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4 Good Reasons to Buy Local Food

If you’re buying California-grown organic strawberries because you know organic food is better for the environment, then you might want to reconsider your purchase—or at least your motivations. While choosing organic over "conventional" does reduce the pesticide burden on the ecosystem, shipping organic food thousands of miles across the country creates an even greater environmental woe—fossil fuel consumption. Says Barbara Kingsolver, author of the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, transporting fruit from California to New York, for example, is about "as efficient as driving from Philadelphia to Annapolis and back in order to walk three miles on a treadmill in a Maryland gym." In a 2005 issue of the journal Food Policy, researchers stated that although organic farming is valuable, the fact that organic food often travels thousands of miles to get to our supermarkets creates environmental damage that outweighs the benefit of buying organic. Before the advent of the highway, most food was grown or raised on family farms, packaged or processed nearby, and sold in local retail outlets. Today, this has become the exception to the rule, as the average North American meal logs more than 1,500 miles from farm to table. Although this shift results in an exceptional selection at the grocery store, it causes a host of other problems. Taste, quality, freshness, and nutritional value all decrease, and the environmental burden balloons. So what’s the alternative? Buy local. Buying food that a nearby farmer has grown or raised uses far less fossil fuels, and the benefits don’t stop there. Locally grown food is also better for:

  • Your taste buds: Traditionally, farmers selected breeds of crops for their flavor and growing abilities, and let them ripen until ready to eat. Now, more often than not, breeds are selected for their ability to withstand the rigors of cold storage and cross-country transport and are plucked from the vine far before their time. This results in tomatoes whose flavor only slightly resembles tomatoes and strawberries that are strawberries in name only. Buying local will yield food so fresh and ripe that your taste buds won’t know what hit them.
  • Your health: The moment an item of produce parts from its mother plant, its nutritional value begins to decline. Produce at the supermarket has likely been in transit or sitting in the display case for days or weeks. Local produce was probably picked in the last 24 hours and is still in its nutrient prime.
  • Farmers: According to Stewart Smith from the University of Maine, in the year 1900, 40 cents of every dollar a consumer spent on food went to the farmer. Today, only 7 cents goes into the pockets of food growers. The remainder is spent on storage, packaging, marketing, and shipping. Farmers are struggling more than ever as a result. Buying directly from local farmers can help reverse this trend.
  • Your local economy: In his book Eat Here, Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, Brian Halweil states that, in comparison to imported produce, "a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy." All that extra money circulating in your neck of the woods translates into better schools, safer streets, and nicer parks perfect for picnics with all the healthful foods you purchased locally.
Buying local also means buying what’s in season in your area and not buying what isn’t. Thanks to modern supermarkets, we’re so accustomed to having what we want when we want it (watermelon in April, asparagus in September and tomatoes in the dead of winter) that eating any other way sounds like deprivation. Yes, getting used to tomato-less winters can be a challenge. You'll soon realize that tomatoes taste better when you’ve waited for them, not only because they’re at their season’s best, but also because you’ve waited. Kingsolver says, "It’s tempting to reach for melons, red peppers, tomatoes, and other late-summer delights before the summer even arrives. But it’s actually possible to wait, celebrating each season when it comes, not fretting about it being absent at all other times because something else good is at hand." The variety of a local, seasonal menu is a boon to your health, too. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) recommends choosing a variety of foods, to cover all of your nutritional bases. Eating local fits the bill. There is no strict definition for mileage of local food, but generally anything grown within a 50- to 100-mile radius is considered local, and obviously, the closer the better. The best source for it is your local farmers market. You’ll find veggies, fruits, meats, and cheeses, and you’ll get to buy them from the hands that picked, dug, fed, or cultured them. Depending on what you’re buying, the price may be higher or lower than you’ll pay in a supermarket, but it will always be fresher and tastier. To find a farmer’s market near you, check out Another option is to join a buying club. Farmers deliver many orders to one person’s home (or another centralized location), and the rest of the club members pick up from there. To find a buying club in your area, visit, select your state, and look for the "Beyond the Farm" link at the top of the page. It will take you to a directory of buying clubs that exist in your state. Local food isn't just another passing trend. While it might be difficult or impossible to buy all of your food locally, any amount of local food you can find and purchase will still benefit the health of your community, the planet, and your own body, too.Article Source:

