Editor’s note: Every Friday, HLN brings you the "My First Time" series, which explores the first time your favorite celebrities did something significant or memorable (so get your mind out of the gutter!).
In this installment, Cathy Baron -- actress on FX’s TV series “Justified,” professional dancer, former nutritionist and now spokeswoman for LifeKraze, a social network that helps users encourage each other to stay fit and active -- talks about how to create a healthy lifestyle.
HLN: When was the first time you were conscious of your body image?
Cathy Baron: To give you a completely truthful answer, when I was in kindergarten, I thought I had a big butt. Looking back at myself as a little girl, I just want to hug her and say “You’re so young and you’re beautiful!” I’ve always thought I was fat. I don’t think I’m fat anymore, but I do compare myself to people. Like Kate Bosworth -- she’s so gorgeous! But I don’t know her: I don’t know if she lives healthy or if she has good habits. I certainly have bad days where I think, “I ate crappy all week and I feel bad,” but that’s where LifeKraze comes in.
HLN: LifeKraze offers ideas for healthy food substitutions. What are some of your favorite substitutions that you swear by?
CB: I like crunchy things. I’m not saying I don’t ever eat chips -- I do -- but I find that having something like cucumber and dipping it in hummus will give you that crunch you want. If you want a salad, the dressing usually holds a lot of unnecessary calories and fat, so eat a Tex-Mex salad with salsa instead of dressing. And I love eating quinoa because it has a lot of protein and fiber. It’s great instead of having noodles or rice.
HLN: Do you have a trick to making healthy meals easily?
CB: I like to make quinoa or rice bowls with whatever I have in my fridge. You can add grilled chicken and veggies to it. I’m vegan, so if I have tofu or hummus, I’ll add those. I find that those are the quickest meals, and they’re so simple.
HLN: What’s your advice for making meals more nutritious?
CB: A good rule of thumb is any food that has more color in it will have more vitamins and minerals, so try to have colorful meals. Instead of white rice, use brown rice -- it has more fiber in it (white rice is empty calories). Also, no more processed foods! Here’s the thing: Once you stop eating processed foods and start eating whole foods that are fresh, the processed foods start to taste pretty awful. Stick it out a little bit longer -- most people last a week, so keep going, and your lifestyle will slowly change.
HLN: Changing your lifestyle can be the most challenging part. How do you overcome that challenge?
CB: It can be hard at first and I understand that. I counseled people on losing weight when I worked as a nutritionist, and the biggest complaint was that it’s overwhelming. So learn the basics of what you shouldn’t be doing first and then get creative in the kitchen. Recipes are important and the Internet is the best place to find them -- it takes just a little bit of effort. If you live with someone who doesn’t want to be healthy, it can be difficult -- there’s peer pressure at all ages. It helps to have something like LifeKraze and people who are cheering you on.
HLN: Exercise is also important -- how do you stay active?
CB: A lot of times things like hiking are overlooked. Hiking is tough -- it burns a lot of calories. Or if you have a bike, go on a bike ride. Try new things, especially ones that are free. The last thing I want to do is go work out, but as soon as you get outside, you’re breathing the air and feeling the sun and it helps to force you to do it.
HLN: How do you balance nutrition and exercise when you’re filming?
CB: When I know I have an early call time, I keep a few of snacks in my purse: Justin’s peanut butter packets, tangerines, almonds or bananas (they have healthy carbs). One day, they didn’t have a lot of vegan options [on set], so what I did was I got spinach for a salad, grapes and apples, oil and vinegar, and beans, which have protein, and had to mix and match. I had to make sure I picked the right things because I don’t want to get exhausted at 3 p.m. with a whole day of work ahead of me.