Last June, the hubby and I spent an extra long weekend in New York City! It was my 30th Birthday (and his 36th) and I was 6 months pregnant, so not exactly up for a raging party – haha!
So as a combo birthday trip and baby-moon, we hopped on down to New York City for what was to be a wonderful vacation!
Some people are able to make modifications to their way of eating while on vacation, and while we can do that slightly, we more or less stick to what we know works best for us. That way we can feel our best and enjoy our trip to the fullest!
Usually we rent an AirBnB, VRBO or make sure to get a hotel with a kitchenette, and find a grocery store (ideally a Whole Foods) as soon as we get to town. And while we still did this, we modified it slightly because it’s NYC! A HUGE city with enough people to have restaurants to cater to every diet! So I did some research on restaurants that we could enjoy and picked an apartment located smack in the middle of all my amazing finds.
I’ve had many questions about where to eat in NYC so I thought I would (finally) make an actual blog post out of it! Here are all of the places where we enjoyed delicious food:
Hu Kitchen was my favourite place ever. It was pricey, but that’s what you get for high quality ingredients. As someone who is VERY sensitive to vegetable oils, being able to go out for a few different meals, and not worry about the subsequent inflammation (joint pain, ugh) was amazing.
We enjoyed roast chicken, paleo meatloaf, lots of veggie sides (with cashew cheese!), Jackson’s Honest Potato Chips (purple heirloom potatoes cooked in coconut oil), fair-trade organic coffee with coconut milk and maple syrup (there were so many milk/sweetener options) and some yummy paleo desserts. The hubs had a carrot cake whoopee pie for breakfast on his birthday, and I enjoyed a paleo blueberry muffin!
Paleo/Vegan Soft Serve Ice Cream
Another real-food restaurant that serves Bone Broth and lots of gluten-free options. But we went for the 3-ingredient ice-cream.
Chocolate Avocado & Raspberry Banana.
All dairy free and no junk.
Wild, sustainable fish burritos
Poke works was a little takeout burrito joint, that basically resulted in giant, customizable hand rolls. Wild sustainable sushi-grade salmon, avocado, veggies, sea greens and rice wrapped in a large sheet of nori. We each grabbed a burrito and enjoyed them in Bryant Park before walking over to Times Square to see The Book of Mormon, which was hilarious (and incredibly offside).
The best pizza I have had in my life.
Over 50 pizza options on the menu, 10 of which were gluten-free! Although a very strict no changes/substitutions rule, you are able to omit an ingredient. We had gluten-free pizzas that had mozzarella and sheep cheese, and omitted the mozzarella, because we don’t tolerate cow-dairy. They also had several gluten-free beer options!
This tiny, authentically Italian (direct from Napoli!) pizzeria in Greenwich Village is one of the top 5 restaurants I’ve ever been to in my life. And I’m lucky enough to have been to some really nice ones, because my parents, specifically my Dad, plan all their trips around the top restaurants in that city. Guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree eh?
We went here for my birthday dinner and we literally didn’t speak the entire time except to say “oh my goodness” and “holy $h!t” over and over. We’ve since sent many people there, both gluten-free foodies like us, and eat-everything-foodies, and everyone has had an amazing experience.
Whole Foods/Trader Joes
We rented an apartment right by NYU/Union Square, so we were a 10-15 minute walk from Hu Kitchen, Whole Foods, Springbone and Keste (priorities, amiright??). The first thing we did was stock up on groceries from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s on 14th. Making breakfast is always how we do things, because it’s hard to find quality breakfast restaurants. Not to mention, when you just get bacon & eggs, it seems expensive for something you cane easily make at home! And to be honest, I love waking up and having coffee and breakfast in my pjs! Especially at 6 months pregnant when I was moving a little slower in the mornings.
We stocked up on bacon, eggs, mango kombucha (a major pregnancy craving, one of my only ones), mixed greens, bananas, sheep-milk yogurt, cold brew coffee which we warmed up in a small pot (so we didn’t have to fuss with grinding coffee, or not having a coffee maker), coconut milk, maple syrup, Jackson’s Honest chips and some clean cold cuts for snacks.
Needless to say, we ate well. Very well. It cost us a pretty penny, but not any more than eating out at every meal. In fact, it was probably less than most people spend on food in NYC! Regardless, quality food is always a priority for us. In lieu of buying me a fancy 30th birthday gift like shoes, jewellery or a purse, we enjoyed every bite of every piece of food, without thinking twice about the cost!
Now, NYC is a unique place, because it is so big, with so many different types of people. So you can find restaurants to fit all diets from vegan to paleo, and all budgets from $2 street vendor meals to swanky high end joints.
