healthy living

Adventures in Florida: Blueberry Picking in Ocoee

Hey there, readers – it’s been a while! A lot has happened since my last post, most notably that I started an MBA program and seem to know more about regression analysis these days than who’s who on The Bachelorette. It has been a wild ride so far, hopefully to be shared in another blog post soon!

Last month, as a much-needed break from studying, I decided to knock another item off my 25 at 25 bucket list. Just days before the season’s end, I took a little road trip out to Ocoee and stopped at the Tom West Blueberries U-Pick Farm.

TomWestBlueberries

I may stumble in and out of the world of paleo living, but one thing is for certain: I will always love my fruits and veggies. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that – as someone who lives in a warm climate hospitable to many types of produce – I would have to go berry picking someday.

In Florida, the peak strawberry and blueberry seasons run in the early springtime from around March to May, depending on your farm and crop of choice. Tom West Blueberries is a family owned and operated farm, offering activities for all ages during the U-Pick season.

TomWestBlueberriesThe process, while simple enough, was a whole lot of fun. Once I arrived, I grabbed a bucket and hopped on a tractor, which dropped me off in the nearby blueberry fields. There I had the opportunity to taste and pick the emerald blueberries, a very large and sweet variety of blueberry that I would highly recommend to anyone who visits in the future.

Tom West Blueberries

By the end of my blueberry-picking adventure, I picked and purchased about 3 pounds of delicious, perfectly blue blueberries, which I shared with friends, classmates and family over the next week. In hindsight, I wish I’d picked more so I could freeze them and enjoy even longer! Not only were the blueberries perfectly in season, but there was something so rewarding about eating something I had personally hand-picked at the farm, rather than in the grocery store. (Sorry, Publix – I still love you!)

tomwestblueberries2

Whether you’re looking for fresh produce or simply a fun way to spend the afternoon, I highly recommend visiting a local U-Pick farm! The experience really does appeal to all age groups, and if I ever have children, this will be a must-visit for them too. I look forward to returning to Tom West next season, and can’t wait to visit other local farms for different U-Pick experiences soon!

What types of U-Pick farms have you visited? Share in the comments section below. 🙂

For recaps of my other bucket list adventures, click here!

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals Back on TrackFor many of us, the beginning of a diet program can often feel like the beginning of a relationship. We’re excited to embark on something new, enthusiastic about the changes in our lives, and looking forward to the possibilities ahead. Of course, after that honeymoon period runs its course, sometimes it can be difficult to maintain that same level of enthusiasm toward the program, as we become complacent or begin to recognize the uncomfortable moments more often than we used to.

I began experimenting with a paleo lifestyle back in 2014 by completing my first Whole30, and since then, the program has played a significant role in my health and wellness. However, I sometimes struggle with motivation and consistency, and find my health journey to be a work in progress. The more that I talk to others in the Whole30 community, the more that I learn that a second, third, or fourth Whole30 can often be much harder than the first, because many of us do have difficulty staying on track even after we’ve experienced positive results.

Sounds a little counter-intuitive, right? Luckily, I’ve dedicated the better part of 2016 thus far to really focusing on ways to re-motivate ourselves once the magic wears off. Read below for my tips on keeping up with your program and remaining empowered even after the honeymoon period is over! 🙂

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals On Track

How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track1. Dedicate time for meal prep.
Let’s face it — eating healthy can be time-consuming! You’re preparing most of your own meals from scratch, avoiding a lot of the quick but nutrient-deficient shortcuts a lot of us fall victim to. Because of this, it can be so easy to give up after a long day of work and other responsibilities, and order takeout instead. An easy way to save time and take out a lot of the guesswork is to create a meal plan ahead of time and do a lot of the prep work early. For me, Sundays are the perfect day to decide what I’m going to eat each day (and yes, I do incorporate my social outings into that plan), buy the appropriate foods at the grocery store, and begin prepping those foods.

So what does “meal prep” mean to me? Typically, I’ll put on some vintage Keeping Up With The Kardashians (or another show that entertains me but doesn’t require too much concentration), and set aside an hour or two to chop up veggies for dishes I’ll eat throughout the week, wash fruit for easy grab-and-go access, and hard-boil some eggs to have a convenient protein source available at any time. Your meal prep can be as elaborate as you choose — some like to prepare all of their meals to reheat, and that works too! For me, having my veggies pre-washed and pre-chopped makes it easy to just throw them on the stove or in the oven later in the week, and saves me a ton of time!

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2. Make things exciting in the kitchen.
Browse Pinterest for cool recipes you can try (check mine out here for inspiration!), or invest in a new kitchen gadget you look forward to using. Find ways to spice things up in the kitchen — literally! When I started to grow sick of scrambled eggs, I started adding cumin and turmeric for a bold new flavor profile. When I’ve enjoyed a new ethnic dish and wanted to make a healthier version of it at home, I’ve often searched “lightened up __” or “paleo ___” to expand my culinary horizons. Figure out those routine favorites that you can make quickly and regularly, but continue to branch out so that things don’t become too stale. Why not aim to try one new recipe each week?

