We are always thinking of ways in which we can lose weight, eat better, exercise more, and so on.
How often do we think outside of that box? Here are some ideas for making our lives and the planet healthier!
1. Change the Way You Eat
Idea #1 – Make it a point to sit down with friends and family for at least three meals per week.
With the change in schedules and the availability of fast food, our society has moved far away from the relaxing social meals of the past. When eating with friends and family, we eat slower because we are talking and enjoying the conversation. Not only will we feel better physically but we will be filled much more emotionally.
Unfortunately it is not only our country that is compromising the way we eat. In John Robbins book, Healthy at 100 he notes the following:
“In almost every culture in the world, eating dinner together has been a place for families to strengthen bonds. The French in particular have long cherished mealtime as a family ritual, so much so that children have traditionally not been allowed to open the refrigerator between meals. But the days of sitting for hours around the table savoring small portions of several courses and relishing each other’s company seem to have passed. Instead, it has become commonplace for the French to eat in front of their television sets, while talking on the telephone, and even alone. As McDonald’s has become more popular in France than anywhere else in Europe, the average French meal, which twenty-five years ago lasted 88 minutes, has been reduced to only 38 minutes today.”
Idea #2 – Stop eating in the car, in front of the television, or standing at the counter.
Our digestive system is not meant to adapt under any of these circumstances! When we sit down, relax, focus on our food, and breathe, our bodies are prepared to produce the appropriate amount of digestive enzymes and we get the most benefit (nutrients) out of our food. Part of the reason we overeat is due to these unconscious methods of eating. We hardly chew our food and inhale it at such a rate that our brains have yet received signals that we are actually full. Consequently we overeat and feel bloated and gain weight. The crazy part about the whole process is we have no idea just how much this type of eating has compromised our health.
If this is you, maybe one of your resolutions is to make the time to sit down, relax, and take a few deep breaths before taking your first bite. Appreciate the amazing fact that food is our lifeline to health. Enjoy it fully.
Although this has sounded crazy to most people that know me, even if I am alone at home for dinner, I actually prepare a delicious nutritious meal, pour a nice glass of wine, set the table, light a candle or two and really enjoy the time of eating a wonderful meal in a relaxed setting. I am sure this sounds off the charts for many of you but I encourage you to try it once or twice. It is a great experience!
Idea #3 – Learn about Slow Food
Slow Food is a movement that counters fast food. It is about creating a way of eating and living that associates the pleasure of food with community and the environment. There are many Slow Food movements throughout the world. Here a some sites to learn more:
2. Change your Shopping Habits
Idea #1 – Stay out of the middle of the grocery store!
The most natural and healthy foods are found around the periphery of the store. You will find the most nutritious and least processed foods in this area. Not only is the food more processed as you wander down the aisles but can be more expensive. Plus the amount of packaging adds to the increase in waste products in our landfills.
Idea #2 – Take a list and Do NOT go when you are hungry!
I realize that neither of these ideas are new yet can save you a lot of money and keep you on a healthier track of food. Think about what you would like to make and jot down the ingredients you need. Make it an intention to get only those ingredients. Of course if you see some great sale on fruit or vegetables you might want to get extra while you are there. The main thing you want to avoid is picking up that junk snack food that you know isn’t good for you and yet is so tempting when you are hungry and just mindlessly wandering the aisles of the store.
Idea #3 – Change one/two buying habits into healthier choices.
Although eating organic and antibiotic free meats can be expensive, in the long run it is cheaper than eating a bunch of junk and ending up sick! Besides, by watching for specials in the produce, meat and fish section of the stores, you can find deals that are worth the purchase. For example, not too long ago the Whole Foods in Boulder had grass fed ground beef on sale at an amazingly cheap price. Now I don’t often eat ground beef but at that price it was worth purchasing it and keeping it in my freezer for that unexpected time I might want to make something with it.
The same goes for produce. Although you can’t necessarily store it, there are certain foods that I (now) only buy organic. The reason being is that certain plants are sprayed much more with pesticides and the produce absorbs more of it. Two examples are strawberries and spinach. I only buy these if they’re organic!
So start with one or two things that (you feel) are easy to change in your diet. Maybe it is organic produce or antibiotic free chicken, whatever it is, it will have a positive impact on your overall health over time.
3. Become a Part-Time or Full-Time Locavore!
What is that you ask? The term Locavore started in the San Francisco area not too many years ago. The premise was to encourage people to only purchase food that has been grown within a 100 mile radius of where you live.
Eating local foods is a great step towards saving our planet and increasing our health. When you purchase food that is grown within 100 miles of home, you are helping the environment. It requires much less fossil fuel to get it to the store! In addition, the food is much fresher as it is picked when ripe, thus allowing time for all the nutrients to get into the food. You are also eating foods that are in season; something we are designed to do.
Although this might not always be easy, start with your local Farmer’s Market. You will meet some great people – the farmers and ranchers. You will find you have a much greater connection to the person growing your food, the food will taste amazingly so much better, and you will feel a greater part of the whole food chain. If you are in a cold climate where this is only available in the summer, start there and get to talking to the farmers. Chances are that many of them will be able to provide you with food in the winter months as well.
I have found a local organic farmer, Jay Hill Farm that grows greens and various other produce all winter long. I just have to email her and it will be picked the following morning and ready for pick up after 11am. I have made salads with her mixed greens and arugula for many friends and family. I always get the same reaction, ‘wow this is the best salad I’ve ever had!’ In so much as I would like to think it is my amazing ability to make a salad, I know better. The main difference is the fresh and vibrant taste of the greens!
