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Kate Ziegler

Eating plenty of fruits and veggies

Do you get enough fruits and vegetables? There’s a reason we ask and a reason adults tell you to eat plenty of them. They taste great, but they’re also packed with nutrients that help you grow healthy and strong. Plus, fruits and veggies have fiber, which helps you feel full longer. That means you’re less likely to get hungry when you’re trying to power through math class or after-school activities.

Kate Ziegler, an Olympic swimmer, loads up on fruits and veggies and other plant-based foods (like nuts and whole grains) for just those reasons. For Kate, eating healthy helps her train better and feel like she’s at her best. You can feel your best, too! For Fruits and Veggies — More Matters Month, check out Kate’s tips for getting more fruits and veggies.

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How old are you?

I am 26.

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How long have you been swimming?

I was a water baby from the start and was in the water at just a few months old. My competitive swimming career began when I was 6 as a member of my summer league team, the Great Falls Rapids.

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What’s been the highlight of your career as a swimmer?

Without question, the highlight of my career has been the honor of representing my country at the Olympic Games. In the Olympics you're not representing a team, you're representing an entire nation. The idea of 300 million Americans standing, cheering, celebrating, and waving the American flag is inspiring and humbling at the same time. I've been a world champion and I've set world records, but nothing can beat that sense of pride that comes with representing the United States.

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Do you have a go-to snack you like to have before swim practice?

I try not to eat a big meal before practice, but I like to eat something so I don’t get hungry halfway through a two-hour workout. I usually enjoy a banana or apple with almond butter, a piece of toast with avocado and a hardboiled egg, or a bowl of oatmeal with berries or banana and cinnamon.

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Why do you think it’s important to eat fruits and vegetables?

Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients that we need to feel our best. As an athlete, I find my diet impacts my performance. The nutrients in fruits and vegetables help keep my immune system strong and help me recover faster from all the hard workouts.

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How does eating healthy make you feel?

Eating healthy makes me feel great. I feel more energized and mentally sharper, and I am able to recover faster between practices. Fueling myself with high-quality foods makes me feel stronger and more confident in and out of the pool. Also, I struggled for years with blemished skin and brittle nails. I find that when I drink plenty of water and eat well, my skin looks healthier and my nails are much stronger.

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What tips do you have for girls looking to eat more fruit?

Plan ahead. You know you're going to get hungry at some point. Try and prepare healthy foods you can enjoy on the go, whether it's packing a lunch or putting snacks in your purse or backpack. Fruits like apples and bananas are easy to carry around, so you can pack and take them anywhere. Not only are fruits high in nutrients, they’re also sweet, which often fills that desire for sugar when we start to hit a lull in the middle of the day. I often have a bowl of fresh berries to satisfy a sweet craving.

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What’s your favorite way to enjoy vegetables?

I love raw vegetables with hummus and guacamole. If I know I’ve got a long day ahead of me, I will pack a cold bag with cut-up vegetables (cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli) and hummus and guacamole. That way I know no matter what comes up, I have healthy snacks to keep me going.

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For girls who don't love vegetables, do you have any advice for how to spice up veggie options?

There are plenty of ways to liven up veggies. For those who don’t like raw vegetables, I love roasting or grilling vegetables with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and garlic. You can add a sprinkle of cheese or a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end. Another favorite of mine is baked sweet potato fries. Slice them into wedges, add a little olive oil and salt and pepper, plus any other seasonings you like. I love spicy, so I add chili powder and cayenne. Then bake them in the oven until they’re crispy. If those options don’t sound appetizing, try sneaking vegetables into the dishes you love. You can add sautéed vegetables to lasagna, roasted vegetables to wraps, or crushed vegetables to baked goods and soups. I also really enjoy fruit smoothies with vegetables. With the sweetness from the fruit, you’d never know that spinach, cucumber, and celery are in there!

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Do you have tips to help girls make smart food choices when eating at a restaurant or at school?

When deciding what to eat at a restaurant or school, look for words like "grilled," "steamed," and "baked," which usually suggest healthier dishes. Don’t assume that a salad is the healthiest option on the menu. Salads can be tricky. They seem healthy, but are often covered in high-calorie dressings. So, order the dressing on the side. And remember that it’s all about balance and moderation. If you are eating well most of the time, you can splurge every once in a while.

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What advice would you give to girls to build better eating habits?

Small changes over a long enough time create big results. I wouldn't look at it as a dietary change so much as a lifestyle change. Trying to completely change your eating habits often leads to unachieved goals. Make small changes, stick to them, and see the impact that your consistency and commitment make in the long run. You'll be pleased!

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Whether you want to be an Olympic athlete or you’re more into jogging through your neighborhood, eating healthy is important. To learn more about making smart food choices, check out our Nutrition section. Don’t miss the easy recipes and tasty snack ideas.

Content last reviewed September 04, 2014
Page last updated September 04, 2014

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.