Making the decision to live a healthier, happier and greener life is no small thing. It means looking at every part of yourself, your life and your home through a new lens—one set to capture and enhance personal and planetary wellness. But don’t let the wide-angle view scare you; you don’t need to go from where you are today to where you want to be all at once. Rather, you can zoom in on simple changes that make a big difference in the big picture. “It’s not an all-or-nothing game,” says Renee Loux, a sustainability expert based in Hawaii and author of Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-friendly Choices for You and Your Home (Rodale). “You can renovate your life without stripping down and starting over. That’s not a sustainable approach to anything.” Instead of taking a giant leap, Loux suggests working with what you already have and what you’re already doing. The trick, she says, is to focus on the parts of your life in which little changes are most likely to produce big benefits. Here, Loux and other integrative health and wellness experts offer easy ways to upgrade in key areas.
Buy the organics that matter
In a perfect world, all the foods you eat would be 100-percent pesticide-free. But since few of us have the money or even the access to everything organic, it pays to know which organics really matter. If you only buy some organic produce, use the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list as a guide. The produce most heavily sprayed (read: buy organic varieties of these): peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots and pears. The produce least likely to be contaminated? Onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, kiwis, cabbages, eggplants, papayas, watermelons, broccoli, tomatoes and sweet potatoes.
Go with the (whole) grain
Want to make the one change that will have the most impact on your overall health? Swap out refined grains for whole grains, says David Grotto, R.D., L.D.N., author of 101 Foods that Could Save Your Life (Bantam). “You can look at any one of the top health challenges Americans face—heart disease, diabetes, even cancer—and find that whole grains can help prevent or treat the problem,” he explains. The unique fibers in whole grains act like a sponge to soak up cholesterol and toxins, stabilize blood sugar levels, aid digestion and may even intercept the signaling mechanism that tells cells to become cancerous, Grotto says. Reach for amaranth, quinoa, millet, barley, brown and wild rice, flaxseed, rye, oats and spelt.