Valerie's Blog

Sustainable Rice: Conventional Farming vs. Eco Farming

Rice is normally grown covered by water. Flooding helps suppress weeds in the rice paddies. The flooding also depletes the root systems of oxygen. Climate change is rapidly reducing the amount of water available for irrigation. With California’s current drought situation, the lack of water is a heavy burden on farmers. Rice is the number one crop here in Northern California where Mary’s Gone Crackers is based.

SRI stands for System of Rice Intensification. SRI creates a health ecosystem where the roots of the rice have access to oxygen and more nutrients. Average yields of SRI are 6 to 7 tons per hectare (2.5 acres). Some farmers experience up to 10 tons of rice per hectare! Traditional rice practices yield 2 to 4 tons per hectare. With sustainable farming practices, there is a 21 percent decrease in land required to produce 100 pounds and a 33 percent reduction in water used. Another added benefit is that there is a 90 percent reduction in required seed used. SRI methods are now being experimented with millet, wheat and sugar cane. This new farming practice deserves our support.

To learn more about More Crop for Drop and SRI, please visit our friend’s Lotus Foods website at http://www.lotusfoods.com/SRI/AboutSRI.aspx.

Resources

http://www.usarice.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=875&Itemid=450

http://www.lotusfoods.com/SRI/AboutSRI.aspxnull

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Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance and Wheat Allergy Explained

I can remember thirteen years ago when I was first tested for Celiac Disease. My blood test came back positive but once my small intestine biopsy came back negative they ruled it out. I always knew that something I was eating was making me sick. I began to avoid sandwiches and stopped having birthday cake since I knew eating it meant days of extreme sickness. Who wants to be sick on their birthday? At the age of 23, I decided to permanently remove gluten from my diet. This was the best decision I ever made, hands down. I watched my “unexplained” symptoms disappear. As the years pass, I am getting to know my body more and more. I recently stopped eating dairy, which I wish I had done when I gave up gluten. So, you might ask yourself, should I get tested for Celiac Disease? You can. But if you test negative, don’t rule it out completely.

Celiac Disease is an inherited autoimmune disease where gluten damages villi, the lining your small intestine. Celiac Disease often pairs with other autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, down syndrome and the list goes on. “People aren’t born with this. Something triggers it and with this dramatic rise in all ages, it must be something pervasive in the environment,” says Joseph A. Murray, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “One possible culprit: agricultural changes to wheat that have boosted its protein content”1. It is estimated that 1 in every 133 people have Celiac Disease. The most common symptoms of Celiac Disease are diarrhea, constipation, mouth sores, infertility, depression, skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis), among many others. The remedy for Celiac Disease is a life long gluten free diet.

Gluten intolerance is intolerance to gluten that does not damage the villi in the small intestine. Other health problems may result from this sensitivity. There is no diagnostic test available at this time. The most common symptoms are similar to IBS along with brain fog, depression and fatigue. While little research has been done to research long-term gluten exposure in patients with gluten intolerance, the best remedy is a life long gluten free diet.

Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to food containing wheat. Symptoms can be very serious including anaphylaxis, difficulty breathing and hives. Digestive discomfort may also be present including nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms I recommend an elimination diet. Remove all gluten from your diet for a period of one month. One month is long enough for most people to notice a difference in how they feel. The NFCA (National Foundation for Celiac Awareness) is a great resource for starting a gluten free diet.

1http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200393522456636.html

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5 Simple Tips to Avoid GMOs While Shopping

1. Buy organic. The best way to ensure you aren’t buying GMOs is to support and purchase organics. Organic always means non-GMO and is the best way to ensure you are eating the highest quality, pesticide free food. If you see organic advertised on the package or shelf tag you can feel assured that the product is free of GMOs.

2. Read labels. The best way to know what you’re really eating is become a label reader. The top five GMO crops in the US are currently soy, cotton, corn, canola and papaya. Other crops include alfalfa, sugar beets, milk (rBGH) and aspartame. Assume that if you see any of these in a product that they are GMO unless otherwise stated.

3. Expect to pay a little more for better quality. It’s proven that non-GMO and organic foods have better nutrition. Better quality food costs more. Choosing organic is one of the best investments you can make in your health.

4. Shop around. Some grocery stores have better prices than others on organic choices. Most larger chain grocery stores now offer an all-organic section in the produce department. The more popular organic becomes the more competitive pricing will become.

