5 Things I Learned From My Nutrition Coach

Photo by Vicky Irvin

I didn't think I was unhealthy, but I was low on energy. I decided to hire a health coach and find out what I could do to tweak my eating habits and get more out of my meals.

That's where Fran Benedict of Simply Mindful comes in. Oozing good health and loads of positive energy, Fran believes anyone can boost energy levels and improve their standard of living by making the right food choices.

More: Your 10-Point Plan to Boost Nutrition

From a sea of valuable advice, here are five gems I learned from Fran that changed the way I view food.

#1) You can eat barley for breakfast.

Barley is great with just about anything: It helps make soups and stews more hearty, It adds some weight to salads, and it's a great alternative to rice and other dinner grains. But who ever thought of eating it for breakfast?

Loaded with fiber, barley actually helps you feel full longer, helping you to power through the morning. And, with the right accoutrement, you can transform this hearty dinner grain into tasty morning treat.

It makes me wonder: What else can you eat for breakfast that is normally considered an evening meal?

Try this:

Take one or two tablespoons of peanut butter and dilute it in a little bit of hot water. Mix it up until it has a smooth, creamy consistency. Drizzle, or pour, the peanut butter over a plate of barley; then top it with chopped apples or peaches and sprinkle with cinnamon.

More: 12 Fast and Easy Breakfast Ideas

#2) Greens make everything better.

They might take some getting used to but greens, which are high in calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc, have incredible health benefits.

"Crammed with fiber and chlorophyll, these phytonutrient superhero's also help to improve circulation, strengthen your immune system, promote healthy intestinal flora, and improve liver bladder and kidney function," say Benedict.

Tip: Eating greens with citrus fruits, which are high in vitamin C, helps to increase iron absorption from the greens by 15 to 20 times the regular amount.

Try this:

Braise some spinach or kale and pile it on top of your eggs in the morning. Or cook up a big pile of chard with some garlic, balsamic vinegar and oil as a side dish for dinner.

"Squeeze some fresh lemon over your spinach for an additional bang for your buck," says Benedict.

Another way to get your daily intake of greens? Mix up a green smoothie.

More: Your Guide to Eating Greens

#3) Fruit has a lot of sugar; so does fruit juice.

I'm addicted to fruit. It is by far my favorite food group. I could polish off a pound of grapes in one sitting. Half a watermelon? Yes, please. I didn't used to think twice about it, because fruit is good for you?isn't it?

Well, yes, it is, but not in the quantities I like to consume. I know the adage, "everything in moderation," but I didn't think that applied to something as healthy as fruit.

It does.

According to Fran, the goal should be to avoid spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. That means moderating the amount of sugar you take in?even natural sugars found in fruit.

More: 3 Tips for Choosing the Best Produce

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