Making a big change in your health can feel very isolating. When I eliminated dairy and gluten from my already primarily vegetarian diet last year, I felt like no one would understand, much less be able to relate to the change that I was going through. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and when I got sick of eating the limited recipes in my elimination diet cleanse pamphlet provided by my naturopathic doctor, I took to Pinterest and Instagram to find the ladies who I now call my favorite food bloggers. We all deserve to be inspired and supported and even though the healthy community I’ve found calls the world wide web home, that doesn’t make it any less of a community than a local one. If you want to get serious about leading a healthy life or developing a consistent workout routine, or learning to cook and eat healthfully, my advice is this- find your tribe. Our modern society bombards us every day with convenient trash disguised as food, outdated dietary guidelines and inaccurate knowledge about nutrition, and misleading claims and advertisements within the food and health industries. If you don’t have someone, anyone, whether its a partner, roommate, friend, child, parent- whoever to hold you accountable and have your back, your health journey may take a few extra detours. If you don’t have anyone that’s willing to participate with you, then utilize the power of the internet to connect with others and find a group of people that can relate to your situation!
Below I’m sharing my two favorite food blogs, as well as some of my go-to inspirational Instagram accounts. Click on the blog name to be taken to the user’s blog and click their Instagram handle or the photo to be taken to their Instagram account so you can give ’em a follow! Let me know who most inspires you in your health journey in the comment section below!
Where do I even begin??? Dana’s blog has been my biggest plant-based meal-planning resource. It’s where I turn when I’ve gotten an ingredient from my CSA at Funny Girl Farm that I’m not sure what to do with. It’s where I learned what aquafaba was and how to cook with it. And as a photographer, Minimalist Baker is one of the most inspiring food blogs out there- Dana even teaches an online food photography course! Although MB doesn’t label itself as a vegan or gluten-free food blog, the majority of it’s recipes are, including the ones in their cookbook, “Everyday Cooking”. And as you can guess from the name of the blog, they use minimal and repeated ingredients, making the recipes very cost effective once you’ve stocked up on the staples. Although it was difficult to only choose three, here are our favorite Minimalist Baker recipes that we’ve made over and over again:
• Roasted Broccoli Sweet Potato Chickpea Salad – This is one of our favorite dinners by far. I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetables into my meals, relying less on grains to make me feel full and this salad is packed with plant protein and goodness. Since it’s only two servings, we usually double it (so we have leftovers for lunch the next day) and we also like adding a sautéed green such as spinach or kale underneath all of the roasted ingredients. The only other modification I make it omitting the dill as I’m not a big fan.
• 1 Bowl Gluten-Free Banana Bread – I have dreams about this banana bread. It is just SO delicious. I try not to make it too often because it still has refined sugar, but it’s always gone within a day or two when I do. It’s also one of my favorite recipes to make for group gatherings. I’ve used both real eggs and flax eggs (vegan option) in this recipe and both have yielded good results.
• 5-Ingredient Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili – This recipe is a testament to the minimal ingredients found in MB’s recipes. A delicious, simple, and cost effective recipe made with just 5 ingredients and some spices you likely already have on hand yields about 6 warm & comforting plant-based servings. We love making this chili when we’re hosting people in the winter (there’s nothing better than a chili bar on a cold night!) and everyone always asks for the recipe.
Alexa’s blog, Fooduzzi, was one of the first gluten-free & plant-based blogs I found, thanks to Pinterest. When I first discovered her site, what I liked most about it was that she had recreated so many vegan recipes for foods I thought I would miss, like a vegan copy-cat recipe for Panera Bread’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup. But after trying so many new recipes from lots of different blogs and accounts over the past year, I’ve realized that my favorite thing about Fooduzzi‘s recipes is that they’re consistently delicious. Whether it’s a new recipe she just posted or a reader favorite, they always yield a tasty result and are often added into my meal rotation. So rest assured- no matter what you try from her blog will be amazing, but these are the ones we have made the most often in the last year.
• Sun Dried Tomato Vegan Meatballs – These may just be my favorite recipe of 2017. They’re super comforting and have loads of protein from the lentils- and even more when you serve them with Banza Chickpea Pasta, as I usually do. The meatballs require a little more time to prep as they have to set in the fridge for about an hour before cooking, but this meal comes together pretty quickly otherwise. Also note that the recipe calls for one cup of COOKED green lentils. I have made the mistake of adding one cup uncooked (yielding about 2 cups cooked) and they didn’t stay together. I usually use about 1/2 cup uncooked lentils for this recipe. Sun dried tomatoes are a bit obscure, but can be found at Trader Joe’s. If you buy jarred tomato sauce to serve with the meatballs, just make sure it’s sugar-free! I like Muir Glen’s sauces, which can be found at my local grocery store (Kroger) or on Amazon Fresh.