5. Educate Yourself and Others. Know which foods are being genetically modified currently and know which ones to avoid. It’s important to stay up to date as this list changes as more GMOs are introduced. This list is from Green America and the non-GMO shopping guide app are both great resources. Share your knowledge with others!

In good health,
Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers
Valerie@marysgonecrackers.com

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Holiday Food Safety

Meat Thermometer
Conscious eating is the most difficult this time of year. Eating consciously through the holidays also means being conscious of temperatures and safe food handling. Every year millions of people become sick from foodborne illness. Follow these simple tips below for a healthy holiday season.

If you plan to prepare meat for your guests this holiday season take a second to review this holiday food temperature chart. Purchase a meat thermometer while shopping if you don’t have one. Always wash your hands before and after handling meat. Poultry should be cooked to 165°. Steaks should be cooked to 145°. Ground meat should be cooked to 160°. Remember to thoroughly wash cutting boards and utensils after handling meat and seafood.

Not sure how long to keep leftovers? Leftovers should be consumed within three to four days after preparation. If you have more leftovers than you can eat within the recommended time, I recommend you freeze your leftovers as soon as you can after your meal. That way your food stays as fresh as possible. Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165°.

Once dinner is finished, be sure to store food as soon as it reaches a storable temperature within two hours. Make sure your refrigerator is kept at proper temperatures at all times. Adding too warm of food to your refrigerator can increase the overall temperature to dangerous levels.

 

For more tips on conscious eating, be sure to follow us on Facebook.

 

In good health,
Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers

 

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Healthy Sweets for Halloween

 

With the sweetest holiday of the year for children approaching us, it feels appropriate to write about sugar. The corn industry wants to constantly remind us that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is just as safe as other sweeteners. Why the constant reminders? Have you ever seen an ad on TV defending broccoli, or other nutritious whole foods for that matter?

Sugar is an addictive substance. Too much sugar has been shown to have a similar affect on the brain as drugs. The spike in insulin makes you want more and more which creates an endless desire for more sweets. This holiday season, pass on the high fructose corn syrup. Dr. Mark Hyman states, “If you find ‘high fructose corn syrup’ on the label you can be sure it is not a whole, real, fresh food full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.” Sugar free alternatives aren’t any better, but I’ll write about this in a separate post. Stay tuned!

Get the full healthy gummy bear candy recipe.This Halloween please choose organic treats. There are several organic candy companies that kids are sure to enjoy! Check with your local co-op or health food store for options. For a fun activity with your kids, make your own treats. Check out this healthy spin on gummy bears. Or try making caramel apples. Remember, sugar should only be enjoyed in moderation. If your child receives an excess of conventional Halloween candy, check with your dentist to see if they offer a Halloween candy buyback program. Many dentists will offer cash incentives for your child’s Halloween candy.  If your dentist does not offer a buyback program, you can refer them at halloweencandybuyback.com.

 

Healthy snacking!

 

Valerie Douglass, DTR
Valerie@marysgonecrackers.com

 

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Your Facebook Questions Answered (Part III)

 

We have such great fans! They reach out to us all the time through email and share their love for Mary’s Gone Crackers gluten free foods on our Facebook Page and Twitter account, and we do our best to answer every single question! Here are three questions from Facebook I took the lead on responding to:

 

FB Questions Jennifer
Hi Jennifer – Being healthy definitely does not have to mean being hungry. A healthy diet and lifestyle will make you feel energized and satisfied. Make sure to eat plenty of fiber, which will help you feel full longer and more satisfied. Quick ways to eat more fiber is to consume more whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits. Choose a diet with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, which can add plenty of variety to your new healthy lifestyle. As a simple start, try making our gluten free Black Bean Hummus which has loads of fiber and is a fun snack to make and have on hand when you’re feeling hungry and want to snack healthy!

 

FB Question Brenna
Hi Brenna – Thank you for your question. It’s so great to hear how much you enjoy our products. Mary’s Gone Crackers uses whole-grain brown rice over brown rice flour for many reasons. Brown rice in its whole form has more fiber and nutrients than brown rice flour. Whole-grain brown rice also adds great texture to our crackers and pretzels. Manganese, selenium and magnesium are plentiful in brown rice. These minerals are not as powerful in brown rice flour.

 

FB Q_Stephanie Schmidt
Hi Stefanie – That’s a great question! I find it easiest to snack healthy by choosing whole food snack. Some great snack options include: fresh fruits & vegetables (these can be sliced and bagged ahead of time in snack-sized proportions), natural nut butters, hummus, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Remember to keep your portions small. A snack is just enough to satisfy you until your next meal. Healthy snacking will come naturally in no time at all.

