COLOR

Okay, let’s talk color.

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You might have heard that to keep a healthy diet a good tip is to eat the rainbow. This of course refers to whole foods and not the type of “food” made from sugar, dyes, and fillers...

It's an important rule to keep because each different color means that you are getting a different combination of nutrients. For example if you see the color orange or red you can assume that is a great source of vitamin C. If its antioxidants you’re looking for try foods with naturally darker pigments such as blueberries, black rice, or Molasses. If you’re like my sisters and I you would have low iron, and while you can turn to supplements or red meat, one of the best sources of iron comes from green foods! Foods like Pumpkin seeds, Spinach, Spirulina, and Swiss chard are great examples of this.

Adding color doesn’t just stop at nutrients though, it continues with taste as well as taking pleasure in eating a meal. By adding color as well as texture both your eyes and your taste buds will be more satisfied with the healthy food you are consuming!

These are only a few of the many benefits of switching up your diet and adding a little color. Make sure to challenge yourself to purchase as many colors as possible with your next stop to the grocers!

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SIDE NOTE: If you have a hard time going to the grocery store and ignoring all the junk food try doing most of your grocery shopping at your local farm stand! You get the opportunity to shop outdoors and avoid all the temptations in a grocery store. Plus most fruits and vegetables at a farm stand are usually all in season, meaning better taste and more nutrients!

Wherever you do end up, have some fun, try something new and add a little color!

Pssst…Here’s a recipe I whipped up after an inspirational trip to the Farm Stand!  

Ingredients

            Salad

·         1 head of Romaine

·         Small Handful of Sprouts

·         5 Radishes – chopped

·         ½ cucumber

·         1 large apple

·         ¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Dressing

·         Organic Tahini

·         ½ lemon

·         2-3 TBS Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar (any brand with the mother)

·         Salt and Pepper

Directions

Chop up all your veggies and throw into a bowl.

Mix the Tahini, lemon, Apple Cider Vinegar, salt and pepper together and combine with chopped veggies.

Top with pumpkin seeds and set out for you and your loved ones to enjoy!

CANDIDA

CANDIDA DIET

If you read my About Me post you would have an insight about my story, but I wanted to dive a little deeper and give you a little recap of how I handled Candida.

After flying back to South Africa, meeting with a holistic doctor and finding out that I had candida I hit a new low, especially knowing I needed to immediately go on a strict gluten, dairy and sugar free diet for about three months. Now if that doesn’t sound like fun to you I don’t know what will.

Coming off sugar was not the most pleasant experience. In all reality I cried more than I would like to admit and had withdrawal symptoms that included fatigue, headaches, irritability, and mood swings. All I can say is my husband and his family saw me at one of my worst times and thankfully, they still love me.

Now there were a lot of negatives with diving into the candida diet, but by the time the three months were over I realized how sick I actually felt before venturing into the diet. Not only was I feeling healthier than ever, I managed to avoid getting sick, my stomach stopped hurting after each meal and I was feeling significantly more energetic.

Now to take a step back, how the heck did I go gluten, dairy and sugar free?

I approached this change in diet with resistance because I definitely ate more fruit and carbs than allowed, but I made up for it in other ways. I tried to avoid all foods with added sugars unless it was from sources of fruit or vegetables. Because of this change I began to eat more flavorful foods such as garlic, onion, herbs, salt and pepper. These foods helped to liven up dishes that usually required some type of sauce or other add-in. I also switched from having breads and pastas for the main carb to sweet potatoes, millet, and quinoa. This was one of the hardest things because of the nature of the diet you’re not supposed to have a lot of carbs because they turn into sugars and yeast thrives on sugar. So even though it is what I craved I had to avoid them or enjoy them in moderation. This was the same for fruit, and since I am a smoothie lover it was a tough one to transition.

So what did I eat exactly? Well definitely repeated a LOT of the same meals since my options were sparse, but I definitely made the most of things and ended up really enjoying the meals I concocted.

BREAKFAST

·         GLUTEN FREE OATMEAL: This is where I broke the rules a bit when it came to holding back on carbs. I would make gluten free oats with cocoa powder, cinnamon, vanilla extract, blueberries and almond butter for good measure. If you haven’t tried this combination yet, please do because it’s heaven in a bowl.

·         SMOOTHIE: It was extremely hard making smoothies unless I used banana’s so if I was feeling daring I would throw in half a banana with 1/4th cup blueberries, almond milk, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and ice!

LUNCH

·         EGGS AND VEGTABLES: Lunch usually always consisted two eggs and any vegetables I had available sautéed in coconut oil. This would usually be paired with a bit of quinoa or millet and topped off with avocado.

