Tag Archives: Summer

Protect Your Familys Skin Against Harmful Chemicals

Mother and child

It seems the definition of a good parent has expanded in the last few decades. It used to be if you could satisfy the basic needs of your child, see they remained somewhat groomed, hugged them a few times, and remembered to pick them up from school and pack lunch, you were doing okay. But that was back in the ‘ignorance is bliss’ days, before we became aware the existence of an ozone layer and harmful chemicals that were in danger of obliterating it.

Now, you need to develop a superpower that enables you to deflect harmful ingredients from infiltrating their little bodies at the speed of light. Not likely to happen. You’ll just have to do it the old fashioned way. Here are a few tips on keeping protecting your family’s skin from chemicals.

Stay Out of The Sun
The sad fact is that a lot of sunscreens out there do not protect against UV rays, and a host of them contain chemicals that can damage our skin. While it would seem that the best advice would be to stay out of the sun, that is often easier said than done when it comes to the average child. Sure, you can cover them with heavy clothes and a hat, but the likelihood is that most of it will end up on the floor of the playground. So what can you do to ensure your child stays active and chemical-free?

Couple smiling

Sunscreen 101
There are two forms of sunscreens:

  • Physical sunscreens
    These contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which form a film on top of the skin that reflects UV light.
  • Chemical Sunscreens
    These absorb UV rays before they can damage your skin. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, zinc oxide provides extensive UVA and UVB protection.

However, if you want a chemical sunscreen, be aware, while they protect against UV rays, they also contain chemicals which can be absorbed by the skin and end up circulating in your blood stream.

Check the Label For Chemicals

  • Dioxybenzone and Oxybenzone
    The most problematic chemicals found in sunscreen are dioxybenzone and oxybenzone. These two are among the most potent free radical producers and are also known to be disruptive to normal hormonal function.
  • PABA
    You’ve probably seen PABA listed quite frequently on sunscreen labels. Para-aminobenzoic acid is a dye that absorbs UV-B light. It contains a benzene ring which enables electrons to shuffle between different locations inside the structure, absorbing UV-B energy by converting light into heat. PABA can damage DNA, release free radicals, has estrogenic activity and has been known to cause allergic reactions in some people
  • Octyl Methoxycinnamate
    This is the main chemical use to filter out UV-B light in sunscreens. Its toxicity level, which can increase in sunlight can kill the cell in mice.
  • Benzophenone
    Benzophenone is a sunscreen ingredient that protects the products in the sunscreen from breaking down due to the sun rays. According to naturopath Nicole Bjilsma, it also disrupts hormones, interferes with thyroid function and lowers testosterone.


Check The Ratings
How does your sunscreen measure up? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates sunscreens on safety and protection. You can download their tip sheet on the best and worst chemicals in the cosmetics department, sunscreens included.

What are you doing to make sure your family’s skin stays free of harmful chemicals while avoiding the sun’s rays? Let us know how you do it.

Easy Summer Salads

Closeup of a salad

The Oxford  Dictionary defines a salad as a cold dish of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar,or other dressing, sometimes accompanied by fish, meat, or other ingredients.  That definition is pretty broad and countries around the world have certain liberties with it.  Once most commonly thought of as an appetizer, salads are seen now, more than ever, as a main course,  or even a dessert.  In fact, it seems that almost anything that does not have some kind of bread holding it together can be called a salad. However, it is a common misconception that all salads are healthy.  Many people believe that because the dish is vegetable based, it is good for you. Please note that the mere presence of lettuce and absence of carbs does not a healthy dish make. Heavy dressing and greasy meats, bacon bits and  fatty cheeses can counterbalance the benefits of a few green veggies.

