10 Tips for Getting Your Healthy On

Claire O'Bryan

So what’s my blog all about? Am I vegan? Am I vegetarian? Am I telling you guys that you need to quit eating meat? What, I'm a communist? 

No no, none of the above...  I'm just a good old-fashioned veggie pusher. As a healthcare professional with a background in exercise science, I'm here to impart as much info as I can about what I know and what I've experienced. My blog started after I changed my own dietary habits... friends and family started asking questions,  and the rest is history! My goal is simple: I want to encourage as many people as possible to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible, as OFTEN as possible.  Whether you're doing it for health reasons, beauty reasons, or moral reasons, the benefits of eating more veggies and less meat are endless. And don't get me wrong, I love animals just as much as the next guy... but I love humans more. If you’re wondering how to get heavy on the veggies, here are 10 tips to help get you started:

1) Take your breakfast and lunch to work: Control what you eat everyday by making sure you take a healthy breakfast, healthy snacks, and a veggie-packed lunch!  I make sure I have at least two servings of fruit to snack on during the day. I take a salad for lunch so I get at least two to three servings of vegetables.  

**I'd also like to make a little sidenote here: sometimes people hawking healthier eating are real food haters... they could eat the same thing day in and day out... they don't love food. I'm not one of those. I love food. I also get what my coworkers lovingly refer to as "HANGRY" (hungry + angry = hangry). Because I exercise and am on the move at work all day,  if I don't eat every two to three hours, it's ineviteable. And I do exercise to stay thin. So you can rest assured, I practice what I preach and I love food just as much as you. If not more. Probably more.  

2) Order UP on the veggies: If you don’t have the time or can’t take your lunch for some reason, make sure you’re piling on the veggies wherever you can. Ordering a sandwich? Ask for spinach, tomatoes, and every veggie topping they’ve got! Come on, you're not eight-years old anymore. Stop saying "no lettuce or tomato" on your sandwiches. 

3) Make better choices: Changing your lifestyle is different than going on a diet. What I’m about is lifestyle change—NEVER dieting unless medically necessary. I encourage people to take steps to make better choices. Once you’ve mastered that first step, make an even BETTER choice!  For example: First, cut out the red meat. Go for leaner meat choices like turkey, chicken, or fish. Once you’ve got that down, go for the vegetarian option. I’m not saying you need to be vegetarian, but often these choices will give you more veggies and lighter fare. Cut out the sodas, move to diet, and eventually you'll be drinking Perrier and feeling infinitely cooler.  

4) LEARN about what you’re eating: Is that salad you chose really healthy? Or is it just a vehicle for high-fat dressing? Sometimes what we think may be the lighter option is really the opposite. Just because you’re ordering fish, chicken, or a salad does NOT mean you’re getting any redeeming nutritional value, and you could be taking in lots more fat and calories than you think. 

5) It starts at home: If you’re eating out almost every day (or for some of you, every meal), this is WAY too much. You simply cannot control the quality of the food you are eating when you’re at a restaurant. I just learned that a restaurant we frequent deep fries the brussels sprouts I love so dearly… DEEP FRIED?! GOOD LORD MAN, I thought they were roasted! Even a knowledgeable foodie can’t always order the right thing on a menu when at a restaurant. Eat as many meals as you can at home, plan ahead, and take meals and snacks with you whenever you can.

6) Read the label: I’m not encouraging you to be a calorie counter here. I’m encouraging you to be knowledgeable about the ingredients in your food, and to make sure each food you buy brings something to the table. Whether it be fiber, protein, vitamins, or healthy fats, each food you eat should bring something good to you!  If it's got 30 ingredients, chances are you could find a better option.  

7) Have it available: I know I know, this seems like it would be obvious, but it's not! It’s tough to eat enough fruits and veggies when you don’t have them readily available in your house, or at work. Have plenty available, cut or washed and ready to eat! Buy a huge bag of apples—they rarely go bad. Buy carrots, celery, peppers, cucumbers, or whatever you like—wash and cut them, and have them ready to eat when you are! No one wants to feel hungry for a snack and spend 10 minutes preparing one. That’s the point of eating a snack vs. a meal. If your snacks are complicated and time-consuming, you’ll just go for the quickest thing around and eventually give up. The more these foods are around, the more you’ll eat them!

8) Buy more often: I go to the grocery store several times a week. I realize this isn’t feasible for everyone, but going to the store more frequently will encourage you to buy fresher ingredients that need to be eaten within the next 2-3 days. Wasting food is expensive, so the more fresh ingredients you have on hand, the more you’ll use them!  

**Sidenote 2: I love the grocery store an inappropriate amount. I'd go every day if it wouldn't bankrupt us. So if you'd like for me to take a trip with you to the store, the answer is yes. 

9) Join a CSA: Joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) will change your life! I’ve been on a summer hiatus from mine for about 12 weeks and it is driving me CRAZY!!! This is an awesome way to have fruits and veggies around that you wouldn’t normally buy, and that you want to cook and enjoy before they go bad.  Support your local farmers! Here's a link to a post I wrote on some local CSA's and GetLocalFoods.com

10) EXERCISE!!!!!: Technically this isn’t an eating tip, but who cares!? The benefits of exercise are so high, they actually outweigh the benefits of eating well. We have to add movement and physical activity to truly reap the benefits of what we’re eating. Get out and exercise! Walk your dog. Walk your kids. Run up and down the stairs. Buy hand weights. Pump some iron. Dust off your bike. Hit the gym. Hell, we live in Charleston, if you can't find a way to be active I can't help you.  Whatever you like, do it! If you don’t like it, do it anyway!!!

Happy Vegging!!!