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June 14, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Take Ten: Clean Up the Environment AND Your Diet!

By Rachael Steil More Blogs by This Author

It's time to give the environment--and your body--a break. Let's take ten.

But, that doesn't mean we're slacking off. We need to apply the following ten steps (which means applying new strategies and habits) in order to provide a safer environment for our bodies and Earth. Sounds refreshing, doesn't it?

It's obvious the environment is in dire need of release from the stress we put on it through trash and gas. But in giving the environment a "break," we can give our bodies a break from the stress of processed, unhealthy food too. The two work hand-in-hand, something I hadn't realized until now.

Healthy Food, Healthy Environment

I have a passion for healthy food, but for cleaning the environment? Not completely. I wasn't ignorant to what was going on--sure, I knew there was pollution, trash, and global warming. What could I do about it? I didn't see how it hurt me directly anyway, and I had other things in my life to focus on. To be honest, I just didn't have the time to care.

It's not like I threw my trash on the ground and didn't recycle paper. I embrace nature on my runs (you'll only catch me on the treadmill during a blizzard ... and that's still not guaranteed), and our family is adamant about recycling paper. I've never been gung-ho about wearing recycled paper bags for clothing or avoiding bathing for days to save water, though.

I only cared about what was going on in my body and how I could control that. In the end, I realized that the environment we live in directly impacts the health of our bodies as well. I saw that if I could be a part of making the external world healthy, I could be a healthier person for it.

Luckily, all the strategies I use to eat healthy often lend themselves to a greener way of living as well. I'll admit, the benefits of a cleaner environment is mostly just an added bonus for me to eat healthy, but it does feel good knowing I am making a strong, positive impact on the Earth. As I learned about more ways to "eat green," I still had a few changes to make that would not only benefit my health, but help the Earth.

The key, in the end? Planning. Careful, habitual planning. The good thing is that I love organization. For those of you who don't, I've come up with ten ways to get you started. It's up to you to put those plans into action, and it takes time. Many new changes I tried to take on were overwhelming at first. I learned though, that a small change in habits over time led to permanent change. It was worth it!

1) Plan Out Your Day

Plan one or two days of the week for when you will run most or all of your errands. Each time you think of a stop you need to make during the week, write it down and save it for this big day. Instead of driving to the grocery store, coming back home for lunch, or grabbing something unhealthy at a drive-thru, it's time for strategic planning to not only save time, gas, and money, but your health too. Plan accordingly and route out a "map" so that you aren't going back and forth across town. In the end you save money on gas and avoid the drive-thru when you find your stomach growling. Which brings me to...

2) Pack your own lunch

And I don't mean with pre-packaged food. This may mean cooking up an extra batch of food from the night before and putting it into a container for lunch. Bring a small cooler with an ice pack for the leftovers, and pop in some fruit. Maybe add some chopped vegetables and avocado. That way you aren't eating processed, pre-packaged foods and you have less negative impact on the environment by throwing food packages into the ever-growing pile of trash. This also prevents you from going for fast food (what's faster than grabbing an apple?)

This process obviously requires preparation, and perhaps some tweaking over time, but eventually, packing the lunch will become second-nature.

3) Bring a Book

So, you're out and about taking care of appointments and errands when you realize you've got an hour to kill before your 2pm dentist appointment. Or, maybe you have to wait during that oil change. Bring a book just in case you have to do some waiting around; not only will you be happy to find time to read, but your brain will thank you for it too! Here's where you get a boost in mental health.

4) Thirsty?

Don't resort to soda (which will make you even thirstier), diet soda (one word: aspartame), or any other plastic bottle (I don't care if it is water!). Plastic bottles only weaken our stressed environment, as well as our bodies, as chemicals from the plastic leach into the liquid. Bring a stainless steel waterbottle so that you're taking in enough water throughout the day without using those plastic waterbottles or paying for more water.

5) Pack Your Bags

Pack reusable, cloth bags in your car for grocery shopping. These are easier to carry, they don't rip, and then you don't have to use the plastic bags from the market (which contribute to the trash pile).

In all honesty, I still have trouble making this a habit. Even though I have my cloth bags in the trunk of my car, I often forget to use them until I'm halfway through my shopping or in line to pay for everything. Like I said, though, small habits will eventually create permanent change. I am finding that more often I remember to reach for my bags before heading into the market, and hopefully, this will turn into an automatic routine.

Now, where to take your lovely cloth bags? Where to show off your environmental-friendly ways? None other than...

6) Your Local Farmer's Market

Not only will you benefit from taking in all the fresh, nutrient-dense food (food in-season is proven to contain more nutrients; see Seasonal Food for more information), but you will help your farmers and support local produce, which uses less gas than the food brought in from other states and countries to your local store. You may even save money by finding great deals with your farmers (sometimes they throw in a few extra freebies, at least in my experience. Wearing my college sweatshirt helped once, too--the farmer said he gives discounts to college students).

7) Back-up Food

You still think you need pre-packaged food at home when you run out of food (emergencies), right? I mean, keeping fresh produce long enough before you have to visit the Farmer's Market again can be tough, especially because produce spoils faster than processed foods (this is a good thing though!).

Good news--freezers are our life-savers! The more food you pack into your refrigerator and freezer, the more energy you save as well (so many extra bonuses here). Why waste more gas driving back to the Farmer's Market three times a week, or contributing to the trash pile with processed food packages, when you can freeze extra food?

Make sure to buy more produce than you may need for the next few days, cook up the extras, and freeze them. Or, you can buy frozen vegetables (they have just as many, if not more, nutrients than fresh vegetables) to keep in your freezer if you happen to run out and need a back-up. Fresh meat from the Farmer's Market is often frozen as well, so buy enough to keep in your freezer for the next few months and pull it out whenever you're ready to prepare it. As I said, it's all about planning, which may take some getting-used to.

8) Roast a Whole Chicken

And when you're buying meat at the Farmer's Market? Buy the whole chicken! This requires less processing and packaging, and therefore, less waste. Even better, you can find healthy, free-range chicken at your local Farmer's Market (more nutrients and healthier, happier chickens). It may mean paying more than you would if you were to get one at the store, but the extra nutrients are worth the few extra bucks. In the end, you would save more money than if you were to buy separate pieces of chicken. Don't plan on eating a whole chicken at once? (I'd hope not, unless you're feeding a huge family). Put leftovers into separate containers and ... voila! Use it in your packed lunch the next day.

9) Don't Leave the Veggie Tops!

Even the tops of veggies (the leaves) can be used to make delicious dishes. Get more bang for your buck, avoid waste, and add extra healthy nutrients by sauteeing these lovely greens in oil and spices.

10) Compost the Most

Who can compost the most in your family? Get the kids involved on this one as you throw food scraps into a bin to use for your garden. No garden? Maybe this is the time to start. By composting you've got the basics down--nutrient-rich soil to grow more healthy food for you and your family while supporting the environment. What could be better?

Healthy Habits

While this list may seem overwhelming, making these small changes over time will get you to start developing good habits. It's difficult at first (it took me a while to get into the swing of things), but after a few weeks or months it will become the norm. All you can do is your best, and by making a few switches over time, you can become a healthy eater and great environmentalist!

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