Lex Daddio is a food blogger whose vulnerability and realness are such an inspiration to her many followers. On her blog, Restore Your Radiance, she shares her story of healing from eating disorders through intuitive eating and really listening to her body's cravings. I've been following her for a long time and was so excited to get the chance to interview her. Lex lives in Richmond, VA and in addition to writing about and photographing her food journey, she has her own line of tank tops and candles that encourage others to "restore [their] radiance."
Q: What inspired you to begin your wellness journey?
A: It all started 5 years ago, when I was going through a severe binge eating disorder in college. I just wanted to be free, to feel good, and to be happy. Recovery took time and looks different for everyone. At first, it led me into a battle of trying to be perfectly “healthy”, and it turned into an obsession. As well as an additional eating disorder and I was even more miserable! However, this is where I studied nutrition like crazy, and learned SO MUCH and I’m grateful for that time! Now, I have found freedom, I don’t struggle with an eating disorder. I practice intuitive eating in my everyday life and truly don’t have restrictions anymore. I eat everything, even though for years I thought I was allergic to every food out there. Turns out, I’m not, and my digestion was just so out of whack from the disordered eating so it needed time to heal! Food is amazing and I love it, but it’s not the main focus of my life anymore. It’s the icing on the cake, and full of enjoyment, and I’m thankful for it! But, life is so much fuller now, full of people, hobbies, joys, and so many other little things. I don’t believe wellness is about food, I think it plays a role, but it’s just a tiny part. Wellness to me is SO MUCH MORE. It’s about my mind, it’s about self-care, it’s about finding joy in the everyday, it’s about people and memories and so many things! That’s where I am today, and I feel better than I ever have!
Q: "Getting into" health and wellness can be overwhelming. Where should someone who wants to eat healthier start?
A: There is so much information out there, it can be SO overwhelming. I’m all about simplicity as well as a big advocate for intuitive eating over “eating healthier”. I think there are ways to learn to incorporate beneficial things into your life, like adding veggies or fruits into meals or changing up your grains and proteins for variety. My number one is quality over quantity. I’d rather enjoy something so delicious and high quality then 5 of something that are okay and low quality. It’s your body, treat it well! That may mean having a salad sometimes and it may be having pizza other times! I think it’s all about how you feel, so eat the way that makes YOUR body feel good. We are all different so we have to find our own ways!
Q: What tips do you have for people who are busy but want to take good care of themselves?
A: I think something I would never skip is taking care of your body, not only from the inside, but the outside! Treat yourself well! Take a bath, do a face mask, move your body because you WANT to not because your trying to burn calories to eat more, read a book, pick up a new hobby, journal, go on a picnic, walk in nature, get a pedicure, watch a show, and basically just SLOW DOWN. We are all busy and life moves fast. It blows my mind, but remembering to be slow and present makes all the difference. You only have one life, so enjoy it!
Q: How do you find balance between your work and personal life?
A: This one can actually be pretty difficult, but I’ve definitely found a better balance just recently. Most of my work is on my phone, so I can basically work anytime. I’ve found things that help me are things like, leaving my phone in the car or in my purse if I’m having coffee or a meal with someone. This way I’m not tempted to check my phone and I’m able to enjoy present time with that person. I also turn my phone on airplane mode everyday from 8pm - about 7-8am.This is so I can have a mental break, and well as spend time with my husband. I tend to turn work off after he gets home from work around 5pm, unless I’m doing an instagram story of dinner! I usually just film but don’t respond to anyone at this point in the day because it’s time for my husband! Also, no phones at mealtime, EVER. Helps me to focus on the food, and the person if someone is easting with me. I also tend to take off most weekends. I post something here or there if I wanted to, but other than that I barely check what’s going on, and I definitely don’t answer emails! I find having a routine during the week, like getting dressed everyday, and starting some work around 9am really helps as well!
Q: What are your top three favorite filling snacks?
A: This is a hard one for me; they’re always so different! When it comes to snacks, I prefer sweet so either a peanut butter perfect bar, fruit & nut butter (like dates, a banana, or an apple), or a sweet of some sort (chocolate chip cookie, brownie or something I’ve made homemade or get freshly baked from a bakery!)
