in your journey, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at this for years, you can take that one next step. We all can.

This list is intended to be a little bit of inspiration, and a whole lot of resource, for you as you choose some next action steps to bring you closer to achieving your goals. Pick just a couple, or even just one. But then? Do that one thing. Make that change. Don’t sit on it. Go forward!


 101 Simple, Healthy Changes to Make in 2015!

Waste Less

1. Choose one of 29 ways to reduce waste in your home (not to mention save money while you’re at it).

2. Make the switch to using cloth diapers.

3. Stop buying paper towels and napkins.

4. Creatively repurpose and put some ideas to good use in a new way.

5. Ditch the wrapping paper and gift bags and go eco-friendly with your gift wrapping.

6. Start a mason jar collection (and pick from 31 ways to use them in your kitchen).

Time Saving Tips to Getting Real Food on the Table Fast |

Eat More Real Food

7. Learn to define real food.

8. Cut your kitchen prep time.

9. Take a simple first steps to eating real food.

10. Get better at finding real food in the grocery store

11. Pick a new strategy for helping your husband and kids transition to real food.

12. Give yourself grace to serve real food even in imperfect situations.

13. Save money on real food at Costco.

14. Pick of one these 5 frugal real food meals to make.

15. Choose a new time-saving tip to try for getting more real food on the table, and fast!


16. Try roasting a whole chicken (it’s simple!), then use the bones to make broth.

17. Find a new source for one of the foods on this list.

18. Check out how I would feed my family on a super-tight budget and gather some money-saving ideas for your own budget.

19. Make your own spice mix (choose 1 from this list of 17!)

20. Start using your crockpot to make something beyond the typical stews and casseroles.

21. Decide on a sweetener to avoid, and a new one to try, this coming year.

Real Food Substitutions

Make Quick Switches

22. Use your crockpot to make the easiest homemade yogurt ever.

23. Figure out what one small change you could be making and how to get over the barrier that’s holding you back.

24. Make any of these 20 easy real food switches and substitutions (they even come with a printable chart).

25. Choose one of these 21 strategies for cutting down the sugar you consume.

26. Commit to one simple way that you can improve your digestion and gut health (this is a change that goes a LONG ways towards greater health overall!).

27. Switch out one or two of your pantry staples for these healthier choices.

28. Find a simple homemade recipe to learn to make (and breathe easy about the ones you don’t make!).

5 Ways to add more Friuts & Veggies into your diet COVER

29. Try out an easy recipe to help you learn to bake more homemade goodies.

30. Choose one of these 7 foods to avoid (and find our suggestions for alternatives to replace them).

31. Add more fruits & veggies to your diet with one of these five simple and tasty ideas.

32. Take just a few minutes to learn to properly read a food label.

33. Switch over one of these nine common kitchen products to get rid of more hidden toxins.

34. Make just one of these ten quick and easy household switches.

35. Make a plan to avoid just one of these four, toxic fake foods.

6 Steps to a Naturally Clean Home

Clean Greener

36. Make just one of these 67 homemade, all-natural cleaning recipes.

37. Take a baby step to having a naturally clean home.

38. Add one of these frugal, non-toxic cleaning basics to your grocery shopping list.

39. Or if you’ve already got those basics, try out one method for using them in your home.

40. Freshen up your carpet with this super simple, 2-ingredient recipe.

41. Try out this clean-as-you-go method for keeping your shower and tub naturally sparkling.

42. Save your kid’s clothes, your time and your sanity with this little stain removal trick I use.

43. Just one of these homemade kitchen cleaners removes a whole bunch of toxins from this important place in your house.

44. One of these two-minute air freshening sprays will do wonders in your home.

DIY All-Purpose Cleaning Solution

45. If you make nothing else, this DIY all-purpose cleaning solution is a multi-use winner.

46. Why do all the work? Let the sun whiten your whites.

47. Whip up a bottle of this 2-ingredient (well, 3 if you count water) natural stain remover that really works.

48. Need to disinfect after winter illness? Try one of these two non-toxic disinfectants.

49. Dealing with old stains? Here’s a safe and easy method for getting set in stains out of (almost) anything.

50. Stop pouring toxins (and money) down the drain. Make your own better, cheaper, safer 4-way soft-scrubber.

51. Already cleaning naturally? Speed up the process with these time saving tips for non-toxic cleaning.

52. Choose one of these 5 ways to detox your laundry routine.

DIY All-Natural Facial Cleansers

Love Your Skin (Naturally)

53. Take a stab at making your own deodorant with this simple, all-natural recipe.

54. Get inspired to make some changes by reading through my own personal (and frugal) beauty routine.

55. Need anti-dandruff treatment? Makeup remover? Check out these safe & natural beauty products you can make at home.

56. This is one of the simplest ways to “make” your own shampoo and conditioner ever.

57. Got oil? You can make a facial cleanser that works like a charm (and feels like a spa).

58. Remove this harmful product from your home and your hand-washing.

59. Your kitchen probably already has the 4 ingredients you need to make these all-natural facial cleansers.

60. Make one out of this long list of skin scrubs, toners, cleansers, masques and more – all easy, all naturally nourishing.