·         SALADS: Another option I began to love were huge salads with loads of different greens. This gave me the option to explore some different veggies such as sprouts, cabbage, kale, arugula, and fresh herbs. I would usually always have some type of protein such as chicken or eggs and top everything with a happy helping of mashed avocado. By mashing the avocado it posed as a dressing so that I wouldn’t have to worry about any ingredients I wasn’t too sure of.

DINNER

·         SWEET POTATOES: I would always cook a few sweet potatoes at the beginning of the week and have one every night at dinner.

·         MEAT: I always made sure to have a healthy source of protein whether it be eggs, fish, chicken etc.

·         FATS: Having a healthy source of fat was extremely important in keeping me full and satisfied without feeling like I was missing out. My favorite Fats were avocado, tahini, and egg yolks.

·         CROCK POT MEALS: Because I could know everything that was being put in my food if it was prepared at home I ate quite a few crock pot meals. It is extremely easy to make recipes like chili, curry, soups, stews, etc. fit whatever dietary needs you have!

SNACKS

·         APPLES: They made the perfect snack because not only were they low in sugar, they are also loaded with fiber and water which helps keep you full and hydrated!

·         HUMMUS & VEGTABLES: This is an excellent way to up your veggie intake while pairing it with hummus which can easily be made at home!

·         NUTS & SEEDS: This is by far my favorite snack, but I easily overdo it and still have a hard time. I try to limit my consumption to 1 serving and usually pair it with fruit or coconut yogurt   

·         TEA: Spending time in South Africa helped me to appreciate the joy of drinking tea. Specifically rooibos which is extremely high in antioxidants and also aids in digestion. Another favorite is throat coat by Traditional Medicines which is one my sister and I bonded over for several nights while I lived with her and her family.

THE BAD HABITS

Though the diet was extremely successful in curing my Candida, I had formed a few bad habits that needed to be worked on.

·         My addiction to sugary foods was replaced with salt. I was probably using three times the amount of a normal person because I was missing out on a lot of extra condiments for foods that you normally don’t think twice about. Overall I was able to bring this back to normal, so this one wasn’t as bad.

·         Since I wasn’t allowed any desserts I would add cocoa powder to just about anything I could think of, and once I went off the diet and was able to have natural sugars again the intake of homemade chocolate syrup increased. To this very day I always have a 5lb bag of cocoa powder in stock and make everything from chocolate syrup to chocolate matcha lattes. Most days I can keep the amounts at bay, but then there are the days when all I eat seems to be chocolate. This is basically my own personal version of having that Halloween candy lying around and somehow the whole bag is eaten in a day. It might not be a snickers, but trust me too much of anything is not ideal.

·         The other bad habit is the obsession with healthy foods and the worry that something will make me sick. This is not to say that I shouldn’t be mindful of what I eat but there are times when worry takes over and I end up depriving myself of the foods I love for the sake of keeping myself “healthy”. I have to remind myself that I can splurge on a gluten free tater tots, it won’t kill me, and it won’t make me sick because otherwise I do take care of myself. When It comes to this problem I always try to remind myself that the sometimes it’s the stress that causes more harm than the food.

 

THE GOOD

·         I made a full recovery and know how to care for my gut as well as uncover other problems that needed to be addressed that I would have not noticed until I was worse off.

·         The amount that I have learned from Candida about myself and the way my body works amazes me, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today in my health and wellness journey without it.

·         Having Candida helped me to take a step back and de-stress. Even tough changing my diet was one big stressful event, my holistic doctor helped me to understand that when your body is stressed out it can do just as much harm as going off the diet.

Overall I am grateful for the experience in that it has brought me to this point where I can hopefully help you through whatever health issues you might be facing.

 Thanks for reading!   - Sonya 

Thanks for reading! 

- Sonya 

My Story

My Story.

As the second to last child in a family of nine you could say that when it came to food, it was survival of the fittest. If you weren’t fast enough you could kiss those Reese’s puffs goodbye. Food wasn’t just something to fight over though, it was something we all bonded over. When my dad came home at night we ate together as a family. For birthday’s instead of lavish gifts my parents provided homemade mac n’ cheese, warm veggies, sweet treats and coffee to top off the night.

Food has always been a big part of my life, but my relationship with food wasn’t always healthy. By the time I turned 18 I was planning to get married to my high school sweetheart who lived in South Africa.

Yes, I said South Africa.

