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Simple swaps that can reduce toxins and improve your family's health!
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Natural Living can be accomplished in slow, intentional steps. You don't have to have an all-or-nothing mentality! #NaturalLiving #HealthAndWellness #Nontoxic #Household

If you’ve been thinking about making the switch to a more natural lifestyle, there are many things to consider.

Today, the definition of what is truly “healthy” can vary greatly, depending on who you ask and what you intend to accomplish.

I’ve been on a mission over the last few years to slowly incorporate more “natural” foods and household items into our daily routine.

To me, this is just as important as exercise and a balanced diet.  (If you’re looking for exercise tips here, you’ve landed on the wrong post, I’m afraid!)

However, I am definitely what you’d call semi-crunchy (emphasis on the semi).  As much as I’d love to go all-organic, toxin-free, GMO-free everything all the time – it simply is not feasible for me at this time.

Natural living- how to implement healthy swaps in your home and habits. #NaturalLiving #Healthy #NonToxic

 

Part of this is due to the increased costs some of these items (not all).

And like a lot of people, I choose not to dive all-in with the crunchy lifestyle for practical reasons.

I’m a busy, working mom of four and I just don’t have time to do all the things necessary to be green 100% of the time, you know?  🙂

For example, we used cloth diapers for a while, and right now we’re not.  And I’m ok with that.

I’d also love to ditch paper towels and save the Earth (well, mostly money) but I need them to save my sanity at this point in my life.

So instead, I look for simple swaps in the areas I’m most concerned about – balanced with what I fits into my budget and lifestyle.

Related Post:  5 “Must-Have” Crunchy Baby Items and their Practical Alternatives

 

A Practical Mom’s Guide to {More} Natural Living

Here are some of the practical things I’ve done in recent years – slow steps toward what I call “incremental natural living” which involve reducing toxins and using more products and foods that occur in nature – instead of those created in a lab.

The things on this list are super-practical, easy to implement and some are even quite cost effective!

Take a look at these ideas to see what changes you might want to make for you and your family this year.

Natural Living Tip #1:  Switch to fragrance-free or naturally scented products.

There is a BIG difference between synthetic fragrances (made in a lab) and natural or plant-based fragrances.  If you see the word “fragrance” in products you buy, this means it’s the chemical form.  (“Parfum” is another term you’ll see.)

Otherwise, it will specifically state “peppermint essential oil” or “vanilla” or some naturally-scented substance that you can actually understand on the label.

In general, there are very few mainstream cleaning products, bath and body products, air fresheners, etc that contain natural scents.  People want nice-smelling stuff, and it’s simply cheaper to mass produce the chemical form.

The word “fragrance” can contain up to 3,000 chemicals, many of which are known toxins linked to cancer, birth defects, not to mention allergies and asthma conditions which are increasing at an alarming rate worldwide.

For years (like 15), I suffered from chronic sinus infections which were brought on by allergies.  Strong fragrances seemed to be a trigger for me, and would also trigger headaches at times.

Just about 2 years ago I started researching possible allergens in my home and fragrances seemed to be a common thread in many articles I came across.  (You can read a few examples here and here.)

It wasn’t long after I slowly started switching my household products to naturally scented, plant-derived or unscented varieties that I noticed a huge improvement in my allergies.

At this point, I haven’t had a sinus infection in over a year.  I previously had about two to three per year that would require antibiotics.

It’s important to note you can still have allergic reactions or sensitivities to “natural” scents and from products that are labeled “organic” and “plant-based”.

Unfortunately, you won’t usually know which scents/products might be a trigger for you until you try them.  In general, though, chemical fragrances are much more likely to be allergy-inducing.

List of common fragrance (and toxin-loaded) culprits to consider swapping:

Laundry Detergents & fabric softener :  I currently use Biokleen Free and Clear Powder for whites and Ecos Free and Clear for most of my other laundry. (see my detailed article here for more information on laundry products)

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Hand Soap:  See my DIY recipe here or try Honest Foaming Hand Soap. icon

•Sunscreen:  Two sunscreens that I recommend are Blue Lizard and Block Island Organics.  Blue Lizard is mineral based and good for water activities, and Block Island is a great organic everyday sunscreen that’s light and non-greasy – perfect to wear under makeup.  Both are fragrance free.

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For toxin-free skin care in general – also check out Block Island Organics‘ other products including facial cleanser, moisturizer and night cream.

