Lifestyle Nutrition :: Shaylea

I’ve recently started exercising regularly and eating a more nutritious diet. Honestly, the biggest change I’ve made is to think of healthy living as a lifestyle and less of something that I’m going to do for 30 days or until I hit my “ideal weight” (whatever that is!).

While I feel very confident and happy about the changes I’ve made, there are days when it’s difficult to make good decisions and I could definitely use some encouragement. Because of this, I decided to seek out women I know who have maintained a healthy lifestyle for years and to ask them how they do it. I hope what they have to say is as encouraging to you as it was to me!

First up is an interview with Shaylea Brown, who you may remember from all the healthy and delicious &Company recipes I posted last year. Here’s what Shaylea had to say ::

What’s your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

A smoothie! My favorite right now is frozen strawberries, almond milk, peanut butter, flax, hemp, a couple dates & cocoa. I love smoothies because they are filling, packed with nutrition, but you don’t start the day with a heavy stomach.

What are some good snack foods to keep around?

To be honest, I’m not a huge snacker. I’m trying to become more of one and less of a 3-meals-a-day type person to keep my metabolism working. When I do snack, though, I usually snack on fruit, nuts, or fresh pressed juice. My favorite packaged snack if you are out and about are That’s It bars. They only contain two fruits with no preservatives or extra ingredients and are super delicious!

Have you always been a healthy eater? Was there a moment in your life when you decided to prioritize nutrition? If so, what caused it?

No, definitely not. Growing up my mom always did the best she could to keep what she thought was healthy food in the house(and she would tell you this too, so we’re all on the same page here :). We had a lot of pretzels, light yogurt, skim milk, bran cereals, granola bars, popsicles, etc. So when friends came over our house was considered the “healthy house”. Even with our house being “healthy”, I was one of the heaviest people out of my friends and was really unhappy with the way I looked. So going into high school I tried to cut calories and only eat limited meals so I could lose the weight. And I did, I got to where I wanted to be my freshman & sophomore year. As high school went on, though, I put the weight back on and also had extremely bad stomach pain that happened every morning and after almost every meal, but I just thought this was my body digesting food and that was part of it. When I got into college I still lived at home and my mom at this point had completely overhauled her diet. She had gotten tested for food allergies and she was eating a paleo diet, which at this point hadn’t blown up yet. She focused on whole foods that were in their simplest form and didn’t eat any grains or sugars. After complaining about stomach trouble enough my parents got me tested for food allergies and I started to completely change the way I ate, focusing, much like my mom, on whole foods in their simplest form without additives and preservatives.

I’ve found that when I start eating more healthfully, it’s often for a certain amount of time (e.g. no sugar or caffeine for a month, Whole30, etc.). How were you able to shift your mindset from dieting to making nutrition a lifestyle?

After getting tested for food allergies it made it easier to avoid those foods knowing that they would make me feel bad, and then as time went on I started to also subtract things that weren’t good for me. A big motivator for me is that eating food that is bad for me makes me feel sick. The first 1-6 months (depending on the person) is the hardest but after that you really don’t even crave those foods anymore. For people who don’t struggle with stomach issues another big motivator for me was just the fact that body is working properly and all of the nutrition that it needs to function is being put into it! Health in general is super important to me.

If you could cut one thing from everyone’s diet, what would it be?

Sugar and sugar substitutes. I’m convinced that the quantity of sugar that our society consumes is the biggest contributor to disease in our world. Our bodies get no nutritional value from processed sugar and a lot of diseases feed off of sugar. It is in almost every single packaged food you buy. Reading labels is a must for avoiding unwanted and unneeded ingredients. Natural sugar from fresh fruit is great for our bodies because it is in a form that we know how to digest and it is paired with all the fiber that is in fruit. Processed sugar is not, and it can act like a poison in the body. There are wonderful and really delicious desserts that can be made with no sugar or sugar substitutes needed. Believe it or not, our world was created with all the nutrition and ingredients we need to sustain a healthy & delicious life! There’s a reason that food-processing plants weren’t “created on the 3rd day” with the rest of the vegetation.

Where do you like to shop for your groceries?

Whenever the farmers market is going I try to make it over there for whatever is in season. I get my meat from a local butcher who raises the animals and doesn’t use any hormones or antibiotics on them. They sell their meat at Joplin Greenhouse so that’s usually where I pick it up if they aren’t at the Farmers Market. I make the rounds between Aldi, Walmart, Target, Joplin Greenhouse & Fox Farm to get what I can organic and then from there I order a lot of my dry organic ingredients from Vitacost. Some weeks I don’t make it to all the places because it is time consuming, but when I have time the trips are worth it to have the best quality food possible for our family.