But the approach we have travelled to places quite the opposite, and always find success. For example, we spent a week in Rocky Harbour Newfoundland for our honeymoon. Other than seafood, Rocky Harbour was practically a food desert, but we figured it out! Root veggies and broccoli rounded out our fresh seafood dinners every night, which we cooked on our BBQ at the little cottage we rented. It’s definitely possible to eat well, or eat in a way that will nourish your body within your limits, where ever you travel. It just takes a bit of planning. The longer you live this way, the easier it gets!
What tricks do you use for eating well on vacation?
FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a gardener. This is my husband’s project. He has a MAJOR green thumb, but he doesn’t have a blog, so I’m sharing his fun project with y’all today!
It’s smart to start seedlings indoors between 4 and 6 weeks before you plan to transfer outdoors. This depends on the plan, so make sure you research the duration of sprouting! Where we live, the golden-rule is to not plant anything outside until Victoria Day weekend (for my friends south of the border, that’s the weekend before Memorial Day). Even if it feels nice enough, Mother Nature will bite you with a random night of frost if you attempt to plant too early!
It is common to start seedlings in peat-pots or the classic plastic-cells. We’re not fans of the plastic-cells, for obvious reasons, but the peat-pots which are a great option, come with a price tag and do require energy inputs into making them. So instead, we chose egg-shells because they are free; they are incredibly environmentally friendly (especially because they were used twice!); they provide nutrients into the soil; and they are really easy to transfer.
1. Collecting Eggshells
We started collecting eggshells in March, being careful to try and crack the egg so that 2/3s of it remained in tact. This allowed for a fairly large little pot to fill with soil! Within a few weeks we had multiple dozens ready to go.
2. Preparing Eggshells and Soil
Once we had gathered enough shells, and the timing was right, the hubby rinsed all of the egg shells, poked a hole in the bottom (to allow excess water to drain and prevent drowning) and filled them with potting soil (ideally organic) making sure not to leave any air pockets. He moistened the soil every day for a few days, before planting, to bring it back to life (his words). Which means, to give any dormant microbes the change to wake up! Microbes are important for everything! Not just gut health!
3. Planting Seeds
Next, he planted the seeds at depth instructed by packages. He watered every day with a misting spray bottle, so as not to over or underwater, or displace the seeds. It takes a bit more time, but it is more effective.
4. Transferring Seedlings
Once the seedlings are mature enough, and when the weather is nice, he will transplant them into our raised garden beds.
Using a garden trowel or your hands, dig a hole large enough for the egg. As you place the egg into the hole, gently squeeze the egg to crush the shell. This makes space for the roots to escape! Gently cover with soil and pat down around the plant, being sure not to break the seedling. Make sure not to allow any air pockets in around the egg (which can result in fungal growth). You can avoid air pockets by firmly pressing down on the soil around the seedling.
(photo coming soon!)
NOTE: If a seedling outgrows the egg, because you planted them too early, or the weather isn’t cooperating, you may have to transfer them into a larger pot in the meantime. While it’s an extra step, the nutrients still go into that soil so make sure to dump the soil from the new pot into the garden when you eventually replant outdoors!
When you start down the path of more natural living and trying to detox your home, it can be a bit overwhelming as you realize how insidious toxins are. This can be especially scary for parents, or soon-to-be parents!
Note: as someone with a rigorous science degree, I’m careful of using the word “chemical” as a bad thing. Everything is made up of chemicals! So many scientific terms are misappropriated in common language. For the sake of this article, I am going to use the word “toxin” to describe chemicals that can be harmful to the body.
Pretty much everything we use is full of toxins – make up, perfume, dishwasher detergent, tile cleaner, carpet cleaner, air deodorizers, sunscreens, moisturizer, toothpaste, food containers, food, water… Like I said – overwhelming. I’m not going to get into what these toxins are and how they impact your body, because that’s a HUGE can of worms. Instead, I’m going to share my favourite products that I use on a daily basis, after years of trial and error! If you want to dig deeper, check out The Environmental Working Group, or read Slow Death by Rubber Duck.
I always recommend taking a slow, methodical approach to detoxing your house because it’s less over-whelming and less of a financial impact! So each time you finish a product, make a conscious effort to replace it with a cleaner one (either from the health food store/health section or make your own!) However, according to Gretchen Rubin what’s most important when making change is to know yourself. Are you the complete overhaul, 180 degree turn, all or nothing kind of person? Then go for it. Toss it all and replace accordingly! Once you figure out what works best for you, here are the main areas I recommend addressing.