Dishwashing soap/ detergent:  My favorite dish soap is Method dish soap  and Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Dishwashing Packs are the ONLY dishwasher tabs I’ve tried that are considered natural and actually work well for us.

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All purpose cleaners:  Try:  Method All-Purpose Cleaner Spray – I love this in the kitchen, it really makes granite shine!  I also love Rocky Mountain Oils’ new All-Purpose Concentrated Cleaner from their Ava Shield Line.  (Very frugal option – it lasts forever!)

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Floor cleaner:  Try a Shark Steam Mop (I’ve had mine for 10 years!).  It only requires water, although I add ¼ c. vinegar to the water for added disinfecting power (and to keep lime build-up at bay since we have hard water).

Candles, wax meltsThese natural soy wax melts work in wax warmers (just like Scentsy bars) and are scented with essential oils – minus all the toxins.

You can also find soy candles like these that are infused with essential oils.   Diffusing essential oils is another great option for a nice, natural fragrance in the home – as well as many other benefits (see #5 below).

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Related Post:  Crazy Laundry Facts (& other hacks) You Really Should Know

Natural Living Tip #2:  Reduce plastic use.

Several years ago, we were all told that we needed to choose BPA-free plastics to reduce toxin exposure, as this chemical is known to leach into foods and drinks, for example.

Today, the recommendation is that we should try to avoid plastic use as much as possible, especially in relation to food products, because the alternative chemicals that are now being used aren’t proven to be much safer than BPA.

While it’s really hard to avoid plastics all together, a few ways we’ve reduced our usage recently are:

Stainless steel cups:  I’ve recently switched to these cups for my younger kids to replace some of our old plastic sippy cups, by using these silicone lids (and these).  I was surprised at how easy they are to clean in the dishwasher (no plastic valves to take apart).

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For whatever reason, my almost-two year old is also drinking a lot more water.  I think they may be easier for her to drink from than the hard-spout sippy lids.

You can pair these lids with about any type of cup including glass cups if you’re brave!

Stainless steel water bottles for everyone else.  My girls take these to school and I never leave the house without filling one with water.

I used to buy plastic water bottles, but they’re so wasteful and with the potential concern of leaching chemicals, I don’t mind at all to wash these each evening.  (I use this brush for cleaning my bottles.)

Related Post:  Top 5 Natural Baby Products for the Natural-Minded Mom

Natural Living Tip #3:  Consider a remineralizing toothpaste.

There are some great non-toxic toothpaste options on the market today.  I’ve tried a few different brands over the last year and the one I’m addicted to is not a toothpaste at all – it’s a “toothpowder”.

I have to admit, I thought the concept was totally strange when I first heard of it.  And, it is a little strange- but amazing as well.

“Dirty Mouth Toothpowder” is made of minerals (plus other completely natural ingredients) that actually make up our tooth composition.  The theory is that tooth enamel can be strengthened and healed by putting those minerals back into our pearly whites where they belong.

How it works:  you simply wet your toothbrush, dip it into a small amount of powder and brush as usual.

It’s really amazing how clean your teeth feel after using it.  It’s almost like you’ve gone for a dental cleaning each time you brush, due to the powder’s mild abrasive property.

Trina Felber is the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (among other titles) who developed the tooth powder formula and founded Primal Life Organics.  Her daughter was about to lose a molar and she was determined to find a solution to save her tooth.

After researching what teeth are made of – and what they really need to be healthy – she developed this formula which actually reversed the decay in her daughter’s tooth.

The main reason I decided to try this product was because of the reviews I read stating it had helped others with sensitivity- and helped to whiten teeth without harsh chemicals.

I have had SO much pain from sensitivity over the last several years, and whitening strips aren’t an option with sensitive teeth either.  Just like my thinning hair, my tooth sensitivity seemed to get a little worse after each of my kids were born.

I was kind of intrigued by the concept so I initially bought a small sample size of the tooth powder to try out, and found that after 6 weeks, my tooth sensitivity was almost completely gone.

I’ve been so impressed with this product that 10 months later, I’m sure my friends are sick of hearing me talking about it. 🙂

You can check out Dirty Mouth Toothpowder here.  If you’re not sure what flavors to try, I’m a huge fan of the regular Peppermint and my kids all prefer the Kids Cool Orange flavor!

Natural Living Tip #4:  Take a second look at your feminine hygiene brands.

Did you know that because feminine hygiene products are considered medical devices, companies don’t have to provide a full list of what’s in them?