Want to learn more about the ‘locavore’ movement? “The “locavore” movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation.”
For ideas of the closest Farmer’s Market and where you can find local ranchers, here are some websites:
Local Harvest is a great source for finding food grown close to you.
This USDA site might offer you some farmer’s market information.
Eatwild.com is your source for safe, healthy, natural and nutritious grass-fed beef, lamb, goats, bison, poultry, pork, dairy and other wild edibles. You can go here to find ranchers in your area.
If you can’t find one, the U.S. Wellness Meats in an alternative place to get grass fed meat and more.
4. Change your Water Drinking Habits
Idea #1 – Purchase water in larger quantities and fill your own bottles.
To begin, water is life. Without it we will die and yet we don’t drink enough. Many people are walking around dehydrated and don’t even know it. For more details on signs of dehydration and more on the benefits of drinking water, read this article.
Meanwhile there are many more people drinking water-like products than ever before. First, many of those are processed and have various types of sugar and more. Rather than purchase these expensive products drink good water! Second, realize the environmental consequence of using all those bottles! Here is a very dramatic slide show revealing the tragedy of the plastic bottle on our environment.
Watch this slide show – water-disaster !
Last, if you do not have good water available in your area, purchase a water filter. There are many types on the market and are worth the cost.
Idea #2 – Purchase a healthy reusable bottle for your water.
BPA is a chemical that is found in hard plastic. It is very toxic and has been proven to cause major health problems. Although more companies are aware of this and changing their bottles, not all are there yet. If using a plastic bottle, look for one that says, “BPA Free.”
One of the companies that have taken on this change is Nalgene. I really like their bottles as they have a variety of designs to meet everyone’s needs. If you cannot find them locally, here is their website.
The second option is to use one of the Swiss made bottles. They are stainless steel on the inside so no worries about the plastic. Again you might be able to find these locally but if not, here is their website.
5. Find Ways to Help Sustainability and Decrease your Carbon Footprint
In addition to the aforementioned, here are some relatively easy things you can do that have a positive effect on our environment.
Idea #1 – Decrease the amount of animal products you eat.
One of the ways we can have the greatest impact on our planet is to change our diet towards a vegetarian one. Now I am not proposing that we all give up animal products. I personally cannot imagine doing this and yet I am very impressed by those that have.
What I do realize is that even with eating grass fed and antibiotic free beef, cage free and natural chicken, and non-farmed fish, we are still using a great deal of the resources available on our planet. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, “Livestock production is responsible for more climate change gasses than all the motor vehicles in the world. In total, it is responsible for 18 percent of human induced greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.”
So what do we do about this? Well, my goal is to start by having one day a week that I eat no animal products. I will then work towards two days. If each of us gave up one or two days a week, we would have a huge impact on our planet. With this being said, I intend to put more vegetarian recipes on my website!
The Toronto Vegetarian Association has some good information for you.
Idea #2 – Change your lIghtbulbs!
As your light bulbs burn out, replace them with Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs. They are 75% more efficient and last 10 times as long.
Idea #3 – Start unplugging what you are not using!
Unplug lights, stereos, printers, heaters, and anything else when not in use. Even if the units are turned off, many of them continue to use energy. The only way you can be assured they are not is to unplug them from the wall. It only takes an extra second but can have a huge impact on our energy output.
Idea #4 – Recycle!!!
Make it a goal to have a minimal amount of non-recyclable trash. Last year I made my goal to not have more than one (kitchen) bag of trash for two weeks. So far I am there all but those times that I have a big party. Once you get in the habit it is really easy. If you have a local recycling program, learn about all that you can recycle. If you are lucky enough to live in a place like Boulder, then you also have compostable recycling. If not, get a bin and start composting. Here is some information on how.
Idea #5 – Buy products with the least amount of packaging.
As mentioned earlier, if you stay along the periphery of the store, you will find the packaging to be at a minimum. Even at this however you need to think! I do see these plastic containers for spinach and mixed greens. Don’t buy them! Instead buy in the bulk.
To support this concept even more, I just purchased some reusable vegetable bags. I haven’t tried them yet but am excited to decrease the amount of plastic bags I accumulate. Check out their website!
Idea #6 – Use less paper products.
Two ways that are extremely easy is in the kitchen. Rather than purchasing paper napkins, get some really nice cloth ones. It is a much nicer feel on your mouth and hands and they last forever! I still have the original ones I bought about 25 years ago! (I use them for outside picnics and camping.)
The other easy change is in using dish towels rather than paper towels. Dish towels or sponges are great and can be reused for a long time. Of course we do still need some paper towels but not so many.
Idea #7 – When purchasing paper products, buy recyclable ones!
You can avoid the bleaching process and save the trees! “ If every household in the United States replaced one roll of virgin-fiber paper towels with 100 percent recycled paper towels, we could save 1.4 million trees.” Source: Care2
Idea #8 – See how you’re doing!
Calculate your Carbon Footprint now and then again every few months. There are a lot of different sites to figure out this process, just search for carbon footprint calculator. This one is pretty simple but a good place to start – The Nature Conservancy
If you have information or ideas that are along these thoughts, please share them! I look forward to hearing from you and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!