Six First Steps Toward Natural Living

Post by Contributing Writer, Beth

The amount of information on the natural living lifestyle can be overwhelming. It can be really difficult to sort through what to change, when to change it, and why. Here are a few first steps that I think are important, and will serve you well as you embark on the journey toward a healthier and more natural life.

1. Have the Desire.

The very first thing required for a journey into natural living is a sincere desire for change. It sounds kind of obvious, but don’t spend all kinds of extra money on natural body care products unless you actually care about intentionally avoiding the chemicals that are in conventional ones.

Don’t buy expensive healthy ingredients if they’re only going to sit in the pantry for a year. It’s pointless to try and senselessly jump on the bandwagon only to fall off later and feel guilty about it!

2. Baby Steps.

If you have the desire to move toward a more natural mindset and lifestyle, then go easy on yourself and take baby steps. Don’t rush to your pantry and throw every single thing away and then panic and wonder what the heck to make for dinner.

Perhaps you could start with making homemade cleaners instead of the conventional ones that are full of harmful chemicals. Or try out a shampoo that is free of SLS and Parabens. Maybe you could even just start out by choosing one item in your pantry to make healthy and homemade instead of buying the unhealthy version (like chicken stock – which is one of the most nutrient-dense good-for-you things you could possibly serve your family, not to mention so frugal!).

3. Become an Avid Label Reader.

Learn to check the ingredient list of every product you buy, and learn what the ingredients are and what they do. Be conscious of what you are putting on or in your body. You will be surprised at first just how much junk is hidden in products that we supposed to believe are safe.

Did you know that peanut butter often contains extremely high amounts of sugar? And that most conventional shampoos contain a carcinogenic chemical called Sodium Laurel Sulfate? Read labels… or better yet buy things that don’t require a label (think produce, meat, etc), or make your own!

4. Be Informed.

Of course no one can assimilate all of the information out there, especially when it continues to expand and change so quickly. Don’t worry about knowing it all, just focus on reading and learning little bits as you are able.

Choose a few blogs to subscribe to (may I suggest Frugal Granola and Red & Honey as good places to start! ;) ), read a few books, and commit to being a learner. A few key things to check out to start would be the EWG database and the Dirty Dozen list, and for nutrition, check out WAPF.

5. Have Healthy Treats on Reserve.

If you are trying to eat better (cutting out sugar/grains/processed foods or whatever it may be), then I would highly advise having a plan for when those cravings hit. For example, this recipe for chocolate coconut macaroons is pretty much as healthy as it gets… they are even GAPS legal, with no grains, no dairy, no refined sugars… and yet they are one of my most popular recipes among my friends.

6. Don’t Take it Too Seriously.

This will depend on your own convictions and it will look different for each person. In general though, I would advise that you don’t let your new knowledge and lifestyle be more important than relationships.

Many of the strictest real foodies I know will say that the 80/20 rule is ok: If 80% of what you ingest is super healthy, then an occasional indulgence (like on special occasions, etc) should not be a big deal. That is assuming, of course, that your 80% really is actually healthy, and not just “pseudo-healthy” (like the Food Pyramid and other misleading “resources”).

Embracing a natural and healthy lifestyle and diet is a continual journey. It can be difficult at times, but if you stay on the course, you will not regret it!

What is your number one tip for a beginner who is learning about natural living?

Beth is a natural redhead, wife to a pilot husband and mama to (almost) 3 little ones. She is passionate about missions, motherhood, and finding the beauty in everyday life. She blogs from the Canadian prairies about the art and soul of audacious homemaking at Red & Honey.

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26 comments to Six First Steps Toward Natural Living

  • [...] is my monthly contributor post for Frugal Granola. Read the rest here…} Share and Enjoy: [...]

  • Reading labels has been such a huge help to me when I’m tempted to take food shortcuts in the grocery store! I am far from perfect, but if the first three ingredients are all modified-something and/or some form of sugar it gets a LOT easier to just put it back on the shelf! Also, I don’t really have any desire to get 46% of my daily sodium from a side dish, so that helps me walk away from a lot of the instant/5-min meals :)

    [Reply]

    beth@redandhoney Reply:

    @Alyssa, Yup, those lists of impossible-to-pronounce chemicals will get me every time!

