Some Prep in Your Step

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on June 09, 2021 # Health, Lifestyle

Ever since I was 17 years old and I moved out of my parent’s house for college, I’ve been a bad eater. My problem is that I rarely feel hungry then, when I do, I don’t eat the right things. Forgetting to eat food might sound like an ideal problem to some, but consider the consequences: losing my hair, low energy, slow healing wounds, and being constantly cold. I’ll admit to you guys that I take mid-day naps, and I’d had the same wound on my ankle for literally 3 years. I need this list as much as you do.

Kristin and her husbandMy first problem is forgetting to eat, then comes not knowing what to eat. When I was young, my parents called me a Chip Queen, and I’m proud to say I’ve maintained the title. That is to say, with no meal plan in place and no one looking over my shoulder, I’ll happily fill my stomach with Salt & Vinegar chips and Doritos for lunch and dinner.

The obvious solution is to plan all my meals at the beginning of the week, but I’ve never been organized or motivated enough to do that. If you are, all my respect. I, Ms. Flies by the Seat of Her Pants, found success in making a list of healthy, premeditated snack options that give me enough nutrients to make it through the day with all my hair in my head (I’m kidding, but also kind of serious). I’m all about easy and on-the-go.

  1. Vegetables. Vegetables are easy and, especially recently, a benchmark in my diet. I’ve taken to buying frozen bags of vegetables, heating them in the microwave, and eating it for lunch. A pack of edamame is a convenient and microwaveable snack and carrots, cherry tomatoes, and pre-cut bell peppers. The cool thing about veggies is they aren’t very calorie-dense and are made up of mostly air and water. So, by the time you’ve chewed them up, there’s not that much volume to enter your stomach. Chewed-up vegetables don’t send a big signal to your brain that you’re full, which allows us to pack more greens in your body —such a fun food group.
  2. Fruit. This is an easy one because most fruit is ready to eat. There’s an extra ray of sunshine in my house when I have blueberries in the refrigerator or a banana on the counter. Tangerines are another easy fruit to grab, and I’m a big fan of berries. My go-to is a Ziplock bag of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Sometimes I’ll add grapes in the bag, and sometimes I’ll even cut them in half – for no reason other than it makes me feel more sophisticated.
  3. Protein. This is a big one; protein is so, so important to get enough of. I’m historically bad at getting enough protein in my diet, so it’s been important to find a work-around. Protein drinks and nuts are staples. I’ve also been caught buying and picking the meat off a rotisserie chicken, storing it in my refrigerator, and eating from it all week. Those are a few quick ways I fill in my protein gaps but, as a general rule, try to steer toward protein and meat as much as possible. They’re crucial for healing, digestion, building muscle, and overall health. Eat your meat (and nuts), people.
  4. Dairy. There’s nothing that makes me feel more adult than buying a [half] gallon of milk. Call me dramatic, but I love milk. A stick of string cheese alongside my rotisserie chicken at lunchtime and a cup of Greek yogurt at breakfast, and I’m on top of the Dairy Game. Throw in some walnuts, craisins, cinnamon, and honey to my yogurt, and I’m on top of the world.
  5. Grain. These are a little trickier because it’s easy for me, at least, to forget about good ol’ whole grains. I’m not a fan of brown rice or whole-grain crackers, but I love oatmeal and I like popcorn. Again here, I add the magic ingredients (walnuts, craisins, cinnamon, and honey) to spice it up and get more nutritional benefits. Sound familiar?
  6. Dark Chocolate. No dietary list is complete without chocolate because of the antioxidants and flavanols, and because it feels like a light at the end of the tunnel. You’re looking for chocolate with a cocoa percentage of 70% or higher to get those benefits – the more bitter, the better. I’ve actually grown to love the bitterness of it. They even sell 99% cocoa bars! Try it, I dare you.

If you’re anything like me, eating healthy can feel like a wet blanket on top of the other responsibilities in our day-to-day. But that’s why we meal plan! Planning your meals ahead of time will dry out that blanket a bit and take away the potential for last-minute cheats. Figure out some healthy foods you can get excited about, make a plan of when you’ll eat those healthy foods, then stick to it.

If you treat it right, your body can be your temple. First stop: a balanced diet.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

This project was supported, in part, by grant number 90PRRC0002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.