Healthy Living For Beginners

Today’s lunch was odd, but tasty.

Looks Like Puke, Tastes Delicious

Sometimes the most disgusting looking food is the tastiest!

Today’s sandwich contained a mixture of:

  • 1/2 avocado, cubed
  • 1/4 c. salsa
  • 1/4 c. black beans

I spread this guacamole-ish mixture on whole wheat bread and enjoyed it along with sliced white pepper (yes, white pepper!!!), grape tomatoes, and a sliced carrot.

Peppa + 'Mater + Carrot

Lunchtime!

So Good

Veggie overload!

Healthy Living for Beginners

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who recently started trying to live a healthier life. She’s waving goodbye to fast food and an inactive lifestyle, but said she feels lost when she reads about healthy foods (like quinoa) that are completely foreign to her.

It can be overwhelming to change your lifestyle from a sedentary one to an active one. Just thinking about preparing your own food when you’re accustomed to eating out can be enough to deter people from taking the initiative to eat healthy.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to flip a switch and change dramatically over night. Your new healthy life begins today, and you can work on perfecting your healthy lifestyle forever!

My best advice to those new to the idea of working out and eating healthy is to make little changes. Enough little tweaks to an unhealthy lifestyle can completely transform you into a health-conscious eater and an active person.

About a year after I graduated from college, I made a decision to incorporate more vegetables into my diet and stop eating frozen meals that left me feeling unsatisfied. This was a small change that I can honestly say completely transformed my diet and left me feeling more energetic and satisfied.

Here are some of my tips for those looking to start living a healthier life (with some pictures thrown in to keep you intrigued ;) ):

  • Don’t fall into the “diet” trap: Don’t go to the grocery store and stock up on “diet” foods in an effort to eat healthier. A small frozen meal like a Lean Cuisine will likely leave you feeling unsatisfied.
  • Shop the perimeter: When you go to the grocery store, shop around the perimeter, where you’ll find fresh fruits and veggies and lean meats. I only venture into the aisles for essentials like bread and peanut butter. If I went up and down every aisle I’d likely end up with a cart full of Cheez-its and Oreos.

Fresh Fruit = Instant Satisfaction

  • Make a realistic exercise goal: If you’ve never worked out before, it may be unrealistic to think you’ll get in the gym six days a week right off the bat. Make attainable exercise goals, like going to the gym every other day or taking three group exercises classes one week.

Work It Out!

  • Ask those you love for their support: Living a healthy life can be very hard if your roommate or significant other is pressuring you to hit up the drive through for dinner or order a pizza. Explain your desire to change your diet and make healthier choices to them so they can support you rather than tempt you with indulgent dishes. They may even take an interest in healthy living themselves and want to join you for a workout!

Fitness is Fun with Friends!

  • Reevaluate your plate: Growing up my dinner plate typically looked like this: 40% meat/protein, 40% starch/carbs, 20% fruits/vegetables. Try to make vegetables and fruits the largest portion on your plate. I try to make sure 50% of my plate is covered by fruits and vegetables, which leaves half of my plate to divide evenly between meat and starches.

To avoid feeling like your whole life has been turned upside down, try implementing one of these tips a week. After all, slow and steady wins the race. ;)

Question of the Afternoon

What tips do you have for living a healthier life? Do you find it easier to eat healthy or keep up a regular exercise routine?

Comments

  1. says

    just take it one day at a time…it can be really intimidating, but i say if you learn 1-2 new things a week then that’s a good pace! it takes time to change your lifestyle, but it will be worth it in the end!

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  2. silvershadow157 says

    Don’t ever diet, instead look at it as changing your lifestyle. Make small changes and find healthy foods you enjoy eating!

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    • peanutbutterfingers says

      toooootally agree. a “diet” is something that ends. healthy living is something that lasts a lifetime.

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  3. says

    find ways to work out that you enjoy- I love to run but I get that a lot of people don’t. . . if you dance- dance, if you climb-climb. . . I think that works best for me- doing what I love

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  4. says

    I think making healthy changes is best done in small steps. It’s tough to shock your system with tons of changes at once! The tips you gave here are really great. I also think portion control is a huge helper when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle! It’s not good to get obsessive, but it’s important to realize what a “serving” is!

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  5. says

    Most important – do something REALISTIC! I get so many emails from readers wanting to drop weight by ‘x’ time, etc – if it’s not realistic (which is different for EVERYONE!) then it won’t work.

