5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Make Your Holiday Dinner Party More Sustainable

Our annual holiday dinner and white elephant party is quickly approaching! It is definitely my favorite part of the holiday season, next to watching Eben and the mister open their gifts. It is always a wonderful night full of family, laughter and fun. The white elephant gifts we picked this year are next level! We try ever year to make our holiday dinner party waste free – here are some of our tips so you can make your holiday party waste-free too!

1. Ditch the Disposables
While it can seem easier to serve the holiday meal or cocktails using disposable plates, cups, napkins and flatware, I highly recommend skipping it. Not only is it wasteful, it’s expensive and costs the enviornment a ton when you fill up the garbage can. Even if you don’t have china or a full set of dinnerware, use can use your daily dishes and dress them up with cloth napkins and a fabulously decorated table. It really only takes a few minutes at the end of the night to load the dishwasher and you save a ton of trash in the process.

2. Start from Scratch
When it comes to preparing a meal for your family – especially during the holiday season, it’s always amazing if you can start from scratch. Not only will the meals taste even more delicious, there will be minimal packaging waste since you are making everything from scratch. I suggest putting together a menu of 4-5 dishes and then making those items from scratch, this way you won’t be terrbily overwhelmed, but you will be left with a meal that your guests won’t forget!

3. One Dessert Only
I have a rule when it comes to holiday dinners or any dinner party, I only make one dessert. I have a couple of delicious recipes that are simple to make and always a huge hit. I pick one and only one to make. I have found that we have less food waste at the end of the night and we aren’t left with a ton of desserts once the guests go home.

4. Plan for Your Leftovers
I try to convince the mister to only make enough food for the holiday dinner – however, we are always left with at least a week of leftovers. Sometimes we get tired of having the holiday meal over and over again for days on end. Instead, we package up some of the leftovers to go home with our guests – or put a menu plan in place to use those leftovers in a different way. For example, every year the mister makes turkey matzo ball soup with the leftover turkey! Amazing! Nothing is worse than throwing food away, so have a plan in place to prevent that.

5. Go Reusable!
When it comes to gift wrap, I am a huge fan of reusable bags that can be used again and again. If gift bags aren’t your thing, then I suggest choosing a recycled wrapping paper that can be recycled at the end of the day. If you receive a gift that isn’t wrapped in a recyclable or reusable paper, you could keep the paper to use in those crafty projects you plan to do with the children after the holidays!

YOUR TURN: What is your favorite eco-friendly way to make your holiday dinner party more sustainable?

Toxic Free Gingerbread Houses: The Cottage and The Log Cabin

 

One of our December must do activities is making gingerbread houses as a family. A few years ago, we kicked it up a notch and decided to make a simple healthier gingerbread (graham cracker) cottage – you can find the how-to tutorial here. And another year I stuck with my healthier cottage theme and the mister and Eben decided to try their hand at a pretzel log cabin. All of our ingredients were organic & free from toxic chemicals too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think they turned out to be pretty cute! The log cabin is definitely my favorite – I love the way the mister and Eben used coconut to make snow on the rooftop and Eben created the fun, festive wreath above the front door! This is an activity that takes all evening to complete, but it is always worth it. We had a blast listening to holiday music, sipping cocoa and giggling when things didn’t turn out!

Do you have special holiday traditions that you enjoy with your family in December? I would love to hear – please share in the comments section below.

These Foods Could Keep Your Family From Developing Cavities

Most people say that having a beautiful smile can boost their confidence in life. But approximately 32% of people say they’re concerned about the look of their teeth… and we all know that dental care doesn’t come cheap. If you want your child to have superior oral health, it’s important to start early. But in addition to dental care tips, like regular brushing and flossing and early visits to your dentist, there may be other ways to ensure your family stays cavity-free — like the meals you make right at home.

Restrict Your Acids

Even if you’re vigilant about oral hygiene, consuming too many acidic foods or drinks can be dangerous for your teeth. In fact, the American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatrics say that parents should refrain from giving juice to any child under one year old. This is mainly due to its high sugar content, but it’s an important lesson for grownups, too. Drinks with high acidity (and yes, that includes wine) can be damaging to tooth enamel and lead to increased cavities. If you or your children do indulge in sugary and/or acidic foods or drinks, be sure to get the toothbrush out right after.

Go Ham On Yams

That isn’t to say that all sweet stuff is bad. Sweet potatoes (which are actually yams) are excellent for oral health — when they’re not loaded with marshmallows, that is. This vitamin A-rich food helps with salivary function and helps to keep your mouth’s pH levels consistent, which helps to prevent tooth decay. They also have more potassium than bananas, making them a great snacking option.

Remember Whole Fruits Are Your Friend

Just because you should restrict your juice consumption doesn’t mean that fruit = bad. Firm, fibrous fruits like apples are a good option because their crunchy texture is a natural workout for your jaw. And strawberries can promote healing, which can make your gums stronger. Fiber is really important for strong teeth, and your body won’t get as many nutrients out of these items if you stick them in a smoothie. It be a convenient way to eat breakfast, but there are sometimes better ways to fuel young bodies.

Be Nutty About Nuts

Phosphorus-rich foods are tooth enamel protectors, and nuts are filled with phosphorus. In fact, one ounce of raw peanuts contains 107 mg of phosphorus. This element can help reduce cavity risk by helping our saliva to neutralize acids. So whether you like to snack on them raw or would rather spread PB on your toast, it’s definitely a tooth-friendly snack. Plus, with high levels of protein, potassium, and fiber, it’s an option that will keep you fuller for longer (and will reduce your risk of reaching for something more sugary later on).

