Sustainable Eating for Longevity with Johanna Ljunggren of Detox Life
We are so pleased to bring you another guest editorial with the wonderful Johanna Ljunggren of Detox Life! In this piece Johanna shares her tips for sustainably going about new beginnings whilst navigating daily life through a global pandemic.
“Travel the world in your kitchen, make your favourite fast foods from scratch and serve nutrition for the soul.”
If 2020 taught us anything, it was to let go of our expectations, unwanted habits and quirks and also that these efforts really take lifelong training. Years ago, when I was deepening my meditation practice, I came across Peter Russel, a brilliant Eco-Philosopher who was a scientist that had turned to spirituality to study the human mind. In a talk he gave he said; “it is tough to teach the mind to let go, but we can learn how to “undo” the holding on.” That phrase stuck with me – the undoing of holding on is what I practice every meditation moment, usually sitting with my hands open, paying extra attention to my exhales to rid myself of excess energy that no longer serves me.
I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, honestly, January might be the month I least want to engage in a cleanse or vigorous workouts. I’ve spent too many years of my life obsessing about my body and the phrase guilty pleasures just makes me confused – why should I be feeling guilty about something that has just given me pleasure? If you open a magazine or swipe through social media at the beginning of the year, it’s all about how to get rid of those extra kilos the holidays might have put on. Or maybe you’ve been in lock-down and haven’t been able to move your body and feel you need to rip off that bandage, run miles while surviving solely on green juice and smoothies. Listen up beautiful humans, why not give yourselves some nutrition for the soul instead?
With the New Year upon us, we can consider what state of mind the outbreak of COVID-19 has brought upon us – that of uncertainty. Stress and doubt are a poor foundation to start any form of practice – physical, mental or spiritual; instead, we need kindness and a healthy dose of humor. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I seldom talk of the nutrition in foods. I left that part nine years ago when I founded Detox Life. Detox Life stands for the process when you detox yourself from diets and wellness trends and choose life; it also symbolises my own journey.
Eating nutritious food should be the norm, but sadly it’s not. Two summers ago, when working in New York City at the peak of the wellness trend, I realised that wellness made me feel unwell. Healthy living in the media felt elitist and not accessible for everyone, and the food I had studied and created for 18 years felt vain. I wanted to find another way to communicate with my followers; so I turned my focus to unwanted food.
Unwanted food is not just taking care of food waste; it can be working with those ingredients in the fridge and pantry that we might feel ashamed of using or eating. In my kitchen, as in life, I want the high, low and grey in-between zones to be represented. Yes, we should eat seasonal and local if we can, but sometimes we must create with the products that we already have. Slowly with time your pantry will look more inclusive, there will be room for the pleasures and the healthy foods our bodies need, and your diet will become yours. It’s not only for health reasons we eat and cook; we should be having fun in the kitchen. I love making my favourite fast foods but from scratch at home.
“The moment I stopped listening to that voice in my head that felt guilty of my pleasures and let go of holding on to a specific diet, I found that my body responded by feeling balanced.”
I love to travel with my family, and when I can’t do it physically, I travel in my kitchen—remembering meals past in foreign countries or cities and the countryside. The cacao and coconut smoothie I have made with the actual cacao fruit in Costa Rica on a yoga work trip has the essences of tropical flavor. However, in Sweden I like to use powdered cacao and canned coconut milk with a dash of salt and ice, it’s not the same and not local but it brings back the memory of a post yoga class on the beach.
Or perhaps January should be the time when you explore the world of soft tacos, Italian side dishes or imagine you’re cooking for friends in an outdoor kitchen loaded with fresh herbs, beans and natural wine. Take out your photos from childhood vacations, scroll through the ones stored in the smartphone or revisit forgotten cookbooks, perhaps you will find a culinary memory that will let your senses do the traveling.
The moment I stopped listening to that voice in my head that felt guilty of my pleasures and let go of holding on to a specific diet, I found that my body responded by feeling balanced. My diet is a constant flow of homemade broths with noodles, potatoes and beans with salad or soup, huge dishes of homemade pasta, roasted chicken with herbs or a glass of fruit and overnight oats. Every dish is seasoned with a memory from a great meal I’ve had and shared. Somedays I crave a whole lettuce, eating it like an apple, other days it might be toast and cheese with a milky cup of tea. After years of struggling to understand my body it finally tells me what I need, having had the journey from uncertainty to certainty. Whatever the future has in store for us, I can’t think of a better time to travel in your own kitchen and cook with the mentality of nutrition for the soul.
How to start the new year without burning your candle in both ends!
1 – I like to wait with my juice cleanse until the weather is warmer, but if you want to stay on the lighter side of eating now do enjoy broths of all kinds. My favorite is making a whole roasted organic chicken twice a month. From one chicken you get a dinner for two, a salad with leftovers and at least 1-2 liters of homemade chicken stock.
2 – Make your own seasoning. A great seasoning can make even the simplest dish pop. I save the onion and garlic skins, toasted them in the oven with chili fruits and mix to a pulp with coarse salt—a perfect rub for veggies, meat, fish or poultry.
3 – All kinds of ferments, vinegar and mustards make their way into my dressings, warm salads or boiled eggs. These are simple additions you can make yourself easily!
4 – I drink green juice or smoothie almost every day, but I always add an egg, sourdough with cream cheese or a portion of oatmeal to my breakfast. I love the idea of only drinking liquids, but I can only do only juicing when I’m in the Tropics or if it’s scorching outside.
5 – Warm salads with beans, rice or potatoes are another staple on the menu, a heavier dressing and maybe a hummus is a great addition to feeling full and adding healthy protein.
6 – I eat everything, but when we choose an animal protein, it’s local and organic. 90% of my diet is plant-based, 10% animal protein. You will learn how to listen to what you need in time; be smart when choosing your products, try to keep it local but don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t always afford it or eat a bit more meat than you would like. Tomorrow is a new day to try again!
7 – It’s also better to inspire people and give them tips rather than to shame and blame, be kind and inventive rather than harsh and scolding. If anything 2020 has taught us, it’s that empathy and kindness is key to positive change!
All images are analogue from travels, culinary food memories to spice up 2021. Italy and Frances marketplaces and love for seasonal and localities, cooking on concrete in New York, smoothies in the jungle of Costa Rica. – Johanna Ljunggren
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