Whether it is the beginning of the new year - you survived the festivities, all the sweets and alcohol - or you just decided to take some resolution and vow to live healthier and more eco-friendly from now on, it can sometimes be hard. The demands can be too high, so we all fall back into our old patterns after a few difficult weeks of trying very hard to resist all temptations.
But the idea behind the resolution is often great: we want to be better - live, act - for us and our environment, as household cleaning products can be very harmful. Because taking care of ourselves goes together with keeping our beautiful planet safe. So instead of restricting ourselves to only celery stalks and carrots, our goal should be to eat better in order to reach more eco-friendly and healthy lives. Living longer, helping the environment and actually benefiting financially, physically and mentally from this new lifestyle should be a goal too!
How to live a healthier life?
First, make sure the demands are not too much on yourselves: do it right. Because living more environmentally friendly and healthier has to be a long-term commitment (if fruitful). But that doesn’t mean you have to do everything all at once. Quite the opposite: if you want to change your behaviour for the better and want to make it stick, you have to do it incrementally. One big change will be too challenging, and you will drop the endeavour pretty quickly. It’s true that four bad habits, smoking and drinking alcohol, not exercising and not eating fruit and vegetable, can cost up to 12 years of your life, but don't swear off all bad habits at once!
Instead, we have to be more careful about it. You should go in small, simple and realistic steps. Slowly but steadily you will adopt a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle. We have a whole list of little changes that can be made quite easily. Add more to the list as you go along. Every step towards environmentally friendly living will help the world but also your body, mind and soul. And it doesn't have to be more expensive either: it's about simplifying our actions, cutting out the middleman and being more hands-on. The decision to change is the first and the hardest step in a long chain. Now, remember: it's the journey, not the destination.
And whatever you choose to do, whichever little steps you decide to include in your life: don't forget that it’s okay to sin sometimes. It's okay to eat that burger and fries occasionally. It's okay not to exercise during your vacation. Don't take it too hard, or your endeavour to lead a healthier, more environmentally friendly life will fail. Be happy with every step you take. You are on the right track, and that's all that matters!
Healthy eating basics
Eating healthier and more eco-sustainably starts with sourcing the food right. Whenever possible, try to buy local. When you buy food locally, it will be fresher and better quality, and your food will contain more nutrients. Also, you support your local community and economy, so it's better for all. In addition to that, you should buy your fruit and vegetables according to the season. This way, you avoid tasteless and nutrient-lacking produce, and you will also save money!
If possible, buy organic food. Organic food is produced using methods that comply with the standards of organic farming. Those incorporate resource cycling, conserving biodiversity and avoiding chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and other toxins which could harm us and the environment. It applies to fruit and vegetable as well as meats and fish.
Whether organic or not, fruit is best from your trusted farmer's markets, or if possible, directly from the producer. Many orchards offer their apples, apple juices or ciders for sale, and there are huge fields of blueberries where you could go and pick them yourself! Free-range chicken meat and eggs, grass-fed beef, grass-finished lamb, mutton and pork, farmed or caught fish - always make sure they are as free of antibiotics, as "happy" and as sustainable as possible. That way, it will ensure that it tastes better for you and for our planet!
Grow your own food
If you have a garden or balcony, you can grow your own fruit and/or vegetable. For example, apples, pears, plum trees and blueberry bushes can grow in your garden. They are very low-maintenance, can withstand cold temperatures in the winter without any problems, and will give you delicious fruits in the summer and autumn. Strawberries grow wonderfully in pots outside (as do cherry tomatoes). They can live on your balcony or patio for the spring and summer. Mediterranean or Asian herbs like basil, rosemary, mint and many others can even be grown inside the house when standing at a South-facing window, even in winter.
On the other hand, if you and your home are simply not ready for plants, you could always join a community garden. You will get a patch of earth where you can cultivate your own fruits, vegetables and flowers. Bonus point: you can learn from more experienced gardeners there. It’s a very healthy exercise, great fun for the whole family, and you can get delicious produce out of it!
