My 2020 holiday gift guide is here! I made six different guides to help you shop for meaningul and useful gifts this holiday season – for him, for her, for the home, for the kitchen, for beauty and of course for the foodie in your life! Click the links under each photo to go there directly.
Beginning a second Whole 30 was surprisingly smooth, it showed me how far I’ve come in the past year. While in the past doing something like Whole 30 would feel like an intense diet and restriction to make myself look more like a certain way, now it’s something I do out of self-love, pursuit of science and a passion for the natural foods of this earth. A lot of people have told me that they “could never” do Whole 30 or even put time into eating well like I do. I always tell them, yes you could! Anyone could.
Ten years ago, I knew nothing about food, nutrition and wellness. I didn’t know how to eat well because I didn’t even know the basics. Five years ago, I thought I knew a lot about nutrition, but turns out a lot the science we’ve been taught has either been disproven or has generalized all people into one category. The knowledge I have today about food and more importantly the science of nutrition took a long time to understand. Diving into research on things like Whole 30 was a big part of my journey. Whole 30 has brought me back to the basic understanding that food from the earth is meant to be eaten in its original form, free of additives and non-processed. Whole 30 is so simple – eat fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts, seeds, herbs and oils in their most natural forms. These also happen to be the foods that keep our blood sugar regulated, our gut healthy, our digestion normal and inflammation down (among many, many other things).
I pooled together the questions I got from you guys into a few big categories and gave my answers below. For more info, visit the Whole 30 website.
How do you prepare for Whole 30?
I am obsessive about planning. I strongly believe in the idea that if you plan for nothing, you’ll get there every time and that hope is not a strategy. Whole 30 or not the number one most important thing going into my week is sitting down and planning all my meals, making a list, going to the grocery store and getting my fridge set up for the week. This process is so essential to the success of my week that it’s a non-negotiable on Saturdays or Sundays. When I have a fridge stocked with all the Whole 30 food that I need throughout the week, I don’t have to make a difficult decision when I’m hungry and looking for a snack. When it’s dinner time, I know exactly what I’m making and don’t have to wait until I’m too hungry to cook something good. Especially for Whole 30, I love keeping lots of nuts and fruits around so I can have those whenever I want something quick and satisfying.
What kinds of meals do you eat that are simple?
When I plan dinners or even lunches, I typically just think of one protein and at least one vegetable I want on my plate. By doing that, I can piece together sheet pan meals or one-skillet meals that are quick and nutritious. One night I’ll do roasted chicken with broccoli and asparagus, another night I’ll do salmon with spinach and sweet potatoes, and another I’ll do ground turkey lettuce wraps with cut up veggies. Having a great sauce to bring it all together is also important – I love extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, pesto and coconut aminos. You can find all kinds of tasty and easy sauce recipes on Pinterest or Instagram too. By keeping your meals simple, you can avoid complication and meals that take a lot of thought. When you’re feeling more adventurous, there are thousands of Whole 30 recipes online that I love to try out.
Are there any Whole 30 compliant foods that you still avoid?
Honestly, no. I love doing Whole 30 because I don’t restrict myself and I eat until I’m full. I don’t feel guilt or even physical pain after I eat because the foods I’m eating are natural and unprocessed. While I used to have “fear foods” like bananas, apples, sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables, I’ve found myself feeling freer and less restrictive. I know that these foods come from the earth and are meant to be enjoyed without counting carbs or calories. The only foods that are compliant that I don’t eat are foods I personally don’t enjoy. It is important to note however that paleo baked goods, “nice” creams, cauliflower crusts or other healthier treats are still not Whole 30 compliant given the idea that it is a 30-day period where only completely natural foods are eaten.
Would you continue Whole 30 for longer than 30 days?
Yes and no. I’ve learned so much from doing Whole 30 and have made so many simple switches since the first time I did it in November 2019. While I plan to continue to eat similarly to the Whole 30 plan after it is over, I don’t plan to eat like it forever. Grains and dairy have slowly become lower and lower percentages of my diet, and with so many amazing alternatives in the market today I plan to continue opting for grain and dairy free foods. Additionally, I always try to stay away from processed foods, foods made with added refined sugar or foods cooked in inflammatory oils like canola and vegetable oil. Whole 30 is a model for what the perfect plate might look like, and I want to continue to follow a similar lifestyle with more wiggle room for things like natural sweeteners and paleo baked goods.
What would you say to someone who wants to try Whole 30 but knows nothing about it?
Do some research! I didn’t know anything about Whole 30 until about a year ago and found so much valuable information online just by researching and checking out their official website and Instagram page. Also, there are tons of bloggers out there who specialize in Whole 30/ Whole 30 recipes that have a wealth of knowledge. Be sure to research the science behind it and why processed, refined and modified foods are so damaging to our bodies and its systems. The one thing I’ll stress is that it never hurts to try it out! If it doesn’t work for you, that’s totally okay.
These questions just scratch the surface of everything that Whole 30 is and what it can do for you, but I hope they were helpful. I have another blog post here that I wrote after my first time trying it. If you’re unsure if Whole 30 is right for you, talk to your doctor and do some research!
Going through the sourdough bread process step-by-step for those of you who want to make it, but don’t know how to go about it.
The idea of making sourdough bread is very intimating. Outside of my bakery days where I didn’t go much further than just feeding the starter and making the preferments, I haven’t ventured into the world of sourdough for that exact reason. But given the stay-at-home orders and more time on my hands than I’d like to admit, this really was the perfect time to try my own sourdough bread.
