One of the most frequent questions I have received during survivorship has been about nutrition.
I shared a little bit about my battle with food and nutrition leading up to my cancer diagnosis and what went into making the decision to change, including a piece written from my Dietitian in a past blog post. This entry serves as a continuation of that post; discoveries over the last year since I wrote that of what’s been happening in the realm of nutrition in my life. For this post, I want to share the shifts in mentality that have changed our lives to living a nutritious lifestyle, as well as what we have been eating to give you some ideas if you’re looking at making some changes with your nutrition!
*As a disclosure, anytime you want to make changes to your diet, advise and seek counsel from your doctor. Each person is unique in what they need and I am not a Dietitian.
Part 1: Shifts in Mentality
“Wow, what an accomplishment!”
This phrase is something that others have told us when we share the dietary changes that we’ve made and/or the amount of weight we have lost. We appreciate it as it is a lot of daily decisions to care for our bodies, but on the other hand: to need to lose that amount of weight means we made many decisions every day that caused us to gain it. This was about more than “losing weight”; it has been the undoing of a struggle and battle with food that I, personally, had faced for a very long time. I honestly didn’t know if I could ever do it.
If you’ve battled nutrition like I have, then you know that it’s also more than the act of eating food or even being hungry: it is a mental battle, too. I know that to be true because I have lost a significant amount of weight a few times before but then gained it right back.
Here are some of the mentality changes that Wes and I have made that have helped us stay motivated and on track:
- In losing my hair due to chemo, God showed me how much He loved me for who I am, not how I looked. I began to accept that love and the many insecurities began to fade away. Taking care of our bodies was no longer a punishment or an act done out of fear, but in love and joy as we were becoming a healthier version of ourselves.
- Cancer taught us the importance of nourishing our bodies with food that gives us strength. For me personally, food turned from an emotional attachment to fuel for living. We have a lot of things we still want to do, too!
- One meal at a time. We really began this journey back in November 2017 and it was about making smart choices one day and one meal at a time. The months went by faster than we could have imagined and it has become a habit now.
- Quantity. I didn’t have the luxury of being able to exercise until recently and I truly learned the importance of nutrition and just how much of an impact it makes! I eat slower now and really listen to my body about if I’m hungry or not.
- Lifestyle Upgrade. Yes, cheesy name, but doesn’t the word “diet” make you cringe? Positive affirmations and encouragement surrounding nutrition has been key! Wes has been so encouraging and other friends and family have done the same for us!
- Prayer. I asked Wes to pray for me and with me about this specifically. He has loved me through every weight I’ve been at and does this with gentleness and kindness always reminding me that he loves me no matter what. By letting others in who love us, their encouragement, prayer, and understanding has made this journey easier.
- Health is a priority for us now. Our grocery list is specific, the restaurants that we eat at has changed, and we have goals set for the future. We don’t feel burdened or limited. It’s more like being redirected and strengthened!
Wherever you find yourself at today mentally with nutrition, I want you to know that you are loved. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and so cherished. I know the battle is hard, but I also want to tell you that you can do it! We are living proof of it! God is with you and we are on your side, too!
Part 2: A Glimpse Into Our Kitchen
Our kitchen is one of my favorite places to be. It is filled with food and drinks that nourish our bodies and it makes my heart so happy (literally)! Wes has been an absolute rockstar and has chosen to eat the same way I do, too. Here are the guidelines that I received from my Dietitian:
- Gluten Free
- Dairy Free
- No red meat
- No processed foods
- No refined sugar
The only thing that Wes does differently is he will have red meat on occasion when we go out to eat! He has lost 45 pounds and I have lost 90 pounds over the last year and a half and we have both kept it off by doing this.
We predominately shop at Natural Grocers (Vitamin Cottage), Sprouts (we receive what sales are happening every week in the mail and base our grocery list around them), and on occasion Whole Foods (the other two are just closer in proximity). I also have an online membership with Thrive Market for discounted items that is really nice to have healthy products shipped right to our door! I have heard that people have found these products at Costco as well!
The biggest complaint I hear is that eating healthy is expensive. In many ways, it is. But it doesn’t always have to be. Our budget for going out to eat has dropped significantly since we eat most of our own food now and that cost has been transferred over to our grocery budget! It has evened out for us and we love eating in!
With this lifestyle, planning ahead is key. We check to see what is available at restaurants beforehand (with a few frequented places that are willing and able to accommodate our lifestyle), pack snacks wherever we go, and bring our lunches to work most every day. It does take time, but if we don’t budget time to care for our bodies, no one else will. It’s been 100% worth it to us and we will never stop this lifestyle!
I wanted to share a glimpse into our pantry and refrigerator of what we eat with a few recipe ideas (and link to my Pinterest page). The combination of mentality, preparedness, and the food we buy has caused me to not have a single “cheat” day with nutrition for 18 months and I don’t feel deprived in the least!
Here are some categories with suggestions (most of the items I am linking can be found in actual stores and don’t have to be ordered online, but I am linking to their websites so you can see how they look or read more about them if you’re interested in trying them).
I know there are many ways of finding success in this area, and this is what has worked for us! This is not meant to be an exhaustive list:
- Water, Water, Water – I know you’ve heard it a million times, but this is the most important thing for our bodies!
- Green Tea and Herbal Tea – These are so nice to drink at the end of the day with a little bit of almond milk or honey added. If you LOVE black tea, order Snowflake from English Tea Leaves. It is most delicious almond/coconut tea I’ve ever had!
- Unsweetened Iced Tea – Add an orange slice in for more flavor!
- Silk Almond Milk – I usually add this in with my plant-based protein shakes or in a latte!
- Coffee – This may not be for everyone but my Dietitian is okay with me drinking it. My favorite brand and flavor for coffee is Cameron’s Vanilla Hazelnut. I can’t drink coffee black so I add So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Milk Creamer (also comes in caramel and original). Great when frothed, too!
- Martinelli’s Apple Juice – 100% apple, contains no chemical additives and is not from concentrate. And SO good!
- Avocado Oil – Great for high heat items!
- Olive Oil – Great to use up to temperatures of 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Extra virgin olive oil can actually be unhealthy if heated higher than that!
- Coconut Oil – Fabulous for stir fries and baked goods!
- Eggs and Paleo Turkey Bacon – Bacon (pork or turkey) will be labeled as “paleo” for select brands. Did you know a lot of bacon brands have sugar added? These do not!
- Sweet Potato Hash – I like to mix cubed sweet potatoes and sliced red onion with avocado oil, bake in the oven, and then add sautéed kale at the end of baking with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a pinch of red chili flakes!
- Birch Benders Paleo Pancake Mix – Add blueberries for summer vibes, cinnamon and coconut sugar for fall feels, or Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips for some Dairy Free sweetness year round! Extra-large bag available at Costco!
- Smoothies – I used to think smoothies had to be all fruit with dairy to have flavor. Was I wrong! Try this mix: kale, spinach, flaxseed, apple, banana, and ginger. One of my favorites! And you can order it at some Smoothie places or view this recipe online under “Green Machine Smoothie.”
- Veggies – Chopped up carrots, red bell pepper, and celery are my favorites! (Sliced cucumber is great, too, but store separately as it can go bad fast). Try dipping in Cedar’s Roasted Red Pepper Hummus or Sir Kensington’s Ranch Dressing.
- Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips – There are SO many delicious flavors including ranch, nacho, and lime. And these are Gluten, Dairy, and Corn Free! Fuego is our household favorite if you like a little spice! (These are great for nachos, too – The Honest Stand is a yummy brand for vegan cheese.)
- Unsalted Mixed Nuts – The more we have minimized salt, the less we crave it. I can’t eat mixed nuts with salt anymore so this is a perfect snack!
- Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers – These are so yummy and are a pantry-must for us! The Farmhouse Cheddar and Smoky BBQ Cheddar do have dairy but the rest are Dairy Free! I can’t recommend these enough!
- BOBO Bars – Small snack-sized chocolate chip are my favorite and Wes loves the larger-sized lemon bars! Really great flavor made with gluten free oats!
- RX Bars – No surprises for ingredients here as they list the ingredients on the cover of the package! Wes and I could eat the blueberry flavor all day!
- Larabars – These bars have minimal ingredients and are packed with flavor! Almost always on sale at Sprouts for 4 for $5. It’s a favorite Disney snack to bring with us when we go!
- Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars – This is a popular “Keto” brand! I love the Chocolate and Wes loves the Vanilla Shortbread flavor! More flavors like lemon are available too! (Bite-sized available online on their website!)
- Turkey – It is so versatile and delicious: I like it ground, as turkey bacon, or right off the turkey. There are so many things that can be done with turkey and it’s usually a great substitute for beef! Whether it be for meatballs, pizza toppings, or stir fry, it’s been a personal favorite for me!
- Chicken – Another versatile protein: thighs, sausage, breast, and ground. I love chicken at breakfast for a meat, too!
- Fish – This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I have loved experimenting with recipes for cod, salmon, and shrimp! Whether it’s grilled, blackened, steamed, or baked, seafood packs a ton of flavor and health benefits!
- Pasta – Who said pasta can’t be gluten free?
- Have you ever heard of spaghetti squash? It’s a vegetable that when cooked, the flesh develops threads that resemble spaghetti, and it’s long enough that you can twirl them around your fork. It is a great substitute for spaghetti noddles.
- We have fallen in love with a Cybele’s Rotini that is made of green lentils, spinach, kale, and broccoli. Yes, it’s green. But it’s so good! They also have more colors with different veggies used! Add olive oil, tomato sauce, or a pesto to it with meat if you’d like!
- Cauliflower Rice – Now if I’m being honest I do love cauliflower rice, but I won’t rice it myself because of how messy it is. The good news is that they do offer it to buy where it is already riced if you’re in the same boat as me! I add lime juice and cilantro while cooking it on the stovetop for extra flavor!
- Siete Tortillas and Siete Taco Shells – I am so grateful for the Siete Brand! You really can’t go wrong with any of their products! My favorite of the tortillas is the cassava flour. Fair warning, the tortillas are smaller in size but they fill the “craving” button for me!
- Cappello’s Lasagna Sheets, Naked Pizza Crust, and Gnocchi – The Cappello’s brand is amazing and offers all of these as paleo options as frozen items to be stored in the freezer. I’ve had them all and love them all! They are a little pricier, so maybe not an every week incorporation, but they are great and hit the spot when you have a craving!
- Almond Flour – Almond flour is fantastic for cooking and baking! It is best kept in the refrigerator and assists in making delicious baked goods and meals. This is always in our house!
- Coconut Flour – This is wonderful for cooking and baking but very important to remain close to a trustworthy recipe. It is not a 1:1 exchange ratio with white flour. It is high in fiber and absorbs liquid quickly! Definitely worth a try!
- Tapioca Flour/Starch – This is made from from the crushed pulp of the cassava root that can replace cornstarch as a thickener for pies and sauces and aids in creating a crisp crust and chewy texture in baking. You can learn more about it by clicking here.
- Arrowroot Powder – I love how Thrive Market describes it best: Arrowroot Powder is a gluten-free thickening agent in liquids and a superb binder in baked goods. It’s flavorless and can be used as a swap for corn starch. Pro tip: it works best when added to liquids toward the end of heating.
- Ghee – Ghee is made by melting regular butter where it separates liquid fats and milk solids. Once separated, the milk solids are removed making this a great dairy free substitute for butter! It has a different taste than butter that some people like and others don’t! I enjoy it though!
- Coconut Sugar – This sugar is produced from the sap of the flower bud stem of the coconut palm and contains nutrients as well.
- Maple Syrup
- Sejoyia Coco-Thins – These cashew cookies are delectable! The vanilla tastes like a shortbread cookie! Also available in flavors like caramel, chocolate, and lemon! All yummy!
- Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, Walnuts, and Pecans
- Simple Mills Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies – These are really yummy and crunchy! There are different flavors and soft cookies available in this brand as well!
- Fresh Fruit (and sometimes with So Delicious Coco Whip – a coconut milk whipped topping located in the freezer section at the store!) Here are some fruit combinations I like to make:
- Mix raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and watermelon
- Mix mandarin oranges, red grapes (halved, it is so worth it, I promise), kiwi, and strawberries halved – only gets better with time!
- Some of the most delicious desserts (and food in general) I have made are from Juli with PaleOMG. Her dessert and treat recipes can be found by clicking here.
Pinterest has so many options for things to make, too! You can also check out my Paleo Board on Pinterest by clicking here! I have made most of the items on that board and would love to answer any questions that you have about them! I also love hearing about and trying new recipes that you recommend, too! So please feel free to share!
I want to thank you for stopping by my site today to read this. My hope is that if you have struggled like I have with nutrition and fitness and image that you see that you are beautiful today and change is possible! I am here if you want to message me and talk about fitness, nutrition, or want suggestions on stocking your refrigerator or pantry! And if you’re ever in the neighborhood and stop by, you now know exactly what food you’ll find at our house!
*And remember, always talk with your doctor first about making changes to your diet. What I do for nutrition is not for everyone as each person is unique.
God bless you!
Ready to begin a new chapter with your mentality and actions with nutrition? Or do you have advice you’d like to share? I am here for you praying for you and cheering you on! Please reach out if you’d like to have a conversation!