 

Keep your questions coming! If you want to send me nutrition, food or healthy snacking questions, post your question on our Facebook Page, send us a tweet at @GoneCrackers or email me directly at: Valerie@marysgonecrackers.com

 

In good health,

Valerie Douglass, DTR, Mary’s Gone Crackers

 

Image Credits: © 2013 Facebook – www.facebook.com/MarysGoneCrackers

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Top Tips for Organic Gardening

Valerie's Garden

It’s nearly summer here in Northern California, which means summer gardening season! This month I would like to share with you some of my tips for a summer plentiful with fresh fruits and vegetables.

1. Start with rich, organic soil. Providing your roots with good nutrition makes all the difference. Good soil will help you maintain a balance of water absorption and airflow.

2. Track the sun. Determine which areas of your garden get the most direct sun and which areas are more shaded. Plants like tomatoes and corn prefer direct sun and other plants like lettuce and other leafy vegetables prefer more shaded areas.

3. Use a seed chart to track your progress. This seed chart is a great way to remember when it’s time to start indoors, plant into the ground and when to expect mature plants. For short crops, have a plan for what to plant next. I have a section of my garden for quick vegetables like lettuce, spinach, cilantro and beets.

4. Grow plants that compliment each other. Plant marigolds near your tomatoes. Marigolds are a natural tomato worm repellent. They also protect your garden from white flies and squash bugs. Click on the image below for more garden ecosystem tips.
Garden Ecosystem Tips

5. Stay eco-friendly by recycling and reusing your containers from year to year.

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Your Facebook Questions Answered (Part I)

 

Back in April we asked our Facebook fans a question and got a flood of great responses:

Q: If you could ask our Chairman & Founder Mary Waldner for advice on one thing, what would it be?

Since we received so many great questions, I was asked to help us answer a few of the questions along with Mary! See my response to three of the questions below:

 

Hi Todd – I love your question! Having support is so helpful after diagnosis. I’m fortunate to have all the support I need working for an amazing gluten free company. I would strongly encourage you to not eat gluten ever again; the results are amazing! When I stopped eating gluten, my life completely changed. With Celiac Disease, if you continue to eat gluten, you are doing major damage to your body. Your health comes first! It is helpful to have the support of your family through your journey. Have you considered making family mealtime gluten free? Even though you are the only one with a Celiac Disease diagnosis, I’m sure others would benefit from a gluten free diet. With every meal, every bite, know that you are healing yourself. Hopefully your transformation will inspire others to join you on your journey to health.

– Valerie Douglass, DTR

 

Hi Patty – Bagels (gluten free and regular) are full of white starches, which can cause a spike in blood sugar. This spike in blood sugar can cause one to feel jittery after eating then fatigued then craving more starch/sugar as blood sugar decreases. This happens to me, which is why I try to avoid white starchy foods in my diet. To break this unhealthy cycle, choose foods high in fiber, protein and healthy fats. Opt for a whole grain cracker, like ours, instead! They pair great with organic cream cheese!

– Valerie Douglass, DTR

 

Hi Zack – Mary’s Gone Crackers are delicious with a wide variety of toppings. Some of my favorites are: goat cheese, hummus, guacamole, sardines, salsa, avocado, tuna and chicken salad. I eat a lot of our gluten free crackers! :)

You can also click here to see what some of our other Facebook fans recommend pairing their crackers with on our Facebook Page! – Valerie Douglass, DTR

 

Thank you everyone for your great comments and questions! I really enjoy reading them. If you have nutrition, food or healthy eating questions for me, post your question on our Facebook Page or email me directly at: Valerie@marysgonecrackers.com

Valerie Douglass, DTR, Mary’s Gone Crackers

 

Image Credits: © 2013 Facebook – www.facebook.com/MarysGoneCrackers

 

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Simple Steps for a Sustainable Diet

 

Does your diet sustain you or does it make you feel tired and weak?

“A sustainable diet protects, nourishes, and maintains the health of all people in our society so that we together can cooperate for a better world. There is a connection between a healthy society–one where all people are properly nourished—and planetary health.” (sustainablediets.com)

Below are four simple ways you can start to develop a more sustainable and nutritional way of eating and thinking about food.

