N1902P26003C.TIF

For most people making small, daily changes to their diet is where better health is found.

I often bounce around column ideas with my friends and former co-workers (Holly and Kendra, if you are reading this, thank you). My husband has grown tired of my endless wellness talks — sometimes more like lectures — and says, “I’ve been living your articles for over a decade.”

As women, I think, we are just more curious than men. I’m fascinated and intrigued by what people do with their day, what they eat, what they wear. I love scrolling through Instagram at night (I know I should be sleeping – guilty pleasure) looking at all the beautifully arranged food, fabulous vacations and first birthday parties and all the amazing outfits. Am I the only one who is still fascinated by that article a couple years ago that showcased what Giselle and Tom Brady eat (really what their personal chef prepares for them)?

Why isn’t my personal chef making me fresh coconut water straight out the fruit? If you ask me, it’s a little touch of crazy, but then again, no one in the Barnett household is modeling or playing professional sports, unless coaching middle school sports counts.

For many of my clients and those I work with when we start reevaluating/making changes to their diet, one of the first things they ask me is what I eat. I usually don’t share because nutrition/what works best is different for all bodies. For most people making small, daily changes is where better health is found. If I can encourage someone to swap out their Pop Tart for a piece of whole what toast with a smear of peanut butter and a banana, that’s a win. It’s a big leap from an iced blueberry Pop Tart to my daily green smoothie.

So without further ado ...

Don’t worry: I’m including some other suggestions if what I eat isn’t your cup of tea. This is by no means a hard and fast rule for you to follow. This is simply a snapshot of what I eat during a normal weekday/workday. I hope what you take away from this is not to mirror exactly what I eat during this tiny peek into my daily routine, but to get some ideas for making your own healthier choices.

Please know that I enjoy food. This is what I eat most days and I am largely a creature of habit. I DO NOT eat the same thing on vacation or weekends as I do during a normal weekday. I try to still make healthy choices, but do not go into a downward spiral if a Friday night ends at Dairy Queen. Believe me, fifteen15 years ago this would have been a struggle. Enjoy life, enjoy food and try to make healthy choices most of the time.

My pre-run fuel (around 5:15 a.m., standing in the kitchen getting ready to leave), is two dates or dried apricots (dried fruit is a great source of pre-workout fuel as it’s fast carbs and easy to digest) dipped in almond butter, a source of healthy fat/staying power. I eat these as quietly as possible since the rest of my house is hopefully still asleep while I also try to quietly unload the dishwasher, and prep breakfast for me and my daughter to eat when I return. I drink a small glass of water and take my 32-ounce (or more) Nalgene with me in the car. The Nalgene is with me all day long, and unless otherwise noted, this is all I drink … several a day. I’m then out the door to meet my girlfriends to run. We try to cover five miles three to four times a week unless we are gearing up for a race.

Breakfast is around 7:30 or 8 a.m., on my way to work or at my desk. I have coffee with one tablespoon collagen (we’ve covered the potential benefits and I’m still giving it a spin), a sprinkle of cinnamon, splash of almond milk and, almost every morning, my green smoothie. I’ve shared the recipe in this column. If a smoothie isn’t your thing, try a slice or two of whole wheat toast (I love Ezekiel, Trader Joe’s sprouted bread, Yoder’s Sprouted or homemade whole wheat, or Nature’s Own wheat) with a sliced banana and a tablespoon or so of almond butter or peanut butter. I urge you to look for almond or peanut butter with just the nuts and salt. I’ll have a scrambled egg and egg white cooked in either a non-stick skillet or with some coconut oil or plant-based butter, or some sautéed spinach (please get some greens in your diet!) with a slice of whole wheat toast. If you’re a bar person, as my husband certainly is, much to my chagrin, try Kind’s lower sugar variety, RX bars, Perfect bars or Larabars. We’ve covered healthier cereal options as well. In case you missed that one, always look for whole grains as the first ingredient and less than ten grams of sugar per serving, paired with either skim milk, a dairy-free alternative such as unsweetened almond or coconut milk, topped with some berries or a sliced banana. You could also make yourself a parfait with plain Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey, and top it with some berries and healthy cereal for crunch.

My mid-morning snack comes around 10:30 a.m. I have been loving homemade yogurt parfaits or energy bites. I save dollars and sugar by buying larger tubs of plain yogurt; my favorite brands are Siggi’s or Fage. I prefer to add my own fruit and drizzle of honey to sweeten, instead of those with fruit/flavor already added. Make your own by taking half a cup of plain yogurt, a drizzle of honey, some fresh berries, and a serving of low-sugar cereal for that ever-important crunch.

If a homemade parfait isn’t your thing try some carrots sticks or healthy cracker option (like Triscuits) paired with hummus or pb, an apple or banana paired with pb or almond butter, a low-fat cheese stick with some almonds or pistachios (lower calorie nuts), air-popped popcorn or one of my favorites, Skinnypop, plain oatmeal packets to avoid added sugar, or one of my favorite, easy options: overnight oats. Sometime during the day I will usually walk down to Catalyst for an almond milk latte (half-caffeine). Nicest people, delicious coffee, supporting local business – plus, I get a few steps in.

