All-Natural; What does it really mean?

It seems that almost every company today are claiming that their products are all-natural. You can find all-natural food, all-natural clothing, all-natural bedding, even all-natural hair coloring. But are these claims true? And what defines the word “natural”, actually? Webster dictionary describes natural as:  existing in or produced by nature : not artificial . So then what does artificial mean exactly? Well, Webster then defines artificial as: humanly contrived often on a natural model. So if you compared the two words, then it appears that artificial derives from nature. But good old common sense can tell you that artificial is usually man-made and not derived from nature. If all of this just sounds too daunting, then imagine what us as consumers can feel when it comes to buying natural products.

The natural food and products industry wasn’t very popular or prominent a few years ago. There was hardly a demand for them and the cost was too high. But as people across the world, and mostly in the United States realized the importance of eating more naturally, the business grew and became almost an overnight sensation. The government and private sectors all had an interest in the natural food and products industry and even mandated organic guidelines and labeling. However, the government has yet to mandate natural ingredients and that’s because there’s a fine line between what companies call their products as “natural”, and what us as consumers really think natural is. And the baffling part is – the owners, stockholders, and employees are also consumers, so wouldn’t they worry about their imprudent claims of their products being “all-natural”? Do they not serve those same products to their own families? Well, one would think so, but then money and power comes into play and us, the real folks who look for natural and organic products are left in the dust.

So how do you really know if a product is made from natural ingredients? In 1990, a law passed in the US that gave the FDA authority to require nutrition labeling of most foods regulated by the Agency; and to require that all nutrient content claims and health claims meet FDA regulations. The FDA is a pretty powerful agency within the United States Federal departments and when the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/Inspections/InspectionGuides/ucm074948.htm) was approved, I think most people rejoiced. Parents knew that the foods their kids were eating were going to be recognizable and they had a choice in whether to buy them or not – based on the list of ingredients. I, for one, always read the label of ingredients first before I buy anything and that goes for food, clothing, cleaning supplies, etc. But reading the labels can be a guessing game too especially when some ingredients do not use generic terms like, “whole wheat” or “apples”. In fact, some words that may look scary, like A. barbadensis is really just the aloe vera plant. So then how do you really know what is natural and why some people label ingredients using their Latin terms?

When it comes to food for instance, you should always make sure they are ingredients that don’t offer potential health risks down the line. For instance, artificial food coloring has certain dyes in them that can prove fatal for some people. Certain ingredients like aspartame, potassium benzoate, and high fructose corn syrup can cause harm to your liver and kidneys and make them work harder than necessary to process those toxic ingredients. Although some might argue that minimal ingestion is okay, when you think about it – if you ingest them minimally on a regular basis, then you’re taking in more than you normally should. And artificial ingredients do not have any essential nutritional benefits such as vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy. So when the big companies add nutritional content into their artificially-made food letting you think that you’re getting something better, well, you’re really not. Your best bet is to eat something that came from nature. After all, centuries of evolution proved to us that we as human beings, have learned something from our ancestors. And as we watch people get sick from eating too much junk we come to realize that eventually, we’ll have to make smarter food choices otherwise we might face health problems as we get older. My dad, who is a doctor, always conveyed his important message: “You may enjoy those foods now, but when your body gets older, you’ll regret it”.  But when we’re younger, we don’t really care whether that piece of chocolate cake was made from natural ingredients like whole wheat flour, eggs, and cocoa or made with Red 40 or Yellow 5 food dyes. And yes, as young and inexperienced as kids can be, there are many adults who are still oblivious to the dangers of artificial ingredients, or they simply don’t care. That’s why babies and young children need to learn early on that all those fun colors they see on their cupcakes and cookies aren’t necessarily good for them. Sure, they’re fun and tasty, but there are alternatives to those nasty ingredients.