5 Ways to Prevent Food from Going to Waste

Food spoils--and quickly! When thinking about your own kitchen, you may not view the food you toss or the leftovers you never eat as money down the drain, but food waste has a major impact on your bank account and the environment. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that "American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. The cost estimate for the average family of four is $1,365 to $2,275 annually." Fortunately, you can start at home and do your part to help curb food waste. You’ll be thinking green and stretching your dollars further at the same time. Some simple changes can have big effects! Here are a few ideas to get you started. Create a plan—and stick to it! Meal planning is a critical step to help you spend less and waste less. When you know what you're going to eat today, tomorrow and this coming weekend, you will only purchase the foods you need at the store, preventing you from buying foods on a whim only to have them spoil before you eat them. Creating the plan isn't enough—you must stick to it if it's going to work. Setting your sights for making chili next weekend is great, but when you lose track of time during the week and let the veggies wilt, you are throwing away more than spoiled food; you're wasting your money, too. Stay on top of your planned meal schedule by keeping a calendar on the fridge to remember what’s on the menu each day. When planning, account for all the foods you have to buy and creatively use them throughout the week. Use that eight-pack of whole-wheat hamburger buns for a cookout one night and tuna sandwiches for lunch the next day, for example. Scrape your scraps. Look for new ways to use food scraps. Instead of throwing away half an onion or extra bits of carrot, store extras in a container in the freezer. Once you’ve saved enough, boil them in water to make your own homemade vegetable broth that you can use when cooking rice and soup. (You can also compost your food scraps.) Don't like the heels of a loaf of bread? Chop them up and bake your own croutons, or dry them to use as breadcrumbs. (Your heart will thank you, too! Most store-bought breadcrumbs still contain trans fat.) Leftover bits of chicken, fish, shrimp, or tofu can be used in a soups or salads the next day. If you have a dog, you may be able to treat her to certain scraps from fruits, vegetables, and meats as a treat, but check with your vet first. Plan to preserve. Consider preserving your own food if you don't have time to eat it before it goes bad. Pickling, canning, drying (dehydrating) and freezing are all ways to extend the shelf life of many fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. We often only think of cucumbers when it comes to pickling, but in reality, almost any vegetable can be pickled. Canning your own fruits, vegetables, sauces and soups can be a fun family event, and it can make farm-fresh foods available all winter. Raisins are dried grapes, but have you ever considered drying mango, pineapple or apple slices? This can be done in a food dehydrator or on a low setting in your oven. However you do it, drying fruit is a great way to make your own grab-and-go snacks and to prevent fruit from going bad. The freezer is often underutilized. Bread, scrambled egg mix, leftover coffee, tea, and broths can all be frozen for later use. Your homemade soup, cooked rice and other dinner entrees can also be frozen if you don't have a chance to eat the leftovers in time. Try using an ice cube try to store single serving pieces of purees, sauces and beverages. Freeze leftover coffee for an iced coffee drink, or a cube of frozen veggie broth to whip up some gravy later in the week. Make smoothies down the road by freezing mashed or chopped fruit. Almost anything can be frozen except for canned foods in the can (although they can usually be removed and frozen) and eggs in the shell. The USDA’s Freezing and Food Safety information sheet offers tips on freezing food and thawing it successfully. Keep your eyes on the size. Serving up the correct portion size can help stretch you food dollars and eliminate waste created from uneaten portions—not to mention cut calories for weight management! You should be getting two servings from each boneless, skinless chicken breast. If you’re cooking for one or two, cut your meat into the correct portion sizes and freeze the rest that you won’t eat right away. Stick to these proper portions to feed more people per dollar and cut down on what you may be scraping off the plate! Compost. Throwing away (or composting) food should be your last resort if you can't eat it or preserve it first. When food lands in a landfill, it's out of sight, out of mind. So what's the big deal? Well, food and lawn waste makes up 25% of all waste in landfills, which are so densely packed that oxygen isn't readily available. When oxygen is lacking during the decomposition process, the food emits methane gas, which is 20 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. All this methane is bad for the environment, and the inhospitable conditions of landfills make it difficult if not impossible for natural materials like food to break down properly. Each ton of organic matter we can divert from a landfill can save 1/3 of a ton of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the environment. Plus, composting can provide you with your very own "black gold" for free, allowing you to condition and enrich your soil, saving money and turning your food into nutritious fertilizer that will nourish future plants. If you can’t think of a way to utilize extra foods and food scraps, composting is a better alternative than the trash. Think of it as a way to save the nutrients you’ve paid for by transferring them into new foods as you garden! Many foods can be composted, and it's a lot easier and sanitary than you might think. Check out SparkPeople's Composting Guide for Beginners to get started. Overall, reducing food waste requires you to become more aware of what you’re tossing and come up with creative ways to utilize the scraps—or prevent them entirely. Becoming a leftover king or queen, being a savvy shopper, and serving up proper sizes will all help you become a more efficient user of food, saving you money and helping preserve our natural resources. Selected Sources: Garden Compost from Freezing and Food Safety from Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill from the NRDC Article Source:

