Category Archives: Health & Wellness


Emile Noel Walnut Oil: Non-GMO Month Review and Giveaway!

By | Health & Wellness, Special Deals & Giveaways | 6 Comments


I’ll be honest with you all. I had NEVER tried Walnut Oil before now.

Have you?

So, when I was able to do a walnut oil review for Emile Noël Artisan Oils I did what I do when I’m not familiar with something – I googled it.

I found all sorts of recipes and other suggestions as simple as drizzling over pasta along with salt, pepper and fresh parmesan.

And so I tried it that way – drizzled over Costco tortellini (don’t judge) with some salt, pepper and parmesan. Ooooh, yummy.

And then I tried it in a homemade salad dressing instead of olive oil. Wow! I loved the creamy, nutty flavor it added.

Prior to trying walnut oil for the first time, I had never heard of Emile Noël artisan oils. But, I’m a new fan. It’s a family-run oil mill founded in 1920 in the south of France.


Here is why I am a new fan of Emile Noël artisan oils:

♦ they were the first oil millers in France to press organically-farmed seeds

♦ they have ONLY ever produced and marketed organic and non-GMO products – and organic foods have higher levels of Vitamin C and E, essential fatty acids, magnesium and more! *They have also gone on to become Non-GMO Project verified. Learn more about that here.

♦ they operate an organic-sesame supply chain in the north-east of Africa (fair trade)

♦ their oils are first cold-pressed virgin oils – this retains the value of their fatty acids and their vitamins



A Variety of Oils

Emile Noël offers over 20 organic virgin vegetable oils, including blended ones:

Fair trade sesame oil

Fair trade toasted sesame oil

Sunflower oil

Hi olieic refined sunflower oil spray

Pumpkin seed oil

Fair trade hazelnut oil

Walnut oil

Macadamia nut oil

Sweet almond oil

Olive Oils – 2 types


To help celebrate non-GMO month, they are offering one lucky reader a FREE bottle of one of their oils.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Heidi's Story

Real Food Testimonies: Heidi’s story

By | Health & Wellness, Real Food Testimonies | No Comments

Today I am welcoming Heidi from The Blessed Nest as she shares her “Real Food Testimony”…

Growing up, I ate mostly down home good Midwestern foods. Meat and and potatoes, lasagnas, and casseroles, etc., but we always had a fruit or veggie with every meal. They were all cooked from scratch with love. We weren’t allowed too much sugar or pop and had more non-processed foods than not…so my eating habits were pretty good but not perfect.


When I got to college, I tried to apply what I thought were healthy eating choices when perusing the cafeteria. That ended up meaning lots of salads loaded with creamy dressings followed by frozen yogurt with multiple cereal toppings. (Who wouldn’t have frozen yogurt every night if you had a machine in your house?) Well, I gained more than the Freshman 15, but never worried about it.


The summers of my Freshman and Sophomore years of college, I worked at a camp where I continued to play hard outside but also load up on the dorm-like food, often including 2 or 3 pieces of fresh baked bread after each meal. My weight topped out at about 30 pounds higher than it is now.

My junior year of college, I started running serious distances and trained for a marathon. I lost some weight, but the hunger that running fuels, plus knowing I was burning so many calories, led me to keep eating more than I needed and whatever was convenient to eat quickly.



After college, I moved to Colorado (a state which boasts one of the leanest and healthiest populations in the country), and joined a gym. I started reading more about nutrition and added weights to my exercise routine. I cut down on the massive amounts of carbs I had been consuming and started to find more creative and healthy ways of eating. I had more energy than I had in a long time and eventually lost more weight, which brought me down to my set adult weight, a full 30 lbs less than the most I weighed in college.

I fell in love, got married and luckily my new husband had some better food habits than me. He incorporated a lot of lean meats, veggies (which I had mostly hated growing up) and less processed foods. Over time, we decided that low-fat wasn’t as important as eating real food, stopped buying anything with aspartame or food dyes and looked for products with less ingredients and ones we could read. We shopped more locally (at farmer’s markets) and started to incorporate the concept of viewing food as fuel for health instead of just as something to eat because we “like it” or not eating so “we don’t gain weight.”

We’re still on our journey, but I think we’ll always be fairly moderate when it comes to our choices. I’m not opposed to some processed foods here and there but I want to train my kids to see food as fuel as well as continue to change more and more over to that mindset for myself. Exercise continues to be very important to me, but I know that health is a combination of the food you eat and the work-outs you do, not just one or the other (let alone all the other factors like toxin exposure, stress reduction, etc).