If you’re thinking “why not just buy it at the grocery store?”… I totally get it. This is for someone that’s looking to make a sourdough loaf for the fun and the art of it all, plus it tastes a whole lot better than anything you can get your hands on at the grocery store. Making sourdough is actually really fun and weirdly rewarding. It’s like a little science experiment that you get to eat!
I know that most people reading this will be beginners in sourdough land, so I’ve written on the steps as simply as possible without missing any of the important details in this post. In my own research I couldn’t find anywhere that listed out the steps by day, which is how my brain works, so that’s what I wanted to do here. All you really need to do is take it one day at a time, and the only ingredients you’ll need are good old flour and sink water! Let’s get started.
What materials you’ll need:
- A glass container with at least a quart of capacity
- A large glass mixing bowl
- A scale that measures grams
- A colander & small towel or a proofing basket
- A bread razor or very sharp knife
- A Dutch oven
- Parchment paper
What ingredients you’ll need:
- Whole wheat or all-purpose flour
- All-purpose flour
|DAY 1||Combine 1 cup of whole wheat or all-purpose flour with ½ cup of water in a glass container (at least 4-5 cups capacity) and stir until a paste. Cover with plastic wrap, let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.|
|DAY 2||Feed starter with ½ cup of mixture + ¾ cup of flour + ½ cup of water and make a paste. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for another 24 hours.|
|DAY 3||Feed the starter with ½ cup of mixture + ¾ cup of flour + ½ cup of water and make a paste. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours.|
|DAY 4||Feed the starter with ½ cup of mixture + ¾ cup of flour + ½ cup of water, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 12 hours. Repeat again after the 12 hours.|
|DAY 5 – 12||Each morning and night (as close to 12 hours apart as possible), feed your starter with ½ cup of mixture + ¾ cup of flour + ½ cup of water. Leave at room temperature covered with plastic wrap. You’re ready for the next step when the starter is very bubbly and doubles in size between feedings. This could take longer than by day 12 – just keep following the same steps until you see the doubling size.|
|DAY 13||Make your preferment (measurements for 1 loaf*) by mixing 15g of sourdough starter with 125g of room temperature water, then adding in 100g of whole wheat or all-purpose flour. Mix until there is no dry flour left, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours – best to do this at night.|
|DAY 14 – PART 1||In the morning, take your preferment and add 250g of room temperature water. Mix thoroughly and then add 380g of all-purpose flour. Mix until dough is shaggy and there is no more dry flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for an hour for the autolyse. After the hour add 15g of fine salt and use wet hands to mix in the salt.|
|DAY 14 – PART 2||After you’ve mixed in the salt, it’s time to begin the folding process. Every 30 minutes for 3 hours (6 total times), use wet hands to grab your dough from the bottom, pull it up to the middle of the dough, and push it down. Repeat this grab and pull motion without tearing the dough about 20 times, rotating the bowl as you go, and covering with plastic wrap when you’re finished. When you’ve finished your 6th grab and pull, cover the dough with plastic wrap and let sit for 45 minutes.|
|DAY 14 – PART 3||It’s now time for the pre-shaping. Transfer your dough from the bowl to a floured surface and cover your hands with flour. Pull the corners of the dough to the center to create a circle, then flip it over and let it rest for 30 minutes. Dust the top of the loaf with flour, then flip again. Grab and pull the edges of the dough to the center and pressing it down once again, on each side. Roll over the dough so the seam is now on the bottom and the dough is smooth. Now, use the side of your hand to tighten the surface by rotating and smoothing (search “shaping sourdough” on YouTube for examples). Flip over the dough once again, top with a flour dusting, and place it into a colander lined with a small towel covered in flour. Fold over the corners to cover the dough with the towel completely. Let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes, then move to the refrigerator to sit for 12-24 hours.|
|DAY 15||It’s finally time to bake your sourdough! Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Transfer the dough seam side down onto parchment paper, give the loaf a slash across the top, and lift into your Dutch oven. Cover and place in the oven immediately. Bake for 25 minutes covered and 25 minutes uncovered, then remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let cool completely until cutting.|
*These measurements are for one loaf of sourdough, double, triple, etc… measurements for more than one loaf. When it’s time to shape the dough, divide into how many loaves you’re making.
So there it is. This may seem like a long process (it is!) but all it takes is about 5 minutes once or twice a day, and then a little bit of work when it’s ready to be baked. The biggest challenge is shaping the bread, which as I mentioned can be shown through tons of YouTube videos. When it’s all done, you’ll have a beautiful masterpiece and a great tasting sandwich! Thanks for following along.
Why I did it, how I did it, and what I learned along the way
I’ve been sitting down thinking about how to describe this experience for a while now. My internal battle is: it’s really not that deep versus, how can I share about something so complex? Food, it’s actually very complicated. Well, not food itself, but how we eat it. If you think it’s not, I encourage you to think about it a bit more.
I get a lot of advice, information, stories, etc. from people in my life whenever I talk about certain eating plans or diets I decide to follow. I can’t say I really ask for most of that advice, but I have found that people will take Facebook articles very seriously… But really, how does this relate to doing Whole 30? Well, Whole 30, and many other diets that eliminate food groups, definitely get some bad press these days. That was the main thing that deterred me from doing it. Especially because some of that bad press is very real and have caused deficiencies, eating disorders, distorted food relationships, you name it. I did my fair share of research on Whole 30 before making the decision to do it, and I even had people reach out to me with their own stories. I knew the risks, and I knew the potential rewards. Ultimately, my decision to do it was a hesitant one, but I just took it one day at a time.