The 8 Best Fast Food Breakfasts

You know that breakfast is important, but when you're in a pinch in the morning, sometimes fast food is the quickest option. It's no secret that fast food isn't the healthiest or most nutritious option, but when it's the only option, whether you're traveling or running late for work, it helps to know how to make the best choices. Some menu items are definitely better than others. There are countless grab-n-go restaurants, each offering a different menu from the next, and with a little searching, you can find one option at each location that's lower in fat, sodium and calories than the others. Many fast food breakfasts can provide enough fat to last you all day, enough saturated fat for three days and sodium in levels that will make your blood pressure spike just looking at them. So how do you make the right choice? Do your research before you're in a pickle so that you know what to order for your quickie meal. Nearly every fast food restaurant lists nutrition information on its website, and SparkPeople's nutrition experts have done the research for you, listing the best options (or lesser evils) for each restaurant in our Dining Out Guide. And here, we’ve put together a "best of breakfast" list to guide you through your morning. And with the heftiest breakfasts out there racking up around 1,000 calories, placing a smart order can help keep you continue achieving your goals even when you’re pressed for time. When you’re ordering, look for keywords that will tip you off to selections that are higher in fat and calories. High-fat meats like sausage, bacon and steak are sure to add grams of fat (and saturated fat) to your breakfast. A bit of cheese on an egg can fit into a great calorie level for a meal, but extra cheddar topped on a breakfast sandwich or burrito can send it over the edge. Some restaurants add sauces to their meals that can amp up the calorie level, so stipulate no sauce or sauce on the side, if possible. Any menu choice with a biscuit will usually be higher in the calorie and fat department than English muffins or toast. One thing you won’t find when you’re looking at the drive-thru menu is the presence (or amount) of trans fats in each food. Many restaurants have eliminated trans fats from certain menu items, a smart move because trans fat is now known to be the most unhealthful fat you can consume. It's so bad, that experts are saying we shouldn't eat any, yet some restaurant foods contain up to seven grams of trans fat. This is information you’ll need to seek out before you place your order. Trans fat should be avoided whenever possible. If the nutrition facts on a restaurant website don't list trans fat, be wary. Below, we’ve done a bit of research for you by picking one breakfast item from each of eight popular fast food restaurants. None of these breakfast choices are ideal in terms of nutrition or health promotion, but if you’re going to choose fast food, these items have the fewest grams of fat, trans fat and calories at their respective locations. Note that the sodium levels are still quite high, as they are in most fast food options, so select lower sodium foods throughout the rest of the day to balance out your total sodium intake. Restaurant & Menu Item Calories Total fat Saturated Fat Trans fat Sodium Arby's Egg & Cheese Sourdough 392 12 g 3 g 0 g 1,058 mg Burger King Ham Omelet Sandwich 330 14 g 5 g 0 g 1,130 mg Carl's Jr. Sourdough Breakfast Sandwich 460 21 g 9 g Unknown 1,050 mg Chick-Fil-A Chicken Burrito 410 16 g 7 g 0 g 940 mg Hardee's Frisco Breakfast Sandwich 420 20 g 7 g Unknown 1,340 mg Jack In The Box Breakfast Jack 290 12 g 4.5 g 0 g 760 mg McDonald's Egg McMuffin 300 12 g 5 g 0 g 820 mg Subway Cheese Sandwich 400 17 g 7 g 0 g 940 mg None of these items should be part of your diet on a regular basis, but as the occasional treat or breakfast on-the-run, you can make them fit into an otherwise balanced and healthy diet. For more healthy and quick breakfast ideas that you can grab from your own kitchen, check out these speedy morning meal ideas. And remember that with a little planning, breakfast can be quick, easy, and healthy. This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.Article Source:

