Hot to Eat Healthy While Traveling

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Traveling
Recently I jetted off to Cali for a fantastic getaway with my sisters, the trip in itself was wonderful but one thing I struggled with was my digestion. I attempted to eat healthy the whole time, but found that some of the key habits in my day to day life I didn’t uphold and that made all the difference.

My first mistake was not drinking enough water. I lost my water bottle due to an attempt at going through security with it filled with water (whoops). Since I didn’t have my water bottle I didn’t drink half as much as I needed.

I also am a big fan of coffee but don’t drink it that often, but of course this was vacation so I decided to enjoy a few cups a day. Now some people drink it to help their uh…digestion, but let me tell you I did nothing but throw things off. That being said I enjoyed every 1st 2nd & 3rd coffee run of the day because it was quality time with my sisters, and something that I would have regretted to miss out on.  

Besides the lack of water and increase of coffee I found that I began to eat a lot more things I normally avoid. Things like corn, processed sugar, soy, coffee, etc. these foods can be okay for some people, but for people with extremely sensitive tummies such as myself, they can really wreak havoc.

Overall it took me about a week to not feel like my stomach was going crazy and to recover from the jet lag. This trip was a tester for myself as I have another upcoming trip where I will be traveling for much longer and in a place where all the food is completely different (any guesses?).

My plan for keeping everything good is to first stick to SIMPLE foods a few days before traveling and afterwards. Things that I know are simple and good for me such as probiotic rich foods, steamed vegetables, low amounts of sugar etc.

I will also be investing in another water bottle that is easy to carry around and MAKE SURE not to lose it…Along with this I will try to keep focused on drinking more as it is easy to forget while traveling.

On the plane I will attempt to fast for the length of the flight. Flying in itself can mess with your digestive system, and to add in the complimentary “roast beef” dinner just doesn’t equal a good time.  

This has all been a type of experiment and though it wasn’t that much fun dealing with the aftermath, I am excited to put what I have learned to the test and update you after the next attempt at traveling!

Until next time,

Sonya

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Finding Healthy Alternatives to Your Favorite Foods

 

One of the biggest disappointment’s n my life was learning that my body couldn’t handle dairy or gluten. Thankfully I learned about them year’s apart so it wasn’t as hard of a blow, but it wasn’t that easy. When I learned I couldn’t have dairy I went from drinking about one and a half gallons of milk a week to nothing. Then when I was told about gluten I was consuming toast regularly and had a new found love for the taste of beer ( Even though I could only drink about half a beer…). To say the least both transitions were worth it, but very difficult. 

This is why I am here to help you along the way of transitioning from gluten and dairy to ah…none. 

#1: FIND GOOD PRODUCTS

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Within the last few years there have been SO MANY new products that offer dairy and gluten free options. This being said a lot of these companies have a list of ingredients longer than your to do list. Therefore; it’s important to do your research when it comes to pre-packages foods, choosing carefully, while keeping in mind that you won’t always be eating perfectly.

#2: KNOW THE BASICS

You want to become aware of what type of foods go where. When I went gluten free I wasn’t actually aware that beer had gluten in it or that French fries are most times coated in flour during their cooking process. I had no clue until LAST WEEK that Nutella contained dairy. It’s really slightly embarrassing when I learn about foods I thought would be okay, but really just bring my stomach to tears. Therefore; don’t feel embarrassed if you have to ask at a restaurant, double check the label or google things like “does shampoo contain gluten?”, because honestly we have all been there. It’s a learning process so think of it like a research project where the outcome is less stress and a happy body!  

#3: USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

There is a never ending stream of information on the internet, but one of my favorite ways I came to understand what type of foods I should eat and what I should avoid came through social media. I relied on bloggers who had been through the process, Pinterest for all the recipe inspiration and Instagram to help get me excited about the new way of eating.

Trust me, if you’re ever feeling down about any food allergies look up hashtags like #dairyfree, #glutenfree, #soyfree, etc. and your feed will be flooded with beautiful food that makes you forget about that slice of wonder bread.   

#4: FIND OUT WHAT YOU LIKE

After you take to social media and you see everyone and feasting on something like sweet potato toast or banana ice cream give it a go, but keep in mind that you don’t have to love it just because everyone else does. Personally I love avocado and find it a perfect substitute for mayo in my tuna salad but for others they can’t stand the taste. Don’t feel the need to try to force a food that you dislike just because it seems o be the only option. It’s your own diet and you have to create food that you love and are willing to skip the gluten and dairy for.