For those of you that haven’t heard of Whole 30, here’s the basic lowdown, sourced right from their official website: “Eat meat, seafood, and eggs; vegetables and fruit; natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with a simple or recognizable list of ingredients, or no ingredients at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.” What that doesn’t include is real and artificial added sugar, grains, legumes, dairy and essentially any other highly processed food. It is an elimination diet that can help “reset” your body and help you stick to real ingredients.
If you want to know the truth, here’s what convinced me. Another quote right from the Whole 30 website: “This is not hard. Fighting cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You have done harder things than this. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime. Hear me now: The Whole30 is exactly as hard as you decide it’s going to be.” That spoke to me in a way that just made sense. I spent so many years treating my body like it didn’t deserve love. I’ve spent a few years now trying to make up for those years. And let me tell you, it’s a lot harder to un-do that hurting than it was to eat crap for twenty years straight. This body is the only one I’ve got, so why not try this thing? Why not do this science-backed program to help level up my health? I had no reason not to.
I started on November 5th, two days after running my half marathon and working with a very sore body. At first, the fear of what I was going to eat was greater than my reality of actually eating. It brought me back to the period of time I was vegan — often worrying about meals that I didn’t have 100% control over. Releasing that worry took time and was definitely my biggest challenge throughout the 30 days. As I said, I took things one day at a time and relied heavily on planning and meal prep to ensure I wouldn’t get myself into a situation where I was left without something to eat.
For breakfasts, I luckily didn’t have to change much from my usual routine. Breakfast for me normally looks like a couple of eggs with vegetables and meat, and usually some kind of cheese. I learned this worked best for me during my time following the keto diet, and I like it because I can change it up depending on the type of meat, cheese, or vegetable. Whole 30 meant no dairy, so I stopped with the cheese but kept everything else pretty much the same. I did notice myself getting hungry a little earlier without having that added fat in my morning meal, so I started to add avocado to make up for it, or would have some sweet potatoes with it. Whole 30 rules don’t allow things like paleo baking to make healthier pancakes or muffins, so eggs were it for probably 28/30 days.
For lunches and dinners, I often stuck to somewhat of a formula: some type of protein, any vegetable(s), and something that would satisfy my taste buds (i.e. compliant sauces, spreads, dressings or seasonings). When I had more time, I did make more extravagant things or follow approved recipes, but I tried my best to really keep things simple. Was it as satisfying as eating a big plate of pasta or burger and fries every night? No, not usually, but at the end of the day it felt better; I knew I was treating my body well and I could feel it both physically and mentally. And just for the record, I definitely was not, NOT satisfied. I love myself some well cooked veggies and meat, and I usually eat similar meals anyways!
Many of the questions I got were about how I felt from Whole 30, so I’ll tackle that now. Physically, I felt less bloated than I have ever felt. I’ve talked before about how I have a very sensitive stomach, and therefore many meals leave me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. I take medication for this as needed, but during all 30 days I only had to take my medication twice (I usually take it almost every day). That alone made this whole thing worth it for me. Other than that, I noticed my sugar cravings were significantly reduced after making it through the first week or so. I also had no real desire to snack after meals (this could have been physical or mental). I did notice my skin clear up a bit more, and something else that could have been related to the diet is that my joint pain that I have in my wrist and fingers didn’t bother me at all (like I said, may or may not be related). Mentally, I had some struggles but was overwhelmingly happy during the experience. I felt great because I knew I had control on this one part of my life no matter what else was happening. Some days I didn’t know how my day at work would be, or how much traffic I would hit, or if I would be busy or not, but I did know that I was going to follow Whole 30. This worked well for my personality type that seeks control. Also, I felt good about myself because I was following through on a goal I had and it was paying off. Now, on the other side of this journey, it feels good knowing I had the restraint to do it and proves to me that I can push myself to do hard things.
Of course it wasn’t all amazing, and the things I didn’t love about Whole 30 are probably pretty obvious. It is restrictive, it does challenge you in social situations, it does make you have to have uncomfortable conversations and sometimes you just want a brownie! The hardest part for me was that I wasn’t able to create as much as I normally do with paleo baking and meals for my friends and family. The diet is very straightforward and doesn’t inspire creativity as much as a paleo diet. Sometimes I questioned why I was really doing this, like will it really matter if I have sriracha even though it has a little bit of cane sugar in it?! Realistically, maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, but that wasn’t the point. The point (for me at least) was to follow through, be flexible and adapt.
I will always be thankful for my Whole 30 experience. I learned that I can get closer to real ingredients without the extra fluff. I learned that I don’t NEED something sweet after a meal. I learned that I can travel, and work and go out with friends and still eat clean. Most importantly, I learned what my body craves, got more insight on which foods really fuel me best, and got inspired for the future. I am done with Whole 30 now, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot needs to change. I plan on continuing the course I’m set on and doing my best to stick to real foods when I make my choices.
