Your Health in Action: 5 Clean Cooking Tips for Newbies

For those of you who follow my social media or have been reading the blog for a while, you’ve probably definitely seen me post about my experiences with Whole30 and paleo living. If you’re not familiar with Whole30, it is a nutritional program that lasts for 30 days and is designed to help people discover food sensitivities and kick their junk food addictions. When I first started dabbling in this way of eating in 2014, I quickly realized that I needed to do a lot of my own cooking — something that I’d had virtually no experience with before that time.

For a lot of people, including myself, transitioning to a cleaner way of eating can be intimidating because of the level of cooking and meal preparation that is often involved. Even now, after several rounds of Whole30, I still do not claim to be a particularly talented chef. However, over the years, I’ve significantly improved my culinary skills and picked up a lot of tricks for simplifying the clean cooking experience.

If you’re looking to make a few lifestyle changes and don’t know where to start, check out my tips below!

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation.

5 Clean Cooking Tips for Newbies

  1. Prep your meals ahead of time.
    I’ll let you in on a well-known secret: I’m a big fan of #MealPrepSundays. I love to set aside a few hours before the week begins to chop up some veggies, whip up a few dinners for class nights (usually this simple veggie curry), and prep seasonings for other recipes I’ll try throughout the week. I don’t pre-cook all of my meals, but by getting some of the prep work done on Sunday, I can save some time in the kitchen after work. Meal prep will make the cooking process a lot less overwhelming, because a lot of the work will have already been done! I use this weekly organizer to plan my meals.
  2. Sometimes it’s just easier to buy your produce pre-chopped…
    … and that’s totally ok! If it saves time and doesn’t seriously compromise the health benefits of the food you’re eating, why not simplify? I chop most of my veggies on the weekend, but I buy my cauliflower and broccoli already chopped into florets, and often buy my carrots pre-chopped as well. If it makes your life easier and you don’t mind the added cost, go for it!
  3. The Internet is your best friend.
    When following a more complicated recipe or trying out a new cooking technique, look no further than YouTube and Google. Thanks to the Internet, I now know how to poach chicken — and thankfully, it does not mean that I have to hunt my own poultry!
  4. Find your easy go-to’s.
    When you’re in a pinch, having a few simple items in the house that are ready-made can make dinnertime that much easier. For example, I eat a lot of cauliflower rice, so I end up buying it frozen through Bird’s Eye and Trader Joe’s. Find those shortcuts that work best for you, and stock up!
  5. Learn the easy swaps.
    Making a stir fry? Skip the soy sauce and add coconut aminos. Not sure if you have a dairy intolerance? Try cooking with ghee or coconut oil instead of butter. Skipping gluten? Use almond flour or shredded coconut instead of breadcrumbs to coat your chicken. These are just a few examples of some of the ingredient swaps you can make. For more ideas, check out my list of paleo kitchen essentials here!

Hope these tips help you along your own health and cooking journeys! Have any tips to share? Sound off in the comments below!

Central Florida on a Dime: 5 Adventures Under $20

As I mentioned last week, juggling grad school with a full-time job means that vacation days are often limited. Because of that, I love to take advantage of my weekends by playing tourist in my own backyard! Central Florida is well-known for its tourist activities — and I’m definitely a fan of the theme parks! — but there are so many other awesome ways to explore the area without standing in long lines or breaking the bank.

This weekend, I’m sharing five of my favorite (non Disney-themed) activities in Orlando and some of the surrounding cities, all of which you can enjoy for under $20. Check them out and share your own favorites in the comments!

Central Florida on a Dime | 5 Adventures Under $201. Take a marshmallow-making workshop at Wondermade.
Yes, you read that correctly! Wondermade is a locally-owned café that sells handcrafted marshmallows in a variety of flavors, along with hot chocolate, coffee, ice cream, and more. Any time I bring a friend to Downtown Sanford for the first time, we always have to stop at Wondermade. Throughout the year, they host Friday night workshops, where attendees can enjoy hot drinks and treats, learn about the marshmallow-making process, and make their own. The workshops are just $15 per person and perfect for a date night or a night out with friends.

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2. Gaze at the stars at Buehler Planetarium.
Also in the “Orlando North” region, Buehler Planetarium is located on the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus of Seminole State College, and hosts shows every weekend. I first visited the planetarium in December 2015 for the Star of Bethlehem show, and had such a great time that I returned for the Winter Sky Festival a few weeks later! The planetarium hosts interactive shows and presentations relating the night sky to mythology, upcoming holidays, scientific phenomena, and more. Admission is $6 for adults (only $4 for poor grad students like me!). You can access their calendar of events here.

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Central Florida On A Dime: 5 Adventures Under $203. Stroll through Leu Gardens.
Not far from Downtown Orlando, Leu Gardens is home to about 50 acres of beautiful plant life. Entry is only $10, unless you visit on a free “First Monday”. Leu Gardens also hosts classes and community events throughout the year.

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4. Visit the Morse Museum.
One of my favorite museums in Central Florida is the Morse Museum, which is home to the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s works. I’ve always been a fan of Tiffany glass, so my favorite area of the museum is the Chapel, which was constructed for the 1893 World’s Fair. Located on Park Avenue in Winter Park, the Morse Museum is ideally located for a day of good food and shopping, but is also a perfect destination on its own. Admission ranges from $1 to $6, but is occasionally free.

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Central Florida on a Dime | 5 Adventures Under $205. Pick berries at a U-Pick farm.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love visiting local farms and picking my own fruit! This activity is entirely dependent on the time of year, but it’s fun to come home with your own hand-selected produce. My favorite farm in the area is Tom West Blueberry Farm in Ocoee (check out last year’s recap here!). Admission is free — all you pay for are the berries you pick! During blueberry season, they have other free activities taking place on the farm as well. I’ve gone out to Tom West for the past two seasons and will be returning next year for some delicious Emeralds! A few other local U-Pick farms to consider include Pappy’s Patch in Oviedo and Sledd’s in Mims for strawberries.

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What are your favorite inexpensive activities in Central Florida? Share your suggestions in the comments section below!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aloo Gobi (Curried Cauliflower & Potatoes)

If you’re anything like me, you have a few favorite comfort food recipes that regularly make it into your meal rotation. In my case, I can’t get enough of this aloo gobi recipe — I make it at least once (if not two or three times!) per week. This Indian-inspired dish mixes cauliflower and potatoes and is not only easy to make, but it’s Whole30 compliant! In other words, it’s healthy and packed with flavor.

Aloo Gobi Recipe - Whole30 Compliant!

One of the great things about this meal is that you can easily customize it to match your taste preferences. Add in turmeric, garam masala, or tomatoes to switch up the flavor profile. Oh, and did I mention that it pairs amazingly with my curry and coconut crusted chicken bites? You can thank me later. 😉

I live alone and generally cook for one, so this recipe is meant to serve one fairly hungry person or two less hungry people with no sense of adventure (kidding). Adjust the quantities based on your needs!

Aloo Gobi Recipe - Whole30 Compliant!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp ghee/clarified butter (or regular butter if you’re not following Whole30)
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • Sprinkle of chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: A few spoonfuls of petite diced tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Melt your ghee or butter over medium heat.
  2. Add in cauliflower florets and diced potato.
  3. Drizzle on olive oil, then mix in curry powder, garlic powder, chili powder and salt.
  4. Cook on medium for about 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.
  5. Remove from heat, take a million photos of it until you can get the lighting right, post on Instagram with a few decent hashtags, and serve.

Bon appétit! If you try this recipe, let me know what you think. 🙂 Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!

Link Love Wednesday: Attack of the Renaissance Babies

original-29135-1435871149-3Happy Wednesday, readers! July has been an exciting month for me as I moved into a brand new apartment on my own and have been unpacking and settling into this gorgeous bachelor pad. 🙂

(By bachelor pad, I really mean “gorgeous apartment where I cook, clean, write and finally have access to ABC Family.” But bachelor pad sounds a lot more exciting.)

Of course, in the midst of this move, I still had time to scour the Internet for fabulous links. You’re welcome! Enjoy this latest batch of link love and share your own favorite recent links and articles in the comments section below!

What are your favorite articles, links and other finds from the week? Share yours in the comments section below! 🙂

Link Love Wednesday: Kate Spade & Mercury Retrograde

imageGood evening, readers!

For those of you who have been feeling a little off lately, you’re not alone. Mercury is in retrograde, which means that everyone is going absolutely crazy — particularly those of us who are Virgos or Geminis — and life is stranger than usual, to say the least. (According to my dad, this might have more to do with the fact that I’m not taking my vitamins than the idea that the planets control my life, but it’s fun to imagine nonetheless.) Have you noticed any changes in the last few days?

Whether you’re a big believer in all things astrology or a skeptic, enjoy today’s batch of links to get you through the week!

What links are you loving lately? Share your favorites in the comments section below!