61. Do you use toner? It’s fast and easy to make and so good for your skin.

DIY Skin Soothing Salve {}

62. Got chapped or irritated skin? This DIY skin soothing salve is the perfect solution.

63. Save money by using regular kitchen oils to make luxurious skincare products.

64. Keep your skin healthy with tips and recipes for the winter months.

65. Give skin brushing (and its many benefits) a try.

66. Make our homemade foaming facial cleanser (for a fraction of what you’d pay to buy it).

67. Pamper yourself (or a friend) with some homemade belly butter for pregnant mamas.

68. Evaluate your need for sunscreen and the products you’re using (and even make your own).

69. Whip up a batch of incredibly awesome hard lotion bars and lip balms (so easy my kids can do it with me).

70. Want the ultimate healing salve to put on any owies? Create your own DIY organic herbal salve.

71. Treat yourself and your skin to this simple, inexpensive homemade cocoa body scrub and body butter.

72. Take some simple steps towards safe and natural personal care by looking up what you’re already using.

5 Tips for Healthy Lunches Kids LOVE!

Raise Healthy Kids

73. Having a baby? Take the time to consider 10 decisions for parents of newborns that you might not have thought about yet.

74. Understand more about diaper rashes and how to heal them.

75. Determine a new way that you’ll be intentional about raising your kids to enjoy and eat real food.

76. Choose a safer bath product to replace what you’re using with your little ones.

77. Make healthier lunches for your kids by incorporating one of these five tips into your planning.

78. Get more of the good stuff in them with with these 45 real food snacks for kids.

How to Help Your Kids Kick the Screen Habit with "No Screen Month"! at

79. Help your kids kick the screen habit with a “No Screen Month”.

80. Find a new recipe for making healthy ice pops and frozen treats to remove grocery store and ice-cream man temptations.

81. Add a few ideas to your repertoire of on-the-go healthy snack ideas for your toddler.

82. Make a plan to include your child in the gardening this year and teach them to love vegetables more.

83. Come up with a family policy for how you’ll handle sticky situations like junk food at parties and celebrations.

84. Tackle your child’s picky eating with a gracious, balanced approach (that will still lead to good habits in the end).

ten minute workouts

Move That Body

85. Make an exercise plan that will actually work for you.

86. Already know the exercise you love to do? Take that and make it into a more consistent routine.

87. Stay motivated to keep reaching for your fitness goals, even when you don’t feel like it.

88. Pregnant? Tone those stomach and pelvic muscles for a more comfortable pregnancy and post-partum recovery.

89. Calling all busy moms: Stay fit with simple 10-minute workouts that actually work.

The Ultimate Natural Remedies Round-Up  {}

Keep Your Family Well With Natural Remedies

90. Start stocking your natural medicine cabinet with a few of the items on this list.

91. Give an alternative remedy a try before an over-the-counter prescription (like how I healed my son’s skin infection without antibiotics).

92. Add some clay to your medicine cabinet and give it a try in one of the eight ways our family uses it.

93. Dealing with MRSA? Here’s a safe, natural, inexpensive cure that’s definitely worth trying.

94. Learn a new natural remedy in this ultimate round-up of 65 recipes and tips.

Herbal Throat Lozenges for Cough, Cold, and Flu |

95. Soothe that sore throat with one of these five home remedies.

96. Or, ditch the cough drops and replace them with these homemade herbal throat lozenges.

97. Put together a small, natural first aid kit to bring with you when you go on the road.

98. Fighting ear infections? Try these holistic methods before you resort to other treatments.

99. Treat a nasty cold with one of these 10 natural cold remedies.

100. Fight the yuck this winter with our favorite herbal remedies for colds and coughs, stomach viruses and headaches.

101. Try one of our most popular remedies ever – the cold kicker. This stuff works.

What healthy changes do you plan to make in 2015?

Weekend Links


Links for this week:

3 simple lessons on bravery that I learned from Mary @ The Art of Simple

Frothy Peppermint Mocha {Nutrient-Dense} @ GNOWFGLINS

Instead of Cursing the Darkness, Let’s Be the Light @ Money Saving Mom

Zimtsterne: A Traditional German Holiday Cookie (Gluten-Free, Paleo) @ Mommypotamus

The Manger of My Heart @ (in)courage

What are some of your favorite family traditions for celebrating Christmas and the New Year?

