Taking the First Steps to a Healthier & Happier YOU!

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Plato was onto something.


Smart guy.


As mentioned in my earlier post about New Year’s Resolutions, when it comes to tackling your goals (whether it be a promotion, fitness regimen, healthy eating plan, or a home-decorating project) if you carefully (and willingly!) set the right framework from the very beginning, you are destined to achieve success. For example, how many times have you woken up and proclaimed “I’m going to eat healthy today!” only to crumble under the pressure of a fresh-baked cookie or those doughnuts at your morning meeting? Oh, and that extra glass (or two, or three?) of wine at happy hour? Yes. they count! (You drink. You crumble ;) ). If you make the decision to be healthy the moment you wake up (even before you get out of bed!)…you are that much more likely to stick to healthy choices all throughout the day.


Now you already know how I feel about being perfect–as in there’s NO such thing!–but if you’re looking to be the very best you can be in 2013 there are ways to set yourself up for success, boost your heath and immunity, help you make better decisions, and get yourself on that path to being fit and fabulous whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, or somewhere in between. Over the next few days I’ll be posting healthy lifestyle tips and tricks (and a few fun and healthy baking swaps!) that will gently keep your resolutions on track through for the rest of this month and into the month of February.


Tips and Tricks for Healthy Eating


1. Make a grocery list before you go shopping.

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We’ve all been there. After the gym you run to the grocery store because you’re already out of the house, only to realize that after an hour of spinning and ab exercises, you’re ravenous and searching for the cookie aisle! Suddenly there’s a bar of chocolate, a bag of chips, and a pint of rocky road in your cart and you have no recollection as to how they got there. (So much for the fresh fruit, raw almonds, and quinoa on your list!) Let’s avoid this little snag, shall we? Now, if you just take a few minutes to sit down, write a grocery list, and plan out your meals for the week– you’re actually forced to be conscious of your food choices (again, like a journal, it’s the whole visual thing). Once you’ve made your list—DON’T STRAY unless you absolutely have to (like if Whole Foods is having a sale on raw kale chips. Then, that’s perfectly justified ;) ).


2. Plan out/pack your meals ahead of time

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I can’t stress enough how important this step is! Just like I mentioned above, planning out your meals ahead of time helps to keep you in check, but actually preparing your meals ahead of time is the real secret to success. I like to prepare the more difficult/time-consuming meals and wash/cut my produce on a Sunday night or immediately after I go grocery shopping so that I have healthy snacks and easy-to-put-together meals on hand at all times during the busy work week (my go-to’s are hearty soups, salads, veggie sticks, pineapple, cantaloupe, cucumber slices, quinoa,  brown rice, lemons, tofu etc…). Before work, I’ll slice up an apple for a healthy mid-day snack, make tea or hot lemon water in a travel mug (this also saves you Starbucks $$$!), and pack a handful of raw almonds for munching at my desk. The point is, if your fridge is full of good-for-you snacks and easy meal prep, you’ll feel more guilty picking an unhealthy option.

3. Load up on fruits, veggies, and other “clean” foods

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Think of your body like a car. If you filled it up with dirty, sticky, cheap gasoline and oil…it wouldn’t  run very well would it? In fact, if you neglect you car and don’t fill it up with the things it needs, the car will keep breaking down, cost more in repairs, and eventually die. Your body is just like a car or machine. When you fuel it with powerful, clean, fuel (like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein) as opposed to packaged, processed, refined, cheap, fat and sugar filled junk…you can expect your body to function a heck of a lot better (think more energy, less time spent at the doctor’s office, less weight, better skin/hair/nails, sharper mind and a happier disposition all around). When was the last time you ate an apple and thought “Man…I really wish I didn’t eat that apple. Now I feel so awful and tired!” Oh, you’ve never said that? My point exactly ;)


4. Eat “power foods”

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There’s been a lot of hype about “super foods” in the heath industry over the past few years. While some of the hype out there is true (super foods with antioxidants are great for fighting cancer!), the crazy weight loss claims of other super foods should have you second-guessing their promises (raspberry ketone craze anyone?). That’s why I prefer to call my version of healthy super foods “power foods,” because that’s exactly what they do because they have the richest amount of nutrients and phytochemicals, the least amount of calories, and the most health benefits. Check out my list of power foods below that will get you geared up and ready to go no matter what time of the day:


Power Foods

  • Acai Berries
  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Beans
  • Bell Peppers
  • Blueberries
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brown Rice (in moderation)
  • Carrots
  • Chia Seeds
  • Coconut oil**
  • Dark Chocolate! (in moderation!)
  • Leeks
  • Pomegranates
  • Red Wine(ONE glass a day)
  • Seeds
  • Seaweed
  • Spirulina
  • Sweet potato
  • Tofu
  • Tomato
  • Turmeric
  • Quinoa (in moderation)
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Edamame
  • Flaxseed/Oil
  • Garlic
  • Goji Berries
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Olive Oil
  • Onions
  • Shallots

** Coconut oil is criticized for being high in saturated fat, however, not all saturated fat is created equal. It’s not hydrogenated (like most sat. fats), is made up of MCFAs which are broken down & easily digested/metabolized by the liver for immediate energy. It’s also stable enough to withstand the heat of cooking (other oils oxidize), and is believed to boost metabolism (the body can readily use this fat for energy rather than storage).