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How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track3. Incorporate positive mantras into your program.
I’ve struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember.  Since I was in middle school, I always associated health and weight loss goals as something negative, something to be ashamed of, instead of as a way to improve your overall well-being. A few months ago, I decided to flip the switch on that mindset by giving myself motivational notes to wake up to each morning. These quotes and messages give me a positive affirmation to focus on throughout the day, and remind me of how far I’ve come. The notes were so successful for me that they even went viral on the Whole30 Instagram page! 🙂 I try to create new words of encouragement for myself each and every month.

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4. Hide the scale.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve let that little number either make or break your whole day. One of the rules of the Whole30 program is to not weigh yourself for the entire 30 days, but over the years, this was the rule I always broke. I found that if I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, then even if I felt other positive changes from my diet (better skin, more energy, etc.), I often gave up halfway through the month. This January, I finally stowed the scale away in my guest room (out of sight, out of mind) and fully avoided it for the entire month. Taking a break from weighing myself multiple times per day was extremely helpful for me and showed me just how unhealthy my relationship with the scale truly was. If you consider yourself overly dependent on the scale, I challenge you to hide it for a month!

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5. Find accountability partners.
Use social media or find people in your real life with whom you can be accountable! I belong to a few private groups on Facebook, some dedicated to Whole30 and some more focused on clean eating as it differs by individual, and having a strong support system makes it that much easier to stay on track. Whether you join one of those private groups or simply find a gym buddy to keep you on your toes, find others who are just as health-focused and turn to each other!

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What are your tips for staying motivated? Share yours in the comments section below!

Your Health in Action: A Beginner’s Guide to Paleo Kitchen Staples

A Beginner's Guide to Paleo Kitchen Staples
A lot can change in a year.
 Since my first round of Whole30 in February 2014, I have transformed from a pasta-and-frozen-dinner connoisseur with minimal cooking skills into an amateur paleo foodie with slightly better cooking skills. I use words like “zest” and “poach” in conversation, make my own salad dressings, own a spiralizer and occasionally turn cauliflower into rice. I’m nowhere near perfect – I still succumb to processed foods on occasion and I’m no stranger to a burnt dinner. However, I’m amazed to see how far I’ve come in my journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Of course, nothing happens overnight, and I’ve undergone a lot of trial and error and last-second trips to the grocery store for that one final ingredient. Over time, I’ve learned to stock my pantry for more seamless meal prep, and I am excited to share my list of kitchen necessities with you!

Paleo-FunnyThis list is a must-have for anyone transitioning to a paleo lifestyle or beginning a program like the Whole30. For those who are unfamiliar, the Whole30 is a 30-day elimination program that cuts out grains (including gluten-free grains like quinoa and millet), legumes, soy, dairy, sugar/sweeteners, alcohol and a few other ingredients. I began my third round of the program in January and documented it here, for those interested in learning more.

Pin this article, save it to your favorites, or print it up and stick it to your refrigerator. Having these items on-hand ahead before you start cooking will save you a lot of time and extra grocery runs. 🙂 Be sure to check your ingredients before making any final purchases!

  • Almond Butter. Because I’m allergic to peanuts, I’ve always been a fan of almond butter! Peanuts are a legume, so for many paleo and Whole30 followers, peanuts and peanut butter are sorely missed. But fear not – almond butter is a fantastic substitute. Use it to top your favorite fruit for an extra protein/fat boost.
  • Almond Flour. Made from crushed almonds, almond flour can be used in a lot of recipes. In my case, I use it as a “breading” for chicken! I buy Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Accurate.

    Accurate.

    Broth. I don’t make my own bone broths from scratch, so I buy Imagine’s Organic Free Range Chicken Broth. Most store bought broths have added sweeteners like cane sugar, but not this one!

