The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

I LOVE new beginnings!  There's just something about a fresh start that gets me excited!  Growing up, I specifically remember my dad telling me how gracious God is to let each day be a new start!  HE has arranged our lives so that everyday we have a chance to get up and do something we didn't think we could do the day before.  We can 'move on' and make a change.  Just like everyday is a 'fresh start', so is every month!

September represents a lot of things for me.  It represents new beginnings and new routines.  Growing up, September meant early mornings, noisy bus rides, cute 'back to school' outfits and a new backpack filled with colorful new school supplies.  The new month meant happy reunions with old friends and opportunities to make new ones.  It meant new teachers and new expectations, healthy homemade lunches and smart afternoon snacks.  September means following a new schedule set out specifically for the year in front of me.

Wouldn't it be great for all of us to think of September as an amazing opportunity for growth and development of healthy habits?  You may not be taking the school bus and packing your lunch for high school anymore, but that doesn't mean you can't plan ahead and 'brown bag it' for work or look forward to a totally nourishing snack and a brisk walk 'after school'.

I know for me, last year was NOT my healthiest.  I went to college thinking that gluten, dairy and sugar were 'poison'.  I had an unhealthy, unstable relationship with food that left me feeling sad and anxious.  Now, my eating philosophy is far more balanced and nutritious.  I focus on eating healthy balanced meals that fill me up and keep me satisfied.  I always allow myself to have little treats (like dark chocolate!!) and I no longer restrict my fave foods.  I feel so much better!

This September, remember that it's a 'New Beginning', a 'Fresh Start'!!  Learn to find balance and harmony in your diet.  Eat in a way that nourishes your mind, body, soul and spirit.  We are holistic beings and that's why our approach to eating should be intuitive and holistic as well!

So whether you're a self proclaimed 'health guru' (like myself!) or simply someone seeking a more nourishing and balanced life, make this your 'Start Fresh September!'  Focus on realistic goals that are achievable and maintainable!  Maybe it's learning to eat more fresh fruits and veggies, skipping that muffin in the morning, drinking H20 instead of sugary soda, or simply walking more... whatever your goal, NOW is your time to set it and achieve it!  START FRESH!

How about you?!  Do you have any goals this September?  Don't you just LOVE a good 'fresh start'?!

 
 
When I think of a 'superfood' (a food that loves you back) I instantly think of fresh fruits and veggies.  While it's true that these 'garden goodies' are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, if you are anything like me, you'll be happy to know that dark chocolate is a superfood!  Yep, that's right!  The "food of the gods" as it used to be called, is actually packed with nutrients and sweet, satisfying plant-based fat.

I always think of ripe red cherry tomatoes and sweet Maine blueberries as "Nature's candy"...but so is dark chocolate!  Dark chocolate is actually packed with heart-healthy antioxidants!  Dark chocolate helps to promote healthy blood flow and lower blood pressure.  Dark chocolate actually helps to curb sugar cravings.  It even slows digestion to help you feel fuller and more satisfied for longer.  It naturally helps you eat less.  Whoa!  Who would've thought?!!  Chocolate can easily be part of ANY balanced diet!  (Yay!)

It takes 400 cocoa beans to make just one pound of chocolate!!  The thing about HEALTHY chocolate is that it HAS to be dark.  Sure, everyone loves 'chocolate', but the majority of what is sold in supermarkets today is actually mostly just sugar and cream!  When looking for a chocolate bar, be sure to look for at least 70% cocoa content!

Recently, I wandered into our local Lindt Chocolate Store.  It always smells so awesome in there and it's nice and cool on a really hot day.  The woman was kind enough to let me try all of the higher cocoa content bars!  I tasted 85%, 90% and 99%!  I have to say that I prefer 85-90% cocoa... It's actually so satisfying without being TOO bitter!  Yum!


Maybe chocolate really IS a girl's best friend!  How about you?!  What's YOUR favorite kind of chocolate?!

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Why can't you have both?! Hello moderation!
 
 
Ahhh summer!  Who doesn't love summer?  Sadly... it's almost over!  Here is an example of what I ate one day, a lovely day, a lovely day at the end of the summer.  I love savoring seasonal summer flavors... and as excited as I am to welcome spaghetti squash, cranberries, and pumpkin back into my diet, it's sad to say goodbye to fresh watermelon, sweet corn, and ripe red strawberries!  I hope you've enjoyed these treats as much as I have. Here's my 'menu' for the day!
I LOVE savory breakfasts... I'm not a fan of sweets for 'brekkie' and you'll rarely find me eating a plain bowl of cereal.  Instead, I prefer fresh fruit for my AM 'sweet'.  This morning I had a bit of fresh watermelon to quench my thirst, alongside a piece of a leftover gluten free crepe that I got the day before at a local cafe with some friends!  I added a fresh scrambled egg, a bit more spinach, tomatoes and a sprinkle of feta cheese!  I ate this with some fresh carrots/baby tomatoes and hummus! YUM!
I made lunch for my dad and I around 1:30pm and opted for a fresh garden salad with lemon juice and a drizzle of balsamic reduction!  I also boiled up some sweet corn from the local farmers market with a bit of butter and a sprinkle of sea salt.  I ate a small baked potato with some light chicken salad (just canned chicken mixed with Greek yogurt... simple, healthy and delicious!)  I also enjoyed a fresh apple!
After lunch, I indulged in two squares of 85% dark chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth while I watched some reruns of Downton Abbey with my dad!  It's dark, decadent, delicious, and I love it SO much! YUM!  Later in the afternoon I snacked on an apple to keep me going 'til dinner... which I ate with my cousin and my grandparents in their lovely garden!  So pretty!
For dinner, I had a small piece of rotisserie chicken, a side of ripe green peas, and a small side of basmati rice.  I also had a little scoop of cranberry sauce... but I added that to my plate after I took the picture... Oops!
For dessert, we had fresh watermelon and pineapple with a bit of whipped cream!  So yummy!  I actually went back for a second helping of fruit because it was just so fresh and sweet! Gotta love fruit in the summer time!!  #naturescandy !!

How about you?!  What have you been eating as the summer comes to a close?  What's your favorite summer fruit?!
 
 



Eating healthy is important!  Eating healthy is inspiring!  Eating healthy is so good for you!  But sometimes eating healthy can be... hard!  It's actually pretty easy to find an excuse to NOT treat our bodies the way they want to be treated.  So that's why I'm instituting a new segment on my blog, inspired by http://rabbitfoodformybunnyteeth.com/banana-roll-ups/

My new segment is called "Monday's Motivation" because, let's be real... sometimes Mondays STINK!  Sometimes we just don't have the motivation to prioritize our 'health' on top of our already hectic life.  The weekend is over, it's back to work, Friday is 5 whole days away.  Sometimes we need a little motivation to keep healthy, happy, and fit!

My first tip for this Monday is:

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH OTHERS WHO HOLD A HEALTHY MINDSET!


Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 reminds me that, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"

One of my favorite ways to 'stay on track' is with the help and support of others!  Whether it's having dinner at school with a like-minded 'health-nut' or simply eating at home with my gluten free sister-in-law (Allie), I love the companionship and encouragement.  My parents are also very supportive of a healthy lifestyle and are always sure to buy my favorite foods when I come home on breaks (LOTS of fresh fruit, dark leafy greens, healthy hummus, awesome avocado, and even pricey salmon!)

We recently went on a family vacation to Montreal and I was able to enjoy lots of healthy gluten free treats with Allie!  From homemade GF muffins to tasty smoothies, it's amazing how many options are out there... and with someone else who has the same dietary needs as I do, it made choices much easier!  And even if you don't have anyone around you who is really concerned with healthy foods, there are so many online communities that promote healthy living!  Like 'Spark People' and 'My Fitness Pal'.  Check 'em out"!

Let's be real, it's hard to resist tempting treats when everyone else around you is enjoying them.  Warm chewy chocolate chip cookies look, smell, and taste amazing!  And the smile on the face of the person who is about to enjoy them makes the whole experience even more tempting!  But if you hang out with people who love to nourish their bodies and eat well, it'll be easier to choose a healthier option!

So today for 'Monday's Motivation' I recommend you make friends with someone who cares about 'health' as much as you care about you do!  Whether it's a workout buddy, a smart shopper, or a cooking partner.... connect with someone passionate about health and you'll be BOTH be inspired!

How about you?  Do your friends keep you on track?  Do you keep them on track?
 
 
Smoothies!!!  What a wonderful summertime treat.  As you guys know, I'm a HUGE green smoothie fan!  They are just so nourishing, refreshing and oh-so delicious!!  I love 'em!  I recently whipped up a delicious 4 ingredient smoothie that will blow your mind!  (I exaggerate... but trust me, it's one of my new fave recipes!)  So simple!

Just toss in a handful of frozen mango, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, a bunch of fresh spinach and a splash of purified water.

Blend and...Bam!  You have a fresh 'meal-in-a-mug'.

A big bag of frozen mango is something you can keep on hand in your freezer, so it's an easy addition to any meal.  Mango has vitamin C which protects against free radical damage and reduces cancer risk.  It has vitamin A and E which are both good for your skin.  And A is great for your eyes, too.  Mango has folic acid which is an essential B vitamin with many health benefits.  It's a 'sweet' deal all around!

The Greek yogurt provides your body with lasting protein to keep you going 'til lunch time!  It contains probiotics which help promote a healthy gut.  It also provides you with important nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium which helps build strong, healthy bones.  And it is lower in lactose than other dairy foods (only 4 grams of lactose in a 6-ounce serving), so it's a great option for almost everyone!

And do I have to go over all the amazing qualities of spinach again??  Here are just a few of the benefits of this lovely leafy veggie... it promotes bone health, improves skin and hair, and provides protein, iron, vitamins and minerals. It is known to help manage diabetes, lower blood pressure, promote regularity, and may even help prevent asthma and cancer!!  Spinach is believed to provide more nutrients per calorie than any other food on earth!  

So, what are you waiting for?   Enjoy the last few days of summer... and what better way to enjoy them than with a fresh green smoothie?!!
 
 
Oh, salad ...the iconic 'health' food!  A 'summer staple' for us healthy food fans!  I have to say, I DO love salad, but I'm not about to chomp down on a weary, wimpy, wilted salad simply because it's healthy.  No way!  I'll take a really delicious, satisfying and nourishing salad!  In fact, I eat a salad at least once a day... so it better be tasty!

I love to start with a fresh base of dark greens!  Sometimes I go for a spring mix, but usually I opt for spinach.  Spinach has a sweeter taste than most bitter greens (like those purple leaves you find mixed in... eww, I hate those)!  Spinach is good for your hair and skin.  It has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.  In fact, it has been said that spinach has more nutrients per calorie than any other food on earth!  It has less than 30 calories in a full cup and about 30 milligrams of calcium.  It contains Vitamins A, K, D and E.  Spinach is also packed with non-heme (ie. non meat) iron.  And a cup of cooked spinach has more potassium than a banana!  So clearly, it's a great base for for a healthy salad, but don't stop there!

To keep my salads interesting and my taste buds happy, I love to top them with 'fun' toppings like plump red cherry tomatoes, tart dried cranberries, crunchy sunflower seeds, creamy crumbly feta cheese and grilled chicken for protein!  There are so many ways to make a salad tasty!  Here are just a few of my fave salads to finish the summer off strong!

I LOVE fresh fruit on my spinach salads... combine sweet fresh fruit with savory red onions and top with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh lemon juice!  YUM!  The perfect summer salad is totally bursting with antioxidants and it's naturally hydrating, too.  Blueberries have the highest antioxidant content and are naturally very low-calorie.  They help to fight belly fat and even boost your immune system!  Strawberries also help fight fat and are naturally low cal with just over 50 calories for a whole cup!  They are sweet and oh-so-satisfying!
Salmon!!  I truly adore salmon!  It is just so healthy and delicious!  Grilled salmon with peppers on a fresh green salad is the perfect lunch!  It's a light meal, but filling enough to keep you going!  A 4 oz serving of salmon provides more than 100% of your daily Vitamin D needs and it contains double your daily Vitamin B12 needs.  Salmon has been associated with improved cardiovascular health, increased mood and even better eyesight!  All from a friendly fillet of fish!
And I can't forget one of my favorite ways to enjoy a summer salad... it's a salad smoothie!  Who says you can't drink your salad?!  A fresh green smoothie made with spinach, coconut water, frozen mango, banana and pineapple is sure to hit the spot!  I've also made a cucumber-melon smoothie before and have even added romaine to my fruit smoothies... but spinach is my fave smoothie addition!  Light and refreshing for a hot summer day!

How about you?!  Do you have a favorite summer salad?!
 
 
Well, it's official... I'm gluten free again!  In one of my most recent 'Sweet Nothings' posts I explained how I decided to add gluten BACK into my diet after following a strict gluten free diet for over a year.  Determined to eat it and feel fine, I experimented with it for about 6 weeks.  At first I was excited to be able to eat absolutely ANYTHING I wanted... I felt so free!!  And while that was a major 'pro' for me, it just wasn't worth how bad I began to feel.  Here are my 4 reasons for going back to a gluten free diet.


  1.  Fatigue.  Since I started eating gluten again, I've been SO tired.  At first, I attributed it to the fact that I was so busy with my waitressing job ... but the more time went on, the more I began to realize it was a lot more than that.  One day I was walking into town with some of my friends (who work just as much as me) and they were able to keep a steady pace ahead of me.  Instead of asking them to slow down or trying to catch up, I just found a bench and sat down.  I know, right?  I just felt like I couldn't keep going.  At work, my friends give me a hard time because I go to bed early and I have a hard time getting up... and yet I am still so tired.  For the first time in my life, I began drinking coffee before each shift, just to give me enough energy to do my job.  Last summer I had the same job as I do this year, and my energy levels were SO much higher (back when I was gluten free).


  2.  Anxiety.  Honestly, I'm a pretty 'carefree' person and if something bothers me, I pray about it, give it over to God, and HE takes the worry away from me.  But since I went back to gluten, I've actually experienced 'anxiety' over lots of different things.  Seriously, it's not like I feel 'guilty' for eating gluten, it just feels like my whole mood/demeanor is different.  My close friends have noticed that I seem 'weighed down' and burdened.  And I feel completely different than I did a few months ago.  It's this weird feeling that I can't really seem to explain, but I talked to 4 different girls who have been gluten free for a long time and they ALL said the same thing, that eating gluten gives them a stressed, anxious feeling as well.

  3.  Mood.  The whole reason I started this blog was because I was so happy and positive, in large part because of the foods I was eating.  I wanted to share the principle that "eating healthy makes you happy" with others!  I find that being 'happy' takes more work and effort now than when I was g.free.  So I did some research on a gluten free diet and many reputable sources have found a correlation between a gluten free diet and curing depression.  After these 6 weeks I can honestly tell you, being gluten free makes me SO much happier!!


  4.  Digestion.  ...I know, right?  Not everyone's fave topic, but to keep it short and sweet let's just say, gluten and my digestive system are NOT friends.  My tummy definitely prefers g.free!

Well, that's me!  I was gluten free for over a year and while these past 6 weeks of experimenting with it again have been rough, I'm glad I tried it so that now I know full well that gluten free is the way to go for me... it's a lifestyle that keeps me happy and healthy!  The afternoon when I finally 'put-the-pieces-together' on why I've been feeling so 'bad' lately, was the day I decided to cut gluten from my diet 100% like I did last year... it's just not worth it for me.  Don't worry, I'm not about to fall back into a restrictive mindset... #foodfreedom will live on!!  ...but this time, it'll be #glutenfreefoodfreedom!!  So yes, I'll take a salad for lunch AND a piece of chocolate for dessert... Hey, it's all about balance right?

Have you ever tried a gluten free diet?  Have you gone back?  Do certain foods make you feel 'junky?'

 
 
Do you ever make plans to hangout by yourself?

Here's the thing about me.  I LOVE people.  I could (and do) talk to just about anyone.  Remember that rule "Don't talk to strangers?"   Well, I must have missed that one.  Just ask my mom and she'll tell ya, every time we go out I seem to make new "friends."  Whether we're at the grocery store with the cashier, at the mall with  the makeup lady, at Target with another customer, or just holding the door for a stranger, I LOVE people!

Working as a waitress, I do the same thing... I TALK!  I hope to someday be a motivational speaker.  I want to spend time talking to others about what they eat and how to be healthy.  Ask my friends and they'll tell you just how 'social' I am.  But here's the thing... sometimes it's nice to be... ALONE.

I NEED to be alone.  As much as I value time with people, I also value time alone, all by myself.  It's when I'm all by myself that I can think, dream, read, write and reflect.  I love to be with people because I want to impact people.  I want to show them my joy so that I can point them to Jesus Christ.  I want to invest in the lives of others, enjoy their friendship, learn from them and help them reach their full potential.  But I can't do that ALL the time.  I have begun to realize how important it is to spend time alone.

Luke 5:16 says, "“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

I can't be my best around people if I haven't spent time alone.  Whether it's in my morning 'quiet time' reading the Bible, or simply resting in the afternoon... being alone gives me the energy and desire to be with people again.  My new favorite way to 'get away' is to head to this little cafe about a half mile from where I work.  I enjoy the walk, the fresh air, and God's beautiful creation along the way.  I think about the day, my friends, my responsibilities... and I am thankful.  There's great internet connection so I bring my laptop, pop in my headphones, order some tasty food and I 'blog!'  I look forward to this time alone as much as I enjoy hanging out with my friends.

You guys know I'm all about 'balance' when it comes to eating, but I'm also all about 'balance' when it comes to other areas of life!  Time with people needs to be balanced with time alone!

What about you?  Are you a people person?  Do you enjoy time alone?  ...or are you like me, and you need both?!

 
 
Happy Wednesday!  It's easy to lose track of the time during the summer, but I realized I haven't done a 'What I  Ate Wednesday' post in so long!  It's about time I really thought about everything I eat in an entire day.  Obviously everyday is different... but here's just a sample of a day in the life of me!
I started my morning with a nice balanced breakfast.  I had a fried egg, a handful of gluten free pop chips, a scoop of PB2 (ie. the BEST low calorie peanut butter ever... seriously, I'm in love with this stuff!) and an apple!  Yummy and healthy.
For lunch I went back to my parents' cabin, which is across the lake from the Christian resort I work at.  My mom always has a glorious assortment of tasty treats on hand, many of them a little more 'indulgent' than I care to enjoy.  I made myself a lovely lunch and then I took a little afternoon 'siesta'!  My lunch included half of a leftover grilled hamburger, some fresh veggies from the local farmer's market, a scoop each of homemade light potato salad and gluten free pasta salad, more pop chips and some Greek yogurt/ marshmallow salad with fresh fruit!  Yummy, healthy and all gluten free!
After lunch, I decided to have a little scoop of lite Moosetracks ice cream because... well, I love sweets and they had some in the freezer... it was meant to be, right?!  YUM!
Also, (unpictured) I had a small apple and cup of coffee in the afternoon before my waitressing shift.  Then at dinner, I had a garden salad with light dressing, feta and cauliflower, a sweet potato and ham!  I also had a small nectarine and plum... so fresh, healthy and delicious!
Okay, I'll admit it... I had a second dessert!  (#foodfreedom ??)  I had one serving of lite chocolate ice cream (only 70 calories!) and a package of Non-GMO gluten free, vegan cookies!  Yummy and oh-so-satisfying!  (Besides July is national ice cream month so it's okay, right?!)

Looking back on my day, I realize I didn't eat as well as I could have ( I see a green smoothie in my future!)  Regardless, that was my day, and it was a DELICIOUS day!

What about you?!  Do you ever eat ice cream twice in one day?  What did you eat today?

 
 
Did you know that food can make you beautiful?  Yup.  That's right... regular basic food can be just as important (and better for me) than that daily dose of Clinique moisturizer I lather on my face every morning.  Hard to believe that the healthy foods we eat are as vital to our skin as the pricey makeup we buy.  I know from experience that if I eat too much junk food, my skin immediately responds negatively.  It's like my body knows what I'm up to and is punishing me for not nourishing it as I ought to.

BUT, the story does not end there.  Just as our skin is quick to respond to negative food choices, it is also quick to recover and heal with the right nutritious choices.  Today I want to share with you guys my top 5 fave beautify foods!

If you want to read all about these 'beauty foods' you should check out Kimberly Snyder's health and nutrition books.  She eats incredibly nourishing foods and looks amazing.  While I believe it's most important to eat a moderate diet, I love knowing that some of the foods I eat everyday actually nourish my skin from the inside out!


 1.  Avocados-  I LOVE avocados... and let's be real, who doesn't?  They are filling, nourishing and oh-so-satisfying.  Avocados help to activate collagen which keeps skin healthy, soft and smooth!  The antioxidants in these super foods help to make your skin glow!  They are awesome to eat, but they also can be mashed up into a healthy face mask!
  2.  Spinach-  I eat spinach almost daily!  Stirred into an omelet for breakfast, eaten fresh in a big salad at lunch, or wilted alongside some protein at dinner, spinach is so versatile!  I love it and it loves me back... spinach is packed with plant based protein, iron and Vitamin K.  Spinach is loaded with Vitamin A, too, which keeps your eyes healthy!  All the vitamins help to keep your skin looking healthy and nourished!  I'll take that!
  3.  Sweet Potatoes-  You guys know I'm a sweet potato lover... with good reason!  They love me back!  Sweet potatoes are loaded with Vitamins A and C which also help to make your skin glow!  The beta-carotene helps protect you from the sun's rays.  They are sweet, but not sugary... satisfying, but not fattening (about 117 calories).  For an extra dose of dietary fiber, eat the skins!
  4.  Apples-  I eat an apple a day (okay, let me be honest... I eat at least 2).  They make the perfect midmorning snack!  Apples are sweet and filling, plus they actually help with hair growth (they help prevent baldness and thinning).  They are filled with important antioxidants and dietary fiber.  They contain Vitamin C which helps to clear up skin and copper which helps with natural protection from the sun.
  5.  Coconut oil-  Oh how I love coconut oil!! I actually use it to wash my face almost every day!  Coconut oil is said to help with scarring and can be used as a natural body lotion.  I sometimes put it in my hair before I style it as a heat protectant!  It can be used as a lip balm and make up remover, too!  It really is so versatile!  I love coconut oil... it's a true beauty essential!

How about you?!  What are your favorite 'beauty foods?'