Hello beautiful people!
If you follow me on Instagram (@squigi35), or you have been following along with me throughout my journey so far on The Soulful Ways, you’d know that I have endured many changes with my body, whether that be physical or mental. I am not going to get into too much detail, because I have elaborated on it to some extent before, and if you would like to read more about that, you can click here and check on my post Trying To Stay A Balanced Healthy In College. However, trying to maintain a “healthy lifestyle” has been something that I have struggled with my whole life, until recently. Believe it or not, for about 4 years, self-love, body positivity, and self-assurance were three phrases that became the sole identity of who I was, in a terrible way. I identified myself in these categories to such an extreme that it became an issue. I took each phrase to the next level. For example, instead of self-love, I needed society-acceptance. Instead of body positive, I needed to be restricting or splurging. Instead of being self-assured, I was only confident if I was 100 lbs or less. As you can see, it became a major issue. And it was not healthy, physically or mentally.
But as I stated, this blog is not about my past struggles, but rather what I have finally learned over the last year and a half that has brought me to the lifestyle that has allowed me to change my body for the better, my mindset for the better, my habits for the better, and overall, my life, physically and mentally, for the better.
Although I definitely could lose several pounds, become more toned, and eat even more clean, I can finally say I am happy. Over the last year I have become stronger in the gym, fueling my body more properly, and overall enjoying life to the point where I still see progress yet still have ice cream once in a while. Because, let’s face it, no one wants to gain the “Freshman 15”, but no one wants to restrict themselves for having the occasional piece of pizza either. We are human. We are going to want to look and feel good, which is not wrong! But, we should also be enjoying who we are, and who we are surrounded by. And being stuck at either extreme makes enjoying life very difficult. Something I think we should all begin to embrace, and attack full heartedly, is self-love, body positivity, and self-assurance, but with a balance. Overtime, I have come to call this a “balanced-healthy.” I believe we shouldn’t solely let our identities be trapped in these “social expectations” and I do not think we should let others influence how we perceive ourselves. Rather, I think that we should solely try to focus on these three key phrases with harmony and proportion.
Therefore, here are 10 simple switches that I made in the kitchen to kick-start my healthier lifestyle, yet still enjoy a lot of the foods/meals/drinks that I have always loved.
Cauliflower Rice Instead Of Fried or White Rice
Cauliflower rice is a wonderful alternative to truly any other rice if you are trying to cut out carbs. Although, I would never personally recommend a low-carb/no-carb diet, I do think there are good ways and bad ways to intake carbs. For example, fried rice is just filled with grease, and unnecessary ingredients, just as white rice is much more processed than brown rice. Therefore, I have veered towards using cauliflower rice if I am craving a stir fry based meal, or just want a healthy side that feels like my beloved cheesy broccoli and rice. Not only does cauliflower rice have approximately 28 calories per cup, but it is rich in fiber and promotes healthy digestion. I’ve attempted making cauliflower rice before, and although it turned out great, it was A LOT of work. Therefore, below is a picture of one of my favorite frozen brands that makes for an easy side. You can generally find this at any grocery store, Family Fare, Meijer, Kroger, Etc.
Dark Chocolate Instead Of Reg. Chocolate
I have such a bad sweet tooth and I am always craving chocolate. Whether that be chocolate chip cookies or just a quick bite of a chocolate bar, I seriously always find a reason to be eating it. Which is not wrong, nothing is completely awful in moderation, however, dark chocolate is much better for your sweet tooth than regular/white chocolate. Not only is dark chocolate filled with antioxidants but it is also lower in sugar and higher in iron and fiber compared to milk chocolate. Basically, it is less processed and more natural. Therefore, if you can deal with the taste of dark chocolate, which I have actually grown to love even more, this is a great alternative to satisfy your sweet tooth. Make sure you pick those with higher cacao percentages (70% or higher) for even lower sugar, however, sometime I will use 60% because I still like a little more sweetness in my recipes, and it’s better than nothing. Below is my favorite brand of dark chocolate chips, which again, can be found anywhere.
