Every new year I resolve to be The Perfect Woman, whatever that means to me at that point in my life. Last year that meant I would learn to cook a few meals, get a super-tight ass and find a Chanel perfume to suit me. I made it to the Chanel perfume. One outta three ain’t bad, I guess.
I didn’t do anything so lofty this year, but I have started consciously trying to eat better. I’m a Taco Bell girl, and I have no shame about my love for hot dogs and processed cheese, but as I get older, it gets more and more important to me that I take care of myself. I can’t drink like I used to, and as I age, I’m finding I can’t eat like I used to either. I’ve read so much about fruits and veggies improving your skin, and that’s clearly something I need help with. So in 2014, I’m trying. I really am.
I am not gonna get all preachy about healthy living and eating because I’m not an example of that. I don’t cleanse. I don’t juice. I don’t go to hot yoga or even have a gym membership. I exercise fairly often (shout out to Blogilates, the app I am obsessed with and got Alle and Wendy hooked on) and am working on eating healthy four days a week, but not beating myself up about it if I don’t.
You know that cheesy phrase “Eat the rainbow”? That’s what I’m trying to do. If I can eat four out of seven colors a day, that’s great. It’s much easier than I thought it would be.
In my quest to eat better, I’ve discovered a few new additions to my diet that have really made a difference in my overall appearance. They’re easy to sneak into things you’re already eating, because who wants to work hard at eating healthy? I sure don’t, hence my fondness for Doritos Locos tacos. (Which I’ll never stop loving.)
I always knew avocados were supposed to make you pretty. They’re about 85% fat, but it’s good fat, and they're heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory. Have you ever used them as a hair mask? They nourish your hair without weighing it down.
I eat a lot of avocado. I’m talking one a day. I eat them mashed up with salsa as faux-guac safely sans my nemesis, cilantro. They’re good sliced up with cottage cheese on chips. I love them on toast with a little sea salt and red pepper flakes. And they’re necessary in my green smoothies.
Green smoothie, Kara style:
• A few stalks of kale, washed and chopped OR a handful or two of spinach
• 1 whole avocado
• Handful strawberries, fresh or frozen
• Fresh lemon juice to taste
Blend it all up really well and drink with a straw.
At first, this tasted way too green for me, but I’ve since started to crave them, which is exactly what I’m trying to train my body to do: crave greens, not nachos. I don’t really like salads (it’s a texture thing--lettuce, celery and carrots are impossible for me to eat) so smoothies are a good way for me to get my greens.
Since I’ve started upping my avocado consumption, the biggest difference I’ve noticed is in my nails and hair. Remember how I said my nails are crappy and bendy? They seem significantly stronger lately; I’ve actually got longish natural nails, which is rare for me. Same with my hair, which is growing a lot faster than normal; I just had my roots done last month and I really need to do them again.
My mom is big into Pinterest and has been sending me tons of pins about the power of lemons. I’m the rebellious daughter who resists listening to my mom.
But when I caught a bad cold a few weeks ago, all I drank was hot lemon water with a bit of honey. I gave up my three-plus cups of coffee in lieu of this blend. It’s simple, but I noticed a brightness in my complexion I hadn’t had before. I always have a lemon or two at work and at home and add them to my water all day long.
Beauty blogs and supermodels are always extolling the virtues of water, which they should be. Water is great. Buying a Camelbak bottle upped my water intake 75%. But water is kind of boring, isn’t it? Add lemon.
Drinking hot water with lemon also keeps me from constantly craving candy and chips, which is a plus. I don’t have my “It’s 4PM I NEED A HOT CHOCOLATE FROM STARBUCKS RIGHT NOW” moment anymore.
Obviously, as a citrus fruit lemons are full of vitamin C, which is known to help fade discoloration. They combat acne and oil if you swipe them across your face. I’ve been doing at-home chemical peels (more on that later) so I haven’t done this in fear of irritating my face too much, but I cannot say enough about Vitamin C. The Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics Vitamin C serum I’ve been using during this harsh, polar winter is keeping my skin clearer and brighter.
Honey is a wonder product. It does everything!
Besides relying on honey to soothe my sore throats, I use it on monster zits to calm them. Honey has antibacterial and anti-fungal benefits to zap those zits; if I have a particularly nasty one, I cover it with a thin layer of honey and a Band-Aid and sleep like that overnight. It shrinks like a miracle! Raw honey is best, but in a pinch regular honey works just fine too. A raw honey mask applied to your face for about 20 minutes is soothing and calming, not to mention delicious.
Allergy sufferers: a teaspoon of raw, local honey can really help combat your wheeziness and runny eyes during allergy season. I saw the proof when my old roommate Amy tried it.
I add honey to smoothies, to bowls of fruit, to oatmeal, to tea and even to my coffee. It’s good added to apple cider vinegar and water if the acidic taste of vinegar bothers you. I drizzle it on my roasted Brussels sprouts. I dunk French fries in it! Thank you, bees, you are a blessing.
You know who loves chia seeds? Our very own Allegra. She just pours them in bottled water, but I’m not quite brave enough for that yet.
These weird little seeds, which expand slightly when they get wet, are full of fiber, which keeps you feeling full. They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, just like the magazines are always telling us to ingest for plump, healthy skin and beautiful hair.
Chia seeds also contain antioxidants, which keep our skin protected from aging and free radicals. They keep you energized and hydrated. (In the immortal words of Derek Zoolander, “Water is the essence of moisture. And moisture is the essence of beauty.”)
So what exactly does one DO with chia seeds? I sprinkle them on top of yogurt or add them to my smoothies. I shake up a few tablespoons with a blended banana and almond milk and leave them in the fridge overnight to make pudding. The texture takes a bit of getting used to, no doubt about it, but if you like it, you really like it. It’s a bit like tapioca. (Apparently chia seeds come with the warning that they can become addictive.)
Another chia seed recipe I love: Blend up a handful of fresh spinach, a banana, a few tablespoons of chia seeds and some almond milk (or soy/coconut/dairy). I also add avocado and honey to this mix. Once it’s blended, add a cup or two of rolled oats. Shake it all up in a mason jar. Leave overnight. It looks like sludge, but it’s delicious.
We’ve talked this to death, so I’ll keep it brief. Lately, I like to liquefy coconut oil and add a teaspoon or two to my daily coffee. It adds a lovely, beachy flavor and I get to drink all the benefits of coconut oil. Which reminds me, it’s about time for a coconut oil hair mask.
I know these are basic, but I’m just a beginner at this whole eating healthy thing. Since I instituted my “eat the rainbow” rule, I’ve noticed a serious uptick in my energy level and a brightness to my eyes and skin. It’s cool!
I would love any healthy-eating tips and tricks you guys might have, and if you’re making baby steps in your diet too, tell me about them. Or we could talk about Taco Bell. I actually prefer Taco John’s, but that’s regional.