April 03, 2012

For the past several weeks, I’ve been battling some pretty unpleasant tummy issues. It's thrown me and my healthy eating (and exercise) habits through a loop. I've always had a "stomach of steel," so I never really paid much attention to what I ate until now. To help with my wonky digestion issues, my doctor suggested limiting the high-fiber foods in my diet to give my system a rest and to minimize symptoms, so I've avoided all of my usual healthy fruits, veggies, and whole grains and started to eat more bland, intestine-friendly foods, including chicken, rice, bananas, and sweet potatoes. And I do feel better!

This hasn't been a common occurrence, but there are certainly other times that I don't feel 100%—times when I need to change how and what I eat. In the past when I wasn't feeling well, I used it as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. I mean, I didn't feel well, so comfort food made perfect sense. For me, this meant frosting-covered Pop Tarts and neon orange Kraft Mac & Cheese, which obviously weren't the most nutritious or figure-friendly options. Now, here's how I get myself healthy when I'm feeling under the weather without blowing my diet and exercise routine all together.

If I have the flu
When I came down with the flu last year, I was worried I’d trade regular exercise, fruits, and veggies for a whole lot of junk food, but I was surprised that I didn't have much of an appetite. Once my nausea subsided, I stuck to bland food that could be easily digested, like saltine crackers, plain noodles, and scrambled eggs. Exercise was, of course, out of the question when I was feeling this badly. I knew my body needed to slow down and rest so that it could fully recover. As soon as my fever broke, I reverted back to eating more nutritious foods, and I made sure to get outside for a few brisk walks.

If I have the sniffles
During cold season, if I come down with a case of the sniffles, I change my eating habits based on my level of sickness. For instance, if I am really out of commission for the first couple of days, I lighten up my diet expectations and I don’t push myself to exercise. But I also don’t let myself get totally off track. I don't to use only a mild cold (if I'm sure that's really all it is) as an excuse to eat unhealthy food or skip the gym, so I incorporate my healthy habits back into my routine at the first sign that I'm feeling better.

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I have a headache
Dehydration is a common cause of headaches, so I aim to drink 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water every day. Additionally, if I feel a headache coming on, I'll try to snack on nutrient-rich foods like watermelon and other fruits and veggies, which have a high water content and can help stop a headache.

I'm hungover
Okay, I'd admit—last weekend I had a few too many cocktails with some friends, so I dealt with a terrible hangover the next day. Drinking alcohol dehydrates and zaps the body of potassium, so to help with hangover-related headaches and other not-so-great feelings, I loaded up my diet with potassium-rich foods like bananas and coconut water to help me feel better.

I'm just plain tired
Instead of grabbing an iced coffee when the mid-afternoon slump hits, I make green smoothies for a more nutritious energy punch. My favorite Coconut-Kale Smoothie combines carbohydrates, potassium, and fiber, which gives me the boost of energy that I need to get me through the afternoon. A smoothie is also a lot more satisfying than a cup of coffee, so it holds off my hunger until dinnertime with no problem.

More: Read Tina's daily food and fitness blog, Carrots 'N' Cake.