That’s when the natural ingredients come in. Natural food coloring such as beets and purple carrots are used for many types of food such as beverages, frosting, and cakes and they are extracts of red beets and purple carrots. Much healthier than those old-fashioned synthetic food colorings and probably better looking too. Those bright red and pink colors on cupcakes were never really attractive to me in the first place and I steer clear from them whenever my son and I are grocery shopping. Other natural ingredients such as whole wheat flour are more beneficial to you than enriched wheat flour because whole wheat flour is made from the entire berry of the wheat which includes the bran and the germs and thus yielding all of its natural nutrients. Although enriched wheat was brought upon by a deficiency of vitamins and minerals in the US, if we eat food in their natural state, we are actually getting more out of them. Other favorite and popular natural ingredients such as brown rice flour, maple syrup, and sea salt are among the best-tasting ingredients you can find as supposed to artificial sweeteners, table salt, and white flour. And although table salt and white flour derives from salt and wheat, they are heavily processed and thus stripped of their natural nutrients, so in essence, they have become “man-made”.

So as we are getting more aware of natural food and natural products, we must also be aware of reading the labels on those natural food and products. Put the labels to good use – they’re there for a reason – so that you can make a sensible decision on whether to buy that or not for your kids. If you’re ever in doubt, look up the ingredients and determine if they are naturally-derived and if they are beneficial to your health. But be warned, there are also other natural ingredients that can harm you as well. My number one rule is – the lesser ingredients listed, the better. Unless the product your buying is meant to include more all-natural ingredients for taste and nutritional value. Some whole wheat breads contain not only whole wheat, but oat flour, barley, and honey for nutritional benefits.

And as much as we would love to cook all of our meals from scratch, in reality, we really can’t. Time, resources, money, they all factor into the convenience of buying food made by food companies. We just have to be wiser, look harder, and decide what is really natural enough for us and how much of it we should eat. After all, sugar is still natural, but that doesn’t mean we should be pouring it down our throats either. We as parents, even more so, must teach our children to eat more naturally and to make healthier food choices when they are grown up.

Now, how about those natural cleaning products? Well, that’s another story for another time!

Mambo Sprouts – your resource for healthy and organic food and products!

Many years ago finding organic and all-natural food and products wasn’t all that easy – unless you grew them or made them yourself – most of the time you had to depend on conventional foods in regular supermarkets. Although conventional foods aren’t so bad, as long as you know what you’re buying, as years grew by however, the popularity of organically-grown foods and natural products became more prevalent. Natural grocery stores were popping up everywhere and farmers markets were becoming the norm. But finding organic food and natural products can be difficult sometimes especially if you don’t have the resources or the income to purchase them on a regular basis. That’s why as years grow by, environmental and organic companies and resources are also popping up everywhere to help everyone who is interested in the importance of organic and natural food and products and to offer ways of saving as well.

Several years ago when I was learning more about the benefits of organic products and how it affects our health and our planet, I came across a company called Mambo Sprouts: http://www.mambosprouts.com/. Mambo Sprouts is a company dedicated in educating and helping those who wish to learn more about environmental concerns, healthy living through food and lifestyle choices, and saving money while making healthier food choices. Through their website and touring events, they’ve helped thousands of people gain a deeper understanding about the health benefits of eating and using organic and natural products and the effects it has on our planet as well. If you ever have a question about what fair trade is about or what the country is doing with the “Just Label It” campaign, you can always check out their website for more info. And the best part is, if you ever need any coupons to help you with those organic and natural products purchases, their website offers those too. However, the best way to gleen more info from the company is to sign up for their newsletter which is sent to you on a regular basis with great info and great coupons.

Mambo Sprouts began over 15 years ago as a means to provide info on healthier ways to live for yourself and for the world. Through their touring events, promotions, and ongoing slew of helpful information, one can always find something new to learn and to try. They also offer contests and giveaways on a regular basis so you can enter to win some great prizes. Coupons that are offered on their sites are familiar organic and natural products such as Stonyfield Farm, Earth Balance, Vans Natural Foods, and so much more. So whether you’re a pro at finding and buying organic foods and products or just learning how, you can always find something useful at Mambo Sprouts. And with some coupons in your hands to buy the products you want to try, you’ll likely go back for more.

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products. 

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.

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Newman’s Own Organics – Products worth reviewing

Who would’ve thought that Nell Newman, the daughter of famous screen legend, philanthropist, and race car enthusiast Paul Newman would end up developing her own line of organic products? Established in 1993, it started out as a branch from Newman’s Own (the company which her father built) and later became an independant company in 2001. The company’s slogan is, “great tasting products that happen to be organic” – how modest is that saying as it perfectly complements the company’s humble background as well.

