Lifestyle Nutrition :: Megan
Today I’m excited to bust out the latest installment in the Lifestyle Nutrition series! Allow me to introduce Megan Martini, a woman with an inspiring story and some amazing tips on creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your family ::
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a bit of a foodie, a gypsy, and a steel magnolia. I’m married to an officer in the Army and we currently live in Florida with our two kiddos, Mason (3.5) and Quinn (1). We spend as much time as we can at the beach, but we are also involved in our local rec league and our church.
I am a registered nurse who has worked in long term care/rehab, oncology, and care coordination for mental health clients. I studied counseling before I became an RN, so holistic care has always been a passion of mine. I want to be a good example of healthy living to my patients. To me, healthy living is more than just food—it’s having spiritual wellbeing, social support, personal time, exercise, good coping skills for stress, and fun!
What do you eat for breakfast?
Before I eat anything, I must have at least one cup of coffee! I have two young kids, remember? I’m a busy mama, so I’m usually going for something that is quick and healthy. I love Kashi Blueberry waffles with almond butter, or a plant-based protein smoothie with frozen blueberries and banana. I like doing the smoothie and then I can make extra for my kids. They are picky eaters but they never turn down a smoothie!
What are some good snack foods to keep around?
Hummus with veggies (bell pepper slices, carrot sticks, sliced cucumber), apple slices and PB, pre-portioned nuts, organic rice cakes, snap-pea crisps, or portioned grapes in baggies. I like stuff that I can take on the go!
Have you always been a healthy eater? Was there a moment in your life when you decided to prioritize nutrition? If so, what caused it?
Nope. It’s been an evolution for me. My family always loved cooking, but nutrition was never a concept in our home. I grew up as an overweight kid. I wasn’t really taught about healthy choices and exercise wasn’t ever really a priority to our family. It was more about comfort food than healthy food. I see this a lot in the south and Midwest. Every social event revolves around decadent dishes! It’s part of the culture. So, I went from an overweight kid to an overweight college student. I finished my first degree but I struggled with self-esteem and didn’t really have the tools or support to change.
When I decided to go to nursing school, I struggled with insomnia because of the stress. I joined a gym that was in the hospital I worked at, and committed to going everyday—no matter what—to help myself to sleep better. The gym staff really helped me learn about tracking my caloric intake and getting enough of the right nutrients. It wasn’t just about “no sugar” or “low fat”. It was about fuel. I started sleeping better and had a ton of energy, which was essential during my two years of school when I continued to work full time. I lost about 50 lbs. over a year and a half by eating better and exercising. I used My Fitness Pal everyday to track my caloric intake and energy output, and it provided wonderful accountability for my busy life.
Years later, now after having two babies and developing a metabolic disorder called PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), I’ve switched to a plant based diet. I’m losing weight and my typical pelvic pain has decreased greatly. I’m not as bloated and I feel good about what I put in my body. It is definitely a counter-culture decision to only eat plants, but sometimes it’s worth going against the grain.
I’ve found that when I start eating more healthfully, it’s often for a certain amount of time (e.g. no sugar or caffeine for a month, Whole30, etc.). How were you able to shift your mindset from dieting to making nutrition a lifestyle?
If I committed to only doing something for a short time, I am the type of person to do something all or nothing. So if it was a 30 day challenge, I would usually give myself permission to “slip up” and end up giving up all together. When I committed to stick to my decision of going to the gym and using My FitnessPal, and acted regardless of my emotion (i.e. getting on the treadmill for even just 20 minutes if that’s all I had time for), I saw results. More importantly, I slept better and had more energy.
Feeling better definitely helped me to stick with my routine! When I made lifestyle changes, people all around noticed how great I felt and how my confidence changed. They could see my body change too, and wanted to do whatever I was doing. When you have people around you who are excited and supportive, it’s so much easier to stay on track. I’m blessed that I have a husband who values health and wellness, too.
If you could cut one thing from everyone’s diet, what would it be?
Dairy. As good as it tastes (trust me, I love cheese), it can cause a lot of inflammation and that was something I had to watch out for with having PCOS. Even organic dairy still contains hormones in it because it’s bovine breastmilk. I know a lot of people say that dairy milk is good for your bones because of the calcium, but that isn’t necessarily the case. There are plant based options that are overall more nutritious. A better choice would be almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, etc. Almond milk contains more calcium than dairy milk, and you can get your vitamin D from the sun and/or a supplement.
Any tips for encouraging your family to eat well, too?
Find your family’s favorite dishes and make healthier versions of them. For my family, we always love Mexican or Asian dishes. Pinterest has a ton of inspiration for any genre of food, so it’s been really easy to find vegan versions of our favorites—Pad Thai with tofu, black bean enchiladas, etc. I often add extra veggies and extra legumes just to make sure we are getting nutrient-dense meals.
I think it’s important to note someone can be vegan and still eat junk. Potato chips and beer are vegan after all! So, it’s about finding those things we all know we need to eat—fruits, veggies, whole grains, plant based protein, and healthy fats (olive oil, avocado)—and incorporating those into our daily life.
Typically, I pick 5-6 meals for the week, meal prep, and we eat dinner leftovers for lunches. I use Fit Packer containers (cheap and available on Amazon) instead of Tupperware because they are great for portion control and awesome to take food on the go. These habits have made my life easier and we waste a lot less food this way.
What do you find most challenging about maintaining a lifestyle of good nutrition?
Time. It’s easy to delay meal planning and prep. There will always be excuses if you go looking for them. Make it a habit on a certain day of the week to knock out your meals and you’ll have more time in the week to see your family, catch up on DVR, or sleep!
What do you find most rewarding about maintaining a lifestyle of good nutrition?
How great I feel is the biggest reward and indicator if I’m fueling my body well. If I eat a not-so-healthy meal now, I’m almost immediately feeling my body change—I’m more sluggish, bloated, and even nauseated sometimes. But if I’m eating well, my energy is constant and my mind is focused.
Any other comments or tips you’d like to share?
Drinking an adequate amount of water is one of the hardest habits for Americans to master, myself included. One thing I recommend is to buy some kind of container you enjoy drinking out of. Try making “spa water” with sliced lemon, sliced seedless cucumber, and a few mint leaves. The refreshing flavor will make it easy to come back and refill your cup over and over. Also, flavored sparkling water has become my go-to drink (La Croix is the tastiest brand and has a lot of yummy flavors like pineapple-strawberry or grapefruit). If you’re eating well and find yourself hungry all the time, you might be confusing hunger with thirst. Try sipping something hydrating (chilled coconut water is a good option, too)!
Thanks so much, Megan! You can follow her on Instagram for more great health tips and some pretty amazing Florida sunsets. :)