Around this time of year, our social media feeds are often flooded with articles about “how to be your best self in the new year” or “ways to be healthier this year” etc etc etc. When you’re just starting your health journey or know you want to be more health conscious but aren’t sure where to start, these articles can be paralyzing. Rather than overwhelm you, I want to share five really small things you can start doing immediately to take better care of yourself in the New Year.
1) Drink 16 oz (2 cups) of water when you wake up every single day. Last year, I noticed that I would get to school an hour after waking up completely dehydrated already. This would sometimes set me up to get a headache within the next hour or so. This past year, I have made it a priority to drink water FIRST THING. I save my old Kombucha bottles (I keep about five at a time) and rinse them, then fill them with water to keep in the fridge. That way, I ALWAYS have a 16 oz cold container of water in the fridge. Sometimes super cold water feels harsh when I first wake up, especially in the winter, so sometimes I’ll keep one of these bottles next to my bed so I can wake and drink! Water hydrates you, it flushes out toxins, gets your metabolism going, and helps you make good choices about what to eat (sometimes we think we’re starving but we’re actually just THIRSTY, so making sure you drink water when you wake up will help your brain and stomach stay clear on what they’re actually craving).
2) Eat breakfast. Yes, there are lots of ways to get the biggest “bang for your buck” at breakfast time (eat something high in good fats and proteins/low in sugar/etc), but for the purposes of new years resolutions, just start by committing to eating SOMETHING. If you make lunch your first meal of the day, there is a very high chance that you are going to be starving by the time lunch comes and also that you’re not going to be in a position to make healthy choices (because you are so hungry you’ll eat anything). Also you’ll probably get mad at kids because you’re hungry, and that’s just not nice!
3) Don’t put so much pressure on every meal AKA eat snacks. Snacking in-between meals is so important. When you only eat at meal times, you’re so much more likely to be super hungry which often leads to overeating and for some people shameful feelings and/or stomach aches. It might sound like a contradiction to the resolution to “eat breakfast,” but if you’re not having breakfast, you’re actually putting so much pressure on your other meals and setting up your body to feel somewhat starved all day. Have you ever grocery shopped while hungry? I have! What thing did you buy that you didn’t actually want? When we’re hungry, our ability to make smart food decisions often goes out the window. Take control of your snacks and stop letting yourself feel hangry when lunch comes. Stock your classroom with things you love and that fill you up in-between meals. Here are some things I always keep in my classroom:
· Nuts and dark chocolate (I buy the Trader Joe’s snack mixes, but you can also make your own)
· Popcorn (I opt for brands made with popcorn, a healthy oil like avocado/coconut/olive, and salt and that’s IT)
· Granola bars (the lower the sugar/higher the protein the better)
· Healthy crackers and nut butter or sunflower butter if you can’t eat nuts
4) Invest in a blender. If you like smoothies and spend money on them, you’ll save money in the long run by buying a blender. When you make your own smoothies, you have total control of what goes in them, which is huge for your health (because many store bought smoothies are packed with added sugars). I was really into buying “cold pressed juices” for a while and, while I still like them, I’m actually a bigger fan of blending because it preserves all the nutrients in your fruits and veggies because you’re eating the WHOLE fruit/veggie. I’m not a huge fan of leafy greens like kale or spinach, but I love to sneak these into my fruit smoothies because you basically don’t taste them if you choose fruits you love, but you get the nutrients (my go-to smoothie is 1 banana, a handful of frozen blueberries, 1 cup milk, 1 big handful of spinach, and some kind of collagen* or protein powder + chia seeds). No bitter spinach tastes here!
*I use Further Food Collagen Peptides and have a discount code for you all – enter cookbookish10 at checkout for 10% off. Incorporating this into my diet has really strengthened my hair/skin/nails.