When growing your own fruits and vegetables in your garden, try to grow plants as locally native as possible. Native plants have evolved according to the climate and conditions, so they won't need greenhouses, fertilizers or pesticides to keep them healthy. Also, there are many great local native plants everywhere, so ask a trusted garden centre or a more experienced gardener for advice.
Make sure you to plant some native flowers too. They will attract bees for pollination. Bees are a crucial part of our ecosystem, so support them in any way possible. You should offer them a great variety of local flowers, nesting opportunities (bundles of hollow reeds/bamboo stems or logs of old wood) and, most importantly, a safe space without pesticides and fly swatters! Solitary bees only ever sting when threatened, so you and your family will be perfectly safe - while the bees will do great pollination work around your garden. Also, the local ecosystem and the environment will thank you for it.
Buy only what you need (when you need it)
When buying your food, you should make sure to only buy what you need in order to avoid food waste. A meal plan might help you schedule your family's meals and get the right ingredients’ amount. This way, you won’t have to throw away any food when it goes bad. That would be a waste of your money and valuable resources.
When planning your meals, have at least one or two veggie days per week. Studies have shown that overeating meat isn’t good for your health. Producing meat is consuming a lot of valuable resources too. So, going meatless at least once (or twice) a week can have a positive impact on your health and the environment.
Try to work as many servings of fruit and vegetable into your meal plan as possible. The recommendation is five servings of fruit and vegetable per day per person. Make sure to have a variety - eating all colours of the rainbow. It is firmly suggested because, that way, you eat as many different micronutrients as possible. Fibre, vitamins of all different kinds, antioxidants - every fruit and every vegetable has a different mix and can, therefore, be useful in your diet!
But fruits and vegetables are not all you need for a healthy diet. Make sure you consider all your foods. For example, don’t forget about your fats! There are many different fats that are important to consider: buy and use healthy fats instead of unhealthy ones. Olive oil, peanut oil, avocados oil, nuts, sunflower seeds oils, fish, flaxseed, rapeseed and soybean oil all count as healthy fats. They contain many unsaturated fatty acids, which our bodies need and can’t produce on our own. Once again, verify they are sourced sustainably: too much valuable rainforest has already disappeared for growing and manufacturing cheap palm or coconut oil. Try to get organic, and (if possible) even local oils.
Also, stock up your kitchen with healthy food which will not go bad. Lentils, wholegrain pasta and brown rice are healthy and will help you make quick and delicious meals. Herbs (whether fresh or dried) are great to add taste to your meals. This way, you can reduce your salt and sugar intake, which is a good way to live healthier. Invest in some healthy snacks for when the hunger pangs strike you hard. Nuts are great for this, as are unsweetened dried fruits. Nibbling away at fresh vegetables - like carrot sticks or celery - is great for snacking too. They give you lots of vitamins and fill up your stomach in a healthy way. If you have a sweet tooth, cocoa nibbles or dark chocolate might be more your thing. Either way, make sure you have some healthy alternatives for when the cravings kick in.
Always use what you have first
Try to throw away as little food as possible, as that is just a waste of money and valuable resources. Instead, keep an eye on the food in your fridge and pantry, and use or freeze items before they go bad.
If you have leftovers after a meal, don't throw them away. You can bring them to the office as lunch the next day, or eat them for supper. You could also use the scraps to make new meals, such as using leftover rotisserie chicken with some fresh vegetables for making chicken soup. Leftover turkey breast is great on sandwiches with green apples and sweet mustard. If you have several slices of your Sunday roast and no other use for them, freeze them together with the gravy and keep them for one of those lazy days when you just can't be bothered to cook. You can get creative!
What does the expiration date mean?
Best By/expiration date, what does this mean? Fresh fish and meat have a compulsory date, and using them after this date might result in food poisoning. Therefore, use them beforehand, smell the meat if it looks a bit off, and if in doubt, don’t use it anymore. If you know you won't be cooking the meat before its Best By date, you can always freeze it. When it’s time to cook it, take it out of the freezer the night before and let it thaw slowly in the fridge. However, never freeze meat or fish more than once, as they could grow dangerous germs like salmonella, and always verify your thawed meat is cooked thoroughly.
