Health

As a college athlete, health isn’t something I’ve ever been able to simply ignore. Though it can be frustrating at times to always carefully plan meals and workouts, I’ve seen the ways in which my active lifestyle has taught me important lessons about my health. Here are some of the tips that I’ve implemented over the years to keep me happy and healthy:

1. Do something active every day.

Even if it means going for a brief walk before breakfast. I find that it’s much easier to complete a workout if I do it first thing in the morning. This isn’t just good for your body, but good for your mind as well. The days where I’m not playing tennis or lifting, I’ll go for a hike or do yoga. I always find that cross training and stepping out of my comfort zone is more fun anyway!

Don’t beat yourself up if you only complete half of what you thought you could do. The hardest part is getting up and doing something. If you really take it one day at a time and work toward a small goal each day, you’re more likely to reach your bigger goal in the long run. Not to mention that the more you work out, the more you want to work out. Similarly, the less you work out, the less motivated you will be to start.

2. Document what you eat.

I want to clarify that I am not a calorie counter. But there is a difference between counting calories and writing down your meals. I, personally, don’t like looking at a list that reads: chocolate croissant, white mocha, and chicken Alfredo. I would much prefer to see a list that says: berry smoothie, grilled salmon, and quinoa.

For some people, it works best to write their meals down ahead of time. However, if you’re someone who has the tendency to cheat (guilty!), then sometimes it helps to write down what you eat after you’ve already eaten it.

This may be a bit of guilt tripping, but it forces you to take a serious look at the way you’re treating your body. You not only become more aware and health-conscious, but you can pay close attention to the way you feel after you eat certain foods.

Nonetheless, it does help to have a food schedule for the week. If you have an extremely busy schedule and very little time to cook for yourself, dedicate a couple hours on the weekend to prepare your meals for the week. Not only is it harder to cheat on meals you’ve already made, but it also saves a lot of cash.

3. Adopt the buddy system.

Not every friend you have is going to be working toward the same goals as you. However, it does help to have someone keep you accountable. Even the most disciplined people can’t maintain that discipline 24/7.

For example, if one of your goals is to keep track of your indulgences, make a pact with a friend to text each other every time you eat something sweet. Even if you promise yourself one small treat each day, you’ll feel obligated to let someone else know when you cheat. (Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.)

4. Don’t focus on the numbers.

Weight, calories, reps…they’re all just that: numbers. Weight fluctuates, calories are deceiving, and there are days when no one feels like working out.

As an athlete, I’ve learned to focus on three things: how I feel, how my clothes fit, and how I move on the tennis court. How you feel is always most important. Often times the healthier you eat and more active you are, the less groggy and more motivated you’ll become. Nutrition is energy. Exercise is a healthy and satisfying way to release that energy.

Nonetheless, it’s good to pay attention to other factors as well. If exercises that used to seem easy for you now seem difficult, that may be a sign that you haven’t been doing your body justice. If you’d reached a healthy weight, but now find that you’re swimming in your clothes or can’t button your favorite jeans, that may be another sign that you haven’t been paying close attention to your health. The busier you are, the more these little signs matter.

As most of us enter into adulthood and begin to lead busier lives, our health tends to fall on the wayside. Though my health was something that I was required to pay attention to, I admit that there were times I didn’t do my best at maintaining it. All in all, paying attention to your health will make you feel better. It will make you a genuinely happier person, fighting depression, anxiety and other mental health issues that kick in when school and careers become stressful.

So when you wake up in the morning and don’t feel like working out that day, do it anyway. Wake up an hour earlier if you have to. Skip the croissant and have some granola. To this day, I’ve never regretted a workout and I’ve never regretted eating my vegetables. The hard work is always easier than the regret of not living up to your potential.

Image: Julia Caesar

CultureSkills

The New Year has come! It’s time for… New Year’s resolutions. Yikes. For some, this means eating healthy. For others, it means going to the gym more. It can be saving money, getting better grades, cutting down on the caffeine, or even finally cleaning out your closet!

But there are some unique resolutions that you might not have thought of that can be pretty fun!