I think it’s important to do an occasional detox/fast/whole foods cleanse when I’m seeing my eating patterns getting worse. I’m about to deliver our fourth baby, but a few weeks after delivery I’m planning a 3 week whole foods cleanse (similar to Whole30 but with a few more allowances).

Food is something that is tied to many important things in life and I always want to enjoy it, but do so responsibly, knowing my body will exhibit the choices I make. My son recently said, “I don’t think I’ll like heaven if there’s not food there.”

I feel you, buddy…but the good news is there probably is, and all our options will be good ones.


Heidi is an Adult Nurse Practitioner that works part time improving outcomes for hospitalized adult patients. There’s nothing she loves more than Jesus, her husband, and four kids (5, 4, 2, and newborn). Her hobbies are staying fit, being creative, and blogging at The Blessed Nest with a chai tea latte in hand.





Heirloom tomatoes

What’s So Special About Heirloom Tomatoes?

By | Gardening & Sustainable Living, Health & Wellness | No Comments

Have you planted any Heirloom Tomatoes in your garden this year? A few years ago when I worked for Earthkeeper Farm, I was introduced to their BEAUTY and their FLAVOR! If you have never tried them, you are missing out…

If your experience with tomatoes is limited to the pale, mealy and mostly tasteless varieties found on the shelves of the grocery store, it’s time to experience organic heirloom tomatoes. Also known as heritage tomatoes, these diverse fruits come in a range of colors, sizes, shapes and flavors that make “regular” tomatoes (literally) pale in comparison.

What are Organic Heirloom Tomatoes?

Let’s start with what they are not. Unlike most modern commercially sold varieties, heirloom tomatoes are NOT hybridized in a lab, genetically modified or sterile. Instead, heirloom tomatoes:

  • Come from seeds that have been passed down through generations
  • Grow from strains that have been grown for at least 50 years
  • Are openly, naturally pollinated
  • Are stable
  • Are able to reproduce themselves
  • Have a known history that includes either their region of origin, knowledge of who has grown the tomatoes in the past, or qualities that make them stand out

Most strains come from seeds that accompanied immigrants to North America during the great waves of European immigration during the early decades of the 20th century, though some come from Central or South America. Either way, most seeds have been passed down through families — and between home gardeners — for generations; some date back to 300 years.

Heirloom plants are able to retain their specific characteristics through time as they are self-pollinating; after just a few generations growing in a limited locale, they become genetically similar. Even when tomatoes naturally outcross with other plants, the seeds produce similar plants to the parents, limiting natural hybridization. Heirlooms are the result of early cultivars that grew in the same area for generations and didn’t outcross often.

As a result, the heirloom tomato seeds of today come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, colors and flavors and are incredibly stable when planted in the home garden. To illustrate the incredible diversity of heirlooms, a few varieties include:

  • Brandywine, a large, fluted, pink-red tomato that’s been dated to 1885
  • Abraham Lincoln, a mid-sized, red variety that dates to 1920
  • Ruby Gold, a sweet-tasting pink, orange and yellow tomato from 1921
  • Chocolate Stripes, a large, dark, red-brown tomato with green stripes and a sweet flavor
  • Cherokee Lime, a tangy-sweet tomato with a bright green exterior and a rosy interior
  • Climbing Triple L, a meaty, large tomato with a mild flavor; plants grow up to 18 feet high
  • Northern Lights, a small tomato from Mexico with yellow-orange skin and flesh that’s prized by chefs
  • Pusza Kolosz, a huge, 2-pound red-orange tomato from Romania with sweet, almost seedless flesh

The sheer variety of heirloom tomatoes, along with their amazing flavor, makes it easy to understand their growing popularity. But these diverse plants also provide a number of benefits, to human health, to the environment — and to your palette.

Health Benefits of Organic Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes provide a rich source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, especially when compared to commercially grown tomatoes, which are bred for size, color and hardiness, rather than flavor or nutritional content. Studies indicate that these low-calorie fruits deliver phytochemicals that offer cardio- and chemo-protective effects. In addition, choosing organic, non-GMO heirloom tomatoes means that you’re not exposing yourself to harmful pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and other potential toxins.