I was fortunate enough to try out many of their core products ranging from their soy crisps to “Newman-O’s” to chocolate (and boy were those chocolates mouth-watering!). All of their products are made with certified organic ingredients and carries the USDA Organic label. Their coffee are fair trade organic coffee and their chocolates are also Rainforest Alliance certified. They do everything possible to help consumers have more choices in organic food – from their original pretzels to olive oil and basamic vinegar to mints. They even have a new organic pet food line specially formulated for cats and dogs – the same quality ingredients and care goes into the production of their pet food.  But the most prominant aspect of this expansive organic company is their charitable spirit. Under the philanthropic guidelines of Paul Newman, profits from Newman’s Own Organics has been generously added to the Newman’s Own Foundation – an organization that donates money to educational and charitable organizations.

Newman’s Own Organics (www.newmansownorganics.com) isn’t just a company dedicated in giving consumers high-quality organic food; they’re also a company with a lot of heart. However that did not distract me from doing an honest review of their organic snacks. So here is a detailed list of what I received and tasted:

Barbeque Soy Crisps – these soy crisps are made with Organic Low Fat Soy Flour and Organic Rice Flour and has a nice delicate barbeque flavor with a hint of spice. It’s not too spicy and not very salty and it has a great crunch to it.  If  you’ve never tried soy crisps or any kind of chips made from soy and rice, then you have to give these bbq soy crisps a try. Soy has a distinct flavor but since I grew up eating soy products, it had a very satisfying flavor and since it’s baked, it doesn’t leave you with greasy fingers. They are also gluten-free.

Traditional Thin Pretzels– I love pretzels. They are great snacks to enjoy with basically anything. They are a healthier alternative to chips (although there are healthy chips out there) and they are easier to carry around in your hand.  Newman’s Own Organic pretzels are made with organic unbleached wheat flour and organic rye flour and has a nice crunch to it. Since they are “thin”, it’s hard not to eat more than a handful.

Alphabet Cookies in Arrowroot – these are not your regular alphabet cookies that you find at your kids school; they’re perfect for both kids and adults. Now some of you may not have heard of Arrowroot or what it tastes like, but it doesn’t have a very strong flavor and it’s usually used in place of wheat in a regular recipe. But in this instance, arrowroot is used as a flavor enhancer and can add texture to any product. The alphabet cookies were delicate and also fun to eat!

Champion Cookies with Chocolate Chips – the story behind these Champion Cookies is really endearing. You’ll have to read the bag to find out the whole story but I’ll give you a brief description. Champion Cookies got their name a long time ago from grandma who entered the cookie sling race. When she didn’t take the gold due to her “secret” additive of chocolate chips in the cookies, she then took her cookies to a neighboring cookie contest and won first prize because of the chocolates.  The Champion Cookies are a bit bigger than your regular bite-sized cookies and they pack an immense amount of flavor. And since they are not too sweet you don’t feel that sugary overdose even after a few cookies.

Fig Newmans (Fat Free) –  I love it when companies use cute names for their products and Fig Newman’s are not only memorable in taste, but you can’t help but chuckle at the cleverness of the name. I don’t usually buy fat free food food since I try to limit my fat intake as it as, but you really can’t tell that these Fig Newmans are “fat free”. Fig Newmans are made with organic unbleached wheat flour, organic sugar, and organic figs and they are soft in texture like the fig newtons and once again not overly sweet.

Cinnamon Mints –  I used to enjoy mints when I was in college because it helped me study better ( I think the peppermint helped me concentrate better) but I don’t believe I’ve ever tried cinnamon-flavored mints before so I was quite pleasantly surprised at Newman’s Own Organics mints. It has a uniquely fresh flavor and with a strong hint of cinnamon so you can taste it immediately. Their mints come in a handy reusable tin and four roll packs. Flavors include Cinnamon, Ginger, Peppermint, and Wintergreen.