  • Coconut Aminos. You’ll be seeing a lot of coconut products when browsing paleo and Whole30 recipes, so you’d better get used to that now. Coconut aminos are a great substitute for soy sauce! I use this ingredient in my stir fry dishes and don’t taste a difference. I buy them at my local Earth Origins outlet, but they are also available at Whole Foods.
  • Coconut Flour. I use coconut flour for a similar purpose to almond flour, like with coconut crusted chicken. I buy Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is a great choice of healthy cooking fat, and it adds a little extra oomph to your dish without being overpowering. I use Spectrum’s coconut oil. Scramble your eggs in coconut oil for a fun mix of flavors.
  • m-meme-regret-donutsCompliant Sauces. Most store-bought sauces are filled with sugar or unnatural sweeteners, but if you can find something with healthy ingredients, it will be a huge time-saver when you need a topping for your zucchini noodles. I love Monte Bene’s Garlic Marinara sauce!
  • Dijon Mustard. I use Dijon all the time in my creamier salad dressings. Check the ingredients to make sure you’re compliant! I use Annie’s.
  • Emergency Foods. For me, Larabars are a perfect grab-and-go food. I have a very event-driven job that sometimes requires me to work during mealtimes, often with very tempting free foods nearby. Having my emergency foods on hand helps me stay honest and avoid breaking a promise to myself in the name of convenience. I also love That’s It Fruit Bars and the fruit bars sold at Trader Joe’s. (Of course, as always, check your ingredients – some bars may not be compliant with your program!)
  • Extra Light Olive Oil. Sometimes a recipe calls for olive oil and it’s not the taste you’re going for. I use extra light olive oil for lighter recipes, like Moroccan Carrot Salad. The Whole30 team also suggests this variety for homemade mayo.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is another delicious cooking fat that you can find easily at your local grocery store. Use it for roasting veggies, pan-frying poultry or pouring all over your enemies before making a quick escape. (Okay, maybe skip that last one.)
  • Food Processor. This will save you a lot of time in the kitchen. I don’t have a preferred brand, but make sure you dust yours off before embarking on a Whole30!
  • kitchen staplesGhee. Ghee is completely magical and the only form of dairy allowed during the Whole30. Ghee is produced when butter is heated and the milk proteins (which a lot of folks are sensitive to) are separated. Ghee tastes just like butter and can be used as a cooking fat as well.
  • Shredded Coconut. Oh, hey, would you look at that? More coconut! Make sure you buy the unsweetened variety. This tastes delicious with chicken or even as a fruit topping for something a little decadent. This is what I buy.
  • Spices. Make sure you have a nice assortment of spices in your cabinets for delicious and natural seasoning. A few staples to keep around include salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, chili powder, cayenne, and Italian seasoning. Think about what flavors your taste buds enjoy, and add it to the list!
  • healthy kitchen staplesSpiralizer. I can’t believe I didn’t get one of these until recently. My spiralizer is fantastic for making “noodles” out of veggies, like cucumbers, sweet potatoes and zucchini. I have a very basic Veggetti spiralizer, but it does the trick!
  • Vinegar. Vinegar is great for homemade dressings and relishes, and many varieties are compliant as long as you check the ingredients. A few goodies to keep in your cupboard include apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar and rice wine vinegar.

While this is not an exhaustive list, I hope these tools, condiments and other staples are helpful to you as you embark on your healthy new journey!

Paleo pros: What do you think is important for everyone to stock in their kitchen? Share in the comments below!

Your Health in Action: A Guide to Effortless Meal Planning

Courtesy of Spud Comics

Courtesy of Spud Comics

Embarking on a new diet or wellness program can often be challenging. As you attempt to eliminate those “problem foods” or to introduce new super foods to your lifestyle, you may not know where to begin! Those regular staples you once fell back on are now out of the picture, and you might find yourself struggling to figure out what to eat or how best to stock your kitchen.

Meal planning can be a simple and effective answer to the overwhelming questions, “What groceries should I buy and what should I make for dinner tonight?” No matter what your dietary preferences or limitations may be, a meal plan is a great way to prepare yourself for the week ahead and to avoid wasting food!

I’ve created a meal planning template of my own that I use regularly, and I find it extremely useful to incorporate into my busy schedule. Click here to download my meal plan template as a Microsoft Excel file that you can edit, or click here to download the PDF version to print.

Weekly Meal Plan Template & Tips from So It Must Be True

Having a meal plan keeps me on track and helps me avoid going to Publix four times in one week (as much as I love grocery shopping). It also allows me to turn my “hey-I-saw-this-on-Pinterest-and-I-want-to-make-it” dreams into a reality because I know which ingredients to purchase ahead of time.

Here are a few tips for creating your own weekly meal plan that works for you:

  • Think about what you will be doing that week. In my event-driven job, I am constantly working during meal times and often exposed to delicious but unhealthy free foods. (I’m thinking of you, pizza!) When I think about my schedule when meal planning, I can determine when I will need to pack a lunch that will keep me away from the pizza box, or (if I know I’ll be working late), I can decide ahead of time to pack a snack to tide me over until I get home. On my personal downloadable meal plan, you can actually fill in your daily activities and add notes for these days.
  • Think critically about meal prep. On my meal plan, I like to include certain tasks, such as “defrost chicken” or “hard-boil eggs,” to ensure that these foods are ready by the time I am ready for them. I may also incorporate my weekly schedule by adding the reminder to “pack lunch for tomorrow.” These “meal prep tasks for the next day” are the perfect way to make sure your ingredients are ready to go.
  • Consider packaging and portion sizes. Buying a fresh head of broccoli? Think about how many servings you will make with that, and implement those into your plan. For example, if a package of cauliflower florets yields two individual recipes with cauliflower, you should include two cauliflower meals on your meal plan so that your produce doesn’t go bad.
  • Keep staples on hand. If you know that you regularly use a certain ingredient, such as almond flour or coconut oil, always make sure you are fully stocked. It’s always disappointing when you are dying to try a new recipe but have to run to the store at the last minute to pick up a basic ingredient. Always check your cupboards before shopping.

Once again, you can download my weekly meal planner template as an Excel file here or as a PDF here. For recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest boards!

What are your weekly meal plan tips? Share yours in the comments section below!

Whole30 Recap: Week 5

Whole30 Week 5 Recap | So It Must Be TrueGood evening, Whole30-ers! For those of you who completed the program in January, your 30 days are over. Congratulations! For others, you may have started your Whole30 later in the month or are planning to embark on this journey at another point in the future. I started to feel the positive effects of the program toward the end of January, and decided to extend my Whole30 to at least 60 days.