How training for and finishing a half marathon forever changed me
I’ve never been the athletic one. Not once. I’ve never been the strong one, or the fast one. And that’s okay. For some people, running is fun, it comes naturally, and serves as a stress relief. For some people, running 13 miles is not that hard. For me, running 13 miles was just about the hardest thing I could think of doing just six months ago. And even now… it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Here’s the thing about choosing to do something unimaginable: you have an end date, and whether you like it or not, that date is closely approaching every single day. When I decided I was going to run a half marathon, it was THE hardest thing I could think of doing. I decided to do it because I needed to prove to myself that I could. That I could do any single thing I committed to if I just put in the work.
At the beginning, I tried to stay hopeful despite feeling like I was standing in quicksand worlds away from where I need ultimately to drag myself to. The first time I went running, it made me feel weak. I couldn’t even run half a mile before I started walking the rest of my one mile goal. And this wasn’t just the first time I went running, it was the second, third, fourth, fifth… even tenth time I went running at the beginning of my training. It took me weeks to run that first mile. All along, I knew I had no option but to keep trying because if I couldn’t get to a mile, how was I ever going to get to two miles? Or five? Or ten? So I kept going, running the same loop around my neighborhood every day until I finally got there. I looked it up today, my first mile run was 14 minutes long. And afterwards I felt like I wouldn’t have been able to run another step.
The little milestones fueled me every time, along with the fact that I was very public about this goal of mine, and I was overly aware that people were watching me from their phone screens. Another thing I learned about choosing to do something hard? You have to make a choice every single day to pursue your end goal. I knew I wasn’t going to wake up one day in the fall and be ready to do this race. So I kept taking small steps, manifesting this goal in my head when I wasn’t running, and planning every workout to stay on track. Some days were great, and some days sucked and left me feeling like I was taking steps backward. Either way, every day was a part of this journey.
A big milestone for me was running 3.1 miles, a 5k, for the first time. We hear about 5k’s all the time. Lots of people can run a 5k, some without training at all, and they’re often associated with fun themed runs or fundraising runs. I always hated 5k’s for the same reason I hated that first run… they made me feel weak. When my friends and family excitedly signed up for them, I worried about them for weeks, knowing I would be walking the entire time. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to. The day I stopped letting the idea of 3.1 miles own me was the day I ran one for the first time ever. I bascially felt like I was dying after I finished, but I had done it. The best part about it was knowing in a few months, three miles would feel like nothing (spoiler: it’s true).
So I kept adding on the distance, week by week, giving it my all every single time. My dad pushed me to run 4 miles for the first time back in July and I swear I was one stride short of falling over when we finished. After a few weeks of feeling like I made no progress, I finally pushed myself to run 5 miles one weekend. When I got a bad virus in the middle of August, I was beside myself thinking that I had no chance of staying on track. I missed over a week of runs and really struggled when I finally got back out there. My goal was to get to 6 miles by the end of August no matter what, and on September 1st I did it and never felt stronger… or more sore. My amazingly supportive boyfriend pushed me to 7 miles in the middle of September when he wouldn’t let me stop running after mile 6 even when my legs felt like jelly. At the end of the month, I went out on my own and ran 8 excruciating miles on the roads of my small town… that felt like my absolute limit. October came and my anxiety about the approaching race date was at an all time high. I knew I had to level up and dig in to all of the work I had put in over the summer months. I went right to the spot where I’d be running on race day, and did a 10 mile run around the Charles River. I remember getting home and seriously thinking… how am I going to go further than that in just three weeks? I focused on my strength, went to the gym and lifted more than I ever had, and tried to push myself on speed during the runs leading up to race day.
I wish I could explain all of the in-between moments of those weekend distance runs. The doubts I had in myself, the serious conversations I had about what I would do if I had to quit… I thought about the race every single day. There were also amazing breakthroughs, tests of my strength and commitment, and moments where the kind words of others drove me to reach for more. I could see my little world changing… the way I thought of myself, the way I considered audacious goals, even the way I would listen to other people’s goals. I knew I had struck gold in finding out what I could really do, and now it was time to prove to myself that I could finish strong.
Race day was scary, and not just because it was at 7 a.m. and freezing cold. I did everything right: I drank the water, I ate the carbs, I stretched and warmed up and all of that but the voice in my head was quietly telling me something would go wrong. Before I knew it, we were at the starting line and my legs started moving. Weirdly enough I felt great and was setting my best paces yet. I saw my family supporting me and listened to my best pump-up songs and kept taking it one step at a time. The entire experience is so hard to explain. The last few miles tested every physical and mental barrier I had. I’ve never pushed myself harder in my entire life than I did from mile 10 to 13. Crossing the finish line was the best feeling (despite how my body felt) and I was in shock that the day had come. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had run a half marathon. I COULD run a half marathon. Honestly… I’m still in shock.
From day one to race day, I had changed not because I could run further, but because I knew that I could do anything I wanted to if I just put in the work. Before then, I wasn’t completely convinced. What if someone’s body isn’t “built for running”? What if asthma got in the way? What if a sickness messed up a training schedule? What if it was just too damn hard? Well here is my testament: you can do the thing. I don’t care what it is, you absolutely have the ability to get there if you try hard enough.
Someone might look at me on the street today and never guess that I just ran a half marathon, or that I live a healthy life for that matter. Well, that’s why I love my life today. No boundaries, no ceilings, I can do what I want no matter what. It was never about the running.
Thank you to every single one of you who supported me during this journey.
Why I decided to ditch coffee and switch to something with more health benefits
WHY DID I GIVE UP COFFEE?