Much like the word “fragrance”, there can be a ton of chemicals hiding behind that pretty pink label including: phthalates (hormone-disrupting chemicals), bleach, dioxins, and pesticides that are considered carcinogenic.  Oh, and speaking of “fragrance”- there’s typically a ton of that as well!

I have to admit that until recent years I never thought about the dangers of modern pads and tampons, but there was enough evidence to convince me to make the switch.

What I’ve found is that there is little difference in the cost of organic or toxin-free products, so there was no reason not to give them a try.

I highly recommend Lola organic tampons.  You can get 15% off and free shipping on your first box with code:  FIRST15.

Another great option is the L. Organic brand at Target.  They are pesticide-free, chlorine-free, fragrance-free — free of all the junk you don’t want in contact with your body!

Many women also swear by menstrual cups such as Softcup, but let’s just say it wasn’t for me.

There are definitely some benefits to this invention, but just know that there is a huge learning curve if you decide to go that route!  If you read reviews and have more patience than I do, you might have better luck than I did.  😉

Although I’ve not been able to find clear objective evidence to back this up, I’ve heard from many women that switching to organic feminine hygiene has resulted in shorter, lighter periods, and less severe cramping.

More research will need to be done on this one, but it makes sense to me that since chemicals can disrupt natural hormone production, traditional brands (Playtex etc) may be causing more severe symptoms than we should be experiencing!

Natural living tips for reducing your family's toxin exposure.  Slow, incremental steps every family can take (even if you're not that green & crunchy).  #NaturalLiving #Toxins #Health #KidsAndFamily #Parenting

Natural Living Tip #5:  Get back to basics: Real sugar, real butter (in moderation).

Labels can be so hard to read and often misleading.

Take canned fruit, for example.  I know that fresh fruit is the best option, but I like to stock my pantry with a few cans of fruit and packages of applesauce for the end of the week when all the fresh fruit is not-so-fresh anymore.

(I only grocery shop once a week or less thanks to a consistent meal plan.)

If you read labels on canned peaches, there are usually four choices:  peaches in heavy syrup, peaches in light or extra-light syrup, “sugar-free”, and peaches in 100% fruit juice.

Heavy syrup typically contains real sugar, but also corn syrup (definitely unhealthy) totaling a whopping 19 grams (4.75 teaspoons) of sugar per serving — or almost 17 teaspoons of sugar in a 15.25-ounce (regular-sized) can!

“Light” syrup and “extra-light” syrup are both lower in sugar, but even the extra-light version typically contains 14 grams, which isn’t a huge difference.

 

If you see the “sugar-free” label, this usually means that it contains a sugar substitute.  Currently Splenda (sucralose) is the popular choice because it’s calorie-free.

Obviously, if you’re a diabetic you need to follow your doctor’s recommendations, and just know I’m not speaking to certain medical conditions here.

But personally, I’d rather have a lesser amount of real cane sugar any day – than any amount of Splenda, which is made in a lab.

There are many studies showing potential negative health effects associated with these artificial sweeteners, including reducing good gut bacteria (good news for the probiotic companies, I guess!).

There’s also a more in-depth experiment on artificial sweeteners and gut health here if you’re really bored.  🙂

Be sure to read labels closely – fake sugar is everywhere- yogurt, soda (not healthy of course, but we all have our vices!) as well as breakfast items, ice cream and even chewing gum.

Going back to our canned fruit example — fruit packed in 100% fruit juice is the most naturally-healthy option.  This means it’s packed in nothing but the juice from real fruit with no added sugar- fake or otherwise.

Of course, this still adds up to around 14 grams of sugar from those natural juices and it will raise blood sugar, but overall it’s a natural source which also retains more of the fruit’s nutrients better than either cane sugar or artificial sweeteners.

If you’re buying applesauce for your kids, unsweetened is also the way to go.

It may take time for them to detox and learn to like it if they’re used to “original” applesauce though, at around 18 grams of sugar per serving!.  It was definitely a shock for me to find out how syrupy-sweet those little containers really are.

Our favorite applesauce to pack in lunches are Mott’s Unsweetened varieties (especially the blueberry and mixed berry) which are also sometimes packaged as Mott’s Healthy Harvest.

We also like the Simply Nature Unsweetened Applesauce varieties from Aldi, and the GoGo Squeeze Fruit & Veggies On the Go is another unsweetened option that my younger kids love.