I also started my first real job and began my first college courses. The combination of starting so many new things, missing my boyfriend and figuring out how to make a wedding work I began to feel like I was losing control of my life. In order to compensate for the lack of control in life, I began to control my food. I started tracking my calories (average 800 per day), weighing myself constantly and over exercising, sometime till 2 a.m. I also began to feel the effects of depression, mood swings, amenorrhea, stomach pain, patchy dry skin and nervous habits. After a year of abusing my body I dropped down to about 100lb, a weight I hadn’t been since middle school.

This was a weight I was excited and proud of, and as a reward I began to eat again. The good thing was that I put weight on again, but the bad thing was I was gorging myself on everything I had deprived myself of including pastas, breads, sugar, etc. I also had developed a skewed view of my body that added to the stress. Thankfully my now husband was able to visit and I began to feel calm again, knowing that we were ready to get married and I would be soon planning a trip to South Africa with my family for a dream wedding. I also began to get into a more regular exercise routine and was able to hold back a bit on food.

Once the time came to go to South Africa I was a healthy 115lb, but still stressed beyond belief. Through the whole whirlwind of the wedding I began to eat more gluten and dairy, two foods I had avoided for a while. During this time I began to notice my health declining. Out of the 3 months I was in South Africa the only two weeks I didn’t have the flu, a virus, or a cold was the week of my wedding and honeymoon. I also had developed pain in my stomach and nausea every time I would eat, and to top it off I gained about 25lb by the end of my trip.

I knew there was something wrong with me so I took action and visited a holistic Dr. that a friend introduced me to. She said I had Candida which is basically an overgrowth of yeast in your stomach. This tore holes in my stomach lining allowing parasites into my blood. This lead to a strict gluten free, dairy free, sugar free 3 month diet along with SEVERAL supplements to get rid of the Candida. Thankfully it worked, but it uncovered several other health issues that needed to be dealt with.

Since then I have completely changed my diet, cutting out all refined sugars, gluten, dairy, most soy and a few other foods I have a hard time digesting. I eat a low GI diet and have switched my workout routine to fit my body’s needs. I have successfully gained muscle, lost weight and have gotten my period back after more than 3 years without a natural one!

Though I know this body will always be a work in progress it has inspired me to not only care for myself, but share my journey. I know going through all of this was extremely difficult, and it would have been amazing to have someone to share tips, words of encouragement and some tasty recipes. Whether or not you have health issues, or you just want to get healthy my goal is for this to be the place for you. 

Thanks so much for stopping by! 

Love,

Sonya

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Meal Prep

Meal Prep because you’re Awesome

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Ever see those pictures with the perfectly portioned weeks’ worth of food? The ones where everything is so perfect you convince yourself that if you can accomplish the same your life will be complete? Well If you haven’t I can tell you that I have definitely gone through this only to fail and realize that this type of meal prep is definitely not for everyone.

Personally I found that portioning out the same meals for every day was not worth the effort. I also found the meals to be less satisfying since I felt I was obliged to eat the same thing most days. Now for me this is probably because I don’t like being told I have to eat a certain way. Hand me a meal plan and even if it’s everything I love, I will probably completely avoid it.

That being said I don’t ignore meal prep all together, I simply have figured out a way to put my own spin on things making meal prep easier and more enjoyable!

For me meal prep involves cooking up staple item that can be pieced together according to that day. Usually I focus on quinoa, roasted vegetables, bake a sweet potatoes, chopped lettuce, frozen fruit, homemade tahini dressing, and a crock pot meal such as curry or soup. This was I have the option to make a variety of meals from the ingredients I have already prepped!

As well as these foods I make sure to have plenty of my favorite fruits and vegetables for snacking on in between meals. If I am feeling extra fancy I might whip up some homemade chocolates or protein balls for treats!

Here’s a list of meals you can make from my normal routine, showed here!

·         Fried quinoa with roasted veg

·         Soup and Salad

·         Curry with quinoa avocado & Lime

·         Chocolate protein smoothie

·         Sweet potato over greens with sliced Avocado and tahini dressing.

These are just a few ideas, but get a little adventurous and see what healthy meals you can create from your favorite foods!

Pssst* Check out my Crock pot chicken curry recipe for some inspiration! https://www.sonyasopencupboard.com/recipes/

Snacking for Success

Snacking for Success

I’m guessing you can relate to this, but honestly I feel like the biggest struggle of the day is snacking. This is because I am usually underprepared and end up over eating random foods that aren’t exactly filling. Instead of healthy portioned snack, I grab the first thing I see which could easily be leftover Gluten free pasta, paleo cookies, peanut butter and chocolate, etc. Now it’s not a bad thing to eat any of these things, but it’s the fact that I ending up in a situation where I have little control over what I am going to use to fuel my body, which is counterproductive to my goals.