1. Cleaning Products
Have you ever noticed how many different products you are told you need for your house? It’s all marketing friends. And marketing of some serious toxins. The majority of the ingredients in household cleaning products are hazardous – the warning is right there on the label. And the funny thing is, it’s totally not necessary! There are 3 amazing house-hold products that are just as effective at cleaning (both aesthetically and bacterially-speaking) as toxins, without any of the nasty side effects. These are:
Baking soda. Vinegar. Lemon.
There are a few additional ingredients that can be used too, such as borax, castille soap, washing soda and essential oils. But it really doesn’t have to be complicated. The cleaning products I use in my house are:
And that’s it…. honestly. Do you know how much money I’ve saved on products over the last 5 years or so? I wish I had the numbers, but it’s gotta be up there. I haven’t bought laundry detergent, or the ingredients to make it in over 18 months.
If you’re a little more particular and want some specific cleaning products for targeted areas (like hardwood, antiques etc.), check out One Good Thing by Jillee.
But there are lots of clean options if you visit a health food store! Be skeptical though. Green-washing is a major thing these days since “going green” is super trendy. Check the ingredients and make sure there aren’t any wonky ones like parfum, parabens, or sodium lauryl sulphate.
TOP PRIORITY: the strongest smelling product in your arsenal, or the one that makes you a little woozy if you don’t open the windows. Bathroom cleaners and deodorizers (Febreeze, Glade plug ins etc.) are often the worst!
2. Personal Care
First and foremost – stop using perfume/cologne. It is purely synthetic and made of almost exclusively dangerous toxins. Over hundreds of toxic chemicals that the company is not required to disclose – it’s proprietary info. It’s the number one thing you can do to reduce your toxin exposure. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, here are my favourite products (sort of in order of use during the day):
Shampoos & conditioners by Prairie Naturals. They have a variety of types based on hair-type. I personally use the avalanche line in the winter (helps with dry scalp) and the moroccan moon line the rest of the year. Some people have success with the no-poo method, but it didn’t work for me.
Soap by The Soap Works. I use this for my hands and any parts of my body that need a good scrub – like my feet if I’ve been barefoot! But honestly, I usually just use a loofa and water in the shower.
Toner – DIY. I dilute 1 part apple cider vinegar with 4 parts water and store in a little spritzer container in the shower. I use this on my face, neck, chest, shoulders and upper back. It tightens pores, but also helps mitigate blemishes. If my diet has been off a bit and I find some odour emanating from the armpit region, I’ll spray some on there too. I rinse off immediately after spraying!
Moisturizer – argan oil or olive oil (as part of oil cleansing method, see below)
Make up by Pure Anada. I love this brand. It’s Canadian and works so well. I used to buy it at The Big Carrot on the Danforth, but now order it online. It’s mineral make up, so it lasts me years. Other mineral-based make ups are great options as well. Just be careful not to inhale!
Deodorant – DIY. I used to use my DIY deodorant, but a client of mine makes her own and it’s the best I’ve ever tried. I’m working on getting her to sell it!! Before I changed my diet, healed my gut and balanced my hormones, I was a major sweater. It was bad. I never wore t-shirts. Grey was a nightmare colour. Ugh, it was the worst. So this was the last thing I changed. For the longest time I used Tom’s anti-perspirant – which still had the aluminum for reducing sweating, but the rest of the ingredients were pretty darn clean. I still sweat a fair amount, but not anywhere near what I did before balancing my body! I even own a grey t-shirt! That I wear on not very hot days… 😉
Perfume. I’ll be honest, I don’t use any. It was never really my style anyways, they always bothered me. However, I do sometimes use essential oils as perfume (especially blends designed for mood balancing like Peace & Calming if I’m going to an event which I know I’ll find overwhelming, or Valor if I need a confidence boost). Pacifica is an easy to find brand of perfume that is mostly essential oils.
Face-cleansing / moisturizer. I follow the oil-cleansing method which I learned in The Purely Primal Skin Care Guide. It works wonders for my skin (after a few weeks of adjusting) and I can’t imagine going back. It took a little trial and error to determine the right oils (which is complicated by the fact that winter and summer have different requirements – always have for me), but it’s amazing. Another way I save a TON of money.
Toothpaste – Earthpaste is my favourite (it does a great job whitening too), although we sometimes have Jason’s.
UPDATE: I am also including a variety of Beautycounter products as part of my regular routine. Click here to learn more.
TOP PRIORITY: anything that has the word “perfume” or “parfum”, followed by things that stay on your skin. So moisturizer is more important than shampoo.