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  6. lablanke says

    The key for me was retraining my brain when it came to food and exercise. I started working out/running to be healthier and to complete my first 5K. The fact that my motivation came from something other than wanting to lose weight made the total difference. 9 months later I’m still at it. I also quit thinking about food as haves or have nots. I knew what made me feel good and what made me feel bad. I read enough about processed foods to trigger something in me and I eventually had literally no desire for those things anymore. It’s no longer a diet or even something I have to think about. I want to feel good. I crave veggies. And thats what my diet and excercise reflect. Its a process. Most of us have spent years if not our whole lives treating our bodies badly. A positve change can happen over night, but your body will take some time to recover.

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  7. says

    I think good advice for someone with limited knowledge about a healthy lifestyle (or where to begin!) is to first see a nutritionist. They are inexpensive and worth every penny. The next piece of advice I’d give is you make small changes. Cut out soda, incorporate more fruit veggies, replace white grains with whole wheat, nix fried food, nix diet drinks (artificial junk), drink more H20, and incorporate more exercise. I think a great workout program that’s fun for beginners (and still very challenging is Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred or Turbofire.

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  8. says

    Really good tips- I know a lot of people do fall into the Diet Foods trap at first, I totally did!

    Following healthy recipes (Clean Food mag, Cooking Light mag, blogs!, etc) to a tee can help you learn the basics of cooking, and eventually you won’t even need a recipe.

    As for trying new foods like quinoa, head to a restaurant or Whole Foods where you can try a portion. WF and other grocery stores make some great salads and hot food. It would be expensive to buy there all the time but is a good way to purchase a small amount of something to taste test.

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  9. says

    Eat a balanced meal and try not to have any food really be off-limits. This will only make you want it more! If you REALLY have no control if it’s in the house then simply don’t buy it. You’re not really denying yourself and you’re saving money. For exercise, try to find something you love doing. I love dancing and pilates so I always look forward to my workouts. If you choose something you actually enjoy, it is much easier to make yourself do it.

    I find healthy eating easier than a regular workout schedule. Although lately I’ve been eating like a little glutton, haha.

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  10. Sarah says

    Having a motivator (like healthy eaters with 12″ waists in work out clothes!) always keeps me on track. Also working towards a short term goal – running a race, looking good for an event, etc – gives a tangibility to your efforts, which makes getting there that much more satisfying. I like to see the fruits from my labor, and hopping on the scale everyday surely isn’t a good measuring tool. Hitting these short term goals along the way make the long road easier, and pretty soon will just become habit!

    (PS I’m came over from SkinnyRunner, hence the 12″ waist comment ;)

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  11. kelly says

    I totally agree that eating less frozen meals is a great step in the right direction. I remember thinking I was eating so healthy b/c I at emy lean cuisine or whatever, and it only had 300 calories. Of course, I was usually still hungry after I ate the meal and it seemed to leave me feeling bloated (sodium anyone?).
    I actually started living a more healthy lifestyle by making a pact with my husband (aka accountability partner) to work out 3 days a week. It took off from there…after I worked out, I didn’t want to fuel my body with crap, thereby undoing what I did at the gym. Soo from building a weekly workout schedule WITH an accountability partner(so important!) I then started eating healthier and focusing more on fruits/veggies than on frozen dinners!
    I also think all of the food blogs I have read have motivated me to be healthy as well as excite me to try out new healthy recipes!

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  12. kelly says

    I totally agree that eating less frozen meals is a great step in the right direction. I remember thinking I was eating so healthy b/c I ate my lean cuisine or whatever, and it only had 300 calories. Of course, I was usually still hungry after I ate the meal and it seemed to leave me feeling bloated (sodium overload anyone?).
    I actually started living a more healthy lifestyle by making a pact with my husband (aka accountability partner) to work out 3 days a week. It took off from there…after I worked out, I didn’t want to fuel my body with crap, thereby undoing what I did at the gym. Soo from building a weekly workout schedule WITH an accountability partner(so important!) I then started eating healthier and focusing more on fruits/veggies than on frozen dinners!
    I also think all of the food blogs I have read have motivated me to be healthy as well as excite me to try out new healthy recipes!