Lunch, which happens around 12:30 or 1 p.m., almost always equals leftovers or something I can share with my daughter. Since she is more of a grazer this often looks like a snack plate. I love Triscuits (three ingredients – yes, please!) paired with either a mini guacamole packet (Good Foods is an amazing brand), or their vegan veggie-based buffalo or queso dip, the first ingredient in both Good Food dips being cauliflower. Add to the meal carrot sticks or fresh veggies. My daughter loves cheese sticks or a slice of Applegate Farms cheese, or some Applegate or Boar’s Head deli meat. A tip: look for one of the heart healthy options/low sodium when selecting your deli meat. You can include some almond butter – a great source of protein – and. I also love to treat myself to some amazing fresh sushi from Publix when I get a rare lunch out, solo. A podcast plus sushi and kombucha equals some blissful me time.

Afternoon snack time is around 3:30 to 4 p.m. More of those mid-morning snack ideas work here, especially if I’m taking a class or logging some afternoon miles. I like a quick and easy-to-digest bar, few squares of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) or some dried fruit and a small handful of almonds or pistachios. I love to make my own “healthier” version of trail mix too. Mine looks like some low-sugar cereal, a sprinkle of almonds or pistachios, some dark chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand) and dried fruit. Sometimes if I’m lucky and have made a Trader Joe’s run, I’ll swap out the dried fruit and dark chocolate chips for my all-time favorite dark chocolate-covered blueberries. Yum!

Dinner can be anywhere from 5:30-7 p.m. I try to stick to a largely plant-based diet. Like most of you, my family is on the go go go. I strive for us to sit down at least three nights a week for dinner together. My family always did this growing up (no TV or distractions). A 2014 article from The American College of Pediatrics touted numerous benefits to families who eat together. Everything from improved language development to a reduced chance of drug, alcohol and nicotine use later in life. All that being said, like most of you, I don’t have time to spend all day making a seven-course meal, nor am I a short-order cook.

Most evenings I’m looking at about 30 minutes to whip something up. Because of this time crunch I have several recipes that are on repeat at our house.

Two of our favorites are veggie enchiladas or make-your-own pita pizza.

For the veggie enchiladas I use whatever veggies I have on hand, either frozen or fresh, a clove or two of garlic, and a can of drained and rinsed low-sodium black beans. I sauté the veggies, throwing in the rinsed beans last, and layer a 9x9 or so pan baking dish with Newman’s own salsa. You can substitute your favorite brand of salsa, or fresh salsa (just be mindful of ingredients). I then take whole wheat tortillas and stuff them with the veggie and black bean combo, usually adding some Mexican cheese to Andy and Landon’s. I then roll them up, sprinkle more cheese and salsa on top and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese starts to melt or bubble and the tortillas start to brown just a tiny bit around the edges. I serve with fresh fruit and veggies (usually an apple and carrots), some Blue corn tortilla chips or brown rice, salsa and plain Greek yogurt, and some avocado slices for me and Landon. This makes a yummy and quick meal. Make-your-own pita pizzas are an easy, quick and cheap dish as well. Kids seem to love this because they get to be in on the action. I like to bake ours on a pizza stone for a crisper pita crust. Just brush a little olive oil on your pitas, bake for a minute or two at 450 degrees, take out and let everyone add their own toppings. I usually put out crushed tomatoes or spaghetti sauce, fresh veggies such as green peppers, cheese, fresh basil, some turkey pepperoni or whatever cooked lean meat you have on hand. This is a great way to use up any leftovers you might have as well. Chicken: yes, veggies on their last leg: yes – you get the picture. Put back in the oven at 450 and bake till your cheese starts to bubble/melt. There’s two quick, economical and delicious meals.

Dessert? I always end my night with a cup of chamomile tea. This is part of my routine that tells my body it’s time to get ready for sleep. I also love a square or two of dark chocolate. Some of my favorite bars are Endangered Species, Lindt, and Alter Eco. Flavanols, antioxidants and chocolate – how can you go wrong? I also love ice cream as a sweet treat! While I try not to make this a nightly occurrence (and definitely not this late), there are some healthier options that make you feel like you’re treating yourself without ruining all your healthy choices made during the day. Because portion size and ice cream can be a tricky combination (four servings to a pint goes a little quicker than I’d like), I prefer the pre-portioned treats. Yasso bars and So Delicious are some of my favorites (my daughter’s too).

Jessica Barnett is a Southwest Virginia girl married to a Greeneville native, a mom, personal trainer, certified fitness nutrition specialist, runner, herbivore and ice cream lover. Love Your Health is published every other Wednesday in Greene County’s Accent.