Alphabet Book Checklist

Read a book with the title starting with each letter of the alphabet. Twenty six books, 12 months, about two books a month. You never know what you may find. Make a checklist of the things you’ve been wanting to read (romance novels, nonfiction short stories, poetry, anything!) and go to your local bookstore. It’s a low key resolution, no stress, just a small thing you can do for yourself.

Eat the Rainbow

No, not Skittles. I mean, eat each color of the rainbow. This might be kind of silly, but it’ll make you eat a variety of foods. There’s probably a health thing out there somewhere, but for you, it should be something that’s fun! You can try to eat the rainbow every day, or maybe split it up to make it a weekly goal. Fruits, leafy greens, meats (or not, if you’re a vegetarian), grains. For more challenging colors like blues and purples, you can say browns, like bread. I never ate quinoa (pronounced kinwa) but once I tried it, I discovered how yummy it was!

Stand Up Straight

Yes. You heard right. Stand up straight! I never realized how much I slouched until I started wearing heels. Then I realized that my balance was way off, and it was evident in the way my back and chest hurt from being pushed back into its original upright position. Commit to standing up straight when you’re waiting for the bus, when you’re in line at the grocery store, even when you’re showering. Do the Superwoman stance, with your hands on your hips and head facing forward. Over time, your body and your mind will develop and strengthen. Think about how confident you feel now, and how much more confident you will feel after you learn to hold your head up high. At the very least, this will sort out your backaches.

These are a few low-key resolutions you can take on. Read a bit more, eat better, try new things, boost your confidence. Whatever you’re comfortable with, do. Whatever scares you a little, try. Whatever makes you happy, go for it! Have a great new year!

Image: sanazmy97

Health

When it comes to veganism and/or vegetarianism, there are endless misconceptions that people have toward those who adopt this diet and more often than not, they’re unfortunately negative ones. I know that I have experienced that classic deep sigh or eye roll when people find out I am a vegetarian, and I many times don’t see the need for it. For that reason, I hope that this piece helps you recognize that not all of these judgments apply.

Stereotypes

Two stereotypes that are very much present is that any given vegan or vegetarian is either an extremist animal rights activist or a tree hugging hippie. Not all vegans and/or vegetarians are animal rights activists trying to shove their beliefs down your throat. In fact, some may be indifferent as their choice of diet may be due to many different reasons ranging from the ethics of the meat industry to their personal health. And not all are hippies that cry out for peace, and one must realize that very different people adapt the “veg-head” lifestyle – people of all backgrounds, races, sizes, classes, personalities, and genders. For example, some vegan/ vegetarian celebrities include Pamela Anderson, Brad Pitt, Russell Brand, Mike Tyson, Bill Clinton, Andre 3000, and Ariana Grande. As you can see, veggies are all scattered all around!

Nutritional Deficiency

Another misconception that vegans and vegetarians experience is that all suffer from some sort of nutritional deficiency. When I first told my mother I had decided to stop consuming meat, she asked me to consume a protein shake a couple of times a week. It is important that people understand that there are many alternative ways of acquiring protein; meat is not the only source out there. For example, there are other foods that have a high and/or equivalent amount of protein to meat such as seitan, tofu, beans, quinoa, tempeh, chia seeds, spinach, nuts, and peas. These are all excellent sources of protein.

Another worry is attaining a sufficient amount of calcium. The famous “Got Milk?” commercial really sparked the belief that the only way to attain calcium is through milk. However, like protein, there are many other ways to attain calcium. For example, consuming collards, black-eyed peas, tofu, beans, lettuce, green peas, soy milk, oranges, and even almonds are all exceptional sources of calcium.

Iron deficiency is another big one. Other ways of attaining iron are by eating beans, dried fruits, iron-fortified foods, spinach, tofu, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, olives, peas, asparagus, coconut, berries, and arugula.

Hopefully you’re starting to get the idea! Veggies are basically superfoods and having a good amount of them can definitely call for a balanced diet with all of the necessary vitamins and minerals!

