Making Healthy Choices For Your Family

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Cozying up to Fall : Homemade Apple Crisp

Last Sunday, Joe and I went apple picking with friends in North Salem, New York. The orchard was bustling with activity, even at 10 A.M. so early in the season: fresh donuts, wood fired pizzas, lemonade and cider stands, pumpkin pies, and live country music. After wandering around the farm store, we grabbed our bags and strolled through the apple trees. We collected a few pears, but mostly McIntosh Apples. We even bit into a few of them right off the tree… sour deliciousness!

Now, with fifty apples sitting on our countertop, I was forced to sit down and make a list of apple recipes: apple pancakes, oatmeal, muffins, cookies, and our favorite, apple crisp. I came up with a low sugar, low fat recipe that is perfect for chilly Fall nights to come. Added perk? The recipe is packed with oats, a breast milk booster.

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  1. Peel and slice the apples and throw them in a bowl with cinnamon and half of the maple syrup. Mix well.
  2. Pour the apples in a greased dish. I used a large rectangular dish and it worked great.
  3. In the bowl, combine the remaining maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, oats, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Mix well.
  4. Spread the oat mixture over the apples and bake for about 25/30 minutes at 350 degrees F. The top should be golden brown and the apples soft.

Did you know? Cinnamon, like other ground spices such as cloves and ginger, helps lower your blood sugar levels and also helps to control your appetite. Sprinkle freely! If you are also a voracious, breastfeeding Mama right now… You’re welcome.

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Breastfeeding for as long as possible is my priority. Since my first day postpartum, I have been drinking Fenugreek tea (this one) and eating a healthy diet of protein, carbohydrates, and veggies.

Some great foods for breastfeeding are:

Salmon (Wild-caught only) – Like other fatty fish, salmon is loaded with a type of fat called DHA, crucial to the development of your baby’s nervous system. All breast milk contains DHA, but levels of it are higher in the milk of women who get more DHA from their diets.

Lean Beef (organic) – Nursing moms need to eat extra protein and vitamin B-12. Lean beef is an excellent source for both.

Blueberries and other fruit (organic)- Breastfeeding moms should be sure to get two or more servings of fruit each day. Blueberries are an excellent choice to help you meet your needs. They are filled with vitamins and minerals and give you a healthy dose of carbohydrates to keep your energy levels high. Other fruits I’ve been eating daily this summer are bananas, nectarines, mangoes, and papaya.

Eggs –  I eat eggs for breakfast three to four times per week. They are a versatile way to meet your daily protein needs. Opt for DHA-fortified eggs to boost the level of this essential fatty acid in your milk.

Whole Wheat Bread – Folic acid is an important nutrient in your breast milk that your baby needs for good health, and it’s crucial you eat enough for your own well-being, too. Enriched whole-grain breads and pastas are fortified with it, and also give you a healthy dose of fiber and iron. I buy Ezekiel bread.

Leafy greens – veggies like spinach, Swiss chard, and broccoli are filled with vitamin A, which is good for you and your baby. They’re also a good non-dairy source of calcium and contain vitamin C and iron. Green veggies are also filled with antioxidants and are low in calories.

Oatmeal – Oatmeal has long been recommended as a way for moms to increase their milk supply. Oatmeal has properties in it that help to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy blood pressure. These properties may also help with other functions in the body including lactation.

Here is my recipe for lactation banana muffins:

I made these muffins and was pleasantly surprised with the results… and so was my husband, who wasn’t expecting them to taste as good with such clean ingredients.

Here is the recipe I put together:

  • 2 cups quick oats (blended into flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 packets stevia (or honey, to taste)
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cinnamon apple sauce
  • 3-4 blueberries per muffin cup (chocolate chips or walnuts are also a yummy option!)
  • Peanut butter is another yummy option (2-3 tablespoons)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash the bananas and stevia, then add the remaining ingredients. Spoon batter into muffin liners. Bake for 17-18 minutes… and voila!

imagesESSENTIAL OILS in the Home

Essential oils have been used for centuries around the world (notably in China, Egypt, Greece, South America, Middle East, and Africa) and are still recognized around the world for their powerful therapeutic properties.