It’s always rare when you find someone who isn’t a coffee drinker, especially those in their twenties. Not only is it a social thing, it’s something that so many people depend on to get through their day. Recently finishing four years of college, I especially saw this in myself during my time in school. I truly felt like I would need to drink coffee every day that I wanted to be even a little bit productive. But, something began to throw off my seriously committed relationship with coffee and all of its forms: my stomach began to get even more sensitive than ever before (I’ve always had a pretty sensitive stomach) during my junior year of college. As my close friends know, I suffer from terrible acid reflux that gives me sharp stomach pains and simply does NOT feel good. It’s in my genetics and began to really affect my life during that year. Over-caffeination and coffee were definitely adding to the problem. I started to drink less coffee, especially when I didn’t eat anything before it, but was still averaging a cup a day. Even though coffee often felt straight up wrong to put into my body once my acid reflux worsened, I would still drink it because I was convinced there was no other way to be awake and productive.
Once senior year rolled around, I was back to two or three cups a day, dealing with an insanely busy schedule and a less than perfect lifestyle. I was still feeling pain when I drank coffee, but was able to ignore it, thinking it was worth it. When I graduated in May I continued with my coffee drinking as I started working again (getting free coffee at work makes it even harder to resist). But this whole time… I knew I would feel so much better if I could just quit! Finally, in August I got a bad virus and couldn’t eat or drink pretty much anything for a few days. This was my first stretch without coffee in a long, long time. I felt like it was my kickoff and decided right there to quit drinking coffee altogether. Bold Move.
When I shared that I had given up coffee on my page about two weeks ago, I was surprised by how many people it resonated with. I honestly thought it was rare to have a want or need to give it up. Many people messaged me asking about how I did it, what it was like to wake up without it, what I drink instead, etc. While some mentioned stomach issues as well, others just wanted to give it up for financial reasons. For some, they simply had a desire to ditch the addiction that so many of us have. So to answer some of those questions, here’s everything you need to know:
WHAT ARE THE NEGATIVES OF CONSISTENT COFFEE DRINKING?
Regardless of how my own body was feeling as a result of coffee drinking, I wanted to research what coffee was actually doing to my body. I had some information that I previously knew clarified, like how it interferes with a natural sleep schedule, especially if drinken later in the day. Also, that dependence and withdrawals are a very real thing that results from changes in our brains after consistently drinking it. Despite what I had previously thought, there are actually no known health benefits of coffee that have been confirmed by doctors. So, even if it isn’t bad for you in a nutritional sense, it’s also not adding anything. Overall, the biggest negative for me was reading about how the more coffee you drink on a daily basis, the more you will need to drink over time to feel the same alertness. As your body gets used to the daily intake, it requires more and more.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO STOP “COLD TURKEY”?
By stopping my coffee drinking habit without weaning off of it, I knew I was going to feel some of those withdrawls I mentioned before. It was difficult, but not impossible. The way I made it work was by switching out my daily cup of coffee for a matcha latte (more on this in a second) that I make at home every morning. I started drinking matcha at the same time I would normally drink coffee, and when I really needed it, a second time during the day (as I would with coffee). By keeping my routine and just making a simple switch, it felt a lot easier. Another thing that helped me was telling my family and friends that I spend time with that I was giving up the drink, so that I was defining my commitment and had other people to hold me accountable. Even at work, where I get it for free, I told my coworkers. This way, it would be harder for me to grab a cup. Ultimately, it’s been all about mindset. I know that I’m able to function without coffee, so I need to prove to myself that I can. It’s not that deep! Plus, we always have Advil for a headache…
If you’ve been following me for a while you probably know I’m a huge matcha fan. I first discovered my love for it about two years ago, but thought it wasn’t realistic to drink often because it can be so expensive at coffee shops and grocery stores. Meanwhile, I was making a trip to a coffee shop at least four to five times a week AND making coffee at home… a very expensive habit. Well, I was able to crack the code to consistent matcha drinking when I realized I could order it in bulk from Amazon or even get it from stores like Homegoods and TJ Maxx.
But what exactly is matcha? For starters, matcha DOES contain caffeine, just less than a cup of coffee. In a half teaspoon of matcha (the amount I drink) there are 15 grams of caffeine, and in a cup of coffee there are 100 grams. This switch to a much lower amount of caffeine has reduced jittery feelings, stomach aches, crashes throughout the day, and sleep issues.
Matcha is made from green tea leaves and ground into a fine powder. It’s a widely popular superfood that is most definitely worth the hype. A serving has 137 times more antioxidants than you would get from regular green tea, which means it aids in cell protection and overall health. Matcha is also great for your metabolism, energy level, and stress level. It can increase calorie burning in your body throughout the day when you start off with a serving. While the larger amount of caffeine in coffee can cause crashes, matcha actually helps sustain energy throughout the day and has been shown to increase alertness. L-theanine, an amino acid in matcha, helps reduce stress and calm the mind by regulating your mood and concentration. Studies have also shown matcha to lower LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and reduce inflammation. Finally, matcha is packed with catechins which fight cancer, and chlorophyll which detoxes chemicals in the body.
Now after reading this post, you might understand why I decided to ditch coffee for matcha. I’ve learned all of this information from publications on the web and from nutritionists and dieticians that I follow, so you can definitely find lots more information if you’re interested in introducing matcha into your diet. If you love your coffee, you can still incorporate matcha along with coffee! Just be careful about over-caffeination. This post reflects my own experience with coffee and its effects, as well as my own experience with regular matcha drinking, but everyone is different. I hope you learned something from this post and are more convinced to try out matcha!
p.s. Be careful when ordering matcha from coffee shops and cafes; there is often added sugar that they don’t advertise (like at Starbucks). To be safe, just ask: “what’s in your matcha blend?” or “is your matcha unsweetened?” If you’re wondering how I drink it, I mix 1 cup of hot water with 1/2 tsp of matcha and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, then add 1/2 cup of almond milk!