Whole30? Whole60? For those of my readers who are unfamiliar with these terms, the Whole30 is a 30-day strict elimination program that cuts out gluten (including non-gluten “grains” like quinoa), dairy, soy, sugar/artificial sweeteners, legumes and all of the bad chemicals we find in processed foods. The program is designed to help participants discover the effects that these problem foods can have on their physical and mental health. People who complete the program report better moods, weight loss, improved skin, sound sleep, and much more. I highly recommend it!

For the first four weeks, I shared a list of meals I ate and observations I made on a day-by-day basis. However, because this has started to become repetitive after the first 28 days, I have decided to limit my weekly recaps from now on to simply include my observations, tips, and any new recipes I tried that week. (Besides, how many times can you read “Moroccan Carrot Salad” and “hard-boiled egg” in one sitting? :)) For a more detailed recap, please visit Week 1Week 2Week 3 and Week 4 to see how I felt at the beginning stages of the program and what I ate. You can also check out my introductory post here.

Feelings and Observations

Whole30 Week 5 Recap | So It Must Be TrueThe program really felt like second nature at this point. Because of my adventures in the kitchen throughout January, I already had some favorite recipes up my sleeve that made it easier for me to meal prep. Admittedly, I didn’t feel very well this week – I suffered a few headaches and stomachaches – but I’ve changed up a few habits to see if that will improve in the next few days. I would like to see some more changes in appearance (i.e. weight), but I know that will mean dragging my lazy butt to the gym and getting up earlier than I’m used to. I just need to push through and continue to form healthy habits!

New Recipes

Whole30 Week 5 Recap | So It Must Be TrueTakeaways from the Week

  • It is important to think positively and expect things to turn out for the best. I was freaking out on Tuesday when I cooked the Chicken Fajita Stuffed Peppers because (A) I had never poached chicken before, (B) I had never shredded chicken before, and (C) I had never baked stuffed peppers before. I was so afraid this dish wasn’t going to come out the right way, even though I followed the directions, but you know what? It was delicious – one of my favorite Whole30 recipes thus far! I spent all that time worrying that it was going to come out horribly and that I would have wasted all that time and food, when I could have focused my energy into something more productive (like cleaning up the mess I made in the kitchen!).
  • The Internet has everything you need. Seriously. Need to learn a new technique? There’s a video on YouTube for that. I am learning a lot from short how-to articles and videos I find. You don’t need to own Julia Child’s cookbook (or even have access to the Food Network) to learn how to cook.
  • Some cravings do start to go away. I’m not going to lie – I would love a bowl of penne pasta right now – but I also remember how bad gluten has made me feel in the past, and it reminds me that the initial taste isn’t worth the stomachache or skin breakout. There are still some foods that I would love to have, but my cravings are diminishing as I recognize the negative effects that certain foods have on me.

What have you learned on your Whole30 thus far? What awesome recipes have you tried? Sound off in the comments section below!

Whole30 Recap: Week 4

For those who began Whole30 on New Year’s Day, can you believe the month is almost over? For me, Week 4 was the week when the program became almost second nature. I still had a lot of temptation (here’s looking at you, free pizza and Chipotle), but I came out of the week strong. My pre-Whole30 ailments still aren’t completely eradicated – you’ll read more about that in a bit – but nevertheless, I know I’ve come a long way since we rang in the New Year.

Because I am planning a Whole60 through the month of February, I will still post an entire Week 5 recap next week, featuring Days 29-35. After Week 5, the recaps will get shorter. Instead of a day-by-day list of what I ate and how I felt, I will simply post my weekly takeaways/general feelings and a list of new recipes I tried and would recommend. (A full list of meals is going to get repetitive after a while because I’ve found some favorites that I will be making regularly!)

Enjoy this week’s batch of recipes and daily observations! I had a major attitude adjustment in Week 4 and started to get excited about cooking again. I hope you find some fun meal inspiration that excites you, too. If you’re new to this blog, be sure to check out my introductory post, as well as my recaps for Week 1Week 2 and Week 3.

Some disclaimers before you get started:

  • I am not a medical professional of any kind and I will not claim that what has worked for me will work for you. If you have any medical questions, please consult a professional.
  • This is not a full meal-plan for everyone following the Whole30. There are some days where I just can’t handle a large meal, so I might just stick to roasted veggies or something light. There are other days when I might eat a small (compliant) snack in between meals, and those snacks are not necessarily reported on my blog. Please listen to your body. We are all different!
  • I repeat meals that I enjoy. You will not be getting a list of 90 different dishes, mainly because I am a creature of habit and when something tastes good, I want to have it again! 🙂 However, I will still be testing out new recipes every week, while rotating in some of the old favorites.
  • You can follow along on my Instagram page, where I post meals and recipe ideas daily!

Whole 30 Weekly Recap | So It Must Be True

Day 22 (Jan. 22)

Feelings: When I looked in the mirror this morning, all I could think was, Wow, I look really pale. Then I realized that I wasn’t looking any paler than usual – my skin just isn’t as red and irritated as it used to be. I’ve battled with eczema my whole life, but it’s reassuring to see how significantly my healthier eating habits have improved my skin.