Natural Peanut Butter Instead Of Reg. PB
Now, I know what you are probably thinking. “Peanut butter is peanut butter.” But that, my friend, is so false. Switching out the typical Jif for a more healthy, and natural option is going to do SO much for you. Granted, there is not a huge difference, if any, when you look at the calories of fan favorites such as Jif or Skippy compared to Natural PB. However, the calories are not what I became concerned with, but rather what ingredients the peanut butters had in them. Jif filled with things that I have no freaking clue what they are, to put it lightly. When looking at the label, it states: Made From Roasted Peanuts And Sugar, Contains 2% Or Less Of: Molasses, Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (Rapeseed And Soybean), Mono And Diglycerides, Salt. Again, I don’t know what mono and diglycerides are, or rapseed, or fully hydrogenated vegetable oils are. And my rule of thumb has become if I don’t know what it is, I probably don’t want to to eat it. Because it’s a preservative, and no one needs that when you are trying to live a healthy lifestyle, you know? Therefore, I use Aldi’s Simply Nature Organic Peanut Butter. Does Jif taste better? Maybe a little sweeter. But I am not concerned with that, I am concerned with the fact that PB can be a great source of protein and healthy fats. I don’t need all that extra. And Aldi’s has one simple ingredient: organic peanuts. Here is a picture of what it looks like. Many stores have their own version of this as well. Just take the extra minute to read the label.
Turkey Bacon Or Chicken Sausage Instead Of Breakfast Sausages/Bacon
Okay, let me get this straight. I am not saying to cut bacon out of your diet, because trust me, your girl loves bacon. Ask anyone in my family or my boyfriend, I thrive off of breakfast. I could eat it for every single meal. I love it. And that is why I say to eat turkey bacon/sausage or chicken sausage instead. It’s not good to constantly be filling your body with meat that is so high in fat, produces a lot of grease, and most of the time, is filled with other ingredients as well. Therefore, if you are a breakfast eater like me, try eating turkey bacon, turkey sausage, or even chicken sausage. It is lower in fat, higher and protein, and to me, tastes just as good. My rule of thumb for breakfast is eat turkey/chicken sausage during the week so I can splurge with bacon on the weekend. That way I still get my bacon-fix, yet I am generally fueling my body better. One piece of bacon won’t kill you. But everyday…. Now that’s probably not the best. Below is a picture of my favorite chicken sausage and turkey bacon, found anywhere.
Bolthouse Ranch Instead of Regular Ranch
You have to be lying if you are thinking “I don’t even like ranch.” I use it on about everything. Whether that be my salad, my roasted sweet potato cubes, or as a dipping sauce for my steak, I love it. And that is why I have grown to love Bolthouse Ranch. Not only is it 45 calorie for 2 tablespoons, compared to light ranch’s 80 calories, but it has no artificial flavors, or preservatives. It is also made from yogurt, causing it to have less carbs and calories. Overall, if you are like me and need a dressing/dipping sauce for everything, this is an awesome alternative. Below is a picture of the ranch, which comes in a bunch of awesome flavors as well.
Natural Bliss Coffee Creamer Instead of Sugar-Free/Fat-Free Coffee Creamer’s
Many of us are coffee, latte, and frappe lovers in this coffee shop dominated world we live in. But, what we often forget is that these syrups, creamers, and added sweeteners can be filled with preservatives, artificial flavors, calories, fat, carbs, the list could go on. No one wants their black coffee to suddenly turn into a drink that is 70 unnecessary calories loaded with sugar, carbs, and nothing nutritious whatsoever. Even sugar-free and fat-free creamers seem to be better, yet as still filled with so many artificial ingredients to make them “fat-free”, “sugar-free”, etc. Therefore, do no be afraid of just a few more calories and switch to using an all natural creamer – such as natural bliss. It not only all-natural, non GMO, and has no artificial ingredients, but it tastes good. This company even has a dairy free version, and it is very good as well. Therefore, chuck your sugar-free mocha creamer out the door and check out some of natural bliss’ awesome flavors, that will leave you satisfied without the unnecessary “fake” ingredients. Below is a picture of what it looks like, you can find it at truly any store and they have even more flavors. 🙂
Almond Flour Instead of Regular Flour
You probably all know my love for baking. I love creating healthier versions of my favorite desserts in the kitchen, and almond flour has a been a game changer for me. It gives you more protein, less carbs, less calories, less processed ingredients, and even a slightly “sweeter” taste than traditional flour. Therefore, ditch the processed and bleacher flour and do yourself a favor and spend $4 extra for a better alternative that way you can still have those dark chocolate chip cookies, and even shed a few calories off of the recipe. Below is my favorite brand of almond flour, found at target. 🙂
Sweet Potato Crackers Instead of Any Other Crackers
I am a huge wheat thin girl. I love wheat thins so much and have always had a sweet spot for them. But unfortunately, like many other things, they are filled with unnecessary ingredients and have a lot of unhealthy carbs. Granted, there are worse crackers out there (any Chicken In A Biscuit fans?) but sweet potato crackers are just as tasty, and so good for you. These crackers have no sugar added, a lot of healthy carbs from the sweet potato, and have simple ingredients: Stone Ground Yellow Corn, Sweet Potato, Corn oil, flaxseed, black sesame seed, chia seeds, sea salt, water, and a trace of lime. A great alternative to dip in salsa, cheese spreads, or just snack on. I found these at meijer, and below is a picture of what they look like. There is also several other flavors, such as kale crackers.
Coconut Sugar Instead of White Sugar
Again, y’all know I love to bake. And coconut sugar has been a true game changer in the kitchen. Regular sugar does not contain any vital nutrients and provides us with “empty calories” However, coconut sugar has some nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, along with some short-chain fatty acids like polyphenols and antioxidants. Although the nutrition label looks basically identical to regular sugar, the key here again is that it is not processed and is all natural. Coconut sugar is simply extracted out of the coconut, where white sugar is processed in a factory. Therefore, it is doing you much better in the long run. Below is my favorite coconut sugar brand that i have purchased from Meijer.
Veggie Omelette With Eggs AND Egg Whites Instead of Cheddar Omelette With JUST Eggs
As I stated above, I love breakfast. I seriously wake up every morning even earlier than I need to just so I can make my boyfriend and myself a nice omelette. Truly, it is a great way to start your day! However, there is something that I have learned by eating omelette’s so frequently. I’ve learned that cheese is SUPER high in fat, and egg white provide A LOT more protein than just your normal eggs. Therefore, I have shifted towards making omelette’s with eggs AND egg whites rather than just your typical 2-3 egg omelette. Not only is it lower in calories, but it packs way more protein into your meal, leaving you fuller longer. 1 cup of egg whites is about 21 grams of protein where 1 egg gives you about 6 grams only. I typically will mix 1 egg with 3/4 cup of egg whites because I still want the healthy fat that whole eggs can provide, just with a little bit more protein. Another thing I have shifted towards doing is not putting cheese in my omelette’s except for once in awhile. Again, I love cheese but it is filled with so much fat it is not necessary to have every day.
Overall, I want to see you happy. I want to see us happy. I want nothing but for all of us to achieve the most out of life and be proud of it. And in order to become that happy, and healthy person, we must start somewhere. And personally, I always feel like there is some way I can improve my healthy habits in the kitchen, and that is why I shared with you 10 things that have truly made a difference so far when it comes to nutrition. If you have any recommendations or comments, please feel free to reach out or drop your ideas below in the comment section.
Enjoy this week, y’all! I hope it is filled with love, health, positivity, and kindness!
With all that I am,