If you have any doubts about their power and efficacy, rub the bottom of your feet with eucalyptus radiata (also known as the Narrow-leaved peppermint) and fifteen minutes later, your breath will smell like eucalyptus. In other words, in only fifteen minutes, the essential oil penetrates your skin and makes its way into your body where it takes effect, and is then eliminated through your lungs.

Although their use has become more and more widespread in the home, they are also often used incorrectly. Below are some guidelines for the proper use of essential oils:

  • Always buy high quality oils (100% pure and natural) and of a reputable brand
  • Always test the oil on your skin before covering a large area of your body
  • Always wash your hands after applying essential oils
  • In case of accidental absorption, apply a greasy oil (olive, coconut, sunflower) on the area
  • Keep essentials oils stored in a safe, cool place in your home and out of the reach of children – they can be kept for as long as 3-5 years (depending on type)

If you catch early symptoms (notice you have a sore throat or pain in a specific area), treatment can be as short as 12 to 48 hours. For more significant issues, treatment can be continued from five days to as long as three weeks.

Essential oils have strong, overpowering smells and can be diluted by honey, olive, or coconut oil. For children and babies especially, essential oils should never be applied “neat” (directly on the skin) and should be mixed into a carrier oil (I recommend olive or coconut oil) immediately before application.

Rosemary herb flower and leaf sprig with aromatherapy essential oil glass bottle, isolated over white background.

The following oils are some of my favorite and I use and recommend them for a variety of issues. The names below will vary depending on common (English or French) and botanical name, so remember to look them up to be sure you are buying the right ones.

Ravintsara, Eucalyptus Radiata, Niaouli – This is my favorite and most used mix, especially in the winter months. I blend the three in a bottle and use the mix for anything cold or flu related. Ravintsara not only strengthens immunity and fights infection but also acts as an expectorant and decongestant. The great thing is that it can be used on newborns (1 week minimum!). Eucalyptus Radiata is great for seasonal viruses and epidemics (especially cold and flu) and is a known anti-viral, antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory oil. It also helps calm a bad cough and stimulates immunity (Eucalyptus radiata is very well tolerated by children over 3 years old). Niaouli is also an immunity booster, expectorant, and is known to help fevers drop.

Treatment: 3 drops, 4 times daily on thorax and nape of neck (approx. 3 days).

Oregano – This is the most powerful of all essential oils.  It is known as an antibacterial oil, but is also a very strong anti-infectious oil. It can even replace antibiotics in certain cases! It helps prevent contamination and stimulates the immune system. This oil can unfortunately not be given to children under 15 years old and cannot be used any longer than one week.

Treatment: Oregano cannot be ingested as an oil (too strong) and must be taken in the form of capsules, often no more than three times daily.

Tea Tree & Lemon – This is an amazing mix for sore throats.Because of its antifungal and antibacterial qualities, tea tree is often used for skin problems. However, its antibacterial and antiviral qualities make it perfect for treating nasal or respiratory infections like sinusitis, but also for colds and other types of infections. Lemon oil is best known for its ability to cleanse toxins from any part of the body and is used to stimulate lymph drainage, to rejuvenate energy, and purify skin.

Treatment – 3 drops in a teaspoon of honey — leave under tongue for 30 seconds to let it work its magic. Take mix every 5-6 hours until pain goes away.

Peppermint – The best for migraine and headache relief, peppermint oil gives a cooling sensation and has a calming effect on the body. It can relieve sore muscles when used topically, and due to its antimicrobial properties, can help freshen bad breath and soothe digestive issues as well.

Treatment – 3 drops applied around eyebrow/forehead area. Warning: do not apply anywhere near eyes.

Helychrysum, Gaultherie (Wintergreen) – The athlete’s mix. These two oils heat and relax muscles after effort. Ideal for articulation or arthritic pain.

Spike Lavender – Excellent oil used to provide relief from burns. Lavender can be used as an “emergency” oil that can heal burns and insect bites almost instantly. It is also used for psoriasis, athlete’s foot, articulation pain, rheumatism, and cramps.

Treatment: 3 drops on the affected area (three times a day). Reapply as necessary.


There are many, many essential oils out there for all types of issues ranging from stress, nausea, migraines, depression, and insomnia to arthritis, acne, asthma, cellulite, stomach pain, and ulcers. If you are interested in finding out more about essential oils and how you can use them in the home, do not hesitate to comment or e-mail me.