Whole30 Week 4 Recap

Breakfast: A bowl of strawberries and blueberries. (I was staying at my sister’s place and didn’t have the same food access as I do at home, but the night before, we picked up a few staples for me to keep there.)

Lunch: Moroccan Carrot Salad (inspired by @bloemingfabulous’s guest post on @whole30recipes Instagram feed, packed ahead of time) and applesauce. At that time, I was at a workshop where free pizza was served… and oh, did it smell delicious.

Dinner: Market Salad from a local salad/sandwich restaurant, with raisins, apple slices, oranges and grilled chicken.

Day 23 (Jan. 23)

Feelings: I had an early morning event, but still felt energized throughout the day. I was a little hungry, probably because of the lack of protein at breakfast, but overall I was in a good mood and felt productive. My willpower game was strong. We sponsored an event that catered from Chipotle, and it took every fiber of my being not to grab a bowl of rice and beans with cheese melted on top. Mmmmmm, melted cheese… where was I?

Breakfast: A bowl of strawberries and blueberries.

Lunch: Salad with mixed greens, red bell pepper, cucumber, grapes and hard-boiled egg. Thank goodness for the salad bar.

Dinner: Curry Roasted Cauliflower (inspired by @danikabrysha’s guest post on @whole30recipes Instagram feed) and a hard-boiled egg.

Day 24 (Jan. 24)

Feelings: Boundless energy! I don’t know where it’s coming from… I still don’t get enough sleep, but I definitely have way more energy at all times of the day than I did prior to this Whole30.

Breakfast: Apple with almond butter and cinnamon.

Lunch: Two hard-boiled eggs and a bowl of raspberries.

Dinner: Spinach salad with grilled chicken, oranges, cabbage, and carrots.

Day 25 (Jan. 25)

#SelfieQueen

#SelfieQueen

Feelings: I experienced the first headache I’ve had in a while, but I don’t think it had to do with my food choices. My entire family is prone to headaches, and while I think that sugar consumption makes mine happen more frequently, I also understand that there could be other reasons why I experience them. I was also a little bit stressed this morning, but found that I bounced back from that stress very quickly.

Breakfast: {gasp} I had a smoothie! My boyfriend mixed up a smoothie for me with strawberries, banana and spinach. If this breakfast choice bothers anyone, I urge you to visit this Whole30 blog post on the rules vs. recommendations.

Lunch: Moroccan Carrot Salad (inspired by @bloemingfabulous’s guest post on @whole30recipes Instagram feed) and a hard-boiled egg.

Dinner: Coconut Lime Chicken Bites (from Daily Bites Blog), roasted potatoes, and a bowl of grapes.

Day 26 (Jan. 26)

Feelings: I had an easier time waking up this morning and was in a good mood when I woke up. I felt a rediscovered sense of adventure today and was ready to try something new in the kitchen!

Breakfast: Blueberries and a hard-boiled egg.

Lunch: Roasted broccoli (cooked at 400F for 20 minutes in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic) and a hard-boiled egg.

Whole30 Recap Week 4

Dinner: Cauliflower Fried Rice (from Amuse Your Bouche). This dish was off the chain – it really tasted like fried rice! (I used coconut aminos instead of soy sauce to keep this meal compliant.)

Day 27 (Jan. 27)

Whole30 Weekly Recap

Feelings: I woke up about an hour before my alarm to find that my skin was uncontrollably itchy. When I went back to sleep, I started having extremely graphic, gory nightmares. I’ve been known to have weird food dreams during the Whole30, but never something like this! Suffice to say, I didn’t sleep well. I’m thinking the breakout stemmed from a contact allergy, because it was limited to one area and the rest of my skin still looked and felt drastically improved.

Breakfast: Banana with almond butter, blueberries and a nectarine.

This was so good!

This was so good!

Lunch: Cauliflower Steak (from Brooklyn Supper) and two hard-boiled eggs. This cauliflower steak was amazing! I adjusted the relish a little to include rosemary instead of parsley and garlic instead of shallots. I highly recommend trying it!

Whole30 Weekly RecapDinner: Zesty Chicken Bites (from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen) and Sweet Potato Fries (from Life Made Full).

Day 28 (Jan. 28)

Feelings: My energy was back! My horrible skin reaction from the day before seemed to have healed somewhat and I had a much more restful night of sleep.
Breakfast: Bowl of blueberries and a hard-boiled egg.

Lunch: Moroccan Carrot Salad.

Whole30 Weekly Recap

Dinner: Mexican Cauliflower Rice (from Slender Kitchen).