5) Take a probiotic. Probiotics are huge in taking control of your health. Basically, probiotics are GOOD bacteria that help keep your gut healthy. About 80% of our immune system is located in our gut, and so having a healthy immune system depends on having more good than bad bacteria in the gut. Good immune system = healthy teachers = happy teachers. Take care of your gut, friends! You can also eat foods that have natural probiotics in them like yogurt/sourdough bread/kimchi/Kombucha, but if that feels like a lot, just take a probiotic in capsule form to start.
What are small changes you’ve made that have really impacted your health? I would love to hear in the comments! Happy new year friends!
Grocery shopping on a (teacher) budget can be hard. There are some products I go to Whole Foods for once and a while (that's a blog post for another day), but over time, I've found that shopping at Trader Joe's is really the best grocery store for my budget and my desire to eat REAL, well produced food with minimal processing and preservatives.
Every time I go to TJ's, I make a point of asking the cashier "how do you like working here?" and "how are the prices so affordable?" Almost 100% of the time, I hear rave reviews about the employee experience of working at Trader Joe's (I love knowing that I'm supporting a work place that makes its employees feel good). And over time I've learned that TJ's basically has a team whose sole purpose is to travel and meet with farmers whose products they source directly, cutting out a middleman which often raises the prices. I'm no economist, but this seems like an awesome strategy for keeping prices affordable and I love that TJ's connects personally with the people who make their products (not to mention TJ's makes a ton of amazing products on their own).
I'm so happy to share with you all fifteen of my favorite TJ's products and to hopefully inspire your next grocery list. It was hard to choose just fifteen, but here are some staples that I find myself buying again and again because of their good quality and good price.
What are some of your favorite TJ's products? Comment below, I would love to hear from you!
Cauliflower Rice: it's cauliflower. In the shape of rice. It doesn't taste exactly like rice (...it's cauliflower), but is a good substitute, especially when paired with other goodies and some seasoning. I like to cook it with coconut aminos (coconut based soy-sauce type thing, also a yummy TJ's product).
Green Smoothie: This has more sugar than I would like, but none of it is added - all from whole fruits & veggies. I don't usually drink a whole bottle in one sitting, but it's yummy and sweet and a really good intro to drinking your veggies if you're skeptical.
Eucalyptus: this is not a TJ's special, but I love love their plant selection and this plant is a regular on my shopping list. Inspired by leefromamerica, I like to hang a little bushel (?) of this from my shower head to make my showers feel like a spa. I replace it every 2-3 weeks. Aaah.
Almond Butter: this is my favorite nut butter to get at TJ's because it's just straight up nuts. No extra ingredients and definitely no added sugars (are you noticing a pattern here?!). Lots of nut butters try to sneak sugar and oils in - not necessary! Nuts and nuts alone 4 life.
Chicken Apple Sausage: I don't eat a ton of meat and I really don't cook a lot of meat, so these are my favorite for when I am craving meat and want something easy and tasty. These are already cooked so you just have to heat them - I love stir frying them in a little avocado oil on the stove until they're crispy. So good. These are my favorite to add to spaghetti and tomato sauce.
Frozen Berries: I love blueberries in my smoothies and TJ's has good quality berries for a good price.
Frozen Coconut Chunks: I love adding these to my smoothies to make em thicker and yummier! Coconut is the new kale. I'm telling you! So many good FATS.
Organic Romaine Hearts: I know that leafy greens are all the rage and for a good reason - they're so good for you. And I try to eat them but I don't always truly ENJOY them and I feel strongly that you should love the food you eat, healthy or not!
Multigrain Sourdough Bread: I love sourdough. I love good grains in my bread. It's a win win. Honestly there are a few ingredients in this bread that I could do without, but it's well priced and pretty healthy and tastes amazing.
Kombucha: Trader Joe's is magic and can sell Kombucha for a better price than I've found anywhere else. Healthade is $3.49 and GT's is $2.99. Really doesn't get better than that. They don't have a ton of flavors (at least from my experience), but for $3 Kombucha I'll take what flavor I can get!
