After one too many appetizers, cookies and celebratory toasts, our bodies are practically begging for a resolution by the time the New Year rolls around. On the other hand, many of us will agree that our minds aren’t always on the same page. The discipline I’ve developed as a professional athlete helps keep me on track, although festive gatherings and everyday temptations can still be a challenge. Especially, once I have a bite of my grandmother’s Lumpia. That’s it. I always crave more, which can be true for most of us. The result? We may find ourselves already wrestling to keep those glimmering resolutions afloat. However, it’s never too late to make small changes that can make our commitment to leading a healthier lifestyle a success.
You want the skinny? As an athlete, it’s really important for me to set small, attainable goals that eventually become part of my everyday lifestyle—the key factor to my success has been consistency over the years. It’s really all of the little things that add up in the long run, for example, adding California Dried Plums to your diet. Sure, I work as a spokesperson for the commodity board representing California dried plum growers and packers, but I’ve been popping these babies in my mouth like candy since I was a little kid! What I love about dried plums is that they’re naturally the whole package when it comes to nutrition, because they support bone health, heart health, digestive health, immunity and healthy aging. They’re also extremely tasty, portable and available year-long, so I can always keep a pack of them in my purse, gym or travel bag. However, the best-kept secret that I’m revealing here, is that California Dried Plums are a fantastic culinary ingredient, and there are numerous ways to use them. A California Dried Plum purée is one way; this helps make your favorite baked treats healthier by adding moisture while decreasing the amount of sugar and fat—check out my awesome snack bar recipe and cooking video below!
Here are some other tips that have helped me eat right and kept me on track to earn my 12th medal this past summer at the 2012 Games:
- Get plenty of quality sleep and stay hydrated
- Eat mindfully. Take time to enjoy and savor your food.
- Relax and leave time for fun with family and friends.
- Eat simple, seasonal, nourishing foods, including an abundance of fruits and vegetables.
- Include spices and seasonings to boost the flavor of foods instead of using unhealthy fats.
- Keep a nutritious go-to snack with you at all times (à la my snack bar recipe below!)
Natalie’s California Dried Plum Snack Bars
Loaded with healthy grains and nuts, and sweetened with a touch of honey, these snack bars are perfect for tucking into your gym bag or lunch box!
1/4 cup California Dried Plum purée
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup orange juice
1 egg white
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/4 cup soy flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
Heat oven to 325ºF. Spray an 8-x-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving the paper overhanging on 2 sides. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dried plum purée, honey, orange juice, egg white and orange zest. In small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon and baking powder. Fold flour mixture, oats, almonds, coconut, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into dried plum mixture.
Press mixture evenly into prepared pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until firm to the touch. Cool on rack; remove from pan, using paper to lift it out. Cut in 4, then cut across in half to make 8 bars.