When I was in New York recently one of the biggest treats of the week was getting to meet Jen of Jen’s Food Challenge who was also there to take Natalia Rose’s Advanced Training. We got along so well and I loved hearing all about her transition into a detox lifestyle. I hoped I wouldn’t scare her off by asking her to share with us here, thankfully she was glad to do so! If you enjoy getting to know Jen here, go check out her delicious blog and her most recent recipe for Faux-jitos!
Tell us who you are and a little bit about yourself:
I grew up in NY with one side of the family being from an Italian background so this way of life is still a bit of a shock to them. I love art and always drew and painted since I was young, but I also loved science. This way of life works so well for me because I love reading about different nutrition philosophies and then I get creative in the kitchen (including re-working Italian dishes).
I’ll let you in on a couple of silly little things I do. So in order to relax sometimes without dragging out all the art supplies, I color with crayons in a coloring book. No kidding – it’s fun, try it out. A couple of month ago, I walked into a store and a box of hula hoops were next to the counter. I bought a bright pink one – sometimes you want to feel like a kid. I don’t use it very often because it confusing the poor dog, but for $5 and something that takes up no room – why not?
Jen and her animal friend Bella
What brought you into a detox lifestyle and how long ago did it first catch your eye?
My husband brought home Natalia Rose’s book years ago. I read it, and although it made so much sense to me, I didn’t understand how I could manage the lifestyle at the time and the book went onto the shelf. When I was told I had to do a yeast free diet a few years later with a lot of supplements, the yes/no list of food and other things that didn’t seem to feel right, I decided there had to be a better way. I began researching candida, picked up the dusty book on the shelf which made sense years before, read more and more books and my journey began. I was already a vegetarian, so my next step was figuring out how I could go further and part of that was getting creative in the kitchen re-working old favorite comfort foods.
What positive changes have you noticed in yourself since you started (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc)?
When I follow a more candida conscious diet, my face is clear from breakouts. I also have been able to maintain weight in a healthy manor verses previously when I would drink sugary chocolate shakes and eat tons of pasta and breads. I also have tons of energy. I now crave things like tomatoes and avocados and not cookies – WOW.
My taste buds definitely changed as well. Ripe strawberries are an amazing treat. I now like olives, which I never did before.
I feel much calmer in stressful situations – which is awesome!
One of the coolest change is I used to suffer terrible cat allergies leaving me sneezing, teary eyes, and congested with breathing issues. I recently discovered this to not be the case anymore. I was around a couple of cats for hours and had a minor stuffy nose – much improvement.
What have been the hardest parts of living this way and do you have any tips to share?
The hardest thing at first for me was when I did an initial Candida cleanse. I had no idea how severely addicted to sugars and breads I was. The cravings for pasta, bread, cake, and cookies were so strong and really put my will power to the test. If you are doing a Candida cleanse, just hang in there because the pay off is worth it! I now can sit in a restaurant and have no desire to have a piece of bread – amazing. And if you slip up a little, it’s ok, just keep going.
When I first began, eating out was a bit of a challenge for me more on a social level. One time we were going to a buffet style private party at a bar where I knew there would be nothing for me to have. I prepared by eating ahead of time. I knew I would want a little something when I smelled and saw food, so I threw carrot sticks and a dark chocolate bar in my bag. When I wanted something, I grabbed a plate from the buffet, added a bit of salsa that was available, pulled my carrot sticks out of my purse and put them on the plate. I didn’t feel left out and I had something healthy. When dessert time came, I had a piece of my chocolate bar. So my tip is be prepared and don’t be afraid to get a little creative.
What inspired you to start your blog?
I wanted other people to realize that healthy meals are colorful, delicious, full of flavor and can be as simple or complicated as you want. I hope my blog will inspire people to experiment with vegetarian and properly combined dishes, even if they don’t follow that path on a regular basis. People ask me all the time what I eat and are always surprised about the huge variety in my diet. I am never bored with meals, even salads. I wanted to showcase healthy eating is fabulous with endless possibilities. I applaud you and your blog for showing people this as well.
Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share with the Veggie-Centric Kitchen readers?
My favorite recipe at the moment, which is on my blog is definitely Avocado Salad. It’s my husbands favorite as well and he does not follow a detox lifestyle. I think I’ve made it 3 times in the last week! I love this recipe because it is so versatile, takes no time to make, and you can change it up depending what you have on hand. Here’s the basic recipe and some options you can do with it. The quantities below make enough for 2.
1 red pepper (or any color)
Handful Orange cherry tomatoes (or any kind you have)
1 lime (or lemon)
1/2 small red onion (optional, made it before with and without)
1-2 cloves garlic (optional)
Sea salt to taste
Open avocados and add large chunks to a bowl. Chop cucumber, pepper and onion and add to bowl. Zest garlic and add tomatoes. Squeeze juice of one lime and add sea salt to taste. Give a gentle toss to combine all ingredients. Feel free to omit or add any ingredients you want. I change this up all the time.
Some options: eat avocado salad alone, add to kale (yummy, makes creamy kale salad), add to your favorite greens and sprouts, add to buckwheat soba noodles, have it in a cabbage or lettuce leaf with your favorite salsa, and my husband’s favorite is with corn chips. So many possibilities! I hope you enjoy this one.
Jen is also joining us on the Sugar-Free Challenge this month, hope it’s going well for you all!