Vitamins and Minerals

Heirloom tomatoes contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals. A single, medium-sized heirloom provides 40% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, an anti-oxidant that boosts the immune system, aids in adrenal gland function and helps lower stress levels. Heirlooms contain B vitamins, including folate, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine, which are necessary for red blood cell production and help the body convert fuel into energy. Tomatoes also contain vitamin A, an antioxidant, and vitamin K, which helps regulate blood clotting and promote bone density, protecting against osteoporosis.

Heirlooms also contain essential minerals, such as potassium, which helps reduce blood pressure and promotes heart health. One 100-gram heirloom tomato contains about 237 mg of potassium. Other minerals in tomatoes include manganese, calcium and iron.


Whenever your body converts food into fuel, is exposed to UV rays, or comes in contact with pollutants in the environment, it produces free radicals, or groups of atoms that are missing an electron. Free radicals attempt to “steal” an electron from healthy cells, causing cell damage and exacerbating the effects of aging. Antioxidants reduce this damage by neutralizing free radicals; heirloom tomatoes contain potent antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin C and lycopene.

Lycopene is a type of pigment known as a cartenoid; this potent pigment gives red, orange and yellow heirlooms their brilliant color. Studies indicate that lycopene’s antioxidant effects provides protection against a number of cancers, including stomach, skin, prostate, pancreatic, oral cavity, lung, endometrial, colorectal, cervical, breast and bladder cancers. Another cartenoid found in heirlooms, zea-xanthin, has been found to protect against macular diseases and protect against UV rays.

Environmental Benefits of Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirlooms provide a number of environmental benefits, as well. Because there are so many strains — more than 10,000, according to some estimates — these plants promote biodiversity. Heirlooms are open pollinated, or naturally pollinated by bees, birds and butterflies, rather than hybridized in a lab. Commercial hybridization results in sterile plants that require large inputs of water and chemicals to remain healthy. In contrast, heirlooms require watering only about once a week or when dry.

In addition, commercially produced supermarket tomatoes are picked when green, so they stay firm while they’re being trucked across the country — creating CO2 emissions — then gassed with CO2 to make their skins turn red so they look “ripe” on the grocery store shelf.

Flavor Benefits of Heirloom Tomatoes

In contrast, heirlooms are picked at the peak of ripeness in order to highlight their amazing flavor profiles. In fact, these fruits are prized specifically for their range of rich flavors, from sweet to tangy, mild to bold, smoky to salty. No matter which flavor you prefer, you’ll find an heirloom seed that provides it.

Love a sweet flavor? Try Amana Orange, a 2-pound, fluted variety with orange skin. Need a mild taste that’s perfect for salads or slicing? Try Brandywine, a variety from the 1800s. Dreaming of an intense, slightly salty flavor? Then Black Krim, with its purple-brown fruits, may be right for you. Need a sweet, fruity taste to add flair to your salad? Tiny Flamme, with its little orange tomatoes, delivers.

Once you’ve experienced the depth and range of flavors that heirlooms can provide, you’ll find it difficult — if not impossible — to go back to the tasteless alternatives offered at the grocery store.

 If you’ve planted or eaten Heirloom Tomatoes in the past, which are your favorites???

“Well, at least it’s not measles…..” (a guest post)

By | Health & Wellness | 65 Comments


This is Brittnee’s story of her son and the MMR vaccine:

“Well, at least it’s not measles…”

My husband and I commonly use this phrase in our home every time my son, Ezra (19 months), comes down with a cold or fever. At Thanksgiving, he had a pretty bad case of croup and every day we reminded ourselves, “well, at least it’s not measles.”

I should preface this story by saying I am not an “anti-vaccine” fanatic. I am just a mom who had to learn the hard way that being educated is the most important, valuable thing that you can do when it comes to vaccinating your kids.

September 9th was a routine, 12-month, well-baby check up. {My pediatrician is someone I respect; he has cared for us knowing that we desire a more holistic approach to our family health.} Ezra received his first MMR vaccine and his second DTAP while in the office. Our vaccine plan was simply to do a delayed schedule and to eliminate ones that we didn’t feel were completely necessary. Let me just say, I was a wreck about the MMR vaccine. When I was pregnant, my doctor found out that I was Rubella non-immune (whatever that means)—basically, the only way someone is that is if he/she is born outside of the US (which I wasn’t) or if their immune system rejected the vaccine. We aren’t completely sure if it has anything to do with what happened to my son, but I think family history or possible similarities are always worth noting. For some reason, it all catered to me feeling totally uncomfortable with the vaccine. I even cried when he received it. I had an internal, gut wrenching feeling that he should not be getting it.