Detoxifying Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Detoxifying Chicken and Vegetable Soup {}

By Stacy Karen, Contributing Writer

The indulgences of the holiday season are coming to a close and many of us are looking for simple ways to nourish ourselves and feel better.

Even if you played it safe and didn’t wander far into sugar land, you’ll still benefit from this nutritious mix of chicken, vegetables and broth.

Turmeric and ginger star in this healthy soup, providing immune boosting, detoxifying, and cleansing benefits.

Turmeric is especially useful as it contains anti-inflammatory properties. The excess sugar that is often consumed over the holidays can cause inflammation in the body (which is truly detrimental to your health).

Nourishing chicken broth is also extremely healing.

Detoxifying Chicken and Vegetable Soup Recipe


1 inch fresh ginger, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 1/2 cups butternut squash, cubed
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 cups spinach leaves
6-8 cups chicken broth
1 leek, thinly sliced
3 -4 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons coconut oil

 Detoxifying Chicken and Vegetable Soup {}


To make this soup easily, prepare the broth and chicken the day before. This makes everything come together quickly.

Slice all of the vegetables as described in the ingredients list above.

Place coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once melted, add the leeks, celery, and carrots. Saute for 5 or 6 minutes, until they begin to soften.

Add the mushrooms, grated ginger, and garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the spinach leaves and let wilt a minute or two.

Next, add the butternut squash and chicken, then pour in the broth. Add the salt, pepper, and turmeric and leave to simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until the butternut squash is softened and flavors combined.

To Make in the Crock-Pot:

Saute all the vegetables as described above, then add to a Crock-Pot. Add the butternut squash, chicken, and spices, the pour in the broth over the top. Cook on low heat for 3 hours or high heat for 2 hours.

Note: It is possible to make in the Crock-Pot without sauteing the vegetables first, but it won’t have the same depth of flavor. If you don’t have time to saute all the vegetables, at least try to do the leeks. The soup will also need to cook longer.

 Detoxifying Chicken and Vegetable Soup {}

What’s your favorite way to get back on track after the holidays?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through our links, we earn a small commission, which helps to keep this site going so that we can continue to offer free and useful content, so thanks!

Green Kid Crafts Giveaway: Win a 6-Month Subscription to an Awesome, Non-Toy Gift Your Kids Will Love!


If you’re in need of a last-minute, creative, fun and educational gift (that won’t fill your house with more stuff your kids don’t need), we’ve got a great opportunity for you!

Today, we’re giving away a 6-month Green Kid Crafts subscription!

Green Kid Crafts is a green company that provides creative and educational activities to do with kids through their eco-friendly Subscription Service, Craft Boxes, Birthday Activities, STEM Science Kits, and Creativity Kits.

With Green Kid Crafts, both parents and kids can enjoy sustainable arts, crafts, and science activities that spark creativity, build confidence, and cultivate respect and love for the environment. (Not to mention, have a wonderful time together, building special memories and having a blast!)


Stephanie reviewed this fantastic little subscription box for kids earlier this month and she loved it! Now you have a chance to give it a try as well!

To enter to win a 6-month subscription to Green Kid Crafts, simply fill out the form below.

Giveaway ends midnight, December 31st, 2014. 

Good luck!

Disclosure: This giveaway was generously sponsored by Green Kid Crafts, and we received a box for the purpose of review.

10 DIY Gifts to Make for Kids

10 DIY Gifts to Make for Kids {}

By Andrea Green, Contributing Writer

Looking to avoid the commercialism of the holidays? Want to give a gift that is fun yet meaningful?

Feeling crafty?

I’ve rounded up 10 DIY gifts to make for kids.

Some of these will require some basic sewing skills, but all of these are easy to whip up with inexpensive supplies.

10 DIY Gifts to Make for Kids {}

Games and Activities

Handmade Memory Game 

This handmade memory game has so many possibilities for personalization! Not to mention, this classic game provides plenty of entertainment for kiddos of all ages.

Felt Finger Puppets 

Whip up these felt finger puppets for hours of imaginary play time. The pattern is included. If your sewing skills aren’t up to par, consider using a little fabric glue and a Sharpie.

Homemade Playdough 

There are several homemade playdough recipes included here, from the edible to the classic!

10 DIY Gifts to Make for Kids {}

On The Go

Books on Tape

I adore this idea to make kiddos a personalized book on tape. This makes a priceless gift for those little ones, like grandchildren, who don’t live nearby.

On-The-Go Reading Pillow

Make the next road trip more enjoyable with this on-the-go reading pillow. It’s perfect for toting along a favorite story as well as providing a cushy place to lay your head.