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  13. says

    Awesome tips! I definitely have learned to follow the ‘shop the outside perimeter of the store’ rather than going up & down the isles. When I heard that a few years ago it TOTALLY made sense. No more chemical filled food- just the fresh stuff :)
    And, I think you look a LOT like your sister it that ‘work it out’ picture- I don’t know why, I just thought it was her @ first. But then again, you both look so much alike anyways :)

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  14. says

    My best advice is to start learning about food. Do some research, read a few books, Michael Pollan is my person favorite, but Jonathan Safran Foer is also a great book. Animal Vegetable Miracle is fantastic. So is The Kind Diet.

    Also fantastic are Veganomicon and Clean Food. While these are vegan/veggie focused cookbooks (note, I am neither and LOVE these two), the wealth of information on healthy foods that provide is excellent. Don’t want to buy them? Chances are your library has them. Veganomicon is also available on Kindle for a lot less if you have some kind of device you can use a Kindle app on I highly recommend investing in the digital version (I have magnets up on my fridge that I jerry-rigged to hold my iphone and just place my phone in it while I cook so I can follow a recipe).

    Invest some time in doing research about food, and then don’t be afraid to experiment.

    I think it’s actually really, really fun. Who knows you might discover a completely new passion. I certainly have….

    The more you know, the more you’ll be motivated to eat cleanly. As the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power!’

    Ok, so I’m a total knowledge dork…

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    • peanutbutterfingers says

      i totally agree. reading about food and healthy living is SO interesting to me. i can’t get enough!!!

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  15. themohdiaries says

    Love this…”Here’s the good news: You don’t have to flip a switch and change dramatically over night. Your new healthy life begins today, and you can work on perfecting your healthy lifestyle forever!”

    It is soo true! Everyone has things they can improve upon! Just go at a pace thats right for you! Rome wasn’t built in a day :)

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  16. says

    Tips: If you trip and fall down, stand back up, brush yourself off and get back in the game. We ALL have our moments of weakness, so don’t feel like you are alone. Take it slow, make small easy and realistic changes that you know will work for you LONG TERM.

    I find if I am being active, hitting the gym classes or going for a run outside, I am happier and eat better. When i get inactive I tend to start to eat junky again, the best way to resolve that for me is to get active again and my eating follows suit.

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  17. Lissy says

    I recommend people use a pedometer. I lost five pounds just by wearing one and I didn’t do anything else special. It really makes you aware of how much you’re moving during the day and encourages you to move more.

    I watch TV while I exercise. I only let myself watch certain things while I’m working out so it gives me something to look forward to.

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  18. Angela says

    My tips are to start out slow and make small realistic goals. If you are just starting to work out make goals like today I want to run for a whole mile with out stopping or I’m going to do 20 push ups with out stopping by the end of the week, you will feel better about yourself when you accomplish these smaller goals than feeling frustrated when you can’t run 10 miles. Slowly working your way there will be much better for you mentally and physically!

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  19. Amanda says

    I like to try to pick out a new recipe to try out each week. If you make the batch for more than just one meal, then you have healthy lunch/dinner leftovers, too! Save the recipes you like and before you know it, you’ll have a whole bunch to choose from!

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  20. says

    Everyone has some great tips on being healthy! I love it! :)
    Tough question – I’d say it depends on the week for me. Some weeks, I’m more motivated to exercise, but will be craving sweets like crazy. Other weeks, I might be totally into extra veggies & fruit, but a little lazy on “moving” part. Aaaand sometimes I’m lucky enough to get both positives in one week. ;)

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  21. says

    Love these tips!

    I love the idea of lifestyle change vs. diet. It’s a choice to change your life and get healthy not a temporary fix. Deprivation leads to binging, so moderation is key if you want to maintain over a lifetime.

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  22. Sarah says

    excellent advice! my tips are to start small, and start realistic. make a couple goals for healthy eating and a couple for working out. that way you really feel like you’re doing something and aren’t getting too scattered and worn out. for instance, cut back on soda and other drinks with empty calories to 1/day. don’t deprive yourself or you’ll just be miserable- as miserable as you’d be if only eating diet food. get a friend to work out with or just be accountable to in this area. i believe if you truly want to pursue a healthy lifestyle, you can do it if you work at it and believe in yourself. also don’t be afraid to seek professional guidance (like from a doctor or nutritionist) just to make sure you’re doing everything right and aren’t hurting yourself (not enough nutrients, injuries, etc.)

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  23. justjac says

    I like your sandwich creation, I will have to give that a try!