Literally the next 2 weeks were textbook:

3 days after vaccine—fever.
Doctor: “that’s normal for vaccines. It will go away.”

5 days after the vaccine—fever & cold.
Doctor: “some kids have a reaction to the strand since some live strand {enter info I don’t understand here}…
Me: “So…what if I think it’s the measles?”
Doctor: “I’ve never heard of a case of the measles happening. It may be some symptoms like measles, but it’s 1 out of a million chances that he’d get measles from the shot.”

6 days after the vaccine—rash. Oh. My. Stars. The rash.
Doctor: “Let’s check him out…wow. Um. That looks like measles.”

7 days after the vaccine—everything. Full-blown measles.
Doctor: “You need to take him to DeVos immediately.”

So. It seems so straightforward when I write it out, but to be honest it was absolute hell. I remember staying up for 3 nights in a row just holding my son, because the rash was so unbearable. Google gives NO information about measles or the severity, because “no one gets the measles anymore in the US.” My doctor felt horrible and no idea what to say to us. He had never seen this before.

We were quarantined in DeVos Children’s Hospital where specialists, nurses, and doctors came in with hazmat suits on to check him, swab him, and stare at him. We even had random doctors coming in just to “see the kid with measles.” The specialist wanted to get our signatures so that he could present on Ez’s case…and I just sat there crying. I was so angry. I am so thankful for my faith…I was on my knees praying for–not only my son’s health—but, that we would get answers. God’s strength was proven way stronger in our weakness, because I have no idea how we got through it all sometimes.

Did we get answers? Kind-of. We found out that the disease was from the vaccine (and apparently this happens 2-5% of the time, per the Dr at DeVos.). I will never forget the phone call from the CDC…

CDC: “Mrs. Blom, I just wanted to let you know that we confirmed that the case of the measles was from the vaccine.”  She was really, really pleased to tell me this.

Me: OK, well thank you for the call.”

CDC: “I do want to remind you that we still strongly encourage you to continue with his scheduled vaccines. (Pause) I mean, it’s not like he’ll get measles again!”

I probably should have been a little nicer. But I wasn’t. I hung up…and cried.

stack of papers I filled out my VAERS report even though I know that my case will go on a stack of papers in an office somewhere that may never be looked at. I’m not really sure what else I can do—if any of you moms out there have advice for me, I’d love to connect. (Please leave a comment below if you have advice for Brittnee!)

It took over 4 weeks for my son to recover. We had to wait for that horrible rash to spread from the top of his sweet little head to the bottoms of his feet and hands. He did get better…and, for that, I am so thankful.

I’m also thankful that the beautiful, healing grace of God has allowed me to move forward without bitterness in my heart. I know that the lessons learned from that experience have taught us much about surrendering our son daily to the Lord…we know that he is only on loan to us ☺. However, I hope that this story can encourage parents to educate themselves on vaccines. Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world where money and greed can take priority over health and true, wholesome care. Ezra’s story should be making news, but it’s not…and it won’t.

dreamstimefree_needle My husband and I are not going to allow Ezra to get the MMR again, just in case you were wondering. Our choice is what’s best for us, but as long as you are willing to know why your vaccinating or why not…either way, the rest is up to trust. I was told so many times, “there’s no way you could have known.” Of course, I’m not responsible for my son getting the disease. However, I don’t fully agree with that. I think that when you are making decisions about your health and the health of your family, you need to know what the pros and cons are. Pray and discern, talk to your healthcare providers, do your own research, and ASK QUESTIONS! It’s important. Your doctors will never love your children as much as you do. Be their advocates.

And PS. You are a great parent. Those are the kinds of truths we cling to when things don’t go as planned…God is good and delights in you. Whether you vaccinate or don’t…keep up the good work in loving your kids the best you can!


1170838_805580672825_214558397_n Brittnee Blom is from Holland, Michigan. She is currently the youth director and service coordinator at Immanuel CRC in Hudsonville. She and her husband, Taylor, spend their time enjoying great friends, local food, holistic health, and organic beer . They are blessed to be the parents of the World’s Busiest Toddler, Ezra who is 19-months old. They are in love with Jesus and are growing in His freedom and abounding love every day!

How about you? If you have kids, have they gotten the MMR? Will you delay? Will you skip?

