Nicole Champagne, San Diego, CA

Nicole Champagne is from Newbury Park, California. She graduated from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Education and has recently received her Nursing Associates Degree. As a result of all of her hard work and profound interest in the field, Nicole is now a passionate registered nurse at a family health center in San Diego.

After many years of studying and working in the public health industry, Nicole believes that a good diet and physical activity are essential to living a healthy lifestyle. Her personal desire to feel good, look lean, and be more energetic triggered her passion for encouraging people to choose healthier alternatives and live better.

According to Nicole, for anyone just getting started on their journey to health, the basics are the most important: a well-balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and lots of water. “I am not a full vegetarian, but I am honest with myself about what is a healthier choice,” she says.

Nicole also recommends the new choose your plate 2011 nutritional guide, which she believes to be much more appropriate than the old food guide pyramid. The new ‘plate’ focuses more on fresh fruits and vegetables, and presents protein as a nutrient that can be found in many foods besides meat.

“For protein we have a choice between numerous foods: nuts, beans, seeds, quinoa, meat, eggs … just to name a few of the big ones,” she explains, “I have spent much of my public health work creating games that teach children which of these proteins are also comprised of copious amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. I hope most adults already know, not so that they won’t eat animal products, but so that they can at least make an educated decision.”

Besides pointing out the fact that meat is not the healthiest protein choice, Nicole mentions the negative effect of meat eating on the environment, which is “a far lesser known phenomenon to the masses,” she says.

“My favorite analogy is: ‘The Hummer driving vegetarian does less damage to the environment than the Prius driving meat eater,’” she quotes Michael Pollen, author of the bestseller Omnivore’s Dilemma. Though she is not a strict vegetarian nor does she drive a Prius, Nicole is passionate about “living healthy and sharing that energy.”

The farming experience

In order to connect with nature and experience a more primitive and self-sufficient lifestyle, Nicole recently spent a few months living on an organic vegetarian farm called La Baltasara, located in the region of Andalucía, in Southern Spain.

The farm is only accessible by foot, donkey or horse, is completely surrounded by a cork and stone oak forest, and their main source of energy is the sun. La Baltasara also has an organic vegetable garden and a wide variety of fruit trees.

It is a beautiful thing to pick plants to be your dinner just moments before consuming them,” she says. They call it ‘permaculture’, sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems. La Baltasara allows people from all over the world to have their “into the wild” experience while learning about each other and their different lifestyles.

Nicole loved the farm and in a short time this new way of life felt surprisingly naturalto her, but obviously retreating to a small rural farm is not the only option for living healthy. “If everyone could do a little: compost, walk or bike more, garden, eat whole fruit, reduce meat consumption, drink filtered water instead of bottled, etcetera, and teach children the value of any of these, we would quickly see a world of difference!

Nicole also enjoys riding her bike around the bay, studying on the beach, dancing, hanging out with friends, and playing softball with her team, the “Paloozas”.