Salads are generally served cold and , thus, make great summer options for the days when a hot oven is out of the question.  Plus, if you keep them light, you may even be able to take a dip in the pool afterward without negative side effects!  Here are some great summer salad ideas:

Avocado salad

Salads 101

Here are a few basic ingredients no good salad should be without:

  1. Avocado:  high in good fat, low in bad fat, no cholesterol and DE-LICIOUS-makes it all worth it
  2. Low fat or non-fat dressing
  3. Eggs:  Packed with protein
  4. Nuts:  Don’t judge them by their fat calories. They are full of protein, fiber and minerals and, because the fat is monosaturated, it will provide great energy for your workout.
  5. Low-fat cheese:  gotta have it to build those bones!
  6. Lettuce:  Or go for spinach if you can.  The darker the leaf, the better for you.
  7. Tomatoes:  These beauties are the queens of lycopene and also serve as a great antioxidant
  8. Carrots:  Bugs Bunny can’t be wrong, packed with beta -carotene for fighting cancer and heart disease.
  9. Beans: Great source of folate and protein.  Chickpeas, kidney beans and black beans will all work.

STOP!  You say!  I’m going to eat the avocado and cheese with the dressing and throw out the rest!  We hear ya.  Ok. so you want something a little tastier?  How about these?


Advanced Salads

This more your speed?  You can actually leave out the lettuce and go for the flavor with these;

  • Cabbage apple salad with Tahini ginger dressing:  creamy light dressing, crunchy apples, you can’t go wrong
  • Zucchini Mango Salad with Cilantro chutney:  Zucchini base topped with juicy mango
  • Black Bean Quinoa with Avocado:  Bring on the Protein, turn up the mariachi!
  • Cherry Berry tomato salad: Sprinkle with sunflower seeds, ginger and soy sauce for an Asian kick.
  • Beet, Grapefruit and Walnut Salad with Mint Dressing:  Not for the meek!  May be an acquired taste and you’ll have to cook the beets, but so worth it .  With potassium for nerve and muscle function and manganese for you bones, liver and kidneys, beets are the new wonder food!  Live a little!

So, indulge in some summer healthy.  Easy. cool and light, not just for rabbits anymore.

Key Summer Smoothie Ingredients

Woman making a smoothie

Oh the smoothie!  How we love them in the summer.  So packed with health that you can practically feel the energy returning to your body as you pour it down your throat after an intense workout.!  And, they actually taste and look good too.  In fact, smoothies may have become the new fashion accessory.  People actually look healthier and more hip just holding them in their hands!

Somewhere between a milkshake and a juice cocktail, smoothies got their name from an adolescent named Steven Kuhau,  Steven had grown tired of seeing all his friends drink the wonderful concoction called the milkshake,  You see, Steven was lactose intolerant and he was unable to drink milk products like all the other boys and girls; so he decided to create his own version made with fresh fruit, ice and juice and he called it a smoothie.  Steven found out that not only was his smoothie delicious, but it also helped control his allergies and blood sugar levels.  Steven opened a health food store called, “Smoothie King” and now he is super rich!

Smoothies have come a really long way from the “Smoothie King”  days.  Nowadays we incorporate everything from veggies to nuts into our smoothies as we become more aware of how important it is to get adequate amounts of vitamins each day.  Here are some more out of the box ingredients that you may want to try in your next recipe.

Spinach smoothie

We have all seen the cartoon Popeye and have observed the sailor’s muscles bulge as the spinach travels through his body.  Well, this image may be closer to reality than you think!  Spinach contains iron and zinc and has a real impact on athletic performance.  It helps to ease muscle fatigue and contains folate which produces new RNA and DNA cells.  Especially good for the pregnant ladies!

Tart Cherry Juice
Did you know that in a test, athletes who drank 12 oz. of tart cherry juice two times a day actually reported lesser aches and pains than those who were given a placebo?  Sold me!  It also prevents cancer and oxidative damage and serves as an anti-inflammatory.

Greek Yogurt
Is there anything that doesn’t mix with Greek Yogurt?  This is the thicker version of it’s not so Greek cousin has 3X the amount of calcium and 2X as much protein and is also great for GI and immune health.

Citrus smoothie

Citrus Fruits
We have been putting them in smoothies ever since Orange Julius, but there is a reason for that.  Filled with Vitamin C, citrus fruits are some of our bodies best friends.  They contain folate which produces body cells, are rich in fiber and great got our GI system and muscles repair.  Lemons, grapefruit, and orange are all stellar examples.