• Cheez-It Roasted Chickpeas – These little guys are so tasty! I love doubling the recipe to make a big batch of ’em over the weekend for weeklong snacking. Chickpeas are very filling as they’re packed with plant protein, and the spices really do taste so similar to our favorite processed childhood cracker- the Cheez-It. Nutritional yeast, a great vegan source of essential vitamin B12, provides the cheesy flavor and can also be found at Trader Joe’s. And yes, it’s annoying, but peeling the skins off of the chickpeas will make them so much crispier. So turn on your current Netflix fave or listen to a podcast and get to peelin’!
• Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – Possibly the first Fooduzzi recipe I tried, I was addicted to these cookies last winter. I would make a batch every week to eat for dessert after dinner because they kept so well. They’re perfectly sweet with the help of some maple syrup and they have the perfect soft texture. I’ve never used cashew butter (always almond butter), but mine have always been yummy!
I love following Lee because she really exemplifies health in all different aspects of life- not just through her diet. You will hear her talk a lot about PCOS, a condition she was diagnosed with and has found a way to manage its symptoms through lifestyle changes. She’s a professional meal-prepper, an advocate for women’s health, a supporter of body intuition, and she makes a mean matcha latte. Her stories are not only entertaining, but also informative. I always feel like I’m learning something when I tune in.
Alison’s feed is uber aspirational. Everytime I plate I think, “What would Wu do???” Well-developed recipes using in-season produce, incredible eye for design and plating, and stunning photography/editing all equate to a beautifully cohesive feed. I enjoy watching Alison’s stories to learn about everything from yoga and mindfulness to diy bone broth and “elixirs”, or what I call, fancy lattes.
Many of you have responded so well to the cooking tutorials I’ve been doing on Stories, and I’ll be honest and say that I got the idea from watching Erin’s stories. I love seeing her whip up plant-based vegan cuisine for her family, including her baby girl, and she’s slowing teaching me to be less methodical and more experimental in the kitchen. Following her also makes me want to plan a trip to Vancouver ASAP- they have so many plant-based eateries popping up and Erin dishes about all of them!
Like Erin, I really enjoy watching Anna’s stories for cooking tutorials. She has a family of four, including 2 vegan sons, so it’s interesting to me to have a peek at her family’s meals. She’s also very mindful about making sure each meal has adequate vitamins and nutrients from plant sources.
Creator of #FreeTheDrip, Ali’s blog tagline says it all, “it’s ok guacamole, I’m extra too.” Her feed is part real food and part mermaid food, the latter very colorful and very extra with lots of drool-worthy nut butter drip action. I enjoy following her not only for her insane creations, but also because she’s hilarious and has witty, LOL-worthy captions and stories on the regular.
I’m a fairly new follower of Laura’s site. @erinireland recommended her cookbook in her stories, so I bought it and was blown away by how good the recipes looked! I would like to be more intentional about cooking in season, which is something I hope I can practice by creating the recipes in Laura’s book and on her blog.
It’s January 5th and nearly a week into your diet. It’s 3 PM and you’ve been craving a chocolate chip cookie since 10 AM. Your portions are small so you eat lunch but it doesn’t satiate you. So here you are at work, in the afternoon slump still dreaming of that damn cookie. After work you head home and binge on everything in your pantry; salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy- doesn’t matter, you’re just STARVED and cramming all the snacks into your mouth! After your binge on the food (which you weren’t supposed to be eating because you’re on a diet) that makes you feel exhausted and bloated, you begin to feel the embarrassment and shame of cheating on your diet. I’ll “start fresh” tomorrow turns into next month, which turns into next year. And even though dieting never works for us, we keep going back to it when we want to start fresh, lose weight, or feel better.