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I know that in order to achieve my goals I have to set myself up for success, and part of that success includes eating well. So, instead of going hungry or eating whatever is in sight, I plan for the upcoming day. I make sure to prep lunch and snacks that will not only keep me satisfied, but are exciting and different. My favorite way to accomplish this is by playing with flavors and textured. For example, if my snack is a yogurt, I will add some cocoa powder, chia seeds and top it off with fruit and nuts. If I am feeling something savory I might bring some roasted veggies with avocado and sesame seeds.

The main thing is that you find what both satisfies and fuels you! You don’t have to eat the same thing every day, just find some snacks that work for you and make sure to switch it up whenever you find yourself losing interest.

Snacking should be loathed or a regret, it should be something that is an exciting part of your day that you enjoy!

Here is some more inspiration for healthy snacks!

·         Homemade protein/fat balls paired with fresh berries

·         Almond butter on 1 slice of toast topped with banana and coconut

·         Heathy homemade hot chocolate with 1 serving Almonds

·         Carrots & Gluten free pretzels dipped in hummus/guacamole

·         Apples topped with cinnamon and Peanut butter

Probiotic Love

Probiotics and Me: A Love Story

Probiotics and I go back, aka about 3 years. I WISH we went way back, but unfortunately it took quite a number of trials and time to discover probiotics.

If your guys took the time to read my story, I want to first say thank you, and if you didn’t then go take a peak! Okay, so now that everyone has read my story, you will know that shortly after I was married I found out I had candida. Candida is the overgrowth of yeast in your gut, which resulted in the tearing of my stomach lining and the release of toxins into my body that made me sick.

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Sounds super fun, I know…

Though it wasn’t the most pleasant experience, I am thankful for it because I was able to learn so much about my body and the power of holistic health. With every supplements I tried my all-time favorite product I learned about was probiotics.

Probiotics are the good type of bacteria that can help to improve gut health. They also help maintain good digestion and improve your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from your food! Probiotics boost your immune system and are especially helpful after taking an anti-biotic.

If you are wondering about how to add probiotics into your life you can begin with taking capsules daily. This method is extremely effective, but a little boring. If you want to step up your game, then take the capsules, but aim to add probiotic rich food into your diet! Some of my favorite probiotic rich foods are,

·         Sauerkraut

·         Kimchi

·         Pickles

·         Miso

·         Apple Cider Vinegar

·         Yogurt

·         Kiefer

·         Kombucha

This week, do your body a favor and see what kind of probiotics you can work into your diet. Trust me, your tummy will thank you!

Pssst*…When you are buying these products, make sure to read the labels! You want simple ingredients with as little sugar as possible. The benefits of these products can decrease because of additives, so choose wisely!

Keep Calm and Drink Tea.

Keep Calm and Drink Tea.

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I don’t know about you, but growing up I loathed tea despite how awesome it was. Thankfully I have a mother who would always encourage me to try new things as well as my South African family who helped me to understand the sheer importance of tea.

First of all, drinking tea is something commonly acquainted with relaxation. Tea time is a part of your day where you take a step back to breath, enjoy good conversation or even quiet time by yourself. There is something special about putting life on hold for those few moments.

Now if you would have told me that 2 years ago I would have seen it as a waste of time because obviously taking 15 minutes to drink tea is not productive. My mindset was if you have 15 minutes to do something, then do something productive. This “productive” time would consist of cleaning, jumping jacks, trying to read all 45 pages of assigned reading, etc.

Obviously I was good at taking every opportunity to stress myself out…

Thankfully I can now see the productivity in drinking tea. Not only is it relaxing and offers some family time, you also have a chance to mentally unwind. I have found that taking 15 minutes helps me to be more productive, I am calm and not rash in my decisions and I am generally happier.

Oh yeah, and did I mention all the health benefits of tea? You might be surprised but tea can be used to sooth a sore throat, aid in digestion, provide antioxidants to keep you healthy and caffeinated teas are a great swap for coffee! Tea is also low in calories and can help you when it comes to managing cravings and mindless snacking.

So this week take the time to stop for a minute, make a cup of tea with a special treat whether it be good conversation, a slice of cake, or both!

P.S. If tea doesn’t sound too thrilling here is a list of my personal favorites!

·         Rooibos tea with a dash of Almond milk and Honey

·         Matcha Latte with Cinnamon

·         Herbal blended tea: Plain or with a dash of Almond Milk

Smoothie Bowl Love

Need to get out of the boring breakfast rut?