I hope these tips help you get closer to a healthy lifestyle on a budget! As always, these are only my personal recommendations, and are the strategies that have worked best for me. Please reply with any questions, and follow along @goood_eaats on Instagram for more helpful tips and recipes!
All of my tips & tricks for healthy food without the big price tag
Whenever I talk to the people in my life about my passion for food and healthier alternatives, I always get the same question. How do you afford it? It’s a great question — healthy food CAN be expensive. It especially can get pricey when just going for the most convenient option, rather than putting in a little work. So, I want to share how I manage to stay within my budget while continuing to keep my diet as clean as possible.
As with any lifestyle change, you’re going to need to put in some planning to make it work. You’re also going to need to make some decisions about what’s most important to you. Careful planning and decision making are key to the way I purchase food both at the grocery store and at restaurants. And, I’m here to tell you that it IS possible to eat well on a budget. I’m 22 years-old, just graduated from college, work part-time, hourly jobs, and make it work! Here are my top 8 tips to do it:
1. NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE ORGANIC OR LOCALLY SOURCED
Don’t get me wrong, I think food is at it’s best when it’s made in the simplest and safest ways, but that doesn’t always align with a tight budget. In grocery stores, organic produce and meat tend to be the most expensive. If you’re at the beginning of your health journey and just need to make it work, then don’t feel guilt for not going organic. Do what works with your budget! While locally-sourced food can be more expensive as well, that’s not always the case. If there’s a farm near your home, go and check it out! There are often discounts on certain produce items that cannot be sold, as well as on seasonal items.
2. BUY MORE EXPENSIVE ITEMS IN BULK, WHENEVER POSSIBLE
This one is HUGE for me. Cooking with things like almond flour, coconut flour, almond butter, honey, olive oil, etc, etc, etc… can be expensive! They are especially expensive when you buy just a small amount for one recipe. So, I always buy big quantities of the things I know I’ll use a lot. Even though it can be an up-front investment, it saves you big time in the long term. Amazon is a great place to get big quantities, as well as stores like Costo and Aldee. This also applies to fresh produce when it’s on sale. Buy a bunch and then freeze it for later use!
3. GO FOR FROZEN OPTIONS, THEY’RE OFTEN MUCH CHEAPER
Frozen vegetables are my absolute favorite thing. Some people think that their produce is not as fresh when bought frozen, but that’s actually not true! As a matter of fact, frozen vegetables are often a BETTER option than the fresh produce at the grocery store. Who knew?! Frozen veggies are picked at their peak of freshness and nutrients, and then frozen immediately. Fresh veggies are picked long before they show up on the shelves, losing some of those nutrients that help our bodies. So, unless you’re going to a local farm to get your produce, those fresh veggies are no better than frozen!
4. LOOK FOR DISCOUNTED PRODUCE, LESS POPULAR CUTS OF MEAT & SALE ITEMS
There are a million ways to do “healthy,” and that means you don’t have to fit into a box of the most popular or trending health foods. Less popular produce is often cheaper or discounted if it doesn’t sell, so I always check out the discount shelf before shopping for anything else. Also, those items that are usually bought pre-cut like squashes, pineapples, and beets are cheaper to buy full and cut on your own. Stores also have all different kinds of meat cuts other than chicken breasts, ground beef, etc. that are a lot cheaper. My personal fave cheaper cut is chicken thighs!
5. FIGURE OUT WHAT YOUR GOALS ARE & BUY BASED ON THOSE GOALS
We can’t do it all, right? That’s why it’s important to figure out what your body needs and what your goals are. For me, I buy products that promote gut health (ginger root, kombucha, probiotic yogurt, chia seeds) because that’s a part of my body that needs attention. There are SO many superfoods, supplements, and vitamins that you can buy for all different reasons. Instead of trying to buy a little bit of everything, set your intention on certain target areas.
6. PUT IN THE EXTRA TIME TO MAKE YOUR MEALS AT HOME
Going to the salad bar at Whole Foods or stopping at Sweetgreen are two of my favorite healthy treats when I’m in a time crunch. Doing things like this are totally fine and work well with a busy schedule, but I try to keep it to a minimum. Why buy something that you can make at home for a cheaper price? It all comes down to planning. Make your meals on Sundays or keep some cut chicken and your favorite veggies on hand in your fridge. Those small moments of planning ahead will save you from a $14 salad purchase later in the day!
7. DON’T OVER-COMPLICATE IT, STICK TO THE BASICS
Your meals don’t have to be Insta-worthy, full of a million ingredients, and filled with a dozen different spices. While all of that can make food a more enjoyable experience, it’s not all necessary. If you’re on a budget and just want to achieve a healthier lifestyle, make it as simple as possible. I always try to follow Kelly Leveque’s rule of having a plate with protein, fat, fiber, and greens, no matter what. If you can achieve that with just a few ingredients, then do it! No need for bells and whistles here.