Loving dad transforms son's wheelchair into 'Ghostbusters' Halloween costume

Jeremy Miller’s dad designs the best Halloween costumes for him, and we think this year’s costume is the most impressive yet.

Eight-year-old Jeremy was born with spina bifida and he relies on a wheelchair to get around. Every year for Halloween, his dad goes all-out, designing a custom costume.

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This year, the California boy will be driving around the neighborhood in a "Ghostbusters" Ecto-1 car. The vehicle even features a working siren.

Last year, dad Ryan Miller built Jeremy a Star Wars Snow Speeder.

Rogue squadron! #starwars #costume A photo posted by Ryan Scott Miller (@ryansmiller) on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:52pm PDT

The year before that, Jeremy was Captain America riding on his signature motorcycle.

Jeremy in his wheelchair as Captain America on his motorcycle! #halloween A video posted by Ryan Scott Miller (@ryansmiller) on Oct 25, 2014 at 8:56pm PDT

Another photo on Miller’s Instagram shows Jeremy dressed as a pirate in a pirate ship.

Jeremy and the Neverland Pirates! A photo posted by Ryan Scott Miller (@ryansmiller) on Oct 20, 2012 at 5:51pm PDT

Miller says the elaborate costumes give Jeremy a welcomed confidence boost.

"When he’s out at school and things like that, he has his friends, but sometimes they run and they just leave him behind," Miller told the Today Show. "Part of the reason we do this is because people come to him, so he’s the center of attention, and he loves it."

Miller says he’s happy to brighten his son’s Halloween in whatever way he can.

"He’s a great kid and he’s able to do so many things that just astound us. This is just another way to help him feel special and help him realize that even though he can’t do some things, he can do a lot of other things that are great."

Check out a slideshow of Jeremy's costume below:

Amazing Ghostbusters Ecto1 Wheelchair Halloween Costume

Therapy dogs in Halloween costumes a real treat

A group of costumed, four-legged visitors to a hospital in Iowa brought treats, no tricks.

On Oct. 12, dogs participating in UnityPoint Health’s Animal-Assisted Therapy program sported Halloween costumes as they made their rounds, greeting patients and staff at the hospital.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Our Animal Assisted Therapy dogs are in the spirit of October and dressed up for #halloween before their rounds at the...Posted by UnityPoint Health - Des Moines on Wednesday, October 12, 2016  

According to UnityPoint Health’s Facebook page, Thor, Champ, Cooper, Marco Polo and Cheer participated in the Halloween-themed visit.


