If your holidays were full of indulgence and excess, don’t worry — your moment of betterment has arrived. Many of us made some sort of personal health and fitness resolutions for 2020, and January is here to provide that fresh start to the year ahead. It’s a launching pad for your good intentions, and, here on the OBX, an opportunity to check out some deliciously nutritious choices.

Did you know that healthy living and weight loss results depend 20% on how much you exercise and 80% on what you eat? For those of us who love to eat, this is great news! There are so many wholesome, clean options right outside our front doors. I’ll share a few here and, since we can’t dine out all the time, I also rustled up some easy-to-adopt methods for eating well anytime from local healthy eating guru/chef, Wes Stepp.

Wes is chef and owner of Red Sky Cafe and NC Coast Grill and Bar in Duck, and the creator of the Tastefully Fit program, which teaches people how to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle. Something about Wes makes me believe we can trust his advice... Let’s just be honest, the guy is ripped — 100% lean muscle, except for his glittery blue eyes. He is obviously very good at keeping his resolutions. He also has a ton of energy, a relentless positive attitude, and really knows good food. So, I was more than ready to listen to his suggestions, especially when he said the key to achieving and maintaining a happy weight is… plenty of eating! Stepp suggests eating about every three hours throughout the day as long as it’s good, pure things and not junk. Avoid the processed stuff and try to enjoy your food as close to how it appears in nature as possible. Eat fruits and veggies, plenty of lean protein and complex carbohydrates, as well.

This doesn’t mean boring and bland, though. Early on in his fitness journey, which included competitive body-building, Stepp discovered all sorts of new things about food. For example, grits are a complex carb, debunking that “all white food is bad” myth, and with a little Greek yogurt mixed in, they’re a perfect fit for your diet. Fat is a great source of flavor but go easy on the olive oil, butter, and cream, difficult as that may be.

Stepp says he takes food like medicine and it is “the solution, not the enemy.” Eating good, nutritious food frequently throughout the day lets your body recognize it’s receiving plenty of calories so it’s more willing to let them go when you exercise. If you’re too restrictive with your diet, or inconsistent in the amount you eat throughout the day, your body is reluctant to give up any calories at all for fear it may not be fed again soon.

Stepp used the analogy of money in the bank to illustrate this — when you have regular income coming in and your bank account is in good shape, you’re comfortable spending money on what you need and want. Without steady income, you’re less inclined to spend any money at all. Calories work the same way.

Here’s the really great news: Stepp teaches all of this, including meal prep, diet, and exercise regimens in his Tastefully Fit classes. Watch his Tastefully Fit Facebook page for the next series of classes available in January and February.

In the meantime, there are quite a few healthy options for dining out around the beach. Wes has Tastefully Fit choices on his menus at NC Coast Grill and Bar and Red Sky Café — the fish tacos there are a local favorite.

The Fresh Fit Cafe in Nags Head is open for breakfast and lunch and offers clean meals of salads, wraps, protein and grain bowls, smoothies, and fresh juices like the Green Booster, with kale, spinach, lime, apple, and cucumber.

Owners Steven and Tunga Gawlinski achieved their own weight-loss goals through changes in their diet and are happy to share their experience with you.

Avenue Grill in Manteo and South Beach Takeout, Catering, & Delivery in Nags Head offer several plant-based, gluten-free, and vegan options packed full of flavor without a ton of fat.

At Coastal Provisions in Southern Shores, chef Dan Lewis has a plant-focused section on his dinner menu, featuring yummy plates like Broccolini and Beef and Brussels Sprouts and Shrimp. Did you know you can get all sorts of flavorful soups, chili, and stocks at Coastal Provisions as well? The freezer case in their market is home to their award-winning Vegetarian Chili, Red Lentil and Harissa Soup, and vegan Gumbo, plus a new rich, deeply-flavored stock made entirely from mushrooms. These are great wholesome to-go options for a cold winter’s night.

A well-balanced meal is nothing without dessert, and OBX Frozen Yogurt in Southern Shores and Duck has us covered. All of your traditional flavors are there, as well as some no sugar added options and sorbet smoothies that are just sweet enough and not too sinful to help keep you on track.

With all of these tasty, nourishing resources at our fingertips, 2020 is shaping up just beautifully!

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