Research has shown the benefits of adopting a more organic lifestyle over the conventional one that is the staple of most people in the western world.
Even so, the task of adopting a completely organic lifestyle can be seen as daunting, expensive and just too damn hard. Many people who recognize the likely benefits of including organic food and other organic products (think personal care and cleaning products) in their lives can fall by the wayside when they try to embrace the change cold turkey and with no going back.
I would advocate a different approach: Take baby steps, notice any difference in your health, moods and energy levels and once you have, you'll find you're motivated to go to the next level.
To make it easier for you I've put together seven easy steps you can take to embracing more organic-driven habits on a daily basis.
1. Start with staples
Food is surely one of the joys of life and consuming food that you have lovingly prepared from garden to table is a great motivator and eye-opener when it comes to seeing exactly what you put in your mouth.
So start with replacing some of your daily or weekly grocery items with more natural alternatives — lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, prepared as soon as possible after purchase, free range (or preferably organic) eggs from happy hens, free range meat sources if you can locate a producer who provides quality of life for his stock, olive oil and coconut oil that is cold pressed and not subject to chemical extraction processes — these are some ideas to get you started.
Prepare at least one meal per week (more if you can manage) where you involve the family in the food prep and clean up, giving you a chance to discover and discuss the origin and benefits of the food they are seeing on their plates.
2. Check out your local food producers
When you purchase your food from local producers, you are helping your local, regional and national economy. You are assisting your community to reduce green house gasses by cutting out the food miles that are incurred when produce is imported from countries half way around the world. You are helping someone in your community feed their own family by helping to provide an income and stability in their livelihood.
There is so much uncertainty in the world caused by economic forces that this is a very small thing that you can do to make a huge difference. You and your community will reap the benefits.
3. Visit farmers markets
Check out your local farmers markets. Get up close and personal with food producers in your area — ask them about their produce, what is in season (and therefore at its best), what growing practices they use to bring the produce to market, what is their favorite way of enjoying it.
If you don't have a farmers market close to you then seek out a local organic produce market or an organic produce delivery service. I use a local organic service from Byron Bay and they deliver me a beautiful surprise box of seasonal organic produce that is bursting with goodness every week at a very reasonable price. It challenges me to cook the freshest produce that is at its best, and I know what I prepare will taste incredibly delicious.
On the other hand, if you shop at a large supermarket, who knows if what you are seeing on the shelves is in season or if it has been in cold storage for months? I know where I want to put my money!
4. Read your labels
Many food items that fill up the grocery cart these days are unrecognizable from what they began as in their raw state — overly processed, any natural fats they may have started with stripped out and replaced by sugar that can cause addiction, obesity, diabetes and a host of other health and societal issues, and having a shelf life that could possibly outlive a nuclear holocaust — this is what the majority of the population consumes as a matter of course.
The next time you're at the supermarket, take some time to read the labels and the nutrition panel. If the print is too small, then have your reading glasses with you — it's an eye-opener, I promise! If there are any ingredients you don't recognize, then you've got to really ask “If I was preparing this at home from scratch, would I put that in?” I like to use the Nana Rule — ask your grandmother if she knows what that is and if she doesn't then don't eat it!
5. Shop on the outskirts
I don't mean to shop on the outskirts of town, but if that's where your farmers markets set up, then by all means do! What I mean is that when you are in the supermarket, shop on the outside aisles for most of your food. Supermarkets are generally set up with the fruit and veg, meat and fish sections on the perimeter in the layout of the store. If you look at the centre aisles you'll likely find all the sodas, sweets and other junk foods.
6. Grow something — anything
You may not have the space for a full blown veggie garden that is bursting with ripe tomatoes, plump lettuces and bulging aubergines — and if you have, then send in a picture! But anybody can find a window sill that will host a modest small pot of one or two herbs — try parsley, basil or oregano. You could grow a pot of cherry tomatoes on a balcony, or if you have room for more then there are a lot of veggies that can be grown in tubs and that don't require a proper garden at all. Remember to water them regularly and they will reward you with a burst of real flavor and goodness. If you don't cook, you can snip off some fresh herbs and nibble them as you go about your day — it's the best ‘vitamin pill' you could wish for and probably the most nutrient dense thing you'll consume all day.
7. Don't be too rigid
Finally, don't be too gung-ho about your attempts at adopting an organic lifestyle. As I said before, baby steps to build on what you experience, notice and learn about what you consume will promote awareness, wonder and joy in that most basic of items — your daily food.
This article was previously published on the Huffington Post.