Carnophobia

The very last point I would like to bring to light is that not all vegans and vegetarians have carnophobia, aka they’re scared of meat. Many times I will experience friends who get a bit anxious when picking a restaurant because they want to make sure there are vegetarian options. Or other times, they are almost apologetic when eating meat in front of me. Personally, neither of these should be issues. Most restaurants now have vegetarian options and for my fellow vegans, salads are increasing in popularity. On the other hand, why not check out a veggie restaurant? Delicious and untried always make a fabulous combo!

There are many vegan and vegetarian misconceptions out there and sometimes they may not always be true. The reality of vegans and vegetarians may be very different from the common perceptions people have of them. For that reason, I invite you to always check out the facts of any situation before forming opinions.

Image: Lauren Jessen

Health

This is one of my favorite quick and easy snacks to prepare. Portabellas are often called the meat of the vegetable world, so these little guys are super filling, and can double as an appetizer, wrap filler or salad topper.

Here’s what you’ll need to make about 30 garlicky portabella bites:

  • 5 large portabella mushrooms
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 cups garlic and herb breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Remove the gills from the portabellas and rinse them.
  2. Slice them into strips. You can cut the strips in half if you want to make the bites smaller.
  3. Beat the three eggs together, mixing in the garlic powder and as much salt and pepper as you prefer.
  4. Dip the portabella strips in the egg mixture.
  5. Dip them into the bread crumbs, coating all sides of the portabella.
  6. Place a tbsp. olive oil in a pan and swirl to coat the pan.
  7. Place the pan over medium heat and place the portabella strips on the pan, cooking for around 3 minutes on each side. Depending on the size of your strips, you may need to cook for longer. When the crust is golden brown, flip them.
  8. Tip: to save for later, coat the mushrooms in the batter and put in the fridge for later – you can cook all of them up later in under 15 minutes!

These taste great with ranch dressing or aioli!

What smart snacks are you enjoying? Share below!

Image: Big Bear’s Wife

HealthRecipesWellness

As a vegetarian who hates eggs, I have to get my protein somewhere, which means I use a lot of legumes in my cooking. And, most of the time I’m too busy (read: unwilling) to cook an elaborate meal. Thus, I rely a lot on no-cook recipes to get me through my days.

Below are two of my newfound favorite bean dips that make perfect spreads and sandwich/taco fillers, veggie dips, or just meals on their own. They’re filling and delicious, and best of all, they each take under 20 minutes to make!

recipe 1

Spicy Mango Black Bean Salsa

Summer is technically over, but I live in Texas, which means it still feels pretty dang summery. So, I’ve used it as an excuse to continue making my refreshing mango salsa. This is one of my absolute favorites; I put it on tortillas to make vegetarian tacos, use it for nachos, put it on salads or just eat it plain.

1 Keitt mango (very large) or 2 medium sized mangos cut into small chunks
1 tomato, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 avocado, chopped
1 can black beans
Jalapenos (either 1 fresh, chopped, or as many pickled jalapeno slices as you please)
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
Hot sauce (as MUCH as you want! Cholula is my favorite)
Red wine vinegar (just a dash)
Cilantro (a pinch)

This is so easy.

First, rinse and drain the black beans. I like to keep as much liquid out of the salsa as possible. Next, pour the beans into a large bowl with everything else, and mix it together. This recipe makes a good amount of salsa; at least three meals’ worth.

I like to play around with the amount of hot sauce/jalapenos/red wine vinegar/salt and pepper/other ingredients. Sometimes I add random spices, like paprika, and sometimes I add in corn. The point is to make it your own! Taste it as you mix, adding ingredients as you see fit.

There are a lot of different flavors involved in this one, so it makes for an awesome meal.

recipe 3

Kale & White Bean Hummus

I love this dip. I put it on sandwiches with cucumbers, shredded carrots, sliced bell peppers and chopped red onion (you could add feta and other veggies, too) and it’s so delicious. It also makes a perfect veggie dip and goes great on pita bread. This morning I ate it straight with a spoon.

2 cans white or cannellini beans
½ cup pesto
Balsamic vinaigrette
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Literally, pour all the ingredients into a food processor. Mix them. Done. Add balsamic, salt and lemon juice as needed once mixed. Like I said, this goes perfectly on a veggie (or meat if you’re into that) sandwich.

What smart snacks are you enjoying?

Images: Maggie Hoffman, Nora Kuby