Takeaways from the Week

  • As I’ve learned throughout my Whole30 journey, it is important to try new things! Last year, when I started Whole30, I was all about those sweet potato recipes… This time around, I joked that this was Cauliflower Week, as I attempted four separate cauliflower dishes throughout the week. I now know what the cauliflower rice fuss is all about!
  • Another thing I mentioned last week rang true again this week: You haveto be prepared for difficult food situations. Does it sometimes feel awkward to bring your own food to a lunchtime event? Yes. Is it difficult to turn down pizza and Chipotle in the same week? Oh, yes (at least if you’re me). But it would be even more difficult to say no to these non-compliant foods if I didn’t pack along my own meals or at least have a game plan? YES. At the beginning of the week, make a plan that will keep you accountable on the days when you know that you’re going to be tempted. Don’t face your temptations while hungry!
  • While my mood, skin and energy are all radically improved, I am no longer seeing the same body changes I remember from previous rounds of Whole30. I’m starting to feel like I’ve hit a plateau (although it’s hard to judge those changes when you see yourself every day), so I am going to start thinking more critically about if/when I’m snacking, what times I’m eating (sometimes I start dinner waylater than I should) and how much exercise I’m getting. Still, I am very proud of how far I’ve come, and have very high hopes for the rest of my Whole60!

Any Whole30ers with a favorite recipe to share? Sound off in the comments section below!

Whole30 Recap: Week 2

diet-funnyWe’ve survived another week! Can you believe we are about halfway through the January Whole30? I’ll admit that some of my symptoms, such as bloating and headaches, still haven’t fully disappeared. However, I am amazed to see my differences in mood, skin and energy levels!

With a new week behind us, I’ll share my latest round-up of meals and daily observations during my own Whole30. For more information, visit my introductory post or check out my recap from Week 1!

Keep in mind the following disclaimers as we delve into Week 2’s program:

  • I am not a medical professional of any kind and I will not claim that what has worked for me will work for you. If you have any medical questions, please consult a professional.
  • This is not a full meal-plan for everyone following the Whole30. There are some days where I just can’t handle a large meal, so I might just stick to roasted veggies or something light. There are other days when I might eat a small (compliant) snack in between meals, and those snacks are not necessarily reported on my blog. Please listen to your body. We are all different!
  • I repeat meals that I enjoy. You will not be getting a list of 90 different dishes, mainly because I am a creature of habit and when something tastes good, I want to have it again! 🙂 However, I will still be testing out new recipes every week, while rotating in some of the old favorites.
  • You can follow along on my Instagram page, where I post meals and recipe ideas daily!

Time for some Whole30 deliciousness!

whole30 round 2 veemoze

Day 8 (Jan. 8)

Feelings: I have always been convinced that I have ADD, but today I felt like my concentration was at an all-time high. Even when faced with some stressful subject matter, my mood was a lot more even. When I eat a lot of processed foods, I find that I get a lot more emotional over the little things and am not as efficient when it comes to solving problems. On Day 8, I felt like a lot of my irrational processed food monsters that had resurfaced during the holidays were gone.

Breakfast: Apple with almond butter and a bowl of raspberries.

sweet potato noodles veemoze

I sprinkled in rosemary for a little something extra!

Lunch: Sweet Potato Noodles (from Civilized Caveman Cooking) and a hard-boiled egg.

Yum!

Yum!

Dinner: Went out to a local restaurant and ordered the California Salad, with spinach (which you’d normally have to force me to eat), cucumber, blueberries, strawberries, orange, and a hard-boiled egg.

Day 9 (Jan. 9)

Feelings: For the love of Gosling, my pants are tighter! I wish I could skip this side effect and instantly feel all the positive ones, but it should only last a few days… right? It was frustrating to feel bloated and have a stomachache all day, but I had to remind myself that “this, too, shall pass.” Because of this, I ate fairly light on Day 9.

Breakfast: Bowl of raspberries. (Like I said, I really wasn’t feeling well on Day 9.)

Lunch: Cucumber Pasta Salad (from Holistically Engineered), accompanied by Whole30-compliant applesauce and a hard-boiled egg.

Ohhhh, pineapple. I just can't get enough of you.

Ohhhh, pineapple. I just can’t get enough of you.

Dinner: Roasted broccoli (cooked in olive oil, garlic and salt at 400F for 20 minutes) and this delicious grilled pineapple inspired by @danikabrysha’s Instagram guest post on @whole30recipes, sans walnuts.

Day 10 (Jan. 10)

Feelings: When I woke up on Day 10, I felt extremely well-rested and in a very good mood. This could have had something to do with the fact that it was Saturday and I’d slept in, but I’d like to think some of it had to do with my positive food choices!

Breakfast: Nectarine and a hard-boiled egg.

Lunch: Roasted Cauliflower (cooked in olive oil, salt, pepper and lots of paprika for 20 minutes) and more grilled pineapple because it has become my favorite thing in the world.

Coconut Lime Chicken Bites = Yum!

Coconut Lime Chicken Bites = Yum!

Dinner: Coconut Lime Chicken Bites (from Daily Bites Blog) and diced potatoes cooked in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. I was so excited to cook something that my boyfriend also enjoys!

Day 11 (Jan. 11)

Feelings: On Day 11, I noticed that a lot of the puffiness in my face had gone down. I woke up feeling very well-rested again today, but felt increasingly tired as the day wore on. As much as I hate to admit it, I attribute this to a lack of proteins and fats throughout the day.

Moroccan Carrot Salad!

Moroccan Carrot Salad!