8. MAKE A BUDGET & MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Ultimately, knowing what your expectations are when it comes to your food budget will lead you to success. Plan exactly how much money you want to spend on food for the week or the month, and follow it! Keep adapting and figure out what works best for you. This might mean reallocating some of your “fun” money to food, if that’s what it takes. Either way, there are always ways to cut down on your food costs, if you’re willing to put in a little extra work.
I hope these tips help you get closer to a healthy lifestyle on a budget! As always, these are only my personal recommendations, and are the strategies that have worked best for me. Please reply with any questions, and follow along @goood_eaats on Instagram for more helpful tips and recipes!
It’s important to know what you’re really getting out of that drink.
These days, the word smoothie can mean a LOT of things. While smoothies can definitely be done right and fuel your body, there are many ways they can be done wrong. This is something I never fully realized until about a year ago, and I want to share this knowledge with anyone who doesn’t understand it yet. Not to mention, it’s so easy to feel confused about what you should and shouldn’t accept as a smoothie these days because many are marketed differently than they should be.
My first rule of thumb is this: never purchase a smoothie at a cafe/restaurant/etc. that you don’t know and trust. When I think back on some of the smoothies I purchased years ago from restaurant and cafe chains it makes me sad. How was I supposed to know what was healthy and what wasn’t!? Well, that’s exactly what those chains want to happen. Oftentimes, they use superfood buzzwords and confusing health terms to mask excess amounts of added sugar and artificial ingredients.
When I’m thinking about ordering a smoothie from a restaurant or cafe, I first ask if the listed ingredients are everything that goes into the blend. Here, I’m looking for non-artificial ingredients like fresh fruits and vegetables, any kind of supplement or add-in (including natural nut butters or oils), and a non-sweetened liquid.
So let’s break that down for a second: when I saw fresh fruits and vegetables, I mean, 1. there actually are fruits and vegetables in the mix, and not a fruit concentrate or fruit flavor, and 2. the fruits and vegetables are going to fuel me in a positive way without a big insulin boost from high-carb fruits like bananas and apples. When in doubt, go for berries, citrus fruits, coconut, or avocado. As far as greens, try to incorporate a handful of fresh spinach or kale; you won’t even notice a difference! When it comes to add-ins and supplements, I’m usually looking for something with protein, fiber, or fat, but not sugar. My favorites are raw almond butter, coconut oil, collagen protein powder, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. These are all supplements that will level-up the nutrition you’re getting, and will make you feel full for longer. Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of your smoothie liquid. For YEARS, I was drinking smoothies with loads of sugar that I didn’t even realize because of apple juice, orange juice, sweetened almond and coconut milks, etc. This can also include yogurt and frozen yogurt that many places will add into a smoothie (a huge no!). So don’t be afraid to ask: “Is your milk unsweetened?” before placing that order! It will make all the difference. Stay away from fruit juices and sweetened milks, and stick to coconut water, unsweetened dairy-free milks, or even just water! The other elements of your smoothie will provide enough of a sweet taste without a sweetened liquid.
This may seem like a lot to take in, but it’s all about making little changes to the way you order. Start by asking about the liquid if that’s what you feel comfortable with, and then begin to play with some of those superfood add-ins. The goal is to finish your smoothie and feel fueled, rather than have a sugar crash in a few hours.
When you make your own smoothies (the cheapest and best way to be sure you’re getting real, natural food) try and follow these same guidelines. As you begin to get more comfortable with making them, try to lower the amount of fruit and increase the amount of greens in your smoothie. Kelly Leveque’s “Fab Four Smoothie” is a technique I’ve been following that ensures no insulin spike and a drink that will actually keep you full. I totally recommend the Fab Four approach for anyone that wants to drink smoothies often as meal replacements.
Ultimately, smoothies can fuel you or set you up for failure, depending on what ingredients are being used. So, start to be mindful of those ingredients, and know exactly what you are putting into your body! Any restaurant or cafe that has confidence in their ingredients will be happy to educate you on what they offer, so stick to those places.
As always, this is how I’ve been able to improve my experience with drinking smoothies, but everyone experiences their eating habits differently. Leave me a response below if you have any questions!
I’ve always loved going out to eat, but smart choices make all the difference.
Going out to eat while trying to eat clean can be SO hard, especially depending on which restaurants you are going to. Many people look at going out to eat as a treat, which it totally is. However, if you’re like me and go out to eat often, the treat yo’ self mentality might not be as sustainable long-term. My mentality when dining out is to get something I know I’ll like, but still making sure I’m getting my greens, protein, fat, and fiber as much as possible. This is so easy to do when you make slight alterations to dishes on any restaurant menu.
Here’s a few tips I have on how to do it:
SKIP THE BREAD
I know it’s tempting, but skipping out on eating a few pieces of bread at the start of your meal will save you a ton of calories & carbs that you may not even be considering part of your meal. I personally am a huge bread lover so I started eating a quick snack like some almonds or berries before going out to eat so I wasn’t so hungry I felt forced to eat the starter bread.
I always order water as soon as I sit down, even if I’m getting something else like a glass of wine with it. Having a glass of water in front of you at all times before, during, and after a meal will give you something to do with your mouth instead of just eat everything in front of you. Plus, water helps make you feel more full and the extra hydration definitely doesn’t hurt.
CHOOSE GREENS OVER GRAINS
This one is huge. Making the decision to swap out grains for greens on all kinds of different dishes will make a significiant difference in the nutrition of your meal. Some common ways to do this are replacing bread for a sandwhich or burger with wrapped lettuce, replacing rice or pasta with a garden salad or veggies, and asking for double side veggies instead of half veggies/ half potatoes or rice.