    I think healthy eating and exercise kind of go hand-in-hand. The more you work out and eat healthy, the more regimented into your routine it becomes, the easier, and the better you feel, which to me propels that onward, to keep going. I find when I eat junk or drink too much, I feel lethargic which makes it harder to exercise… so I like to keep healthy eating and exercise in balance, to feel my best.

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  24. Jesssica says

    Like you, I always recommend that people eat as fresh as possible, and to keep it simple. I always, always, always recommend making your own food, and start out simple. Crazy foods like barley, green monsters, etc, come with time and practice. I also recommend people play around with fresh herbs and new spices!!

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  25. says

    I always inform people of all the snacks they get to eat throughout the day and how to make those snacks healthy and work for them…the idea of not having to restrict food is always a pleaser.

    Also when getting back into working out, I suggest setting small goals first. Don’t say you’ll run 3 miles the first time. Tell yourself, I’ll walk 8 minutes and jog for 2. Then end your workout even if you feel like you can keep going. You end on a high note and feel motivated to add that extra minute after each workout. It really does work!

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  26. says

    I love that you did this- and my biggest thing about becoming healthier is to not think about it as a diet. I have so many friends who are restricting themselves and are completely miserable about what they eat! It’s all about the real, whole foods people! Not lean cuisine for every meal for six months… I won’t lie- I’ve got a few in the freezer for a back up, but seriously- every meal?!?!

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  27. Anonymous says

    My daughter and I do not eat meat. We keep our focus on fruits, vegetables, and beans. I have also found that keeping a structured schedule for your gym routine helps tremendously. For example, I go to the gym on my lunch break every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. That way I know in advace what my free days will be to run errands or go to lunch with a friend.

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  28. says

    Great tips! I like to think of healthy living is truly a lifestyle and may take some getting used to, but it doesn’t have to be hard! I think one of the best changes I made was switching to whole grain products. Not only do I like the taste more than white-flour-anything, but it leave me so much more satisfied. For exercise, I like to think of it as an appointment. Non-negotiable (unless there is a real emergency).

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  29. says

    It is easier for me to exercise regularly (except for right now when I’m injured) than to always eat the best. But, I definitely think making small changes is the best. And not getting overwhemled if what works for one person doesn’t work for you. Different things work for different people!

    I use SparkPeople to track my food and fitness and it has helped me lose over 90 pounds. It won’t necessarily work for everyone, but I love it!

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  30. agudaitis says

    Go out of your comfort zone, and give everything a few tries… if you went to a yoga class and hate it, it might just be the teacher. Or if you don’t like broccoli the first time, try it cooked a different way! Saying you don’t like something takes out a LOT of healthy options. Fully explore it before you make that decision!

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  31. Heather says

    I don’t think big changes can happen over night; it took me six months to lose fifty pounds the healthy way. I started slowly by watching my portions, counting calories, eating healthy, and exercise. Now, a year and a half later, all of those changes are second nature to me. I love fruits, vegatables, and whole grains, and I LOVE to exercise- especially hiking with my hubby!

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  32. says

    Great healthy tips! I would say the most important thing is to eat healthy, be active, and indulge every once and a while to keep you from feeling deprived. I always have a sweet treat after a healthy dinner and a day of exercising. It feels like a reward and its a great way to end my day on a happy note!

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  33. says

    I find it much easier to eat healthy than to keep up an exercise routine. One tip I have for incorporating a healthier lifestyle is to look in your grocery store for NuVal. Using NuVal scores makes it easier to make incremental changes.

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  34. Kristi says

    Awesome! I think these tips might be response to my email, so thank you. :)
    I have the working out/active lifestyle part down pat. It’s just the healthy eating thing that is sort of new to me. I grew up in a rural area so we didn’t have fun places like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods to shop at. Plus my family was the type who liked to load on the salt and butter when cooking. So it’s a journey as I learn more about healthy eating. Thanks for the tips!

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  35. says

    I love all your tips and I’ve tried to do all of those things! Also, people should know that you won’t notice a change in your body the next day. Healthy should be a lifestyle, not just a means to an end.

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  36. rachael says

    Love your tips. I always tell people to focusing on “adding” instead of removing. Make it a goal to eat greens everyday or to add an extra loop when walking the dog.

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  37. says

    Those are fabulous tips! I especially love not falling into the “diet” trap. It’s the little changes for the better that add up and motivate bigger changes.

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