Breakfast: Moroccan Carrot Salad (inspired by @bloemingfabulous’ Instagram post on @whole30recipes).

Lunch: Picked up lunch from another local restaurant with my boyfriend and sister and ordered the Southwest Salad, with mixed greens, carrots and raisins.

Dinner: Leftover Coconut Lime Chicken Bites and diced potatoes, because leftovers are fun, too.

Day 12 (Jan. 12)

Feelings: Today I was feeling super bloated. I thought this phase of the program would have been over by now, but it wasn’t. With today’s stomachache, I tried to eat fairly light meals again.

Breakfast: Apple with almond butter.

Lunch: Roasted Broccoli (cooked in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic at 400F) and a bowl of grapes. Looking back, I now think that too many grapes may have perpetuated the problem.

Dinner: Scrambled Eggs (my first time making them myself in months!) and a nectarine. Not going to lie, it was total comfort food on a rainy day.

Day 13 (Jan. 13)

Feelings: I didn’t feel as bloated on Day 13, but I did have a pretty persistent headache throughout the day. Usually I get those from processed food and artificial sugars, but with those foods out of my diet, I’m not really sure where this headache came from. The weather was pretty dreary, so my headache probably had something to do with the barometric pressure or something intelligent like that.

Breakfast: Hard-boiled egg and a nectarine.

Lunch: Roasted Cauliflower (see Day 10 for exact instructions) and another egg.

The chicken didn't come out the way I wanted, but the veggies/sauce were fantastic!

The chicken didn’t come out the way I wanted, but the veggies/sauce were fantastic!

Dinner: Sweet and Sour Chicken (from Paleo Leap) with red pepper, yellow pepper, water chestnuts and pineapple. I love the crunch of the water chestnuts! This was a fantastic dinner – one of my favorites so far.

Day 14 (Jan. 14)

Feelings: It was an eventful Wednesday, but I really felt positive and empowered, like I could take on the day! Of course, after I took on the day, I fell asleep on the couch watching an adorable animal movie and woke up to Season 2 of The Wire, a show I do not currently watch. Still, it is important to note the profound effect this program has had on my mood!

Breakfast: Hard-boiled egg (typical) and an apple.

Lunch: Moroccan Carrot Salad and plain applesauce. This was especially tough, because at one of my work events that day, we gave out pizza and it smelled amazing. Thankfully, I remembered how awful I feel when I eat pizza, and suddenly my carrot salad was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life.

Dinner: I was exhausted from working back-to-back events, so I went out to dinner and ordered a spinach salad with warm grilled chicken (don’t you love when the chicken is actually warm?), carrots, cabbage, and orange slices.

Takeaways from the Week

  • Ghee is really good. I never had it during Round 1 or Round 2 of my Whole30 in 2014, but I finally picked some up and used it in my sweet potato noodles and my scrambled eggs. I love the taste and will definitely use it in the future!
  • Even if protein is your least favorite food group, you still need to eat it. Otherwise, you will be a sleepy, grumpy jerk until you do.
  • It is important to have a game plan when you know you will be faced with tempting food choices. Pack a lunch if you know you’ll be all day, or check the menu ahead of time before you go out so that you already know what you’ll be ordering. You can even be a control-freak like me, and pick all the restaurants yourself! Your friends can get junky bar food anywhere, but it ismuch harder for you to find something Whole30-friendly at most restaurants that still looks appetizing.

What have you learned this week? What new recipes do you suggest testing out? Share your Whole30 experiences in the comments section below!

Happy, Healthy New Year: Whole30-Style

Whole30-official-header-360Happy New Year! 2015 is officially here, which means it’s time to kick off another fabulous year of new adventures, friendships and growth opportunities. I have high hopes for 2015, and am excited to pursue new goals and successes in the next 12 months.

What are you hoping to achieve in 2015? How do you plan to get those dreams in motion?

In 2014, I began to really focus on improving my health. Through two full rounds of the Whole30, I dove right into a strict clean eating regimen, eliminating grains, sweeteners, soy, dairy, alcohol and other unnecessary evils from my diet. In spite of the challenges I faced as a pasta-loving, meat-hating picky eater, I loved the program and lost a lot of weight in the process. I also significantly improved my eczema, reduced my chronic headaches, increased my energy levels and felt fantastic.

4f77ca9c7c410171fb7c62c05c856164Unfortunately, as the year wore on, I fell into some bad habits and began to forget some of the valuable lessons I’d learned from the Whole30 in the first place. Along with many Whole30 enthusiasts, I decided to embark on the January Whole30 (beginning today!) to re-ingrain some of those positive habits into my lifestyle.

In the past, I have shared my progress through social media (Instagram in particular!), and through that experience, several friends have suggested I create a blog dedicated to my Whole30 journey. This time around, I have decided to journal my progress through weekly posts at So It Must Be True.

These posts will document the meals I ate, links to recipes, how I felt each day in the program and more! I am excited to share these weekly Whole30 posts, and hope you will be able to use them as a resource if you decide to complete your own program! If you are familiar with paleo/Whole30 living, feel free to share your own tips and recipes in the comments section as the weeks wear on.

fefe36a03c2cdf6723a51b7b93cc433cI am so excited to share my health and wellness journey here with you! This blog will still focus on the topics you’ve come to expect week to week — college, career, relationships, and pop culture — but as health has become a bigger priority in my life, it will also shape the content I post.