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret… dieting doesn’t work. For anyone. Know why? Because we’re all human. No matter how skinny or overweight or fit or out of shape we are, we all have cravings. So instead of attempting the impossible task of trying to quiet those taste-buds, let’s acknowledge our cravings and listen to what our body is telling us. Instead of being mindful of what we eat for just one month out of the year and overindulging for the other 11 months, we need to commit to a healthy, long-term relationship with food that nourishes our bodies. Food’s purpose, as defined by dictionary.com, is to be “a nutritious substance that people eat or drink… in order to maintain life and growth”. If we begin to question whether what’s on our plates is 1. not only maintaining life but also promoting growth or 2. is inhibiting our life and stunting our growth, we begin to see food differently. We make the choice to promote life & growth or inhibit it three times every single day. Now that I’ve shared why diets don’t work, here are five ways to cultivate a healthy relationship with food!
° 25% protein — organic grass-fed/pasture-raised meat and wild-caught fish & seafood for omnivores/ beans, lentils, & organic tofu for vegetarians & vegans
° 25% carbohydrates — from whole grains, oats, & brown rice
I also add like to add in some healthy fats, too, from sources like nut butter & avocados.
Stop Attaching Emotions to Food
Eating is possibly the most sensorial activity. Not only are all of our five senses engaged, but our surroundings and our company create the inherent experiences with which we associate food. The fact that we can do this is incredible. When I fondly recall my time spent studying abroad, many of my best memories involve food, like eating my weight in gelato at a GELATO FESTIVAL 😱 in Florence, Italy or making dumplings with Chinese university students in Shanghai. These were once in a lifetime experiences and we should all be able to enjoy life’s indulgences, especially when experiencing new cultures or on vacation. BUT we must say goodbye to more regular emotional eating habits. If you’re stressed, try meditation or a breath-work exercise instead of reaching for that bag of chips. If you normally grab a chocolate bar for comfort, make a warm cup of tea and take a relaxing bath instead. Using food as a coping mechanism is the easiest way to ruin your relationship with it and stunt your health journey.
Don’t Tempt Yourself
Much like that advice about surrounding yourself with people who lift you higher, you want to surround yourself with food that promotes good health. Keeping things that tempt you in close proximity is the biggest disservice you can do yourself during your health journey. After extended periods of time without foods I thought I could never live without (I once had a shirt that said, “Fries Before Guys” 🙈😂), I find that I no longer crave those foods, at least to the degree that I used to. But man, when I go home for the holidays and my parents’ pantry is stocked with Goldfish, Lucky Charms, and Famous Amos cookies, my carrots & hummus don’t look so appetizing anymore. Clean out your pantry, donate or trash what doesn’t support your health and invest a little more money in groceries that week to buy healthy snacking staples such as nuts, seeds, nut butters, protein bars (watch out for added sugars- I buy LÄRABAR & GoMacro Bars when traveling), hummus/salsa/pesto & veggies to eat between meals.
Not gonna lie, I started singing the song from The Lion King after I typed that– Haha! 🤓 But in all seriousness, the #1 key to a healthy diet is preparation. If you don’t leave the house with a bag full of snacks and all the meals you’ll need for the day in tow, you will fail. Because when it comes down to being hungry or being healthy, we go into survival mode and “just eat something” to prevent starvation. We’ve all been there before. While being prepared is important, it’s not easy. It took a long time for me to become accustomed to preparing most of my meals from scratch. Even now I’ll have the occasional evening where I’ll spend a few hours in the kitchen between preparing, cooking and cleaning, which leaves very little time for my blog after working my day-job. There are lots of different ways you can be better prepared to promote your health on a daily basis. I don’t believe what I do to be the most practical approach by any means, but there are parts of it that are working well for me. For example, I make meal plans by the week and try to avoid grocery shopping more than once a week. I choose between 4 & 6 recipes I want to make for the upcoming week, make my shopping list, and go grocery shopping. Since cooking every night is time-consuming as it is, running to the store to pick up random ingredients leaves one less thing for me to have to do before I can start preparing dinner. Many people enjoy meal-prepping, where they spend a good chunk of the weekend cooking and preparing all the meals they need for the week. Lee from America is the meal-prepping queen and even though she eats the same ingredients throughout the week, she never eats the same meal. She’ll make bowls, tacos, salads, toasts, & smoothies all from the same 5-6 core ingredients. This approach isn’t for me because when I’m hungry, I don’t always feel inventive enough to switch up my meals and I don’t want to eat the same thing for four days in a row. But everyone is different. Another option would be to cook each evening, but prep what you can over the weekend, such as cooking grains & rice and/or chopping vegetables ahead of time to keep in the fridge until ready to cook. Once you accept that eating healthfully isn’t going to be as simple as going through the drive-thru, you just have to experiment to see which approach is best for you and which one uses your time the most efficiently.