20150728_135658SUMMER LUXURIES : Local Farms

Since my mother has been living with us this summer to help out with Liam, we thought of researching some fun, natural things we could do around Westchester County. We hiked around the Irvington reservoir with the dogs, walked the Old Croton Trail (from Dobbs Ferry to Yonkers), and ate by the water in Ardsley at the VE Macy Park.

Coincidentally, we visited our doula and friend Katherine Anderson and she made a killer fruit salad with local fruits. It was incredible! The peaches/nectarines reminded me of the fruit I picked in the countryside in France when I was a kid: tender, sweet juice dripping down my face…

Two days later, my husband Joe, my mother, and I were driving up to Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction to pick some of our own.  Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 5.11.29 PM

We were blown away by the amount of nectarines and white peaches on the trees. They were everywhere! Although a bunch of them were still hard and not quite ripe yet, we managed to collect a good amount of tender ones. We couldn’t help but share one in silence beneath the trees.

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By the end of our day, we had collected green beans, snap peas, green and yellow zucchini, tomatoes, Chinese eggplant (the cutest little eggplants ever), nectarines, white peaches, and yellow plums. Let me tell you that the flavors were so incredible that I didn’t know how I could go back to eating fruits and veggies from Stop and Shop (or even Whole Foods!)

Picking our own fruits and vegetables was so satisfying: the idea that we were picking just enough for our family, working hard for it, learning how each one is grown… Truly an amazing, even emotional experience for the three of us.

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When we got home, my mother sliced the tomatoes, drizzled them in olive oil and pepper, and tested us. She cut some store-bought tomatoes from Whole Foods and some we had picked at the farm… Would we be able to tell the difference?

It was 100% undeniable that the farm tomatoes were better — from texture to smell to taste. The store-bought ones were rubbery and tasteless in comparison! We couldn’t believe the difference.
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After such an amazing experience at Fishkill Farms, we decided to give another local farm a shot: Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown Heights. Such a different experience, but just as gratifying! We drove home excited, our trunk filled with organic treasures.

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We picked our own tomatoes, lunchbox peppers (even crunched on a few in the field!), green and purple beans (below), carrots, russet potatoes, fairytale eggplant, garlic, pearl onions, lettuce, zucchini, and raddish.

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The aromas! The taste!

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I will never forgot the emotion that filled my heart when I dug out my first bunch of carrots. I truly felt connected to nature in that moment, inhaling the real, unaltered smell of a vegetable that usually seems so bland in supermarkets. I felt like I had a newfound appreciation of nature, as if I had never really known what carrots tasted like before that simple moment. I was relieved to see that my mother felt the same way.

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After two incredible experiences, I am beyond excited at the thought of bringing my son Liam to farms in the summers… to watch him learn about nature, the way that things are grown and cultivated, to sweat for the food we bring home to eat. It is such a luxury to be able to pick our own crops locally and I can’t wait to share the experience with him when he is old enough!
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Do you know of any local farms worth visiting?20150728_135610


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Baking Soda in the Home

You’ve probably heard of the surprising uses of baking soda for cleaning. I know I have. However, I never knew how efficient baking soda would be in comparison to other, more toxic products I was using (a.k.a bleach, for example) until I actually bought a few boxes and tested them out. Here are a few surprising things that I promise you won’t regret trying:

1. Laundry – Add detergent (like you usually do) and a half scoop of baking soda directly in the washing machine (I never wash a load without it!) Incredible results guaranteed.

2.  Produce Wash – Put some baking soda on a damp sponge, scrub and rinse.

3. Cleaning – To brighten a dull floor finish, dissolve ½ cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water. Mop and rinse.

4. Mouthwash – For a healthier mouthwash without all the toxic ingredients, gargle with baking soda, or use it as mouthwash.

Foods You Should Be Eating Organic:


When picking and choosing which items to buy organic at the supermarket, here are a few items you should definitely not skip, due to the high amounts of pesticides and/or health concerns associated with regular brands.

1. Strawberries – More than 40 pesticides have been found on strawberries. Due to insect threats, farmers spray strawberries more commonly than many other fruits and the residue remains on strawberries long after they’ve reached supermarkets.

2. Tomatoes – The thin skin of tomatoes allows pesticides to enter the fruit, so it’s always a good idea to buy organic when possible. Same goes for cherry tomatoes.