Lego Lunchboxes

These Lego Lunchboxes are brilliant! Hit up your local Goodwill or thrift store to find an old metal lunchbox and these become quite inexpensive.

10 DIY Gifts to Make for Kids {}


Peppermint Lip Balm

If you have tweens/teens, this peppermint lip balm makes an excellent stocking stuffer or gift. Plus, it’s something you know they can always use!

Soap Making for Kids

Make clean up fun with these darling homemade soaps with toy hidden inside. The next thing you know, your kids will be washing their hands without having to be asked.

10 DIY Gifts to Make for Kids {}

Outdoor Enthusiasts

Zoo Scavenger Hunt or Outdoor Scavenger Hunt

Here are two scavenger hunt ideas just to get you started. The possibilities for making up a scavenger hunt unique to your kid and your area are endless!

Indoor Snowball Fight

Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who live someplace without buckets of snow? Who says you need snow for a snowball fight? These homemade snowballs are perfect for when you want to have a snowball fight without the frostbite!

Fort Kit 

I saved my favorite for last. I have countless memories of building forts. Both my girls loved to make forts. I know that this kit will be a favorite with any kiddo this holiday season.

10 DIY Gifts to Make for Kids {}

Do you have a favorite DIY kids gift you like to make?

Weekend Links


Links for this week:

24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness for Kids @ Coffee Cups and Crayons

One Thing My Soul is Begging Me to Do @ chatting at the sky

3 Variations of the Traditional Holiday Cheese Ball @ GNOWFGLINS

The Verse That You Need Taped To Your Refrigerator @ The Better Mom

Why Coca-Cola’s Fairlife Milk Isn’t so Fair @ Primal Pastures

Warm and Comforting Acorn Squash Breakfast Porridge @ Red and Honey

The Habit of Generosity: 3 Ways Giving Beats Receiving @ Michael Hyatt

I Want a Literal Seventh Day @ A Deeper Story

Merry Christmas to all of our wonderful readers! We hope you have a joyous holiday celebration!

Broccoli and Potato Frittata Recipe

Broccoli and Potato Frittata Recipe {}

By Leigh Ann Dutton, Contributing Writer

Breakfast is an important part of our family’s day. I have two little boys who can eat as much as grown adults.

Often on play dates, I pray that no eating will be involved. It’s silly, but the amount of food my little munchkins can put down always blows our new friends’ minds. Family members sit and watch our children eat in utter amazement and wonder aloud where the food goes!

Keeping my boys fed is a challenge for me. Quite honestly? It’s one of the hardest parts of parenting for me right now.

Saying that out loud feels so silly. I’m sure there are harder parts of parenting, but right now, this is just where I’m at.

Anyway, back to breakfast. Because my family requires a lot of food throughout the day, I’m always on the lookout for super filling, nutrition-packed breakfast ideas.

One morning while doing the Whole 30 Challenge, I woke up in desperate need of something other than scrambled eggs, fried eggs, hard-boiled eggs, or … oh the amount of eggs we consumed on this challenge!

So I did something quite typical and created something that sounded good in my mind. And out came one of the most memorable breakfasts we’ve had to date.

The only complaint I received was that I didn’t make enough. Go figure!

My 1-year-old loved this frittata and ignored his fruit (usually his favorite) entirely. My 3-year-old said, “This is the best breakfast ever, Mom!”

Quite the accolades for a sleep deprived mama!

The best part? I didn’t have to feed them a single snack before lunch! This Broccoli and Potato Frittata kept my boys full and satisfied all morning. Score!

If you’re looking for a simple recipe that packs a bunch of nutrition to add to your breakfast recipe list, then add this one. You won’t regret it. It’s delicious, simple to make, and did I mention delicious? Just checking.

Broccoli and Potato Frittata Recipe


  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped
  • 1/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream (coconut cream works too)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • Parsley, to taste
  • 1 potato, shredded


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt your coconut oil over medium-high heat.

Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You want to get that nice garlic aroma without burning the garlic.

Toss your broccoli into the pan and continue cooking for five minutes or until your broccoli is soft.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, water, salt and pepper, and turmeric. Stir in the shredded potato.

Once your broccoli has softened, pour the egg mixture into the hot pan. Give it a quick, gentle stir and sprinkle parsley lightly across the frittata.

Then, let it sit on the heat for two minutes or until the edges start to set.

Turn your burner off and pop the skillet into your preheated oven for 15 minutes or until eggs are cooked all the way through.

What is one of your favorite breakfast recipes?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through our links, we earn a small commission, which helps to keep this site going so that we can continue to offer free and useful content, so thanks!