#5: CLEAN HOUSE AND SWAP OVER

The most important change is swapping out the foods you have laying around your house, especially snacks. If you are trying to eliminate gluten, but you always have that bag of honey mustard pretzels staring you down then out they should go. That doesn’t mean don’t replace them, because there are several brands that make gluten free pretzels.

The goal though, is to not replace everything with the same recreated product, It’s about changing around the way you eat. If you don’t have gluten free honey mustard pretzels on hand oh well, you can enjoy those carrots and hummus just as much!

#6: GET ENOUGH NUTRIENTS

This is the final and probably most vital tip because when it comes to eliminating foods. It is so easy to feel like something is missing in out diet if you don’t fill the void with something else. This is a great opportunity to find some awesome new healthy whole foods that will satisfy your hunger and leave you nourished.

For example, I gave up coffee for quite some time and I found that the ritual of having a hot drink in the morning leaving me feeling like I had missed out. That’s when I started drinking green tea lattes instead! Not only is green tea packed with antioxidants it also offers the boost of caffeine that does not deplete my body, but energizes and sustains it. So find some good prepackaged foods, but try to keep the main focus on what nutrient dense foods you can incorporate!

Okay so now that you have the ground rules I’ll show you some of my favorite swaps I have made in my own diet. Not just for gluten and dairy but also for other products that offer little nutrient value.

SWAPS

Pretzels – Gluten Free Pretzels

Protein Bars – R.X. Bars

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Cereal – Homemade Granola

Potato Chips – Kale Chips

Fries – Baked Sweet potato fries

Sour Cream – Avocado, Mashed

Wraps – Giant Romaine or Collard leaves

Flour – Buckwheat, Coconut, Millet, Almond flour  

Ice Cream – Blended frozen fruit (I love to use bananas as the base)

Peanut Butter – Almond or sunflower butter

Cheese – Nutritional Yeast

Whipped Cream – Whipped coconut cream

Refined Sugar – Dates, Honey, Maple syrup

Canola Oil – Coconut oil

Toast – Gluten free Ezekiel Bread

Butter – Ghee

Yogurt – Coconut Yogurt

Dips – Hummus

Milk – Almond, Coconut, or Hemp milk  

 

Hope you guys enjoyed the post, and let me know what your tips are for swapping out foods!

 

Sincerely,

Sonya

How to Balance a Social Life & Healthy Eating

I don’t know about you guys, but for me I have had a hard time balancing a social life and healthy eating. Back in the days where I was counting calories I would simply order seltzer water and lime because it was free and low calorie! A win-win for sure, or so I thought. Now don’t get me wrong, seltzer water and lime tastes great, but not ideal for a meal replacement which is exactly what I was using it for.

After ending my days of calorie counting I found myself overloading on all the food that I wasn’t able to have beforehand and grew accustomed to over eating. This led to a different reason to be stressed, because I couldn’t stop myself from eating until I was almost sick. This meant that the whole time leading up to eating and afterwards I would be consumed with the thoughts of food rather than enjoying the time spent with the people I love.  

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After a few years of trial and error I have come to a point where I have a better understanding of how much I need to eat and how I should be eating. I know that I’m not facing my last real meal for a few days, or that I am eating a food I have put in the “don’t touch” category. I can stop at one plate of food, but I also feel free to go for seconds without guilt. I know now that if my friends want to go out for a treat I won’t shut them down. I am okay if there’s nothing on the menu for me because I will plan ahead with snacks and order a seltzer with lime because it’s delicious.  

This being said, I still have many struggles when it comes to food, but because I have put my faith in God he has strengthened me to keep moving forward. Lately I have been reading a devotional created by Cambria Joy and two verses have really captured my attention. In Matthew 11:28 it says “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” and Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Even though I still fight it, I have decided to let God be in control of my life. It has taken quite a bit of time, effort, and tears, but through it all God has been my strength.

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If you find yourself stuck in an unhealthy mindset when it comes to food, take it to the Lord and read through Philippians 4:4-13. Search the bible for encouragement and pray for strength, it is only through God and his grace that you will find complete healing!

Now go enjoy an evening out at a restaurant with friends or a date night in with your favorite treats and I will do the same!

Sincerely,

Sonya

Building a Healthier Relationship with Food

Eating food is better than starving.

I don’t know about you guys, but I have struggled with the idea that starving is better than eating food. This is a viewpoint that came to life as a young adult and is something I still struggle with today.  

It started in high school when I began to be conscious of what I was eating. This was in a sense great because I had a good relationship with food and a simple mindset to become a healthier person. Unfortunately, it morphed into something much bigger than I thought possible without even realizing. During high school, I maintained a healthy weight, but once I graduated and the stress of holding down a job and paying for school I lost both weight and understanding of what healthy looks like. Originally it was the feeling of losing control of my life and the desperate search for what I could still hold on to. Instead of looking for the Lord for Guidance and stability, I tried to fix things myself. I began to control the one thing I knew I could and that was what I put in my body. I began to cut out foods, restrict calories, exercised obsessively, took water pills, and binge-watch dieting shows in my free time. In the midst of it all, I actually developed a fascination for anorexia because I thought I was better than them. It also gave me confidence knowing I had some "cracked the code", and therefore validated my behavior.

After a year of going hungry, I found myself unhappy in several areas of life. I was losing weight and acing my classes, but I had begun to look sickly, my temper and stress were out of control, my relationships began to strain and I struggles to find Joy in life. 

In order to combat the pain I was feeling, I began to treat myself to eating exactly what I wanted and however much I wanted. Now going from eating minimal amounts of food to excessive amounts can take its toll. As I began to gain weight I felt like a failure, I was more anxious and full of fear. The only way I was able to get through this time in my life was to look to God for forgiveness and His grace in my life. I knew what I was doing was wrong and in order to change the direction of my life I needed to rely 100% on God. In no way was this transition easy, and I still struggle today, but I thankfully have the Lord to guide me and lift me up in my time of weakness. 

Though I still struggle with thoughts of whether or not to eat, downloading and deleting fitness apps, and feeling the urge to work out every single day and assuring myself at meal time that I don’t have to gorge myself. I know that I am free to eat whenever I please and whatever I please. I now know that

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·         Food is not the enemy

·         The feeling of fullness should not cause guilt

·         & it’s better to build a foundation on the Lord rather than a scale.

Matthew 24-27

 

Pst* Shout out to Cambria Joy who inspired me to write this blog post!

How to Simplify your Workouts

I don’t know about you but when it comes to fitness I don’t like to live by the rules. Not that the rules are bad, they just aren’t for me. Let me explain…

For me working out is something that I want to fit into my day to day life without a second thought. I want it to be something that brings me joy and appreciation for what my body is able to do. This was my hope from the beginning of my fitness journey, but when I began to look into “getting fit” everyone seemed to be selling me something. If it wasn’t a gym membership it was a workout program, energy drinks, etc. An endless amount of consumer products to “help” me reach my goal.

Thankfully I was stingy with my money and not willing to fork over $300 for a Mr. Muscle body sculpting class and had to become a little more resourceful. I found out that I was more willing to work out if it meant the chance to get outside and hated the idea of working out in a building full of the bodies of sweaty strangers.

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For me, it is motivating to know that when I wake up in the morning I can choose to go for a walk or smash out a HIIT routine, not because I am being told to do it, but because I want to do it. The idea that fitness is something that can be tailored to you as an individual is so satisfying in that you get the choice in how you work out.  

That is not to say that workout routines are bad, or that gyms should never be entered, it’s about learning how to make fitness something that works for you. It is important to learn about how you are motivated, what energizes you, and what brings you the most joy. When you discover what works for you, integrating it into your daily life will become a breeze.

 For me, it was the simple act of saving money and spending time outside that helped me to shape what works for me. No matter what your personal style of working out is, or how you get yourself motivated, do it because you are enjoying it, not because someone is telling you that it has to be done a certain way.

Make sure that fitness is one of your favorite hobbies and not your favorite chore.

 

Thanks again for stopping by!

 

Sincerely,

Sonya  

How to Become a Morning Person

6 Steps to a Better Morning!

I don’t know about you guys but for me, mornings are a crucial part of my day. Since I am a morning person, if my attempt at morning is rolling out of bed late I will probably crash and burn in about 2 hours. I Love having a schedule where I wake up early enough to read my bible, get a good workout in, and prepare a healthy breakfast and lunch. This way, I am prepared for what craziness lies ahead in my day.

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Though I love to wake up early, it is not the easiest thing to get a handle on. Thankfully I have come to learn a few tips that help me to wake up and get going.

So here’s the low down on the 6:00...6:30am start to your day!

Tip #1: Set ONE alarm

It’s good to do this because when you hit the snooze button you are dozing off in between or on your phone which actually makes it harder to get out of bed and feel alert.

Tip#2: Keep Water right next to your bed

Drinking water immediately after waking up helps you to feel alert and more awake. This is just a small benefit though, when you take into consideration the fact that drinking water first thing in the morning helps to boost metabolism, detoxifies the body, and strengthens the immune system!

Tip#3: Start your day without your phone

 Personally I use my phone for my workouts, but I try to first read my Bible or journal and also try to step outside to get fresh air before my workout.

Tip#4: Get Moving!

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Some people like myself thrive off of morning workouts, because by the time it gets to 5pm the most movement I want to accomplish is a walk or bike ride. If you are not like me and find you have more effective workouts in the evening then instead take the time to go on a leisurely walk or do some yoga. This helps to get your blood pumping, aids in digestion, and adds a little boost to your metabolism.

Tip#5: Apple Cider Vinegar.

I have found that starting my day with breakfast doesn’t sit well, so instead I chose to drink apple cider vinegar before my normal meal. Apple Cider Vinegar is great way to get in some healthy probiotics while reducing sugar cravings, detoxes the body, and aids in digestion.

There are several ways you can enjoy ACV, I recently have discovered adding drops of grapefruit essential oil as well as lemon to sweeten things up!

Tip#6: Skip the Caffeine.

If you don’t have any problems with caffeine than go for some matcha, but for me I have found that as long as I keep my breakfast full of nutrient dense foods and I stay hydrated I don’t have a need for caffeine. The benefit of this is not relying on stimulants to keep you going, and avoiding that mid-day slump caffeine introduces us to.

BONUS TIP* Find a music playlist you love and play it every morning, and pretty soon your brain will associate the music with waking up. SO keep the Jams going and you might find yourself feeling a little bit cheerier.

Now that you guys are equipped and ready to start your morning with these hacks, give them a go and let me know which one is your favorite!

The Importance of Creativity

Learning to create.

I don’t know about you guys, but as a child I would always receive a ribbon for my homemade crafts at the town fair…For real though, do you ever miss the days where your biggest accomplishment of the day was carving a pumpkin, making paper sailboats, or painting rocks?

For a little while there I thought I was past this stage and needed to focus on productivity rather than creativity. Thankfully, both my husband and I come from families filled with artist and abstract thinkers so it was hard to let go of the days of macaroni art. I found myself going through the motions of keeping the house clean, working, and cooking, without the satisfaction of simply enjoying my day.

I found myself craving all the craft supplies and spending hours in hobby lobby without buying anything unless it was “practical”. In all honesty life became a little boring and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  One day Instead of resisting the childlike urge to make collages, I grabbed some magazines and dove right into a collage making session. I also downloaded the Sims, sought out DIY decorations and new ways to cook. I found myself drawing again and after a little while I had a new found confidence in myself. I not only was confident in what I could create, but I was confident in my ability to grow and improve!  

Once I had allowed myself to enjoy the creative process I began to venture out into bigger things. This is when I managed the courage to dive into food photography on my Instagram page, which then grew into the creation of this blog! Thought it might not seem exciting, this is something I have wanted for a long time, but never had the courage or confidence in myself to begin.

SO the next time you feel yourself wanting to spend a few minutes or hours creating something, then do it. Acknowledge that creating is as important as an adult, as it is as a child.

Psst* what was your favorite craft as a child?

For me it was nail art and all the collages, which drove my neat freak father crazy most days. This is why I usually hid the mess under the couch! Sorry Pa, Love you!

Quitting Coffee For Balanced Hormones

Quitting Coffee

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I don’t know about you guys, but my longest relationship has been with coffee. Even before I met Daniel my dad would give me a petite cup filled with just enough coffee to dip my cinnamon toast in. Over the years coffee has brought a lot of energy and delight, but last year I began to realize that what it started to put my body through was not worth it.

It all started once Daniel moved to America and we began married life together. Stress was high as we were trying to figure out how to maneuver through life together. Though I would try to get the day going on a high note I would continuously be met with an over sensitive & emotional me that felt like the world was crashing to an end every day around 1 pm.

 Now I know you might be thinking that is seems normal when it comes to stressful situations, but the problem was that it wasn’t getting any better. This is when I started to question the root cause and discovered to amazing qualities of hormones. After some research I found that coffee was one of the main culprits behind it all.  

What I came to discover is that coffee can take a toll on the female body through its effects on blood sugar, stress hormones, and your gut!  One of the best articles I could have read is Alissa Vitti’s blog post, 3 Secret Reasons Why Women Should Not Drink Coffee. She explains exactly what goes on in the FEMALE body when it comes to caffeine.  

I know what you may be thinking, how can you possibly give up the sweet nectar of life that you get to experience each morning? Well what worked for me was going cold turkey for about two months and then enjoying it solely on the weekends. I also try to stick to a few Rules I have made for myself that have made the experience much more joyful

·         Rule #1: Make sure the days I do drink coffee involves a lot of movement.