Tea, especially the green kind, is full of antioxidant and flavonoids to fight oxidative damage. Also reduces the risk of heart disease.

Some other things you may want to think about: Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, protein powder and kale, blueberries and apricots. Oh, and experts say only mix green veggies with green and yellow fruits and veggies and red veggies with red and yellow fruits and veggies unless you don’t mind your smoothies brown.

Summer Foods We Love

Ah, summer! There are so many things that the human mind associates with summer: Long days, warm nights, the beach, the pool, short shorts.  But an all time  favorite has to be the ice cream truck.  That creepy sound of some kind of sick jack in the box being played has, for years, triggered that Pavlovian response – ice cream time.  Kids with their dollars clenched in  sweaty fists, would cue up anxiously for their favorite treat; a snow cone, a strawberry bar, that weird frog with the bubble gum eyes….Yes, ice cream has to be on the top of the list of summer foods we love. But what are some other great foods associated with summer?

 berry desserts

One of the greatest sensations of summer must  be the taste and texture of a perfectly ripened peach on a summer day.  They are also a great source of vitamin A and potassium.  Although they are great alone,  the more motivated of us might want to whip up some peach ice cream or a peach pie.  And while you’re at it, how about some honey vanilla poached apricots.  Peaches distant cousins, apricots are a source of Vitamin A which is great for your vision and promotes cell growth.  Blue and Blackberry shortcake?  Yes, please, over here.  Berries are abundant in the summer and are low in calories and high in antioxidants.


What would summer be without the tiki torches and the smell of brats hitting the grill.  Although we most commonly associate the barbecue with dogs and burgers, nowadays you can put just about anything on the grill.  How about some Tangy Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Marinated Grilled shrimp, Asian Beef Skewers or Aloha Chicken burgers.  And vegetarians, take heart!  Even if veggie burgers and tofu aren’t your thing, summer squash can be delicious with tomato and basil and is also full of omega 3 and fiber.  Or how about some Mediterranean stuffed tomatoes.  Mouth watering yet?  Tomatoes are full of good stuff like niacin for maintaining cholesterol levels and lycopene, which is an antioxidant.


Ok, so summertime is party time and, while it is always important to keep safety and good judgment at the forefront, what would the summer barbecue be without those pretty mimosas and margaritas?  While some of us have no compunctions about downing these sweet concoctions, others are concerned about the calorie count.  Well, you might enjoy a Bombay Magic.  Consisting of tequila, lemon juice and club soda, this beauty weighs in at a mere 109 calories.  Or if vodka is more your speed, how about the Skinny Iced tea with vodka and lemonade, for only 70 calories. And, how can you possibly resist the Fruity White Sangria with pineapple, mango juice and white wine.  And only 94 cals! Have I died and gone to heaven?  And if you prefer straight vision, there is always the alcohol-free 86 calorie Grapefruit Mocktail with cranberry juice.  Don’t forget the toothpick umbrellas!

So enjoy the summer fare!  Eat up!  Be healthy, have fun, take advantage.  You only live once!

Top Tips for Choosing Summer Wines

Couple having wine in a beach

As our menus change to suit the warmer weather, so do our wines! Giving up the bold, dry wines of winter can be difficult, but follow these steps to impress your guests this summer with the perfect warm weather beverages.

Keep it Light
Full bodied wines are great for warming you up when it’s cold outside, but for summer, you’re going to want to stick with lighter, crisp wines. A refreshing Sauvignon Blanc or bright Riesling is perfect choices for summer entertaining. While red wines are typically thought of as heavier, there are plenty of well-balanced reds that are more warm weather appropriate.

Words to look for: crisp, light, bright, balanced (for reds)

Plan Your Menu
Pairing your wines with your summer menu is essential.  If your menu includes something like a fresh salad with grilled salmon, a refreshing white wine with notes of citrus would pair well, but a heavy wine can overpower the dish. Don’t let your cooking get washed out by wine that doesn’t complement your hard work!