Walmart pulls controversial 'suicide scar' costume makeup amid complaints

Walmart has pulled one of its controversial Halloween accessories after critics slammed it as making light of suicide and self-harm, according to multiple reports.

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More than 600 people signed a petition to have the costume, called "The Razor Blade Suicide Scar Wound Latex Costume Makeup," pulled from Walmart's online listings.

"This is not just a disgrace to the sensitivity to those who suffer from self-harm, but a shame on Walmart for making light of the situation," the petition said. "Suicide is not a joke, not a costume, and not funny. … Many people are life-long sufferers of self-harm. Many are bullied, and now they are being bullied by Walmart. This has to stop."

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The petition was closed Sunday after Walmart released a statement disavowing the costume makeup and pulled it from its online listings.

According to Walmart, the costume was listed on its website by a third-party seller.

"The costume is appalling and it was unacceptable for a third-party seller to list it on our marketplace," Walmart employees said in a statement released to WABC. "It clearly violated our prohibited items policy and we removed it yesterday morning when it was brought to our attention."

WABC identified the third-party seller as BlockBuster Costumes LLC. In a statement on the company's Facebook page, BlockBuster Costumes announced it had taken the offending costume makeup off its website.

"To those contacting us about our suicide costume we've removed the offending product from our site," according to a post made Monday. "It shouldn't have been marketed as such."

Could one season of youth football affect a child's brain?

Millions of children suit up every year to play youth football, but a new study raised concerns about the impact on their brains after playing a single season.

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Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center analyzed the number of hits to the head that a player likely received over the course of a season. They suited up 25 players with helmets with sensors inside to measure the frequency and severity of the impacts.

The researchers recorded every hit at every practice and in every game, monitoring to make sure they were contact hits and not players dropping a helmet.

Researchers analyzed brain images before and after the season.

Dr. Chris Whitlow, an associate professor and chief of neuroradiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and the study's lead author, said there were changes in the brain’s white matter, which he defined as "the different wires that connect the different parts of the brain for function to take place."

The more hits the head took, the more change doctors said they saw.

"These are not changes you would be able to see with your naked eye," Whitlow said. "These are very, very subtle changes."

Whitlow said there are still many unanswered questions and parents shouldn't be alarmed.

"There's a lot of things we don't know," Whitlow said. "We don't know if they persist. We don't know if they go away after the season. We don't know if there are even more changes if people play multiple seasons."

Those answers could be years away. Researchers say more information is needed to understand whether the changes could lead to negative long-term health issues.

