If you or others in your family have a food intolerance and you’re expecting a new family member, NOW is the time to act. Whether you’ve discovered your current baby or child has a dairy intolerance or milk allergy, is gluten-intolerant, or reacts to soy, nuts or other foods, you will be making major changes to your diet. Your weekly grocery shop will never be the same! You will become intimately acquainted with food labels and the ‘numbers’ that food manufacturers hide behind when adding the nasties to basic foods.
You will also be amazed how many foods contain a milk or wheat product to give it more substance or enhance the taste! A few shockers included crisps, gravy, stock cubes, bread crumbed food, cereals, sweets and processed meats. Then when you take a look at the products that are manufactured on ‘production lines also manufacturing soy, milk, wheat, nut products’ you’ll start to wonder what you’ll ever be able to feed your family again.
Be prepared for any new addition to have some intolerance as well. That’s where NOW is a very good time to start changes in your own diet. What you eat feeds your fetus for nine months and if your unborn child has a tendency toward an intolerance the food you eat will lessen or increase that intolerance. Play safe.
When faced with the dilemma of a child with allergies, it is far easier to start from scratch – slow cook from raw verifiable foods or feed raw finger foods. Shop for meats in a butcher who prepares the cuts for you that day. Ask whether they use preservatives in their mince or sausage products. If you shop for meat in a Supermarket you can expect that some preservatives are added to prolong the shelf-life, and shop assistants won’t have a clue.
Even supposedly non-gluten food like rolled oats may in fact contain gluten through cross-contamination from wheat in the location. Cereals are commercially grown in a rotation of crops where wheat is one crop. Wheat seed dropped during harvest may grown among rye or oats in a following harvest. Mechanical harvesters don’t discriminate when they harvest the next crop – they just gather the seed whatever the plant. Only grains that are grown exclusively on cropping land and tested for the presence of gluten can be relied on to be gluten-free.
Cook your baby foods from raw, adding little or no salt. Babies (and you) don’t really need it as a taste enhancer – we’ve just become so used to over-salted foods like crisps and crackers that our adult palates expect the extra taste boost.
Often the change in diet will improve the health of the whole family. Except from causes like celiacs disease, when gluten is an absolute ‘No-No’, an extreme reaction in one child will indicate that there is the likelihood of a level of intolerance in others. Afterall, all your children will have come from the same gene-pool and each parent has provided half that gene-pool. The chances of most of you having some intolerance to the offending food is high.
The diet change is likely to lead you too review other products you use around your children. What is in the creams and lotions you massage into their skins? What is in the fabrics you place against their skin?
Welcoming the new addition
Be aware that not everyone will understand the changes you’re putting into place. If you’re welcoming a new addition or holding a birthday party, be up front about your preferences.
Your friends should know that you want a green baby shower or birthday party, so include eco-friendly baby websites, stores, gift ideas, and wrapping suggestions on the invitations. Ask your guests to wrap the gifts in recycled or reusable materials, like a baby blanket or in a box that can later be used as storage. And if they are bringing food to share, ask them to restrict it to fresh fruit and raw vegetable nibbles.
You can also serve the food with regular dishes rather than disposable ones. Load up the dishwasher (not your rubbish bin) and celebrate with a clean conscience.
We have a food scraps container – so do most people. So how ‘eco’ is that? Our food scraps go into our compost bin where the local mice party and compete with the worms. However, our cat enjoys the hunting and quite often brings in his trophies very much alive. In effect he is recycling our scraps – peelings – mice – cat food! In less rural localities compost bins are not possible.
Some town or city centres have bins where food scraps can go and they’re turned into compost at efficient composting plants where no intelligent mouse would risk her/his life (and which, I assume, are free of cats). Applying compost to the garden from such a centre is much more wholesome. It all comes in plastic bags … oops … what do you do with plastic bags?
Now I know that a good eco-warrior would buy everything in re-useable or compostable containers, and we did start buying those woven bags put out by supermarkets in NZ. They’re supposed to cut down the number of plastic bags sent to the rubbish tip each year. I was all for that until I looked at the Made in China label. Hmmm a lot of fuel was used transporting them down-under. Instead we resolved to re-use plastic bags as many times as possible before disposing of them. Our dog helps out in that regard – we still send the bags to the refuse disposal system but it does contain some compostable material.
I’ve decided, it’s all about getting the balance right for the locality you live in and the options it offers. We will still compost and apply it to our garden in a bid to be as eco as possible. We will still use plastic but re-use the bags as many times as possible before binning them. And, where there is opportunity to use recyclable containers, we will.
We recently looked into installing a solar power system and found the option to be riddled with limitations. That’s not to say we are turned off (LOL) but we are certainly having to make some compromises. Here are a few things we have found out that make installing photo voltaic panels a challenge.
Solar panels are an inefficient way of heating water. Photo voltaic panels vary in their output but in conversion of energy for heating water they are less efficient than a water-circulating solar water heater. In the photo voltaic panels solar energy is converted into direct current that is then converted into alternating current that we can use in our normal appliances and lighting. A solar water heater has water in pipes that are directly heated by the sun or reflection. The hot water is pumped or rises to the water tank and is replaced by cold water. The water circulates becoming hotter and hotter the longer sunshine is hitting the pipes somewhere on the heater. Unlike solar voltaic panels a solar water heater can work even if the sun is hitting the water pipes at a low angle. Solar voltaic panels need direct sun or at no less than 30 degree angle.
Location and position are everything. Living on a hill in Golden Bay, which has high sunshine hours and no pollution, we should be ideal for solar panels. Not only do we have no large trees shading the roof, we also have the bonus of a large body of reflective water to up the ante. Unfortunately in the middle of winter our sun is obscured by a slight hill until about 10am. This is when we would really want some input. However, not all is lost, because at the height of the day one roof would be receiving full on sunshine and the other, at a slight westerly angle, would receive sunshine at lesser levels. So position-wise we would be fine. Except that the size of the panels is such that we cannot fit enough of them to cover what we are currently using in electricity.
On-the-grid options. If we go ahead with solar we can supplement our power from the power supplier. This means that during times when sunshine is not enough to meet our requirements we can use and be charged by the power supply for the power we use. Conversely, when our solar panels and producing more than we need we can give back to the grid (and store up credits for power we later use). Sounds ideal! But it doesn’t guarantee us continuous power. If the power supply goes down, and it is known to do so in our rural retreat, we lose power even if our solar panels are producing it at the time. The reason is that power company workers will assume they are working with dead lines, and if we’re busily feeding back into the grid – zappo chappo. So the minute the grid goes down our solar energy generation stops too.
Off-the-grid options. Ah ha! So what if we went off the grid completely? First, the installation costs are more expensive and we would have to install a large bank of batteries to store enough energy to maintain our household systems when the direct solar input is not enough – at night and on wintery days, of course. From an ecological point of view batteries are not okay. They last about 10 years before they need to be replaced. Then they and their destructive fluids have to be disposed of safely.
So now we are looking at:
- Ways to reduce our current energy use so that panels would cover our power consumption
- Ways to combine a solar water heater with voltaic panels for other power
- Whether to change our stove to an all gas model (LPG has its own green issues)
- Whether to add a wetback option to our wonderful Metro fire that has considerably reduced our winter power use (we use it for slow cooking and boiling the kettle)
Just watch this space as we explore the options further
A good site to check out is the NZ Government’s energy website: http://www.eecabusiness.govt.nz/renewable-energy/solar