Listen to Your Body
The concept of dieting has made us so disconnected from our bodies. We ignore their hunger cues and deprive them of foods that we enjoy. That’s why dieting isn’t sustainable and why it doesn’t work. We should always be listening to what our bodies have to say, whether that’s making a smoothie after dinner if you don’t feel full or removing foods from your diet that you don’t feel great after eating *FYI- that’s not always just junk food! Food sensitivities are a real thing, even with whole, healthy foods! I struggle with certain beans that make me feel bloated and gassy after eating them and I know people that can’t eat bananas because they make them feel tired and groggy. Although I haven’t done one, a lot of people swear by cleanses such as the Clean Program, in which you eliminate many common allergens from your diet for about a month, and then slowly re-introduce them one at a time when you’ve finished the cleanse to monitor how your body reacts. My biggest argument against dieting is that it usually involves going cold turkey on dessert, which is never ok! While sugar and dairy are present in most of our favorite desserts, it’s not hard to find or even make healthier alternatives to have on hand when your sweet tooth makes its appearance. Some of my go-to’s are Hu’s Chocolate Bars (my favorite flavors are the nut-butter filled ones), Cocomel’s Vegan Caramels, Eating Evolved Coconut Butter Cups, Chia Pudding (super simple to prepare, filled with plant protein, and the flavor combinations are endless), Fooduzzi’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Lee From America’s Coconut Fat Balls topped with nut or coconut butter, and sometimes after dinner a cup of tea or a golden milk latte will satisfy my sweet tooth. (I’ve been using this golden milk blend from Golde recently). Dessert should always be allowed if you wish to indulge.
That’s all, folks! I don’t mean to discourage the progress of your New Year’s Resolutions but if health is what we’re truly aiming for, we have to stop dieting and start feeding our bodies with whole, nutritious foods on a more permanent basis.
Having been a content creator for a couple of years now, I’m fairly familiar with the inhibiting desire to constantly make myself more efficient, so as to be able to accomplish more “to-do’s” each day. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, wife or husband, parent or student, we all struggle with some combination of prioritization and time-management while going about our day to day lives.
Resolutions never seemed to be the solution for me. While the desire for self-improvement is endearing, more often than not it ends in disappointment. We become disappointed in ourselves because we get caught up in the excitement of a new year and set unattainable goals for our imperfect human selves and when we fail, we chastise ourselves for even trying in the first place.
So how can we make our good intentions for the new beginning last all year long??? Here’s my idea—instead of trying to tackle a big laundry list of improvements and lifestyle changes all at once, I’ll be taking it month by month. Beginning in January, I’ll incorporate at least two new goals/resolutions I want to put into practice each month. This is very customizable- you could do any combination of goals (fitness, nutrition, religious, personal, interpersonal, parenting, professional, whatever!) you want. What I like most about this approach is that it is cumulative. When you’re able to rope your resolutions into small actionable practices that are fairly easy to incorporate into your day, they’re more likely to become second-nature habits.
Here’s what I’ll be working on in January 2018;
Interpersonal – Call my Mom & Dad at least once/week
Blogging – Publish at least 2 new blog posts/week
Fitness – Practice yoga at home once/week
The whole point of this approach to resolutions is for it to be manageable. If you currently don’t work out at all, going to the gym 5 times/week might not be a sustainable habit for you early on, especially once you begin to add new habits every month. If you get a gym membership and start working out a few days per week and feel that you could go additional days, then by all means, do that. But instead of pushing yourself too far early on, leading to burnout and lack of motivation to want to work out at all, take it slowly and work together with your body and your (realistic) schedule. What do you think about this approach to tackling your New Year’s Resolutions? Comment below and tell me how you’ll turn your resolutions into habits!
I think many people begin their holistic health journeys first with alternative medicine and functional nutrition, then start switching out their conventional products for cleaner ones. I was the opposite. I was introduced to green beauty in the fall of 2016, and after using cleaner products externally for a couple of months, I decided to wonder if I should take the same natural and holistic approach with my internal ongoing health problems, which included;
A battle with chronic sinusitis I had been fighting for nearly two years, which entailed regular recurring sinus infections even after having an invasive procedure which my ENT doctor told me would correct the problem, and then loaded me up with antibiotics when it didn’t.