5. Limit/avoid purchasing & eating  processed foods

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Do you feel like being productive or going out for a run after you gorge on fast-food, a slice of pizza, or a package of cookies? Probably not. You’d probably like nothing more than to fall asleep on your couch in the fetal position while watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians reruns. So what happens when you eat all that junk at work? Do you find yourself dozing off in your afternoon meeting? Like I said above, you body runs best on good-quality, clean, natural foods. And that means you brain does too! So skip that processed junk food at the office– you’ll be more way more productive with your days if you can think clearly.


6. Read nutrition labels!

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This little detail is SO vital, yet many people don’t do it! In fact, a recent study done by the Journal of American Dietetic Association showed that only 9% of people check nutrition labels, and only 1%  check the labels for all of their components.  So many products out there claim to be healthy on the outside…but turn over the package, read the label and you’ll realize even some of those healthy buzzwords on the  like  ”natural,” “vegan,” “gluten-free,” and “organic” can still be fooling you. You want to watch out for sodium content (daily recommended value is less than one teaspoon a day), sugar content (less than 10% of your daily calories–or none–unless from natural sources like fruit), fat content (watch out for that saturated fat–keep it to at most 7% of your total daily calories– and check those ingredients for  heart-healthy fats like omega-3s), and carbohydrate content (look for dietary fiber–shoot for 20 grams of fiber per day for women and 30 grams for men– and keep all carbs whole grain!). Check out step by step instructions on decoding nutrition labels here.


7. Watch out for sneaky sugar!

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This goes right along with the above recommendation to check those nutrition labels– but because it’s so important I wanted to address it on its own. Sugar is everywhere…and if you’re not careful it can crop up in some unexpected places (condiments, granola bars, cereal, bread,  juices etc…). And just because the sugar is natural or organic (like maple syrup, honey, molasses) sugar calories are sugar calories no matter how you swing it. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 tablespoons–or 30 grams– of sugar per day for women, but I’d  actually aim for even lower.  In my last post I explain in greater detail why sugar is addictive .


8. Purchase a BPA-free water bottle

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DRINK WATER!!! Aside from the fact that your body needs water to efficiently burn fat,  flush out toxins, keep your digestive system regular, and keep your muscles primed for exercise– water is vital to your healthy eating efforts. Did you know that more times than not, when you think your hungry…you’re actually thirsty? So before you go grabbing for that jar of almond butter…grab a glass of water instead! If 15-20 minutes go by and you’re still hungry, go for a healthy snack with some protein and whole grains to fill you up.  Don’t love plain water? Toss a few slices of cucumber, lemons, oranges, or limes into your water bottle for a natural flavor boost!


9.) Know your “cheat” foods

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Okay, so it’s totally fine to have a treat every now and then IF that’s what it truly is—just every now and then. Dessert and treats are perfectly acceptable (I like it just as much as the next girl!) just as long as you know when to put the lid on your that tub of ice cream and save the rest for later. And (while I hate to put complete restrictions on any food) if you just can’t handle having something in the house without devouring the whole thing in one sitting, then maybe it’s time to limit the amount of times you purchase that particular food. For the beginning stages of your healthy-eating-habits-overhaul it may be a helpful choice. After a while, you can gradually introduce the item back into your diet. Another option? Purchase individual serving sizes of your “cheat” foods, or portion out your own snack packs of granola, trail mix or whatever you’d like. The individually packed treats tend to be a bit more expensive than the real deal, but if that’s what keep you from eating more than one serving, it’s well worth it.


And there you have it! You’re now on your way to being a healthier and happier you! :)


Please remember…no one  can (nor should they try to) overhaul their entire lifestyle in a day. It takes patience, energy, and time to form new habits. Sadly, there’ no magic number of days it takes to form a habit–the 21 day myth isn’t 100% accurate– but it certainly gets easier doing any new routine if you stick with it for a couple of weeks). Just trust me, and more importantly…TRUST YOU! And whatever you do, don’t forget…


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 Healthfully Yours,


Ashley Michelle




Let’s Chat!


When the going gets tough, and you’re ready to give up or give in (whether it be on healthy eating, an exercise regimen, a project, schoolwork etc…) what helps to keeps you motivated?