Here is a simple, and delicious recipe that will make you step back, look in the mirror, and realize that your the coolest for creating an awesome breakfast. 

Ingredients 

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  • 2 frozen cubes pumpkin
  • ¼ cup frozen steamed cauliflower
  • ¾ th Frozen Banana
  • 1Tbs Nut Butter
  • Plant based Milk ½ cup or as needed  
  • 3-4 drops stevia (Optional)
  • 2Tbs Flax Meal

Helps you to digest smoothies and avoid that sickly feeling some people get after eating smoothies

  • Dash of cinnamon

This is a warming spice and will aid in digestion of your smoothie as well as keep your blood sugar from spiking.

  • 1tsp Maca (Optional) 

This is to help balance hormones  

Blend and top with your favorites, from nut butter and coconut to chia seeds and fruit! 

#TREATYOURSELF

Treat yourself.

I’m not sure about you guys, but I know it has never been easy for me to relax or treat myself without feeling guilt over what I could have done with my time and energy. Thankfully, I married someone who has mastered the art of treating himself. He has shown me that by taking the time to do what you love, you can increase your creativity and hold on to who you are as a person. For example, he loves video games. But as an adult, video games aren’t exactly an “adult activity” and are seen by many to be a waste of time. Unfortunately, I thought the same thing. How can doing something that’s unproductive and doesn’t seem to have any importance be beneficial? I have found this idea to be wrong because my husband is extremely hard working, creative, and determined, and knows exactly who he is as an individual. This all stems from the fact that he makes time for himself while maintaining balance with life’s responsibilities.

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We as individuals need to make time for ourselves to do the things that we love, despite what we or anyone else has said or thought concerning the matter. When we take this time we are showing ourselves and the world that we value ourselves and from that stems a greater ability to give more. Whether you are into gaming, reading, journaling, etc. make sure that you make time to relax and do the things that you love to do. For me it’s blogging and Instagram. Through these outlets I have found something that I love and they make me feel like I am not only doing something to help myself, but I am helping others as well. I want you to find that same enjoyment.

Next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed throw on this DIY facemask below and do something that brings you joy! If you can’t think of something off the top of your head, look deeper and think about how you spent your time as a child. Did you play in the mud (raises hand), write people cards, play hide and seek? Starting there can help you re-learn what brings you joy and motivate you to spend some of your precious energy on yourself for a change.

DIY MATCHA FACE MASK

 • 1tsp Matcha powder

• 1tsp raw honey

• 1 drop lavender essential oil

 • 2-4 drops almond oil

 Mix together and apply to your face.

Don’t tell your friend/family member/spouse and hide behind appropriate object.

Jump out to scare them and laugh until pants are wet.

Change clothing and try to convince them to put on the remainder of the mask.

Choose a favorite activity such as gaming, knitting, cooking, etc. and enjoy!

Remove mask for soft and refreshed skin accompanied by a few extra smile lines.   

Greeting the New Year with a New Mindset

Greeting the New Year with a New Mindset

It’s that time of year again, where the most common joke you hear is “see you next year” and the items at the forefront of each store are items to help make you a better you. I admit it is really easy to fall into both the bad joke and new years resolution obsession, but there’s no need for either.  

It’s no lie that we all feel a little crummy after the holidays, but I believe that it’s something that we have been conditioned to feel. We go into the holidays with people forcing sugar cookies and alcohol down our throats because “it’s the Holidays” then immediately after they tell us we overindulged and in a way, need to be punished for it.It's not just about what we are eating ether, it's lifestyle, what we wear, the money we want to make, etc.

The craziest thing is that we do it over and over again, every single year, expecting different results.

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Well let me tell you I don’t want to be part of it anymore, and you shouldn’t ether. We have the capabilities to take control of the decisions we make all year long and shouldn’t let social conditioning tell us what to do. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy sweet treats in moderation, or continue to exercise and treat your body with care as well as your family and finances, despite the time of year.

Instead of setting a new year’s resolution  try instead to make it a year full of showing a little self-love, taking it easy, and setting small goals that are obtainable and will help you become the person you want to be. 

Some of the things I have begun to integrate into my day to day life is

  • Spending time reading the Bible.

  • Trying to not set restrictions in my diet unless it was effecting my health.

  • Keeping a journal.

  • Building important relationships.

  • Putting more faith in my abilities.

  • And learning how to say no.

 By doing these things it has helped not only my mind and Body to relax, but it also has helped me to stay focused on what is really important. This list is not perfect, but it works for me and you have to go out on a limb and try it for yourself! What things help you to move forward?

Alrighty, that’s all for now, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas/New Years ! 

-Sonya