 

Let’s talk about butter

Butter is another item you might use daily (or substitute for daily) so it’s an easy item to target if you’re wanting a more natural diet.

Real butter is higher in fat than margarine and other processed substitutes, but recent studies are showing that butter doesn’t deserve the bad rap it often gets and overall, it’s better for your health in moderation. Why?  Because it’s real food!

If you need to reduce your butter intake, a few good, real-food options include unrefined coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil.  But just because a butter substitute is a “plant-based oil”, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily healthy.

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Oils like canola oil, soybean and palm oil which are in many margarine-type products (and cooking oils) pose a much greater risk to health than butter due to their highly-processed nature and trans fats.

The bottom line is that butter will kill you a lot more slowly than its wanna-be counterparts.  Just scale it back below Paula Deen level.  🙂

Tip #6:  Try diffusing essential oils – in sickness and in health.

I’ve been impressed with the “power of the diffuser” in our home.

When we all caught a nasty cold/flu type of virus a few months ago, I kept a blend of essential oils (similar to Young Living’s Thieves) diffusing in the air, especially at night, and it really seemed to help us recover sooner and lessen the severity of our symptoms.

My go-to essential oils the past two years are the ones I buy from Rocky Mountain Oils.  The cost of other popular brands made essential oils nearly impossible for me to incorporate into my daily routine prior to this.

Rocky Mountain Oils are 100% pure and safe and as I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen a tremendous benefit from using them.

Some of my most-used oils that I use for general cleaning, hand soap recipes and diffusing are:  peppermint; orange, lemon and tea tree.

This blend is another one I highly recommend for purfiying the air (toxins and odors) and it also repels many insects!

As always, be sure to use as directed.  Many oils direct that you should only diffuse for a specified amount of time during the day.  On the Rocky Mountain Oils website, you can read about each individual oil and blend and their recommended uses.

I have the diffuser shown below.  It’s been a great (inexpensive) investment in our family’s health!

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I hope these tips are useful if you are working towards a healthier home in 2018!  What are some simple, practical steps you’ve taken to live a more natural lifestyle?  Share them in the comments below!

 

You might also like:

• 5 “Must-Have” Crunchy Baby Products – and their Practical Alternatives

• Cloth Diapers vs Disposables:  7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Decide

• Top 5  Baby Products for the Natural-Minded Mom

• An Honest Review of Monat Hair Care for Postpartum Hair Loss

 

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10 comments on “A Practical Mom’s Guide to {More} Natural Living”

    • Yes- I am in love with the dish soap. It doesn’t leave that slimy film that Dawn sometimes does. I think that Dawn is probably a little better for de-greasing for that reason, but after using Method for over a year I don’t notice the difference. We have very hard water where we live and I had trouble getting ANY dish detergent to work well. I should mention that in every cycle, I add a splash of vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher before I start it and that helps a ton. I know that results with any detergent will vary based on your water type and other factors. Our repairman told me to run hot water in the sink for a few minutes before starting the dishwasher and this has helped too. I guess it helps the dishwasher water to heat up faster and blast the food off more efficiently. 🙂

  1. Great article! I’m totally with you, it’s hard to be 100% green, and who even really defines what that is. Just by making small changes, we can have a great impact on the health of our family as well as our planet. I”m intrigued by the tooth powder. I’ll have to give it a try.

    • That’s great Dr. Ho! I’ve seen such a benefit from using natural scents versus the synthetic ones. Thanks for stopping by – and sorry your comment got lost in my spam filter or I would’ve responded sooner! 🙂

  2. Hey Brandi! I absolutely LOVE this post! I appreciate your transparency! I am a pretty crunchy mom myself but there are definitely times where things arent perfect and I DO BUY PAPER TOWELS TOO! These are all such great tips and YES TO REAL BUTTER! Thank you for sharing this! I am a new mom blogger at wahlnutmama.com. Its a blog about simple, stress free and natural living. I think we have some things in common so I will definitely be following your blog!

    • Yay, I’m not alone! 🙂 🙂 Honestly one of the best things about blogging is finding community. Thanks so much for stopping by – headed over to check out your site now!

  3. WOW, every one of these points I could’ve written! Right down to the stainless steel cups (I’m about to buy lol) and the brand of essential oils we use! (We just did an awesome giveaway of a bunch of Rocky Mountain oils for my blog relaunch!) 🙂 I love this post and am pinning! We are a lot alike, Mama!

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