3. Greens – Spinach contains more than 50 different pesticides. (While frozen spinach has nearly as many, canned has had fewer detected pesticides.) I usually like to buy all of my greens organic, just to be safe (kale, arugula, romaine lettuce, broccoli, etc…)

4. Apples – More than 45 pesticides can be found in regular brand apples (due to fungus and insect threats that prompt farmers to spray them regularly on their orchards). These same pesticides are also found in apple juice and apple sauce!

5. Eggs – You should play it safe by sticking with organic or all-natural, free-range eggs. Testing has confirmed that free-range eggs are far more nutritious than commercially raised eggs.

6. Lean meats / Fish – We only buy organic, free-range, grass-fed meats. Are they more expensive? Yes. But it’s worth the expense. On my end, I refuse to eat animals that have been fed antibiotics or growth hormones. Same goes for fish. Always go for wild-caught fish (even if it says “organic”, never go for farm-raised.) Careful with fish that contain mercury or PCBs and those imported from countries where health, environmental or safety standards for growing or catching fish are weak and/or non-existent.

Fish Oil During Pregnancy:


In addition to my prenatal vitamins, I have been taking fish oil throughout my pregnancy. It has recently been discovered that omega 3 fatty acids are essential to a healthy baby’s development. Unfortunately, the American diet is lacking in omega 3’s.

The daily intake of Omega 3 fats is essential to maintaining the balanced production of prostaglandins, which help regulate physiological functions such as “blood pressure, nerve transmission, inflammatory and allergic responses, the functions of the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract and the production of other hormones” (

But what about for my baby? Omega-3s are essential for both neurological and early visual development of babies. Studies have also shown that higher consumption of omega-3s may reduce the risk of allergies in infants.

And in pregnancy? A daily intake of EPA/DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery, lower the risk of preeclampsia, and may increase birth weight.

Having an Omega-3 deficiency may also increase the mother’s risk for depression. Despite this, according to a 2006 national survey, over two-thirds of pregnant women and new mothers said that they had not received any information from their health care providers about the benefits of Omega-3 during pregnancy and postpartum weeks.

Fish oil can be found in cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and herring. However, with concerns about mercury and other toxins in fish, purified fish oil supplements are often the safest source available. (source:

Healthy Switch of the Month:


One thing is for sure, not all protein powders are created equal.

First things first, buy whey over soy proteins (soy protein contains plant estrogens such as genistein and daidzein, causing feminizing effects in the male body. Studies also show that soy reduces sperm count, increases inflammation, depletes the body of nutrients and disrupts thyroid function.) Second, buy a protein powder that does not contain artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame or sucralose (artificial sweeteners significantly increase the risk of many cancers like myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphomas and leukemia.) My protein powder is sweetened with stevia, a natural sugar with no calories derived from plant leaves.

Take a peek at Whole Foods — they have many healthier protein powder options without the unnecessary ingredients. Your health is worth the price!

Healthy Switch of the Month:


Here’s the thing, guys. If you use or eat something every day, it better be good for you. When I took a good look at the “butter” we had in the fridge (really only used on toast and bagels in the mornings), I didn’t like what I saw. Vegetable oils (the first two ingredients are soybean oil and palm/palm kernel oils) are extremely damaging to the reproductive system and the developing bodies of babies and children. Besides the amount of trans fats and saturated fats that oils like soybean oil and palm oil contain, they are also chemically produced, which means they contain harmful chemicals (such as BHA and BHT). These have been shown to produce cancer causing compounds in the body and have also been linked to liver/kidney damage, immune problems, infertility or sterility, high cholesterol, and behavioral problems in children. Vegetable oil often contains residues from pesticides and and the chemicals used in their growth most often come from genetically modified sources (

Believe it or not, vegetable oils are used in almost all processed food you can find in supermarkets. But why are they so common? And why not find a healthier alternative? Simply because the higher saturated fat content allows for greater stability at higher temperatures and better shelf life.

Coconut oil is a great alternative to vegetable oil blends. Coconut oil does not oxidize easily at high temperatures, making it a good choice for cooking and baking. However, coconut oil is pure fat (despite being “good” fat). Coconut butter, on the other hand, contains similar nutritional characteristics, but since it is made by pureeing raw coconut meat—not only the oil—it is not made exclusively of fat. One tablespoon of coconut butter provides 2 grams of fiber as well as small amounts of potassium, magnesium, and iron.