Avocados: Obviously avocados are a must have on your grocery list (unless you hate them or are allergic) but getting them at TJ's is a good choice because - surprise!- they're well priced. I buy the bag of smaller avos and it's perfect for me because I like eating one a day but if it's too big I can't finish it. I have an avocado rotation going on where I keep a bag in the fridge, buy a new bag each week and then rotate the fridge bag out (I keep it in my fruit bowl so they get ripe quicker #science). This is to compensate for the fact that 100% of the time I've bought avocados from TJ's, they are way too hard and not ready to eat. Probably the only complaint I have about this store.
Romaine Lettuce: Leafy greens are all the rage. I know. And it's for a good reason - they're so freakin' good for you. But I like to be realistic and buy stuff I LOVE and will WANT to eat and not feel like I have to, and leafy greens don't really do it for me so I'm a romaine girl. It might not be as healthy as it's leafy sister, but romaine is still nutrient dense and you can get a big bag of organic romaine for ~$4. This usually lasts me two weeks.
Butternut Squash: I think these are seasonal (fall/winter). I like to buy these chunks or the zig-zags, which look like french fries. Taste amazing baked with avo or olive oil and salt and pepper. A french fry/potato alternative.
Nut Packs: The bulk nut section of TJ's is just so fun. I love buying the big bags of individual trail mix baggies. These are probably one of the pricier items I buy semi weekly, but nuts are expensive and these packs are so convenient. I love buying the ones that come with cashews, craisins, dark chocolate, and almonds. There are lots of good options and these are so easy to take on the go.
Raw Shelled Hemp Seed: these are an awesome addition to any meal (good fats!) - I love sprinkling these on my cereal, oatmeal, toast, salad - literally whatever. They hardly have a taste but are so good for you.
Teachers are so susceptible to getting sick being around soso many germs basically all the time. As the seasons change and we leave the "honeymoon period" of the school year, our stress levels rise and when this happens, we're double as likely to get sick because our immunity goes down. When I'm feeling any kind of sickness come on, my favorite thing to do is make myself a big cup of Tumeric Healing Potion! Literally whenever my teacher friends are sick, I tell them to ingest tumeric in some form -- put it in your tea, bake it into your chicken, coat your sauteed green beans with it -- whatever! It's truly nature's medicine because it's super anti-inflammatory, improves brain function, and prevents disease. Need I say more?!
TUMERIC HEALING POTION
1 cup milk (I love coconut milk, but any milk works)
1 tbsp tumeric
1 tbsp raw honey
A few drops of vanilla extract
A few drops of cardamom extract
A pinch of black pepper (helps your body absorb the tumeric)
Optional: scoop of collagen peptides
1. Heat milk up on the stove
2. Add tumeric and stir
3. Add honey, vanilla, cardamom, black pepper, and stir.
One of the most important parts of balanced eating, for me, is dessert! Eating 'healthy' does not mean restricting myself, but finding ways to enjoy all the foods I love. Part of what's actually unhealthy about so many desserts available to us is that there are all these added sweeteners and preservatives. Dessert in itself does not have to be an unhealthy thing, especially if we make it ourselves and control what goes into it. I wanted to share five of my favorite go-to dessert recipes - all very chocolate based (sorry in advance if you're not a chocolate person!), and all made with whole and nourishing ingredients, sweetened only (if at all) with raw honey. Ready in 20-30 minutes or less. Enjoy!
Unless you have restrictions or practice a vegan diet, eggs are the single best food you could choose for breakfast. Pair them with avocados and you are setting your body/brain up for an excellent day.
Eggs are considered a 'complete protein' because they have all 9 of the essential amino acids our bodies but can't produce on their own. Eggs have historically gotten a bad rep for being high in cholesterol, but it's actually GOOD for you cholesterol (do your research! don't blindly listen to what you hear!). Eggs also have protein, vitamins, minerals, and GOOD fats (key word: good - just like avocados!). Bottom line: eggs are awesome for your health and keep you full. Win win for teachers who are in the market to stay full.
I've found that the best way to enjoy eggs at school is to either soft or hard boil 4-5 eggs at the beginning of the week (see below for boiling instructions), pop them in a glass container, and leave them in my fridge at school (or bring one a day if you don't have a fridge).