Dark Chocolate Bar – I humbly admit that I am a chocolate snob. My preferences in chocolate run with the extravagant and any old chocolate bar usually doesn’t satisfy. And when it comes to organic chocolate and chocolate that contains more than 50% of cocoa beans, that’s all the better! Newman’s Own Organics chocolates uses the finest ingredients possible because chocolate in essence, is one of the most richest form of food on earth so really great chocolate requires exceptional cocoa beans. I tasted the 54% Dark Chocolate Bar and let the flavor savor in my mouth and the aftertaste of rich cocoa beans ignited my taste buds. I can definitely tell that real cocoa beans were used instead of artificial flavoring. They also use 100% organic ingredients in the Dark Chocolate bar. These chocolates are also made from cocoa beans grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms. The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal guarantees that the cocoa in their Signature Series were grown on farms that meet comprehensive standards for sustainable farming, protecting soil, waterways and wildlife habitat as well as the rights and welfare of workers, their families and communities.

Prunes – What ingredient(s) are found in Newman’s Own Organics Dried Prunes? – simply, well, prunes. Some companies add sugar or sulfites to their dried prunes, but in reality, dried prunes like most dried fruit has a very long shelf life and already has nature’s own built in sweetener so sugar really isn’t necessary. I really enjoy prunes as an occassional snack so I definitely had to try Newman’s Own Organics Prunes. They were moist and dense and had just a bit of sweetness to them without being overpowering. Going forward, I’m going to try making cookies with NOO’s dried prunes in them.

Newman-O’s in Chocolate – Who doesn’t like a good creme-filled cookie? They’re great as a stand alone snack or dessert or you can eat the whole bag as a meal (although I don’t recommend doing that). Newman – O’s are simply rich cream filling nestled between two crunchy cookies. The chocolate variety was rich and satisfying with the chocolate cookies yielding a not-too-sweet flavor and the cream center moist and creamy.

Hermits Ginger Soft Cookies – I used to enjoy ginger cookies because I love the taste of ginger and it also holds great health benefits. But then I ate too much of them and stopped for awhile. So when I opened the package of Newman’s Own Organics Ginger Soft Cookies, the aroma instantly reminded me of why I loved ginger cookies so much. They’re made with organic unbleached wheat  flour and adds a bit of organic raisins to give it a slight edge over other ginger cookies. And because they’re soft and chewy, these were a great option for me when I wanted a softer cookie on occassion.

Licorice in Pomegranate – I have to admit I’m not much of a licorice fan and outside of eating “Red Vines” at the theater some time ago, I don’t know much about licorice. But when I took a bite of NOO’s Pomegranate the first word out of my mouth was “YUM”! The texture was soft and chewy but not rubbery (like Red Vines) and it had a slight hint of pomegranate flavor. It wasn’t too sweet (which was nice) and it smelled delicious! You didn’t think licorice could smell pretty good, did you? The main ingredients are Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Sugar, Corn Syrup, Organic Tapioca Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Sunflower Oil, Elderberry Extract, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Pomegranate Juice Concentrate, and Licorice Root Extract. All natural flavors and it still tastes better than any licorice twists with artificial flavoring. Beat that, Red Vines!

Newman’s Own Organics became an organic only food company because they realized the concerns of  their customers and wanted their customers to know exactly what goes into their products. Their ingredients come from certified organic farms without the use of artificial fertilizers or pesticides and most of the recipes were passed down from previous generations. The company makes every stride possible in ensuring that the ingredients used in their products come from environmentally-conscious farms and organizations. They also prohibit the use of preservatives in their products. Their devotion in providing high-quality products not only goes into their products but is noticeable in their packaging as well. All of their packages bear the distinctive image of American Gothic “Pa” Newman and daughter Nell with exception of  their chocolates and tea.

To find out more about Newman’s Own Organics, please visit their website: http://www.newmansownorganics.com/. They also offer coupons and recipes that are hard to pass on. You can find Newman’s Own Organics in most health food stores and mass market supermarkets.

I honestly enjoyed trying all of these delicious products from Newman’s Own Organics. The cookies were not overly sweet, the chocolates were luscious, and the chips were delicate and flavorful. But try it out for yourselves and you’ll taste the difference between conventional food to organic food made with high-quality, ingredients.

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

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