Healthy Eating for Dummies

A couple weeks ago, I had my second session with my wellness coach, Marissa Vicario. (See my first post here.) She’s been teaching me how to make positive changes to live a healthier lifestyle – in my case, we’ve been focusing on nutrition and cooking. Until I met her, I literally knew nothing about preparing vegetables. If it wasn’t a head of lettuce or an onion, I probably had no idea what to do with it. If I saw something while shopping and didn’t know what it was, I’d ignore it. If I found a recipe but didn’t know where to find one of the ingredients in the grocery store, I’d skip over it. Hence the name of this post, “Healthy Eating for Dummies”. I’m the dummy.

I had been logging everything I was eating in my food journal and was super nervous to show someone else every little thing I had consumed over the two week timespan. Thankfully, after sharing that I was embarrassed, Marissa put me at ease by reminding me that a) she’s seen it all and b) she didn’t have me do this so she could sit and judge me; but so we could look for patterns together and see where exactly I need to make changes.

So, I handed it over. A few specific things I learned based on my food journal and my personal goals (which we discussed together):

  • I’m a snacker. Instead of eating full meals, I just snack all day long. Whoops. She explained how my body just needs more. When it thinks it’s getting a meal but constantly just gets snacks, that can be damaging. Especially for an athlete! I’m such a tease.
  • I was drinking a “Naked Juice Green Machine” (a bottled smoothie) at least once a week. She told me that this brand is pasteurized and if I want a juice, I need to make sure I find one that’s “raw”…aka NOT pasteurized. Plus, even though it’s called “Green Machine”, this version still has more fruit than vegetables. I already eat a lot of fruit and need to focus on green vegetables, and this really doesn’t help. She gave me a recipe for a homemade green juice to try instead. I need a new blender, because the only thing I didn’t like was the chunky-ish texture.
  • I need to avoid eating bagels. Sad. But true. (It’s just so easy to go downstairs when I’m at work and grab a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel!)
  • I avoid vegetables that I don’t know how to prepare. Kale? Butternut squash? What’s a shallot, anyway? RUN AWAY FROM THE SCARY VEGGIES!

To move forward, we chatted more about my lifestyle. Marissa came up with some basic action-items for me to focus on this month:

goals for healthy eating

As an example, she recommended I try adding swiss chard to one of my favorite dishes, spaghetti squash. I couldn’t find swiss chard in the store the last time I went, but I’ll keep looking!

So, how have I been doing since our very first meeting? It really is a lifestyle change, which takes some time. But so far, so good! A few things I’m loving:

  • Steam basket: I’ve been using my new steam basket to steam EVERYTHING. Veggies, shrimp…I’m hoping to try salmon soon but dang, it’s expensive!
  • Squash: I’ve always stuck with spaghetti squash, but I branched out and bought a butternut squash and some zucchini squash. I’ve been looking through cookbooks and online for recipes. There are millions of options! Side note: isn’t squash a funny word?
  • Kale: I finally bought kale. I tried it raw, steamed, and stir-fried. Loving it. It sounds weird, but I steamed some kale and some shaved brussels sprouts, and threw in some onions, tomatoes, salt, and olive oil…and it’s a delish little salad! Look at me, getting “creative”. Who would have thought.
  • Overall convenience: I always thought cooking took a lot of time and effort; no matter what. But I’m learning it doesn’t have to be like that. For example: Marissa mentioned shaved brussels sprouts, and I figured I’d have to chop them all up myself. In my head that sounds like TOO MUCH WORK. But low and behold, she recommended I go to Trader Joe’s to find them. I did, and I found some in a bag and ready to go! Fab. I’ve been adding them to salads and stir-fries.
  • Frozen vegetables: Speaking of convenience…SO EASY.
  • Cooking in bulk: Marissa’s veggie chili is AWESOME, and a big pot will last few days (which means leftovers for lunch)! This is the only photo I took while cooking it, oops.
Look how colorful!

Look how colorful!

Not only did Marissa leave me with a few printouts on the benefits of greens and different methods for cooking vegetables to make them tastier, but she emailed me a bunch of recipes for snacks like black bean dip and a delicious sauce to pour over the top of vegetables. She also sent me a video on how to handle kale. (Check out all her videos here!)

Overall, I’m feeling really, really good. To be honest, this is easier than I thought it would be. (Having someone to hold you accountable truly helps.) Now, I know what you’re probably thinking…the same thing my always-supportive fiancé Brendan jokingly said when he came home the other night and looked in the refrigerator: “Are you a rabbit now?”.

It may look that way, but as Marissa told me, we’re not supposed to eat perfectly. An 80% “good” and 20% “not-so-good” diet is perfectly fine. I don’t want to deprive myself and go crazy, but I also need to pay more attention to what I put in my body. I mean, come on. I’m still going to eat and drink the things I love, but I also want to take care of myself. I honestly can tell a difference in my energy levels and my recovery time post-workout when I focus on incorporating more green vegetables into my everyday diet.

What vegetables are “staples” in your kitchen? And what’s in your 20%?! (For me, the 20% = ice cream and tortilla chips! Not together. Well, maybe. Depends on how crazy I feel that day.)

I’m a writer currently living in New Jersey and blogging about running, fitness, wellness, and motivation. I want every reader to laugh and feel empowered, balanced, and motivated! Subscribe by email to get 1-2 newsletters a month with post updates, my favorite articles, running playlists and more!


  1. November 20, 2013 / 4:08 pm

    I always hated cooking, and then finally forced myself to learn! Even though I still hate cooking (2 years later), I actually always am wanting to make new recipes because I want to eat new things! My go to veggies are probably broccoli, sweet potatoes, green beans, spinach, kale, zucchini, and any type of squash. Breads are my 20%! Doesn’t matter what. I don’t make anything with grains at home, so if I eat out, having a sandwich is going crazy. Do you get on Pinterest? They have some really good and simple recipes!

    • November 22, 2013 / 9:12 am

      Same here – never liked it and always felt like I sucked at it, haha. I’ve only recently figured out sweet potatoes :) I am on Pinterest but always forget to look at the recipes I pin…maybe going through them will be my weekend project! Thanks!

      • November 23, 2013 / 9:35 am

        You definitely should! I’ve found some good recipes on Pinterest and a lot of them are easy! I have also made not so great ones, but even that’ll make me a better cook!

  2. November 20, 2013 / 4:18 pm

    Butternut squash is sooo good! I buy the already-cubed ones from Trader Joe’s. I find that having veggies already cut for you makes you 100x more likely to actually eat them, haha. I can’t eat a ton of veggies thanks to my IBS but my favs are butternut squash, romaine, brussels sprouts (which are the best roasted, but i love the shredded kind too!) and broccoli although i can’t eat it much. I like to saute the shredded brussels sprouts and add onion and peppers and a chopped up sweet potato and throw a fried egg on top for a hash! My 20% is froyo with way too many toppings and pizza!

    • November 22, 2013 / 9:15 am

      I found the cubed ones at Trader Joes too – sooo good! I definitely agree about buying already-cut veggies. Otherwise, just spending an hour or so on a Sunday chopping and preparing everything helps!

      I tried your idea this morning, actually…eggs with shredded brussels sprouts , onion and peppers, and I added black beans and a bunch of spices as well. YUM! Also, YES to the froyo :)

      • November 22, 2013 / 10:42 am

        Yummmm sounds like a great breakfast!! I’m craving a savory breakfast today too!

  3. November 21, 2013 / 9:25 pm

    Love this post, Kara! Try adding more liquid to the smoothie and see if that makes the texture less chunky :)

    • November 22, 2013 / 9:15 am

      I promise to try today! :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *