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Providing healthy snacks and meals to my family is one of my top priorities. We are what we eat, right?! Well, then real life sets in, and that line at Chik-Fil-A isn’t looking too long, amirite? Life gets crazy with schedules, chores, appointments, etc. – the list goes on and on. One of the things that I have found to be the easiest to “let go” is what we eat. I decided I needed some serious food-life hacks. I don’t want to spend hours learning about the latest diet fad, or looking up hundreds of “easy”, “fast”, yet “healthy” recipes, then print them out, take them to the store, and then spending hours cooking. I get exhausted just thinking about it!
Like always, I go to Instagram for inspiration and I found this amazing Charleston mama who has done all the work for us! I was so excited to meet her. She makes eating healthy look easy AND delicious – everything I was hoping for! I was so excited to meet with her and pick her brain. Here is my interview with Laura S. Allen – get excited!
Charleston Moms Blog (CMB): Please tell us all about you! How did you start this incredible healthy journey?
Laura S. Allen (LA): I am a speech pathologist by training, but today I am a proud wife and mom to two sweet girls (3 and 5 years old). Our health journey began about seven years ago. My husband is a type 1 diabetic and I was worried about this future. For the past fifteen years, I’ve struggled with an awful body image. I was hospitalized in high school for anorexia, and fifteen years later, I still felt stuck in this revolving door; Restrict, binge, spend hours pounding the pavement, to wake up and do it all over again!
When I was eight weeks pregnant, we started researching disease, inflammation, antioxidants, and most importantly the power of a plant-based diet. We watched every documentary out there.
Our health has done a complete 180; more energy, my husbands A1C is down, he is using less insulin, no more statin, no more DAILY allergy pill, down twenty-five pounds, no more energy drinks, faster recovery after a workout, sick less often, no longer living off of sugar and caffeine, and best of all, we feel better than we did in our 20’s!!!
At age two, my daughter was diagnosed with all the antibodies for type 1 diabetes. Her A1C has continued to go down and it is NORMAL! She turned five year old just last month and we are so HOPEFUL about the future!
Nutrition nearly killed me years ago, and now, it is nutrition that gives my family so much HOPE. Our DNA is NOT our destiny! People are suffering unnecessarily!
As a mom, I understand that every decision I make nourishes something. I’m either feeding or fighting disease with every bite.
I am so passionate about working with people, sharing resources, recipes, tips, and tricks to help families take their health back! And yes, even if you have picky eaters or have recently been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, there is HOPE!
CMB: What an amazing story! I would love to learn more about how you fuel your family on a daily basis. Lets start with the fun stuff: restaurants. My family LOVES to eat out. What are your g0-to healthy restaurants in Charleston?
LA: Our family is dairy-free, gluten-free and we eat plant-based about 90% of the time, so most of our favorite restaurants encourage a plant-based lifestyle. Dellz is my favorite! Basic Kitchen, Five Loaves, Verde, Gnome cafe.
CMB: What are YOUR go-to meals at these restaurants?
LA: We absolutely love EVERYTHING at Dellz! Our favorite is the Jazzy pizza. As a family, we often split the Vegan jazzy pizza (GF) and a bowl (either the acorn bowl, Lucky bowl, or Thai bowl). The vegan nachos are pretty fantastic too!
At Basic Kitchen, the cauliflower “wings” with cashew ranch melt in your mouth. We always split the cauliflower wings and the basic bowl with a side of veggies. Any of the sides are fantastic.
My go-to meal at Five Loaves is the arugula salad (no goat cheese).
We LOVE Verde! We often get lunch on Fridays at Verde because we have run out of food in the house. The seasonal salads are always tasty, but my go-to is the farmer’s market salad. My husband and girls love the mesa verde.
I love the taco salad at Gnome Cafe. If you are looking for a traditional breakfast dish, but want to ditch the meat, Gnome has a great breakfast menu.
CMB: What do you order for your girls at these restaurants?
LA: My girls often split something off the menu or eat some of ours. They never order off the kids menu. Often times, they will just get a side of rice and beans, plus a vegetable or a few sides for their meal.
CMB: That all sounds delicious! Now, onto the homefront. What does a week of meals look like at your house?
LA: I do my grocery shopping on Sunday (and usually an online order on Wednesday). (Click HERE to see a sample grocery list by Laura).
I spend between thirty minutes – one hour washing and chopping veggies to cut back on meal time during the week. For working parents, you could even prepare and cook some of the veggies, meats etc. and just reheat.
Every week, we have tacos one night (some type of bean, maybe fish, or meat substitute), buddha bowls another night (or two-haha), usually some type of stir-fry with a simple teriyaki or peanut sauce over cauliflower rice/quinoa, spaghetti squash one night (red sauce and maybe some veggie meatballs) and maybe salmon/fish another night. Meals are simple! Nothing takes more than 15-20 minutes to prepare. It is all about eating the rainbow, more plants matter, and presentation.
I also make a Costco run about once a month.
CMB: What are your favorite food brands that are “clean” (sugar-free, few additives, ingredients that we can all pronounce!)
LA: We Love Tessemae dressings…specifically the creamy ranch and habanero ranch! Great for buddha bowls, salads, and dips for the girls. We love the Garlic Expressions vinaigrette too. Great for any and everything (it is my girl’s favorite!) We love the Garden Lite brand (especially the frozen chocolate muffins and chocolate chip muffins) and Path of Life Brand (great frozen quinoa mixes for a side, or add meat/beans for a complete meal). Also, I am a HUGE Trader Joe’s fan. I get 50% of our groceries there weekly. The Everything But the Bagel seasoning is a MUST, and we get many of our staples there too…nutritional yeast, hummus, nuts, dried fruit, gluten-free oatmeal, kale chips, seaweed snacks, kombucha, banana chips, bruschetta, cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza crust, pizza sauce, etc.
CMB: I LOVE The Everything But the Bagel seasoning!! Ok, so we’ve conquered meals, what about after-school snacks?
LA: We love graze trays!… olives, nuts, hummus, hearts of palm, cut up fruits, vegetables (I often steam the veggies to make them softer), hard-boiled eggs, guacamole, kale chips, pickles, black beans, roasted chickpeas, protein balls, edamame, turkey pepperoni. Another go-to is an easy vegan chocolate shake (nutrition from 24 plants) or avocado toast! We also love our fruit snacks that contain the nutrition from 30 fruits, vegetables, and berries! #easybutton
CMB: Speaking of #EasyButton, what are your two easy, fast, healthy meals that you feed your family?
LA: Tacos & Buddha Bowls. Buddha bowls are so versatile and satisfying; Mexican, Asian, and even Thai. It’s basically all the same ingredients sautéed, roasted, or raw topped with a yummy sauce! Serve over cauliflower rice, quinoa, or rice. Super easy way to get lots of plants in your family AND I love to get the kids involved and make their OWN bowls!
CMB: If you had one tip for Charleston moms who are trying to eat healthier, what would it be?
LA: Keep it simple! Make one simple change at a time. When we got started six years ago, I didn’t know where to begin. My husband was eating an Atkins diet and the only green vegetable he ate was grilled asparagus. We have slowly transitioned to 90% plant based, dairy-free, gluten-free. We literally made one simple change at a time. It is about progress, not perfection. We went from desperate to thriving and haven’t looked back!
There you have it, Charleston mamas! You now have a handful of tips and tricks on healthy eating for you and your family. Thanks, Laura!
PS. – Laura and I ate at Dellz during this interview, and it was truly amazing. We split a salad and the nachos…I can’t wait to go back!