I hope you enjoy my weekly Whole30 articles! I’m looking forward to a fantastic month ahead (or two – I’m planning to expand mine to 60 days), and I can’t wait to get started.

Once again, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Wishing you all the best in life, love, health and success.

View the Recaps!

The Weekend Five: Lessons Learned on The Whole 30

keep-calm-whole30-pinterestHappy Sunday, friends! As some of you may know (especially if you follow me on social media), last week marked the end of my second Whole 30. For those unfamiliar with the Whole 30, it is a 30-day program designed to improve your health by eliminating some of the major problem foods: sugar/sweeteners, grains, dairy, legumes and various others.

I don’t claim to be an expert in nutrition, and in the past I have avoided discussing my journey to better health on this blog. However, in the past few months since I began experimenting with cleaner eating, I have had dramatic improvements in my skin, energy levels and mood that I never thought possible through diet alone. (I also managed to lose a lot of weight!) Because of my positive experiences with the program, friends have approached me with questions, so I decided to devote an entire Weekend Five to it!

Below are some of the lessons I’ve learned after completing the Whole 30 program twice. (I plan to do it again in June, if anyone is interested in joining me!)

The Weekend Five: Lessons Learned On The Whole 30

Jersey-Shore-Five-Snooki-Pickles1. Read the ingredients.
When I started really reading the labels on my food, I was amazed at all of the hidden ingredients I found! For example, every jar of pickles in my local grocery store either contained corn syrup, yellow food dye or both. To fulfill my random pickle craving without compromising my diet with unnecessary ingredients, I drove out to a nearby health food store. They tasted just as good as any other pickles, except they wouldn’t make my skin break out the way that food dye does, and they wouldn’t give me a headache the way sugars often do. You’d be shocked at how easily the manufacturers sneak sweeteners into places we wouldn’t expect: sauces, chicken broth, etc. If you aren’t keeping a close eye on what is in your food, then you could be sabotaging your diet in the process! The fewer the ingredients, the better, because it generally means that your food is closer to the original source.

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2. Do things the RIGHT way, not the quick way.
When I look back at some of the ridiculous ways I tried to lose weight in high school and early in college, I have to laugh. There are a lot of fad diets out there, and we’ve all tested them out. But as much as we like to complicate things, it’s really quite simple: cut out the junk food, eat healthier foods, watch your portions and exercise. Doing it the right way will lead to better habits and weight loss that sticks! Slow and steady wins the race.

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veemoze snacks3. Find ways to beat the excuses.
For the past few years, I wanted to lose weight through cleaner eating, but I always had my excuses: I can’t cook. I’m too busy to prepare meals. When I’m tired, I need my food to be quick to make.However, out of necessity during my Whole 30, I discovered snacks that were easy to make ahead of time, meals that didn’t require much preparation and pre-packaged foods like Lara Bars that were a better alternative to any other “nutrition” bar in the aisle. (Seriously, read the ingredients!) I also learned that washing some fruit or cracking open a hard boiled egg really didn’t add much time to my daily routine, and that my excuses were actually invalid. Figure out your excuses now and then figure out how you are going to beat them in the long run, so that they don’t beat you!

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4. Weigh the pros and cons.
The next time you are having a craving, ask yourself: “Do I want 30 seconds of gratification, or do I want a lifetime of good health?” The program is only 30 days – to give into temptations early on is to cheat yourself! In the long run, you should allow yourself indulgences every once in a while, but remind yourself that there is a trade-off. Do I miss certain foods? Yes. I have even brought them in as an occasional treat now that my program is over. But I also know that, while delicious, some tempting foods will ultimately make me tired and grumpy, and will make my skin break out. Do I want to eat unlimited amounts of junk food, or do I want glowing skin and a body I’m proud of? The answer to that one is quite simple!

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0b32ed3e28a98cf77dbc847abf7697c05. There are seven days in the week. Someday isn’t one of them.
Every day, there will be reasons not to start. Maybe you’re stressed out at work, or you’re afraid of what others might think. Forget those reasons. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to prepare (read, research, shop, gather ingredients) and then press play. Once I finally took action instead of making up excuses, I started to see success. Stop resolving to start “someday” and take your first steps today. (Tweet this!)

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Readers, have you ever completed the Whole 30 or another clean eating program? What would you suggest to others considering it? What did you learn during the program?

Are you considering a program like this? What questions do you have about getting started?

Link Love Wednesday: Love at First Tweet

feel-listen-forever-140characterorless-valentines-day-ecard-someecardsWhew – this month is flying by! I can’t believe that the first quarter of the year is almost up. At my job, this means that event season is about to pick up, and with that comes all of the craziness involved with packing, planning, commuting and a dash of public speaking. Of course, that means that now is as good a time as any to take a deep breath, log onto my RSS reader and enjoy some good old fashioned link love. I’ve got some great articles for you this week!

What are some of the great links you’ve come across lately?