My favorite fruit and veggies as a kid were green apple Jolly Ranchers and the infamous steakhouse bloomin’ (fried) onion. As I grew older, I walked away from candy and fried foods, thinking I was eating healthy with my bag of Baked Lays and fruit infused frozen yogurts. It wasn’t until my wake up call with stage IV disease that everything in my diet changed. Truth be told, it wasn’t just my diet that shifted, it was my mindset about the food we eat and how nutrient dense food was important for my survival.
The results speak for themselves – in six years I’ve been thriving and healing from stage IV cancer. Through treatments, I do have good energy. My skin is smoother and more vibrant than it was in college. My weight has maintained what it was in my early 20’s. AND, I feel like I have a little control (of my lifestyle) that has helped me fair well through the stress of whatever life brings…cancer or no cancer.
People always ask how I do it, and I tell them the same message time and time again: take small steps. Try different nutrient dense foods and keep adding them to your life. If you need a little help to get you there, here are some easy ways to add these nutrient dense items to your life:
Favorite Nutrient Dense Foods
Fruits/Veggies – Some of the most nutrient dense foods out there are veggies and fruits. They are filled with nutrients and antioxidants that promote healthy cell formation and provide immunity boosting properties.
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- Soups – I love love love veggies soups. It’s so easy to throw ingredients in an Instant Pot / crock pot, let them sit and then hand blend to make a simple meal filled with vitamin goodness. RECIPE: My favorite veggie soup
- Crudité– I always keep fresh veggies handy. In fact, when the kids come home from school you can often see baby carrots, sliced cucumbers and cut up peppers on the counter. If I’m on the go, I will grab a big bag of baby carrots from the fridge and throw in my purse. Having fresh, raw food available makes it an easy snack. Sometimes I splurge for fresh-cut fruit in a store-bought container. And always, I look for bananas when on the go. Honestly, I don’t really like bananas but they are a quick and cheap way to be satisfied. (Sometimes I add nut butter on top, to lessen the sharp taste.)
- Veggie puree – I learned from the Deceptively Delicious cookbooks about creating purees and adding them to baked goods. It’s really easy to put a handful of frozen cauliflower in the blender with a cup of water and press “high.” Here are some of my favorite simple recipes including RECIPES: blueberry muffins and carrot cake.
- Veggie Pastas – Early on, I made a ton of veggie zoodles. It’s not hard to make them and only takes a little time. Then, I found frozen bagged organic cauliflower rice and the rest is history. I LOVE substituting riced cauliflower for pastas. It’s pretty easy to make the rice, too.
- Smoothies – My favorite way to get a ton of produce into one simple snack is to make a yummy smoothie. RECIPE: Here’s our favorite green smoothie for those who love a sweet and spiced drink. Or even try a smoothie bowl: RECIPE: here
Smoothie Hacks – I’m a huge smoothie fan. There are few easier ways to get a ton of nutrient dense food packed into one serving. Whether you like them for breakfast or a snack, sweet or tart, thick or liquified, there is a smoothie for everyone. Here are some of my tips to make it easy to add smoothies to your life.
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- Make smoothies in bulk and freeze in mason jars. Grab and go in the morning for a nutritious afternoon snack.
- Prepare “smoothie ice cream” – Freeze smoothies and pull out to eat frozen or even prepare just a simple smoothie bowl.
- Meal-prep smoothie ingredients – Buy freezer bags and put together the smoothie ingredients before hand to make your daily preparation a few steps less.
- Buy Daily Harvest smoothies – I love this delivery food company. You can buy smoothies, harvest bowls, soups and more that come straight to your door. The produce is flash-frozen to keep at highest nutrient value and made of all wholesome foods. Use the PRETTYWELLNESS code at checkout for $25 off your first order.
- Use a secret hidden ingredient – cauliflower. Use frozen cauliflower for smoothies to add a few additional nutrients. The cauliflower has such a mild taste, even my kid can’t taste it. RECIPE: Mango Infusion Smoothie
Beans – I’m the girl who has always loved garbanzo beans. My college roommates used to laugh at me as I ate them as a snack out of the can. Since then, I’ve continued to see value in beans. Some of them, especially pinto and red kidney beans, are incredible sources of anti-oxidants and fiber. According to The American Cancer Society, beans should be included in an anti-cancer diet. Here are some ways to sneak them in:
- Bake Black Bean Brownies – Talia from Party in My Plants has a delicious recipe. I can’t wait for her cookbook to come out this April: Party in Your Plants: 100+ Plant-Based Recipes and Problem-Solving Strategies to Help You Eat Healthier (Without Hating Your Life.)
- Add beans to soups for more fiber and protein.
- Buy or create your own bean dips and hummus spreads. I use these as veggies dips, sandwich spreads or instead of salad dressing.
- Top salads with an assortment of beans. Create your own bean salad, bean casseroles and more – RECIPES HERE
- Add to pastas – white beans and pesto with pasta is tasty – try it with chickpea pasta Banza Chickpea Elbows.
And while I know we are talking nutrient dense foods, it’s worth mentioning that every healthy living plan or diet should include drinking a lot of water. It seems simple, but isn’t always. We’ve included a few tips on how you can add more water to your life.
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Water: it’s recommended that a person drinks 1/2 their body weight in ounces.
- Add fruit/veggies herbs for better taste – my favorite is oranges. If you’re looking for tools and recipes, here are some of our simple ones.
- Drink warm water and lemon every day – I do it in the morning before my day begins and sometimes at night, too.
- Add edible essential oils to your water. I love D’oterra’s wild orange edible oil.
- Buy non-flavored seltzer or sparkling mineral water and add a splash of your own fresh juice.
Check out some of the hottest cookbooks. Please let us know if you have one that you love, too.
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Sources include: Cancer.gov and WebMD.
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