Then, I peel them and spill/slice them onto fresh toast at school, top with salt/pepper, and pair with another slice of avocado toast if I'm feeling super hungry. Alternately, you could combine all the ingredients on just one slice.
Soft boil: bring pot of water to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low, add eggs, cook for 4-5 minutes.
Medium boil: bring pot of water to boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low, add eggs, cook for 7-8 minutes.
Hard boil: put eggs in pot, cover with cold water, bring pot to boil over medium meat, cover, remove from heat, leaves eggs in hot water for 8-10 minutes.
This is Udi's Gluten Free toast (so teeeny, I usually need at least two pieces) with half avocado mash and pistachios, half beetroot hummusand sunflower seeds. Adding seeds to your toasts is a tasty way to add protein and texture. I opt for raw seeds to get all the nutrients from them (not salted, not roasted). You can always roast/salt on your own later.
This falls into the "& friends" category. This is a whole wheat everything flagel (which I recently discovered is really not necessarily less dense than a bagel, but often just a bagel squashed up, so...) with kite hill cream cheese (awesome, simple ingredients, dairy-free, does not hurt belly, tastes amazing), heirloom tomatoes, and microgreens (I use these as a garnish - they're not full of flavor, but they are full of nutrients and make your creations more beautiful).
I'm super lucky to work at a school whose teacher kitchen area is stocked with communal staple foods (bread, cheese, cold cuts, fruit, yogurt). When possible, I like to bring in my own types of bread and keep it in the freezer (re: gluten free/sprouted grain/sourdough/etc.), but when I run out, I'm happy to stick with good ole' classic whole wheat bread.
I'm not on a strict gluten free diet by any means, but am definitely excited to find alternatives to gluten when possible. On a less-glutenny day, I'm excited about eating Udi's Gluten Free Whole Grain Toast. This toast is topped with avocado smash, salt, pepper, lemon, and chia. Lemon is somewhat of an annoying ingredient to keep at school (because it has to stay refrigerated and is rarely used in one sitting), but it's always a yummier and healthier day (lemons help promote weight loss by speeding up your metabolism - score!) when I bring in a lemon and squeeze some onto my toast and save the rest for my water throughout the day. Mmmm.
I'm a big fan of fermented food (see: kombucha section), so I like to incorporate some sourdough bread into my morning toast routine sometimes. Here, I topped it with avocado smash, pepper jelly, and hemp seeds (with health benefits comparable to chia & flax -- though they all seem to out-do each other in some category - I say, incorporate them all!). Photographed on a bed of lettuce here for the aesthetic, but I love eating lettuce on top of my toast sometimes to add some fresh crunch. WoOoO mornings!
Ezekiel Toast with Peanut Butter/Coconut Milk Yogurt, Berries & Raw Honey
Ezekiel Toast with Almond Butter & Berries
Ezekiel toast (as mentioned in manymany other posts) with peanut butter (Pic's Peanut Butter is my favorite -- pro TIP: the only ingredient that peanut butter should really have is PEANUTS! and maybe a liiil salt.), banana slices, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, sprinkled with hemp & chia (because always).
Can even be eaten right out of the container to save time :)
Not pictured here, but I also love Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Waffles.
Both waffle brands are excellent choices because they're vegan with significant amounts of fiber and protein and low in sugar. They're also made with pronounce-able & hearty ingredients like whole wheat flour, steel cut oats, brown rice, wheat protein, barley flour, sprouted chia/millet/flax, and spelt.
Goji berries are awesome as toppings because they're antioxidant filled lil guys that will satisfy your sweet tooth without any sugar crash. They're filled with all kinds of vitamins and minerals and are good for boosting immunity.
Chia seeds are just the best. I put them on literally everything because they're essentially tasteless but add a little texture and a ton of health benefits to any food (or drink!). These seeds are filled with fiber, protein, and omega 3 fatty acids (ditto Flax Seeds).
Pumpkin seeds have magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamin K, omega 3 fatty acids, and protein. And so tasty. Sold.