I’d love to hear reasons surrounding ALL choices.

(please keep comments respectful and avoid bashing others’ decisions, otherwise they will be deleted)

*Please note: I share Brittnee’s opinion that vaccines are and should be a parent’s choice. Emotional bullying or the argument of herd immunity isn’t helpful. Most importantly, a fully educated decision on both sides is essential! Know WHY you are choosing to vaccinate or not. We may not fully know the details, emotions and history that goes into a parent’s decision on this issue, so judging one another isn’t helpful. I am not taking sides on the vaccine issue, just encouraging and empowering parents to make an educated and confident decision, no matter what they choose.  – Melissa

 *Want updates each time I post a new blog article, recipe or tip? Subscribe to free email updates here!

Have questions about vaccines? I recommend checking out these resources:

My post on Why We Don’t Get the Flu Shot

Vaccination Council (and specifically this article about the measles, explaining how contracting “atypical measles” from the shot usually gives more severe symptoms than contracting it normally)

National Vaccine Information Center
















Photo Credit: Stack of Papers, Needle

This post is shared at: Natural Living Monday, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesdays

“30 Days Back to Health” Cleanse – (for local readers!)

By | Health & Wellness | No Comments

cucumbers Are you tired?              Bloated?              Fuzzy in the head?            Sluggish?             Achy?    

Suffering from digestive issues or sleeplessness?    Or maybe just feeling generally unhealthy?

cleanse1 I just began working for Dr. Kelly Hassberger of Grand Rapids Natural Healthcare. I am so excited to work with her and learn about the natural ways we can improve our health and well-being.

And I wanted to be sure that any of my readers who are local to the Grand Rapids area know about her upcoming “30 Days Back to Health” cleanse! I’m excited to attend as her assistant and to glean the same info that the participants will be receiving. Maybe I’ll even see you there?

Have you ever thought about doing a cleanse? 

Maybe you’ve contemplated doing one but thought:

1) you just couldn’t give up dairy OR gluten OR sugar OR _____________ (fill in the blank with something you currently eat and love)?

Well, Dr. Kelly and the others will help you make these changes gradually, so that you don’t experience typical “detox symptoms” like headaches, dizziness and fatigue.

2) you fear not being able to follow through and not having enough support?

This cleanse includes 3 sessions of one-on-one time with Dr. Hassberger to PERSONALIZE and INDIVIDUALIZE the cleanse plan for YOU! Plus two 2-hour group sessions, the supplements you’ll need and discounts at local businesses that support her program. (Learn more HERE)

3) you worry that the changes won’t last?

The program focuses on dietary changes, supplements, home techniques, supportive therapies, exercise and nutrition, and discounts from health partners. As her site says, it’s a “health makeover, supporting you with education, resources, and services that will transform your health for good.”


Probably one of the most exciting parts is that Chef Jen Foley of La Bonne Vie Personal Chef and Catering Service will provide healthy recipes designed for those participating in the cleanse. It will help take the guesswork out of the question “what should I eat”?


Here are some results that participants experienced in the last cleanse:

  • Improved Sleep

  • Weight loss up to 12 pounds

  • Improved skin, including decreased break outs and increased elasticity as well as decreased bags under eyes

  • Decreased gas and bloating

  • improved symptoms of psoriasis and eczema

  • Improved mood

  • Improved symptoms of arthritis, including stiffness as well as swelling in hands

  • Increased clarity of mind, decreased brain fog


Valued at $1200, this $400 cleanse is “all-inclusive”:

1) 2 group classes on February 20th 6 – 8 pm (Group Session One) and March 13th 6 – 8 pm (Group Session Two)

2) 3 sessions of one-on-one time with Dr. Kelly Hassberger to personalize your cleanse.

3) Supplements for cleansing/detoxing

4) Discounts at these local supporting businesses:

So, are you convinced yet that you need to participate? If not, READ MORE HERE. If you are ready, you can go right to the sign-up HERE.

lemon lime But hurry! The cleanse is limited to the first 30 participants. ONE of them should be YOU!

Any questions, leave them below and I will do my best to answer them (with the help of Dr. Kelly Hassberger, if needed).

Let’s get back to HEALTH!


***Dr. Kelly also offers 15-minute complimentary appointments to see if Grand Rapids Health is a good fit for your health needs! Schedule your appointment today!


Scroll through my other “Health and Wellness” posts as well as myKitchen & Real Food How-to’s