Seasonal allergies which had become year-round allergies
10+ years of struggling with acne, even after finally going on the Pill nearly two years prior after I was told at age 15 by my dermatologist that the only other option to clear my skin was to “regulate my hormones” by ingesting synthetic ones
Chronic bloat and fatigue
Recent episodes of crippling anxiety and depression
I made an appointment with Dr. Weber of Carolina Clinic of Natural Medicine in January and was pleasantly surprised when he came up with a plan of action to tackle not only these symptoms, but also to correct and reverse the cause of them. Here are the five lifestyle changes prescribed by my naturopathic doctor; adopting a gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sugar diet, incorporating protein powder regularly to compensate for the lack of meat in my current diet, combating fatigue by nurturing adrenals, eliminating symptoms from chronic conditions such as acne and chronic sinusitis and allergies, and quitting synthetic birth control. Keep reading for a little insight into how these changes were implemented.
Adhering to a Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free/Low-Sugar Diet
When I visited Dr. Weber, many of my symptoms were indicators of intolerances to dairy, gluten & refined sugar, which were very prominent in my diet at the time. Some side effects these ingredients caused in my body included Keratosis Pilaris (chicken skin) on my upper arms, acne, a severe and never-ending battle with Sinusitis, lack of energy & extreme fatigue, and even anxiety and depression. He recommended that I completely remove these three problematic ingredients from my diet to see if these symptoms improved- they did. 10 months later, 95% of the time, I’m still sticking to no dairy or gluten or refined sugar and I’ve never felt better.
Incorporating Protein Powder
Plant-based protein powder is essential for vegans, vegetarians, or anyone looking to cut down on meat consumption (which should be all of us!). Before I visited Dr. Weber, I had all but eliminated meat from my diet, sourcing protein primarily from dairy products. My naturopathic doctor recommended that I regularly rely on a high-quality, plant-based protein powder, like Thorne Medi-Clear SGS. I’ve since used Aloha and Philosophie, too. I try to incorporate these powders into my diet every day, adding them to smoothies, (coconut) yogurt, and oatmeal. I prefer to use them for breakfast, as they’re usually vanilla or chocolate flavored. Even though a plant-based diet can sustain herbivores, protein-powder is a staple, especially if you’re just transitioning to vegetarian or veganism and your body has become accustomed to an abundance of protein.
Balancing Hormones and Nurturing Adrenals to Increase Energy
Although I was working out regularly before visiting Dr. Weber, I was always exhausted. Cutting gluten and dairy played a large part in improving my adrenal fatigue, but I also take some supplements like Omega 3 (since I don’t eat much salmon- a natural source of O3) and Vitamin D (took a large dose for one month to increase the vitamin in my blood levels), which play a huge part in increasing energy. I usually alternate between weight training and yoga at the gym, depending on how I feel. Now, I am usually fully rested after 6 hours of sleep and so long as I maintain blood sugar regulation, I don’t normally experience that dreaded 3 P.M. crash.
Alleviating Symptoms from Chronic Illnesses
The main reason for my visit to Dr. Weber’s office was to find a solution for my chronic sinusitis, a battle I had been fighting for about two years, even after having an invasive surgical procedure that was supposed to fix it. During my long journey of untreated sinus infections, which eventually left me with a case of chronic sinusitis and a cyst in one of my sinus cavities, my primary physician referred me to an allergy doctor. I had always had severe seasonal allergies in the spring, but over the previous couple of years they had extended to continue throughout multiple seasons and allergy immunotherapy was recommended, treatment that I was still receiving prior to my visit with Dr. Weber. He was confident that the diet & lifestyle changes I was making would eliminate my dependance on allergy shots. Now, the sinus infections and chronic allergies that once plagued me are all but obsolete. I do get the occasional sinus infection, but they’re no longer back to back and I now utilize practices such as acupuncture & sinus rinses to alleviate them naturally.
Quitting the Pill
Struggling with acne for practically my entire teenage and adult life, doctors (primary care, dermatologists, and gynecologists) had always told me birth control was the best option to regulate my hormones and clear my skin. I had been on the pill for a couple of years before my visit with Dr. Weber and it was obvious that taking synthetic hormones wasn’t improving my acne at all. And although it didn’t alter the regularity of my periods initially, they became more sporadic and less regular over the course of those two years. Because of my issues with anxiety and depression, and my health history (as ovarian cancer runs in my family), he suggested I stop taking hormonal birth control as soon as possible. I’m happy to say that I quit the Pill almost two months ago and traded it in for a copper IUD that doesn’t compromise the harmony of my endocrine system’s natural functions.