We all want to live better, healthier lives, yet many of us fall into the trap of overlooking the huge impacts of our day-to-day choices. We may follow “popular opinion” and get stuck in the mentality that “if it’s good enough for the next guy, it must be good enough for me.” As Muslims, we believe everything has a right over us including our bodies, our neighbors, animals and the environment. But it is a responsibility and amaanah that we sometimes take too lightly. It was not too long ago that I blindly followed the mass, and did not consciously strive to make the best decisions with regards to my health or the environment.
Between conceiving and rearing children simultaneously, to finishing up school, I didn’t care to look into every product we consumed, used or even threw into the garbage. As a mother who was racing against time, I was looking for convenience, and ease. Now, as my kids are grown up (well, at least they are all out of diapers yay! ), and I finally finished my schooling, I have the time to actually research and confirm that there were better choices I could’ve made. Even though, I didn’t go as far as to feed them cheetos and soda in the morning (Alhamdulilah), I wished that I realized back then what I do now, how with just a few easy swaps, our quality of our lives can be dramatically improved.
Examples of Healthy Swaps I adopted
Swap the non- stick pans for stainless steel/cast iron: Because I didn’t want my food to stick, I “let things slide” and used non-stick pans for years. Now, after realizing how carcinogenic they become when they are scratched (and eventually they all do), I have finally replaced all of them with cast iron pans of various shapes and sizes, and have not looked back since. If you maintain them well, they work just as well as nonstick pans, and they have the extra benefit of enriching your foods with iron. They also are very cost effective, as they never have to be replaced like teflon pans, and they are virtually indestructible!
Eat your fruits instead of drinking it: I used to buy juice for my kids thinking that it was a healthy choice. Alhamdullilah, I have finally realized that it is far from it. Juice is basically sugar, and water with a bit of vitamins, because that is what is left of fruit once all the fibers have been removed. There is a reason why many people (especially kids) cannot resist juice, and it has to do with the fact that the amount of sugar in one juicebox exceeds the daily allowance! When we add that to all the other hidden sugar in the other foods we consume, it is no surprise why many people are getting sick. When you think about it, it’s not much different than giving your children soda, even if the sugars are natural. Now, the only drink I offer my kids is water, and if they want some flavor, I allow them to infused it with herbs, or a squeeze of lemon 😉 And if they want fruit, they can pick one out from the fruit basket, and chomp on it instead 😉 .
Coconut Oil for everything: My husband thinks I am obsessed with coconut oil, and he’s right! I absolutely love the stuff, and have used it for all my cooking, as well as most of my personal care needs (from toothpaste to lipbalms). Coconut oil and olive oil has also replaced all the other unhealthy, highly processed, gmo oils that we used to cook with believing in the widespread marketing gimmic claiming that it was “heart healthy.” (another big corporate lie which I sadly fell for!) MashaAllah, Coconut oil also gives everything I cook a surprising nice flavor!
Support Farmers instead of Corporations: I try to buy most of my produce from farmer’s market, and on weeks that I didn’t make it to the market on time, I am one grumpy muslimah, and for a good reason! So, this is something I used to do anyway but not consistently or even health consciously. (Ok I admit that I was lured by the ambiance and free samples, rather than the principle of having fresh, local, sustainably grown produce) Now, I understand the importance of buying produce that is not laden with pesticides and not shipped from halfway around the world. Having fruit or vegetables that doesn’t rot until several weeks later cannot be natural, or healthy, and on top of it, it cannot compete with my fresh produce from farmer’s market in the taste department.
Growing your own herbs instead of buying at the supermarket: Although I grow an array of other herbs, it has been several years now that I have not bought parsley or mint in particular. (By the way, if you live in the bay area, these 2 herbs seem to flourish year round!) Herbs not only provide flavor to your meals, they also contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than fruits and vegetables. Growing your own not only saves money but ensures quality and freshness.
Garlic for everything: I have finally discovered the amazing world of fresh garlic, and there is hardly a day that goes by that we are not consuming it in our meals. I stopped buying the conveniently minced jars of garlic of my college days. Instead, I make the sacrifice to peel and mince each precious garlic bulb individually, knowing fully well that it is worth the extra work, when it prevents my family and I from ailments (which we almost never suffer from, alhamdulillah). Not to mention, the flavor of fresh garlic cannot be beat! If viruses and bacteria somehow manage to break through their “iron wall of defense,” I call for more “garlic reinforcements” to fight it. My husband who used to run to buy antibiotics everytime he gets sick, now patronizes my “farmacy,” begging me for more garlic soup (just don’t run straight to the masjid after consuming it lol).
Gratitude instead of entitlement: Instead of crying over things I don’t have, I realize I become richer, when I count my blessings for the things I do have. Honestly, there are so many things that we can say Alhamdullilah for that there is really no need to ever feel that we are deprived in any way (although Shaytan will always try to make us to think that we are). Because nothing in this world is truly ours, and everything is either a test or a trust, we shouldn’t also allow ourselves to get caught up with “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Reflection instead of media: Most of us have a tendency when we are bored to fill the “gap” with entertainment whether by surfing the internet or watching t.v.. Not only are we bombarding ourselves with too much information, we are also inviting our space to be filled with lots of negative energy. We might even get caught up with comparing our own lives with those that of the artificial online world, or worse yet the “picture perfect” but unrealistic hollywood ones, making us jealous, depressed, and discontent. It also leaves us little room to reflect on our day to day, causing us to more vulnerable to propaganda, and advertising campaigns. To reclaim your peace of mind, turn off the t.v., unsubscribe from emails you no longer want to receive, unfollow those who don’t add value to your life and make space to reflect on life.
Read Quran first thing in the morning instead of.. I often find myself struggling to read quran or make thikr during the day, and then feel guilty at night because I didn’t prioritize the way I would have liked. Doing the hardest things early in the morning not only makes you more productive but it also boosts your imaan. Knowing that you put the quran first or the remembrance of Allah before anything can make you feel really good about your day, as well as set it up for success.
Listen to the quran instead of music: When you are exercising and listening to music, you may look for something with a certain tempo or rhythm to help you get pumped. You can achieve the same result (running, jogging, walking) while listening to the Quran. I find that certain Qaris can get you to feel pumped while reading the quran. The ones that read the quran faster make for great companions while doing housework or going for a jog.
So, these are just a few of the little “swaps” I adopted which have made a huge difference in my life. As you can see, it didn’t really require a whole lot of effort, but rather just putting more thought into the choices we make each day.
Do you have any easy “swaps” you have made that you would like to share?
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