Tip: Do your research, and ask the experts! There is no shame in a quick google search while you are making your grocery list to make sure that you are choosing the right pairings. It is also a good idea to ask the experts who are selling the wine what they would recommend. They, at the very least, can point you in the right direction, and they usually have tons of unique recommendations that will make you look like a wine connoisseur!

Put It on Ice
Choosing wines that are meant to be served cold is a no brainer for summer. Many sweet, white wines are traditionally served chilled, and make a perfect, refreshing summer drink that you can enjoy on a hot day.

Try this: instead of storing chilled wine in the fridge at a dinner party, pull out some ice buckets to keep on the table so everyone can enjoy a chilled glass or two throughout the party!

Go Fruity
Not a fan of white wine? It can be hard for you in the summertime when everyone is going for the traditionally lighter whites, but don’t worry! Summer is also a time for fruit forward red wine, which tends to be lighter, sweeter, and great for this time of year!

Words to look for: fruity, ripe, smooth, fresh

Don’t Forget the Wine Cocktails!
An easy way to incorporate wine into your menu in the summer heat is serving wine cocktails. Who can resist a colorful, fruity sangria? The best part is, wine cocktails can be made out of red, white, or even sparkling wines, so whatever your taste, you are going to be able to make a concoction that’s perfect for you!

Tip: Try updating a traditional drink, like sangria, by adding a new twist. Having a picnic? Put a twist on a typical sangria and bring along a watermelon, white wine version. It is refreshing, and allows you to put your own spin on something everyone will love!


Summer Snacks for Great Skin – Vine Vera Reviews

We’ve said it before; when it comes to skin care, what you put into your body is just as important as what you put on to your skin. You take great care selecting skin care products and cosmetics that contain the best ingredients for your skin type, so why not take the same care with the food that you eat? Not only will your skin benefit from a nutritious, healthy diet, but you might find that you are able to lose a few pounds or tone up a bit more easily as well. Summer is full of activities and with your busy work-life and packed social calendar, it is tempting to grab foods that you can snack on easily and on-the-go. This summer, resolve to snack on foods that will do more than satisfy your hunger, pick summer snacks that help you achieve great skin.

Citrus fruits in a basket.

Citrus Fruits
You already know that refined sugars are not only bad for your weight and overall health, but did you know that they wreak absolute havoc on your skin as well? When it comes to summer snacking, there are all kinds of fresh fruits that are in season and that are a quick, convenient snack. While you do have to spend a bit of time prepping fruits like kiwi, papaya and mango, but the benefits are well worth it. These fruits are high in vitamin C which helps your skin retain its elasticity and firmness. Additionally, these fruits contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives you radiant, glowing skin.

Avocados on a wooden board.

Another fruit (yes, it has a seed so it is technically a fruit) that is in season in the warm months of summer is avocado. This rich, creamy treat can be used in a variety of ways as a summer snack. Slice some on top of your salad or prepare a delicious breakfast of whole wheat toast, mashed avocado and tomato slices. Avocados contain monounsaturated fats that help fight wrinkles. Tomatoes, which could also be added to a fresh, homemade guacamole, contain lycopene which is thought to help prevent damage from the sun.

Berries overflowing from a basket.

Sticking with sweets that are not refined sugars, berries are another great tasting and convenient summer snack. Additionally, these summer snacks are packed with antioxidants that help your skin fight free radicals and the early signs of aging. Grab a handful or fresh blueberries to top your yogurt in the morning, or freshly slice some strawberries for an after-dinner snack that tastes delicious while being healthy for body and skin.

Dark chocolate

Dark Chocolate
So, dark chocolate is available year-round, but it makes a great summer snack when you really crave something indulgent. Dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher) contains flavanols, which are powerful antioxidants that can benefit your skin.

Just because a summer snack is great for your skin (and body), it does not have to be bland or boring. The above foods are all super tasty ways to snack during the summer while improving your skin as well. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, particularly when you are outside in the heat, to maintain your beautiful, plump, glowing skin.