Don’t Assume Fat Is A Bad Thing

Remember that not all fats are created equal. Avocados are a great source of healthy fat, but they also contain a lot of potassium — a mineral that can strengthen bones and keep them from breaking down. We all think of calcium as important part of strong, healthy bones, but a lack of potassium can lead to tooth decay too. You might also be surprised to learn that butter contains vitamin B12, which can promote gum health and even heal canker sores. If you don’t have enough vitamin B in your diet, you may be more prone to gum infections and subsequent tooth loss. If you’re a dairy fan, keep in mind that cheese is a great option for teeth and gums, as its calcium and B12 can protect both (and who doesn’t want an excuse to eat more cheese?).

Ultimately, it’s vital to eat everything in moderation. Too much butter, of course, won’t make for a healthy diet. But the stuff we might be inclined to see as “healthy,” like fruit juices, can actually be detrimental to our bodies — particularly developing ones. While this doesn’t mean you have to remove these foods from your diet completely, awareness is key to ensuring the foods you eat support your dental care efforts. Plus, tooth-healthy foods are generally healthy in general, meaning that you can help your family start enjoying these staples from an early age.

Helping Holidays: 4 Green Gifts That Give Back

The holidays are all about celebrating acts of giving, making it the perfect opportunity to make your gift giving smarter this season. There are so many amazing businesses out there that give back when you purchase one of their products. These companies are tied to doing good somewhere in the world every time a purchase is made. Read on for my 4 favorite gifts that give back – and if you hurry you can still get these goodies by Christmas.

1. Warby Parker Glasses
Eben and I both wear glasses and love the stylish, affordable frames from Warby Parker. For every pair of glasses that you buy, a pair is donated to a person in need. If you don’t wear glasses, that is alright – Warby Parker also offers fantastic sunglasses.

+ Warby Parker  

2. Feed Bags
I have been familiar with FEED Bags for a very long time – I remember first seeing them in Whole Foods back when we lived in Georgia! FEED Bags come in a huge selection of styles and sizes and with each purchase a portion of the proceeds go towards feeding the children of the world.

+ FEED Projects

3. TOMS Shoes
Most likely you are already familiar with TOMS shoes – for every pair you purchase a pair is donated to a child in need. With a great selection of shoes for everyone on your list, TOMS is the perfect holiday gift!

+ TOMS
4. Smile Squared
Every year I stick a toothbrush in the holiday stocking – this year I will be stuffing a brush from Smile Squared! Smile Squared is another company that donates a product to a child in need – in this case, an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush – because a healthy smile is a happy smile.

+ Smile Squared

Do you have a favorite gift to give that gives back too?

5 Green Ways to Unwind As a Family on School Nights

EcoLunchbox

With tests, sports, homework, and lessons, after school schedules during the school year can get hectic quickly. Eben is a now a junior in high school which means his evenings are full of National Honor Society meetings, volunteer projects, homework, and tutoring. So, I would say that our schedule feels a little overwhelming right now. If you spend the school year wondering what’s your spouse and kids are up to, try these 5 tips for unwinding and reconnecting as a family on school nights.

#1 Family Dinner or Breakfast
Even if everyone in the house has a different schedule, try your best to sit down as a family even for 30 minutes to eat dinner or breakfast – whichever works best for your schedule. There’s no need for elaborate meals if you’re pressed for time—the important thing is that everyone sit down together to share what happened during the day and reconnect. The mister has Fridays off – so we always sit down together for a big breakfast before Eben heads off to school – it makes Friday a little more special.

#2 Walks Around the Neighborhood
After-dinner winter walks are so refreshing and relaxing at the same time. Grab your parka and boots and trek around your neighborhood. Kids can learn about the changing seasons and all of the animals that only come out at dusk, you can even look for animal tracks in the snow—make sure you bring your flashlight and teach kids nighttime outdoors safety like wearing a blinking light or reflectors if you’ll be out near dark. You and your kids will also sneak in a little exercise and will probably sleep better since you’ll be tuning your circadian rhythms by going out in the evening.

#3 Let the Kids Pick 
Eben has always been really into reading manga and watching anime. When he started to get a little older, I quickly realized that if I was going to bond with him as a young adult, I better learn as much as I could about both. It is really one of the best choices that I ever made as a mother, it paid off in a huge way. Eben and I have been watching anime and reading manga together for several years. Even now that he is almost 17, our anime time is something that we do together every single night. We look forward to it, and it gives us a ton of stuff to talk about on a regular basis. Not to mention, I found out that I love anime/manga and without Eben being into it – I might have never figured that out.

#4 Do Homework Together
During times when everyone’s just too busy to relax together you can still connect with your kids by sitting down and offering homework help (if your kids need it!). Just because you aren’t conversing about the day’s events doesn’t mean that you’re not connecting and learning from one another. Kids learn a lot from how their parents offer help and encouragement. Eben doesn’t need my help – however, I still sit quietly next to him catching up on my reading while he works, that way I still get the opportunity to be near him and offer assistance if he needs it.

#5 Offer to Coach
A great way to spend time with your kids in a different setting (and learn a little about them!) after school is by offering to coach their sports team, become a scout leader, or head up an extra-curricular club. The mister takes Eben and his best friend to Yugioh tournaments every single Saturday. You’ll get a chance to dusk off some old skills and will also have an opportunity to see how your kids interact with others and parent them in a new and different context.

What’s your favorite green activity to do to connect as a family on school nights?