Is it more expensive to eat healthy food? If so, how do you manage your budget?

Buying an all organic grocery list is more expensive than if you were to buy all the same ingredients, but conventionally grown. That said, I make it work. Food in our house is something that we’ve decided is worth putting more money towards. It keeps our bodies healthy, we feel better, we have more energy and in the long run we will be spending less on doctors bills and prescriptions which I guarantee is more expensive than eating healthy. We do live on a budget and after deciding how much we need for our family to eat a mostly organic & local diet we move the rest of our life around. On tight weeks, because let’s be honest, most of us have tight weeks every once in a while, I focus on meals with more vegetables than meat. We don’t eat meat at every meal or even every day. Good quality meat adds up, but if I don’t have the funds to get the good stuff that week, we go without. It is more important to get what you can organic & responsibly grown than get all the usuals, but compromise on quality.

Any tips for encouraging your family to eat well, too?

I’m lucky that both my parents and in-laws eat extremely healthy and see the value in getting high quality food. On other trips we’ve taken where someone else is in charge of cooking I usually find that giving them a heads up about my lifestyle helps tremendously and most of the time friends/family are really accommodating. And if not, just bring something healthy to share with them.

How do you handle special occasions like going to a dinner party or when someone gives you a box of chocolates? Do you have any rules you follow? Do you turn down unhealthy food when it’s offered to you? If so, any tips for doing this politely?

On special occasions, I just eat what I can. And every once in a while (and by this I don’t mean every week, probably every other month) I indulge in a piece of chocolate or a roll. After years of not eating gluten/wheat/yeast or a lot of sugar I honestly just don’t want to eat it. So a lot of times I do turn down unhealthy food, or if the meal is served buffet style, you don’t even have to say anything, just skip past it. Being polite is all in how you say it, I usually say “No thank you” or “Thank you so much for making all this, but I’m good for right now.” As long as people feel appreciated you should be okay.

What are your favorite resources for finding good information about nutrition and diet? Any books, websites, or experts that you recommend?

These are all great blogs/websites for really good recipes. I also like Clean Eating magazine. A couple great documentaries on Netflix are ::

  • Plant Pure Nation
  • Fed Up
  • Food Matters
  • Forks Over Knives
  • Hungry For Change
  • That Sugar Film

A lot of them focus on vegan diets, which our house has started to move towards, but we still eat quality meat about 2-3 times a week. Be careful in searching or following what one person says exactly. It’s better to do a lot of research and keep your food choices simple.

What do you find most challenging about maintaining a lifestyle of good nutrition?

The biggest challenge for me is traveling. While it is not impossible to eat well, it definitely gets harder. You can’t be in control of every ingredient and a lot of times you are at the mercy of those who you are traveling with for where you stop to eat. My biggest tip on traveling is to make your own portable snacks and when you stop look for simple things like apples, salads (leave out the dressing), and nuts. Also, drink lots and lots of water.

What do you find most rewarding about maintaining a lifestyle of good nutrition?

Health! I just feel good and I know my body is working properly. I have energy to exercise, clean, hang out with friends, plant a garden, cook and do any other physically demanding activity I want to. My digestive system works properly, which believe it or not is extremely rewarding! I love to create new recipes and put new flavors together. It’s also extremely rewarding when you see friends and family “get it” and they start to take interest in their health and see the incredible list of benefits from living a healthy life.

Any other comments or tips you’d like to share?

When asked, I will definitely give my opinion on eating, cooking, shopping, etc (Obviously, see above questions, haha!) But if I’m not asked, I usually don’t say anything. I would never want to turn someone off of eating healthy by giving and unwanted opinion or comment. Sometimes it’s hard because I see the incredible benefits of living and eating healthy and hate to think of what years of putting bad nutrition into your body can do to someone I care about. However, people are always more important than forcing my lifestyle on them. Being kind and polite about food goes a long way. There’s no need to be rude about someone serving something unhealthy. If that is all there is, be polite, eat a little bit, and know that at the next meal you will be eating a highly nutritious meal. I live by pretty strict nutrition and dining rules, however, nobody is perfect and if the bulk of your life is filled with nutrients it’s okay to get the coconut milk ice cream every now and then. And when a friend or family member does switch to living healthy, celebrate with them! I truly believe fueling your body with a highly nutritious and simple diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family.

Thank you so much, Shaylea!


Posted by Aanna on Friday, May 6th, 2016


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