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  • I LOVE having my homemade chicken stock to cook with and sometimes just drink hot in a coffee cup. We raise and butcher our own chickens. While processing them we cut off the legs, wings, and breasts and throw the “carcass” in a huge stockpot. I fill it with water, add cooking wine (helps release minerals from the bones), salt, pepper, a ton of herbs, and whatever veggies I have on hand. Then, I cook it until the meat is falling off and not really palatable anymore. Our cats get the leftover meat, so nothing goes to waste. Then I strain it and put it in jars to freeze or can. So healthy, and so frugal!

    [Reply]

    beth@redandhoney Reply:

    @Apryl, I agree – chicken stock is so great just for straight drinking. It would be hard to find a more nutritious snack!

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  • Have the confidence that you can do it. I have talked myself out a veggie patch for years, essentially because I was sacred that I didn’t know what to do. We just planted one this weekend. I’m still nervous I won’t get anything but how can I learn if I don’t do it, right?!

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    beth@redandhoney Reply:

    @Kristi, That is such a great point! (And hits close to home because I’ve never gardened and am kinda way scared of it!) :)

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  • Kristy @ Little Natural Cottage

    This is such a great article!

    My biggest struggle along the way has been taking myself too seriously. Pursuing natural living is a way to honor God by becoming wise stewards of our health and bodies, and to bless our families. When I keep that perspective, it takes away the pressure of having to DO or BE something just to meet my own expectations, or to keep up with what someone else is doing.

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    beth@redandhoney Reply:

    @Kristy @ Little Natural Cottage, Thanks Kristy, glad you enjoyed it :) I agree – keeping the right perspective on *why* is so important!

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  • Great post! I especially have to remind myself that baby steps are important. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and to think that if we can’t do it perfectly we can’t do anything.

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    beth@redandhoney Reply:

    @Wendy (The Local Cook), Yup, a little bit done imperfectly will still benefit you… and that’s how you learn! Keep going, Wendy! :)

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  • Thanks for posting this!! It is a very helpful list to start with:)

    [Reply]

    beth@redandhoney Reply:

    @Christy, Glad you enjoyed it, Christy :)

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  • Great post! I am definitely in the “baby steps” process and am finally becoming committed to it as it seems less and less overwhelming. One of the reasons I held back is because I did not want to become all or nothing about it(which is my tendency). I did not want it to take a higher priority than it should in my life, but I’ve found that making changes little by little really makes it no big deal!

    Blessings to you!!!!!!!!!!

    [Reply]

    beth@redandhoney Reply:

    @Amy Walker, Exactly – that’s where I am too – small things gradually are far less overwhelming than a total lifestyle overhaul (though if that’s what you really want to do that’s ok too!)

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  • Thank you for this. I always feel like I’m not doing enough to live green/natural, but I take steps when I can. Thanks for reminding me that no one is perfect and baby steps do count!

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    beth@redandhoney Reply:

    @Brandi S, So glad it resonated with you, thanks for reading!

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  • “don’t let your new knowledge and lifestyle be more important than relationships.”–> I love that, Beth! It’s so important, and a lesson that I didn’t quite grasp when I first headed down this path.

    I also think the 80/20 idea is very freeing and can help with not coming off as superior and judgmental with friends/family who are not in to natural living.

    [Reply]

    beth@redandhoney Reply:

    @Nicole @ Simple Homemade, I’ve learned that it seems obvious, but is pretty hard to do in practice, especially when you just want your family and friends to “see the light” too, but it can easily come off as superiority, etc. It’s a tough balance, for sure. I agree, the 80/20 rule really helps me to think more gracefully about others’ choices as well as my own.

    [Reply]

  • Tracy

    Where can I find a list of shampoos that are better to use without the chemicals? I don’t know where to start! And some of us have eczema (read: dandruff) – where to find something better than Head and Shoulders which works very well.

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  • I love this Beth – thank you! I’m working on my real foods journey in 2014 and it can definitely be very overwhelming. I love some of your tips – especially that last one about not taking it too seriously! It is a serious thing, taking care of your body, but it’s not the end of the world if I don’t do everything, all the time! Grace is good :) Thank you again!

    [Reply]

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