 

Buy local. There’s no better way to get the freshest food possible than buying food that is grown in your area. By choosing foods that are in season, it’s much easier to have a more sustainable diet. Farmers markets are on the rise nationwide and are a great place to find local, sustainable food. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships are also a great way to enjoy local produce. This website helps you search for CSAs in your area by zip code: www.localharvest.org

 

Choose organic. Organic means free of pesticides, chemicals and GMOs. By choosing organic food, you can eliminate harmful environmental toxins out of your food and out of our soil. Going organic is also a great way to offset your carbon emissions. Click here to calculate your current carbon footprint.

 

Buy less-packaged foods. Californians alone generate 66 million tons of solid waste each year and approximately one third is from packaging. Buying less packaged foods is an excellent way to decrease your impact on the environment. Not to mention, a majority of packaged foods are generally less healthy than other fresh options.

 

Sustainable fish. If you’re unsure which seafood options are a good choice for your next meal, you can check the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch for continuous updates on the most sustainable seafood choices.

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Top 10 Greens

…for a healthy, sustainable, dye-free St. Patrick’s Day!

When it comes to holidays, it can be difficult to develop a menu that not only pleases all of your guests, but that’s healthy for them too. This is especially true for holidays where artificial additives tend to be top of mind – take St. Patrick’s Day for example. Lately I’ve seen a bunch of dyed-green foods being shared across social media sites like Pinterest and Facebook, so it inspired me to share a list of 10 alternative greens you can serve at your St. Patrick’s Day party. Cheers!

 

10. Honeydew

Honeydew is a nutritious melon. It contains vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate and potassium. This melon also contains a high level of water so it also helps to hydrate your body.

9. Celery

Celery is a high-fiber vegetable that is easy to eat as a snack. Celery also contains calcium. It works to help your body prevent high blood pressure and cancer, and also helps the immune system function optimally.

8. Green Beans

Green beans contain vitamins A and C. They also have calcium and iron. They’ll help your bones stay strong and help prevent anemia.

7. Asparagus

Asparagus is a high-fiber vegetable. Fiber in the diet will help you feel full too which helps you know when you’ve eaten enough. (Secret: Fiber also helps your body avoid constipation.)

6. Green Peppers

Green peppers are a rich source of vitamin C, an antioxidant. This vitamin helps keep skin healthy and works to heal wounds. Eating this green vegetable is a way for you to help your body prevent cancer too.

5. Kiwi

The kiwi fruit contains a strong level of vitamins C and E. It also contains magnesium and potassium. You can use this healthy fruit in fruit salads, as a topping on yogurt or cereal and in chicken recipes.

4. Cabbage

Cabbage is a common staple for St. Patrick’s Day, but you don’t always have to cook it – consider mixing it in with your salads or even sauerkraut. Cabbage is a great source of cancer-fighting compounds and vitamin C.

3. Spinach

Spinach is known for its high concentrations of vitamins A, C and E along with beta carotene and selenium that fight inflammatory and cancerous agents in the body. Phytonutrients and chlorophyll, also in spinach, help protect the skin and brain. Its high levels of potassium and folate support the central nervous system and can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Try steaming spinach and adding it to a soup.

2. Kale

Kale is a unique green closely linked to the cabbage family. Just one serving of kale contains the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) of vitamins A, C and K along with 5 grams of fiber minerals like calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium. The vitamin K in kale promotes normal blood clotting, a strong immune system and bone health. Add kale to a salad, blend it into a smoothie or bake kale chips. (Hint: Stay tuned for a surprise at the end of this blog post…)

1. Broccoli

An antioxidant rich food, broccoli contains beta carotene, vitamins C & E, folate, iron and potassium. It’s a terrific low-calorie food (only 33 calories per 4 ounce serving) for anyone.

 

Need tips for preparing these delicious foods or a few recipe ideas? Please connect with us on Facebook or e-mail me directly at Valerie@marysgonecrackers.com.

In Good Health,

Valerie Douglass, DTR

Mary’s Gone Crackers

From My Kitchen to Yours… Kale Chips

What You’ll Need:

Bunch fresh, organic kale

Olive oil (I use extra virgin)

Balsamic vinegar

Himalayan pink salt

What To Do:

Thoroughly wash kale

Remove the stems

Chop kale into one inch sections

Lay it out on a paper towel to remove excess water

Slightly spray a baking sheet with olive oil

Place kale on the baking sheet, evenly distributed

Spray kale lightly with olive and oil balsamic vinegar

Sprinkle lightly with pink salt

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes*, rotating kale half way through

Enjoy!

*Oven times may vary depending on your oven. Check often to prevent burning.

 

 

A Few of My Favorite Sources:

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