Fruit and vegetables will still be good several days after the Best By date. They might not look as appetizing anymore, but they are still edible. If you don’t want to eat mushy peppers or overly ripe bananas - use them in other ways! Ripe bananas are great for banana bread, pancakes or smoothies. Wrinkly apples are fantastic for homemade applesauce or apple pie. All kinds of berries can be frozen in order to be thawed and eaten at a later date. Peppers and tomatoes can be cleaned, frozen, and used for sauces, gravies and soups. Green beans, broccolis and cauliflowers should be parboiled before freezing. Then, they can be added to your future meals.
Dairy can also be used past the Best By date. Milk, cream, yogurt and cream cheese will generally keep longer than the Best By date by several days as long as you always keep them in the fridge. Once again, use your nose or taste a sip if in doubt; bad milk will smell and taste sour. If you see mould in your milk, cream or cream cheese, pour it away. Hard cheese will generally keep longer than soft cheese. If a hard cheese develops a small patch of mould, you can even cut the mould off generously and still eat the rest of the cheese! Eggs are easy: if in doubt, put them in a glass of water. Good eggs will sink to the ground, while bad eggs float.
Start daily cooking habits
Being creative also applies to what you do in the kitchen: you can even cook from scratch. Unfortunately, most people don't take the time to cook anymore. Instead, they pick up fast food, pre-made food from the supermarket, or ready-to-eat meals for themselves and their family. However, most heavily processed foods like burgers, ready-made meals or sauces contain too much sugar, salt and fat. Many of them have been “enhanced” with artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. They are generally unhealthy and not as tasty as a home-cooked meal either.
So get cooking! If you are not confident in the kitchen, that's even more of a reason to try. There are so many simple yet delicious recipes in cookbooks and many websites and apps for beginners and advanced cooking fanatics too. If you feel unsure about cooking, you can also watch step-by-step videos. They will help you prepare the meals from the beginning until the end, and you can improve your skills slowly but surely. Your family will love the homemade meals! And don't worry about the mess - cleaning the kitchen is fast and easy if you do it right. And that gives you a good reason to try/use our natural kitchen cleaner.
Whether cooking yourself or eating takeout, try to avoid deep-fried foods. They are unnecessarily greasy, usually fried in unhealthy oil, and can upset your stomach. Also stay away from overly sweet food and drinks, such as coke and other sodas. The refined sugar used in those will make your blood sugar spike just before causing it to crash, making you crave even more food. Therefore, it's healthier to drink water with lemon, ginger or a sip of juice, or slightly sweetened tea.
The perks of eating healthy
Last but not least: enjoy. Savour your meals properly: taste the ingredients and spices, feel the textures, and enjoy your food. You should eat slowly because your stomach will tell you when you no longer need food. You should stop eating before you are completely full, so eating slowly will give your body time to realize and let you know that you are no longer hungry. Drink enough water during your meal and throughout the day: experts say you should drink between 2 and 3 litres (8 to 10 glasses) of water per day.
And since we are talking about enjoying: drinking in moderation is perfectly okay. True, too much alcohol at once can cause alcohol poisoning, and, over an extended period can seriously harm your liver. However, drinking in moderation is actually recommended. Studies have found that a small serving of red wine once a day will improve your cardiac health and reduce the risk of a heart attack! So… enjoy!
In fact, "in moderation" applies to everything when it comes to food and drinks. Too much of one thing can be bad for you, while you can eat everything in moderation. Yes, even those delicious curly fries! All that matters is that you keep a varied diet with a healthy balance which makes you feel good, happy and healthy. Because you can be sure that your body will feel so much better once you give it exactly what it needs. So enjoy starting to live a healthier and more eco-friendly life!
We wish you all the best to eat better for a healthier and more eco-friendly life. And if you want to go further in your quest for a healthy life, remember to use our household eco-friendly cleaning products and follow our blogs on sustainable living.