13 Workout Leggings Under $50 That Won't Fall Apart

Workout gear is one of those things you don't really want to spend a lot of money on. But as activewear—or, dare we say, "athleisure"—continues to be a huge trend, the cost of cute leggings is skyrocketing. Luckily there are still plenty of brands creating affordable gear that's not only fashionable (hello, pretty patterns!), but functional. We rounded up 13 pairs of our favorite leggings that won't break the bank—but will stand up to dozens of workouts and washes without falling apart. Because it's not worth spending a dime on new leggings if they end up shrunken, stretched out, or see-through after just one wash. Amirite? Freedom by C9 Champion Performance Legging Photo: C9 Champion These tights (shown above in pink Camo Romance) are high quality without the high price tag. They feature flat seams (a.k.a. no chafing!) and four-way stretch, so they're extra comfy during low-impact workouts like yoga or Pilates.Available at, $27.99. Old Navy Go-Dry High-Rise Compression Legging Photo: Old Navy You know when a pair of leggings hugs your body in all the right places? These are that. Feel free to bust out a super-sweaty workout (the stretchy, snug fabric is also moisture-wicking) or simply throw these on to Netflix and chill.Available at, $15-$16.97. Under Armour HeatGear Armour Leggings Photo: Under Armour The perfect pick for a humid day or a hot yoga class, these super-light leggings feel like a second skin. Plus, thanks to antimicrobial technology, sweat-drenched workouts won't leave you stinky.Available at, $44.99. Reebok Workout-Ready Reversible Legging Photo: Reebok You can't beat two for the price of one. Turn these maroon tights inside out for a deep berry hue, or opt for purple-violet or gray-black. The gym OOTD options are endless.Available at, $45. New Balance Accelerate Capri Photo: New Balance Whether you're an early bird or an after-work warrior, these are the leggings for you. The flash of reflectivity on the front and back makes them a good choice for low-light runs, while the drawcord waist makes it easy to dial in the fit, no matter your body type.Available at, $44.99. Aerie Move Legging Photo: Aerie The color-block pattern on these leggings is not only super stylish but also super flattering. Did we mention they come in a range of sizes, from XXS to XXL?Available at, $19.98. VS Sport Everywhere Capri Photo: Victoria's Secret This cropped legging lives up to its name. You can top them off with a workout tank to hit the gym or an oversize cable-knit sweater and boots for a cute and casual look. Available at, $34.50. Asics Essentials Tight Photo: Asics Everyone needs that go-to pair of basic black tights for running or training. These are yours. They'll match nearly everything in your workout drawer, and the full-length leg offers a little extra coverage and warmth when temps start to drop. Available at, $39. H&M Sports Tights Photo: H&M When you can make a fashion statement at your favorite studio class, it's a win. But don't be surprised if you feel tempted to wear these floral tights long after the gym. They're that cute. Available at, $24.99. GapFit gFast Performance Cotton Hybrid Capris Photo: Gap Get the look and feel of comfy sweatpants in a fitted legging. Although we wouldn't recommend these for extra-sweaty workouts, they'll be your new favorite pair for low-intensity exercises like a brisk walk or your favorite barre class. Available at, $42.95. RBX Active Color-Block Yoga Leggings Photo: RBX Active Did we mention color-blocking was in? What's cool about this pair is the mesh outer pockets on each side, so you have a safe place to stash your phone and small essentials when you're on your way to namaste. Available at, $34.99. Plus-Size Fila Sport Maui Workout Leggings Image: Kohl's Turn heads with a bold, eye-catching print. The supportive performance spandex makes these perfect for medium- to high-impact exercise, while the high-rise waistband sits comfortably at your natural waist. Available at, $32.40. Forever 21 Active Mesh-Paneled Leggings Photo: Forever 21 Look, we never thought we'd be shopping at Forever 21 after college either. But the truth is: It's a good place to nab a trendy piece for less. Mesh panels and heather knit are hot right now, so grab these leggings for a designer-inspired look without dropping designer-level dollars. Available at, $22.90.

SeaWorld penguin receives customized wetsuit

 Guests who are looking to visit Antarctica at "Empire of the Penguin" at SeaWorld will soon note that one of the penguins stands out from the others.

The penguin is wearing her own wetsuit. Maria Barreto, a wardrobe craftsperson, created a wetsuit for the penguin. Not only did the female penguin look stylish, but she looked very comfortable and excited as she swam side to side underwater.

"I'm happy that everything is going OK, and they approved that she can wear this to keep her warm,” Barreto said.

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The penguin is wearing a wetsuit because she has lately experienced feather loss on the side of her body and on her back, which can also affect penguins in their natural habitats and wild populations, officials at SeaWorld said.

Because of this heartbreaking experience that the penguin was facing at the time, the penguin had a hard time controlling her body temperature. The new suit will keep her warm in the water and wherever she goes.

She can also sleep and eat with her fellow penguins while wearing the suit, SeaWorld said.

SeaWorld officials said they enjoy using everyday technology to care for each and every animal.

T.J. Dray, an aviculturist at SeaWorld, said he hopes to use the wetsuit for other animals who have experienced situations like the female penguin.

"We care for each of these penguins individually. So being able to make that kind of a difference for her is really cool,” Dray said.

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