Drinking/ice/tea/kombucha etc. This was a very important area for us, since it is a major area of exposure and our water is full of SOOOO much junk. As soon as we bought house, we did some digging into the best water-filtration unit. We were willing to spend thousands on a whole-house system, but after doing some research (made easier by The Wellness Mama) we ended up going with a Berkey. At around $450, it was perfect for our soon to be growing family. Easy to use and gets rid of everything we don’t want, while also remineralizing. Bonus is it’s free-standing so when/if we move, we can take it with us. The best compliment we received was from a friend who said our water tasted like the water on his parents farm (in a very remote area!) – especially cool since the water that goes into the filter smells like a swimming pool. NOTE: previous to the Berkey, we used a Brita which has its downsides but is better than nothing. As soon as the water filtered through I dumped it into a glass juice jug so it wasn’t sitting in plastic all day.
Shower/bath – we also installed filters on our shower heads, and bought a bath ball. This is important because we actually absorb more chlorine through baths and showers than drinking. One of the mechanisms for this is gaseous chlorine in steam gets inhaled and crosses the lung barrier. There are several options available at health food stores – we’ve used both the Santevia and The Original Bath Ball.
TOP PRIORITY: this is a tough one, I’d say both. But from a financial perspective, I’d do what we did – shower filter + basic water filter to start.
First and foremost, stop eating man-made, fake foods. It is a good idea to always avoid the following:
Food dyes / artificial colours (That means sprinkles, candy and common beverages like gatorade. There are dye-free options at health foods stores if you absolutely need it.)
After that, we purchase organic whenever we can. Not because organic foods contain more nutrients (although many do), but because of what they don’t contain – pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified DNA. The order in which we prioritize that is as follows:
Meat. This gets the top priority since it concentrates toxins up the food chain. Purchasing quality meat impacts your health, the health of the animals and the health of the environment. This includes animal-fats like lard, tallow, bacon-grease, duck fat etc. The fattier the meat, the more important, since toxins are stored in animal fat.
Dairy. We don’t eat dairy (both have serious allergies), but if we did, it would absolutely be grass-fed or organic for the same reasons as above. This includes butter/ghee.
Dirty Dozen vegetables & fruit. The reason this isn’t at the top, is if our budget is a little tight, we don’t buy these guys. We’ll stick to the veggies on the Clean Fifteen and buy them conventional.
Other produce. If the price isn’t too much different, I”ll buy the organic version of the Clean Fifteen – because it is better for us and the environment. However, if it has been flown across the continent/world, I won’t.
Other foods to consider buying organic include:
Corn. If it’s not organic, it has been genetically modified to secrete it’s own pesticide that damages the intestines of the pests that eat it, which kills them. (sound familiar?)
Soy. If it’s not organic, it has been genetically modified to withstand ridiculously high levels of RoundUp, so everything around it dies, but the soy doesn’t – it just gets covered in it and then we eat it! Keep in mind that RoundUp used to be used on lawns (remember the commercials??) and is now banned in areas like Toronto, because it is so toxic.
TOP PRIORITY:fake foods, followed by fatty cuts of meat.
Even BPA-free plastics. Plastics are toxins. End of story. BPA-free plastics have just had a different plasticizer used, that doesn’t have the drama around it. Same stuff, different day. The most important ways to avoid plastic include:
Temperature. Never heat food in plastic! Even for a few seconds! Don’t put hot food in a plastic container either. This includes leaving your water bottle in the car in the sun.
Acid. Highly acidic foods break down the plastic, which then leaches into your food. Tomatoes and citrus are the most common culprits.
Fat. Foods that are high in fat/oil also leach plastic out of the solid state. So whenever possible buy oils and nut-butters in glass.
Water. With the amount of water we need to drink, our exposure to plastic sky rockets. Recyclable water bottles start to degrade as soon as you open them, so definitely don’t reuse those. But even standard water bottles break down over time. Choose stainless steel or glass instead.
Dry foods are not nearly as much of a concern. So storing things like baking ingredients, grains (if tolerated) and spices in plastic isn’t something to worry about! For kids dishes – silicone is great option! Keep an eye on places like Canadian Tire, which often have sales on glass tupperware. Also start reusing jars instead of recycling! I wash salsa and nut butter jars, and reuse them for freezing food, DIY mayo and broth!
TOP PRIORITY: heating food in plastic.
Reducing your overall exposure to toxins is a process – trust me, I know! It probably took me a good 2 years to fully clear out my house of toxins. You don’t need to change everything all at once (unless that’s your personality type). Just making 1 or 2 small changes can have a huge impact. Do some research. Determine your priorities. Consider speeding up the process a bit if you are / plan to be pregnant or have little ones at home, but don’t stress! To help prevent stressing, at the end of each section above, I highlighted the top priority, to help you start your detoxing journey. Enjoy the process and learn as you go!
Please share in the comments below, what your favourite clean products are and where you find them!