SHARE WITH SOMEONE
If you want to get an appetizer or dessert, think about spliting it with another table member. Not only will you be more mindful about how much you’re eating, but you’ll save money too. Going out to eat with a friend or family member who is also trying to live a healthy lifestyle helps keep you on track as well.
DON’T FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO FINISH YOUR PLATE
I used to make this mistake (and still do sometimes) all the time. Restaurants tend to serve us meals that are much bigger than the typical plate we’d make for ourselves. Some restaurants really take that to a new level (I’m talking to you, Cheesecake Factory), and with a big plate in front of us we tend to overeat. To combat this, separate out which portion of your food you plan to eat before you begin eating. This will make you more mindful of portions and oftentimes result in some yummy leftovers.
GET MOVING AFTERWARDS
After you leave the restaurant, ask your friends or family if they want to go on a short walk or do another kind of light exercise. We often feel tired after big meals, so moving around helps wake you back up and burn a few of those calories. Being active after a meal is a great habit to get into and is a great alternative to hanging out on the couch.
These are just a few of the changes I’ve been working on making to my eating habits, but that doesn’t mean I always follow them strictly. It’s important to let yourself eat the foods you want every now and then, but being mindful about it will make the biggest difference.
The biggest low-carb staples I keep in my kitchen at all times.
You’ve probably heard about the ketogenic diet from someone you know in the last year: your mother-in-law, your co-worker, your uncle, maybe even me if you’ve followed along! It has become widely popular across the U.S. because of its ability to increase your metabolic state to burn fat quickly (something called ketosis). I’ve always been someone that goes lower carb when I’m trying to lose a few pounds because it’s the only diet that has really worked for me. I decided to introduce a ketogenic diet for 30 days this spring in order to do just that, and I loved it! If you want to know how I was able to sustain the keto lifestyle while having a busy lifestyle and budget of a college student, keep reading.
Eating a ketogenic diet means eating foods that are lower in carbohydrates and higher in fat in order to reach the metabolic state of ketosis. Depending on how strictly you are following keto, this doesn’t mean you cannot eat any carbs at all (vegetables and fruits both contain carbs). The key is picking out the right foods that will keep you at a low carb intake each day. Here’s how I navigated that in the grocery store:
GREENS GREENS GREENS
When in doubt, greens! I never let myself run out of greens to eat while doing keto. Every time I went food shopping, I picked up at least one package of spinach, mixed greens, or romaine. I tried to incorporate those greens into literally every meal I ate, breakfast through dinner. For me, it feels like I ate a bigger meal when I do this, and it’s good for you!
Unlike the Whole30 diet, keto allows for dairy because of its low carb/ high fat contents. This was a lifesaver for me because I often snacked on cheese between meals. Also, cheese makes you feel full! A plate of veggies and protein doesn’t always completely satisfy me, but with a little mozzarella on top, I full for the night. I typically buy a block of sharp cheddar, some shredded mozzarella, and cheese sticks to get me through the week. Another important buy was cream, which I always added to my coffee to stay full longer and induce ketosis.
Protein is arguably the most important component of this diet, so I always bought a lot of meat when grocery shopping. Chicken breasts were a must have every time so I could either meal prep them with veggies for the week or use them for dinners. I also would buy meat to put in my veggie egg bakes (usually turkey sausage or chicken sausage), some kind of deli meat (turkey or prosciutto most times), and one other choice for the week like ground turkey, ham, or pork.
Vegetable options are endless when it comes to the keto diet, but it is important to know which ones have higher carb counts. Green vegetables like zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, and kale were the vegetables I bought the most because they all have less than 3 carbs per 100 grams. These would be for sauteing, or to put in smoothies, eggs, stir frys, etc. I bought a bit less of carrots, peppers, tomatoes, and green beans because the carb counts were higher, but I still ate them every now and then.
People ask me about fruit all the time, and here’s my answer: yes, you can eat fruit! The key is to be smart about those choices, just like in choosing your veggies. When in doubt, go for berries. Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries all have less than 6 carbs per 100 grams. Blackberries are my personal favorite and I always picked them up. Cantelope, watermelon, coconut, and oranges all have less than 9 carbs per 100 grams, and are also completely fine in moderation. The fruits you should stay away from are apples, bananas, grapes, and pears, since they are higher carb.
NUTS + SEEDS
Nuts and seeds are another one that I get a lot of questions about. They are totally fair game, especially the higher fat ones like pecans. You’ll want to stick with pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and brazil nuts to stay lower carb (all under 7 carbs per 100g). I add nuts to my salads or just snack on them when I need it! Cashews and pistachios are the ones to stay away from.
THINGS I NEVER GET
Wondering what’s off limits? Here’s a list of the basics: fruit juice/ any other sugary drinks, those higher carb fruits I mentioned, any beans or peas (including hummus), any grains (bread, pasta, cookies, crackers), and basically any non-perishable snack item. I usually look like a crazy person in the store and check every single nutrition label. So when in doubt, just look! It’ll definitely surprise you what you’ve been eating that you didn’t even know what high carb.
While the keto diet is something that worked for me and that I still loosely follow, it’s not for everyone. Just as I’ve begun to introduce healthy carbs to my diet since I’ve upped my fitness routine, some people need the carbs for energy. If you’re considering it, feel free to reach out to me with further questions!