(Like the saying goes, though, “everything in moderation”. Coconut oil/butter is still calorie-dense—about 130 calories per tablespoon of oil and 100 calories per tablespoon of butter. They (unfortunately) aren’t magical foods that you can eat infinite amounts of!)

For Stretchmarks:

Option 1:

Fair Trade Shea Butter (Unscented)

Whole Foods, $13.99 (11 oz.)

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My favorite.

When I tell you that my body remains oily the entire day… I mean it! I lather it onto my belly, hips, butt, and boobs at night (or in the mornings, on weekends, when I have nowhere to go!) Still half of the jar to go and I’ve been using it during my entire pregnancy. Super rich, so you don’t need a lot. Almost 30 weeks pregnant and no stretch marks yet! Fingers crossed…

Option 2:

Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter

Amazon $12.99 (6.5 oz)

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When I’m on the go during the week, this butter (actually, more of a lotion) is my go to. It absorbs relatively quickly so I don’t have to worry about feeling sticky at work. I love its consistency, super creamy and soft on my skin.

Makeup Remover/Face Wipes:

Earth Science

Chamomile Green Tea Eye Makeup Remover

$6.50 (4 fl oz)

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Recently, I haven’t been wearing mascara (yes, I’m lazy, and refuse to spend 10 minutes at night wiping the gunk off my eyelashes now that I’m pregnant.) However, on days when I do decide to spruce up those lashes, I apply this very gentle eye makeup remover on a cotton pad and it naturally does the trick. (from Whole Foods, but available online!) Much better than the Neutrogena wipes I used before I got pregnant that would make my eyes become all red and puffy. No thank you!

Blum Naturals, $5.79 (30 count)


I love these face wipes… Super gentle on skin, certified organic… great for everyday use! I wanted to make sure that from day 1 of my pregnancy I was using products that were healthy for me and my baby. I switched all of my makeup too, put my NARS cosmetics away and replaced it all with brands like Ecco Bella, Dr. Hauschka, and Burt’s Bees. Funny thing is… now that I’ve found options that work for me, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to using makeup products full of toxic chemicals. Just isn’t worth it for me!


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Made entirely with essential oils and plants, this blemish stick is a nice replacement for other pore blocking, toxic acne creams. Warning: It does burn if you have an open wound.


Desert Essence Ultra Care Toothpaste

(Tea Tree Oil / Mega Mint)


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(All organic!)

Dr. Hauschka Mascara


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Ecco Bella PowderBronzer & Blush

($9.74 – $22.75)

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Watts Beauty Mineral Under Eye Concealer


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Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer


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Chia Juice

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In a juicer (preferably a slow juicer), blend the following ingredients:

– 1-2 handfuls of organic baby spinach

– 1-2 handfuls of organic baby kale

– 4-5 stalks of celery

– 1 organic apple

– 1 lemon (or half, depending on how sour you like it!)

– A handful of chia seeds (soak them in a glass of water beforehand! They will get slightly gelatinous in consistency and be easier to digest)

I love this juice because it gives me the perfect amount of greens without the aftertaste… The apple sweetens it and the lemon gives it a nice sour taste, which I love. The chia is just added bonus: my midwives recommend a diet high in protein, fiber, and calcium, with a good balance of vitamins and nutrients, all of which are present in chia seeds. Enjoy!

Vanilla / Banana / Peanut Butter Protein Shake


Like many expecting mamas, I have been struggling to get enough protein in my diet. I’ve been incorporating eggs as much as possible (hard boiled, egg salad, egg and cheese sandwiches, omelettes…) but sometimes, you just don’t feel like having eggs. I’ve been trying to eat a lot more organic red meat and chicken, as well as some fish (wild caught only! It’s important people.)This shake is an easy fix to get enough protein, especially in the mornings when you’re on the go:

2 bananas

1 scoop vanilla protein (mine is from Whole Foods, sweetened with stevia)

1 scoop peanut butter or almond butter (to stay full longer)

4-5 ice cubes

almond milk to taste (depending on how liquid/thick you want it)

Blend everything in a blender and serve!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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