I know from experience that being highly caffeinated while sitting in a church pew for a few hours is enough to drive anyone crazy. 

·         Rule #2: Make sure you actually WANT a cup of coffee.

If it’s the day you normally have coffee and you are not feeling it than don’t force it! There have been days where I drink it just for the fact that today is my only chance, but that tends to lead to me feeling not so great. Respect and listen to what your body is telling you, if you’re not feeling it than don’t drink it.

·         Rule #3: Don’t skimp out!

I am spoiled in this category because Daniel actually makes me coffee, meaning he roasts, grinds and creates the perfect Chemex drip coffee for me. I know you might not have a Daniel in your life, but you do have amazon where you can pick up green beans if you want to attempt roasting, a Chemex coffee maker, a coffee grinder and you’re good to go. By doing this you can avoid drinking stale coffee which means you don’t miss out on the awesome antioxidants coffee has to offer. Drinking fresh coffee has less acidity than stale coffee and is a lot easier on your tummy!

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Now that I stick to these “Rules” I feel like I can take on any day life decides to throw at me without the need for coffee. There’s no 1pm crash, anxiety, mood swings (from coffee at least), and I find myself enjoying coffee even more than I did before!

Always remember that it’s never about deprivation, it is only about caring for the body that God has entrusted to you!  

Pssst** Here are some sneaky Ideas to replace that everyday cup of coffee!

·         Matcha Tea

·         Turmeric Latte

·         Healthy Hot Chocolate

·         Lemon Water

·         Rooibos tea

Allisa VItti’s 3 Reasons Why Women Shouldn’t Drink Coffee

https://www.floliving.com/3-reasons-why-women-cant-drink-coffee/

 

 

 

What I Eat on a Gluten & Dairy free Diet

“So…What do you eat?”

A lot of times people ask me things like why can’t you eat that? Are you vegan, or gluten free? Do you only eat healthy food? What happens if you do eat something you’re allergic to...I can tell you now, bad things happen.

I am asked all of these quite often but the one I get the most is, “what can you eat?”

The beauty of this question is that I always get a reminder of all the amazing foods I can eat and probably wouldn’t have ever heard of if I hadn’t had all these sensitivities. In all actuality I probably eat more variety than the average person because of it. I find myself filling my plate with new veggies, nut butters, plant based proteins, spices and combinations that would have never peaked my interest if it had not been for all the “limitations” to my diet.

If you don’t believe me, or if you find yourself facing similar limitations and don’t know what to do, here are some of my favorite foods that I would have never discovered!

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·         Nutritional Yeast: Can be used as a seasoning for a cheesy taste and can also be used to make vegan mac n’ cheese

·         Quinoa & Millet: Perfect source of healthy carbs and protein. Use for a rice replacement in soups, salads, chili, etc.

·         Almond, Cashew, or Coconut Milk: Replace milk with these bad boys to get a hardy dose of healthy fats as well as cutting down your sugar intake.

·         Gluten free Oats: Perfect in creating your favorite version of granola or blend and use as a replacement for flour in baking.

·         Turmeric: Perfect spice to aid in lowering inflammation in the body and adds excellent flavor and color to any dish!

·         Apple Cider Vinegar: I drink this in the morning to aid in digestion but ACV is also amazing on top of salads. Cut out the sugar and oil and trade you normal olive oil and balsamic for ACV and lemon juice.

·         Matcha: Use in replacement of coffee if you find yourself addicted and feeling crummy. I would find myself feeling the effects of caffeine in the form of depression and anxiety whereas Matcha provides energy as well as antioxidants without the side effects.

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·         Dates & Figs: Use these for a snack that boost energy or use in baking raw vegan cakes for a perfect caramel flavor.

·         Rooibos Tea: Not only is this a great night snack, it aids in digestion and provides antioxidants that are more than welcome!

·         Flax Crackers: A new found recipe that am already in love with! They offer your daily serving of flax while keeping the crunchy texture of regular crackers. Perfect for hummus or any of your favorite dips!

This is only a small fraction in the variety of foods that I do eat and enjoy. No matter what allergies, or sensitivities you have remember that there is a world of different foods out there for you. It’s not a limitation, but simply an option to find new favorites!  

Eating the Rainbow

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!

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What I Eat in a Day: Candida Diet

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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How to 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/

Healthy Snack Ideas

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

The Benefits of Drinking 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.   

New Year, New you.

Greet 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