Sustainable living has become a popular buzzword in the past few years, but what does it really mean? It’s a broad term that includes being more environmentally friendly, but it can also include health and wellness. Our friend Lauren Brittain from @healthyhomebakes, a nutritionist and personal trainer, has shared some ways to start living a more sustainable lifestyle in 2022 and beyond.

Health has become such a subjective term nowadays. People gauge the status of their health based off personal preferences and perspectives – which makes sense as health and wellness is most certainly not a one-size-fits-all designation. There is so much information available on the internet, social media, books, and various other sources, that it can get really confusing. One of the questions I get asked most often is “what is the best diet?” The thing is, there is not one single “best” diet. I think that the most important thing when deciding the best diet for you, is to consider what is the most sustainable for your lifestyle, as well as what types of food you enjoy. The goal is not to completely deprive yourself of food groups or deny cravings, but to make this a way of living that allows you to feel better and eat the things that make you feel good. The key is balance. You should allow yourself to enjoy the food you consume – even if that means having something that isn’t what’s thought to be the healthiest choice from time to time. Life is all about balancing the two, and in that, you will find a happy mind, body, and weight.

One thing I convey to all my clients is to keep it simple. This is the basis of everything I try and teach! The second thing is to find time to cook or prep your meals ahead of time. If you can plan to cook and bake for yourself for the entire week, you are going to have healthier options on hand when hunger hits. There are also ways to swap healthier ingredients into a recipe to make it feel like you’re not depriving yourself while still eating well. Small healthy food swaps and making recipes at home really do add up to a lot by the end of the week.

I have a huge sweet tooth, so I always have some healthier chocolate on hand, as well as a plan to bake a treat for myself and my family to enjoy after meals. You can seriously make anything at home that you can buy in a store and nine times out of ten, it tastes so much better! That’s how I came up with this family favorite: Sweet Bell Pepper Jelly. Made with Pure Flavor® Sweet Bell Peppers, Oregon marionberries, and raw local honey (which is full of natural vitamins, minerals and antioxidants), this is one of my favorite things to add to a charcuterie board or bring to a family get together. I will eat it with everything from my morning bagel and cream cheese to a glaze for some homemade meatballs.

Before we get into making this recipe, let’s talk about these Sweet Bell Peppers from Pure Flavor®. Not only are they colorful, crunchy, and sweet, but they are naturally packed with Vitamins C, A, E, K and B6. They are loaded with antioxidants that can help improve muscle function, reduce your risk of heart disease, and boost overall wellness. They are greenhouse grown, which is a more sustainable way of growing food and makes the availability of veggies like cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers all year long!

This recipe makes two jars, but if you would like to make more, you can easily double or triple the recipe. Here is what you will need to get started:

  • Pure Flavor® Red Sweet Bell Pepper chopped up.
  • Two cups of fresh, local Oregon marionberries. If you don’t have these available to you fresh, you can use frozen, or you can grab whatever fresh blackberries you can get at your local grocery store or fruit market.
  • A cup of raw honey, which is full of natural vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a whole host of other great benefits.
  • Half a cup of seeded and chopped jalapeño peppers. One medium-sized jalapeño yields a generous tablespoon, so you will need anywhere from six to eight peppers, depending on their size.
  • A quarter cup of lemon juice – it can be fresh or bottled.
  • Two tablespoons of pectin. This ingredient is essential! Without pectin, your jelly won’t gel. Once it’s combined with sugar (honey) and acid (lemon juice) it helps to create a semisolid texture when it cools.

Once you have all your ingredients ready, throw the berries and lemon juice into a blender, then blend until smooth. If you don’t like seeds in your jelly, you can opt to strain them out. Pour the mixture into a heavy saucepan with the peppers, add a quarter cup of water and heat it over medium-high until it starts to boil. Gradually stir in the pectin, then add the honey and bring it to a hard boil for three minutes, while stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and ladle the jelly liquid into hot mason jars. Immediately put the lids on the jars so that the heat from jelly mixture helps seal them properly. Allow the jars to cool completely before putting them in the fridge to set overnight. Voila! A minimal ingredient pepper jelly that is healthier, free from refined sugar, and ready to impress your family and friends.

If I can leave you with a little advice for 2022 it is that you are allowed to enjoy your food! Make the majority of your choices healthy ones but leave some room to eat things that you wouldn’t normally eat. If your grandma makes your favorite pecan pie (that is most definitely not healthy), have a slice and move on with your day. Don’t dwell on it, but don’t eat six pieces either – just have a slice, allow yourself to enjoy it, and then move on. By focusing on changing your habits in a way that fits in with your lifestyle, not depriving yourself of the foods you enjoy, and keeping these elements simple, you will be on the road to success in no time. Making healthy choices day by day will help them remain sustainable.

I hope that 2022 brings you better health and much joy! Go out and make new memories with your friends, family, and the food that brings you together.

For Lauren’s full Sweet Bell Pepper Jelly recipe, click here.

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