Transitions, Veganism

5 Reasons a Plant Based Diet is the Most Nutritious Diet

I think that as a society, we are quite aware of the health problems in westernized countries. We are suffering from diseases of indulgence. Diseases that were once only found in the wealthiest people of society. Look around your circle of friends and family, and I bet you know at least one person suffering with one or more of these diseases. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and gout, just to name a few.

I’m not here to lecture you about these diseases. I just want to share a few of the reasons that eating more of a whole food plant based diet can give you the nutrition that your body needs to avoid diseases of excess and to thrive. So let’s get right into it.

  1. Micronutrients – think vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The more colorful your food is, the more micronutrients you’ll be taking in. These are essential to normal bodily functions, immune system function, digestion, and overall health. Want to look young? Eat the rainbow!
  2. Lower in fat – dietary saturated fat and cholesterol are a recipe for heart disease. Saturated fat and cholesterol are only found in animal products and processed foods. Sure, you can eat nuts, nut butters, and avocados which are all high in fat but those have one thing animal products don’t have: fiber. Your body digests whole plant foods with higher fat differently than it digests processed or animal foods that have higher fat and cholesterol content.
  3. No chemical shit storm – let’s not fool ourselves on this one. Any packaged food has some sort of chemicals in it. Take a look at the ingredient list on the package of pretzels in your cabinet or hummus in your refrigerator (both of which are staples in my kitchen). There’s bound to be an ingredient or two in there you can’t pronounce. While some of these chemicals mimic natural ingredients that help to extend shelf life or enhance color, it doesn’t change the fact that the chemicals in processed, packaged foods are not meant to be processed by our bodies.
  4. Less Exposure to Hormones – Kids are currently going through puberty at incredibly young ages. This can be attributed in part to the amount of meat and dairy those children are consuming. Animal flesh is full of hormones, just as your body is full of hormones. Dairy is also full of hormones. Think about milk for a moment. Cow’s milk is designed to fatten up a young calf into a fully grown adult cow. Of course it’s packed with growth hormones. When you eliminate dairy and meat from your diet, you also eliminate the hormones that they sneak into your diet.
  5. Fiber – Fiber is a wonderful thing. Only produced by plants and not readily digested by the body. Think of fiber as the street sweeper for your insides. You know what they say about fiber – it keeps you regular. Keep the waste moving. There’s no need for it to linger! Fiber is also critical for countless other functions and is best consumed in it’s whole form from plants, not from supplements.

I’d like to make the disclaimer that yes, a plant based diet is lacking in B12. If you begin eating a fully plant based diet, it’s important to take a B12 supplement regularly. I’d also like to point out that B12 is found in animal products only because those animals are also fed B12 supplements and when you consume animal flesh, you also consume whatever they have eaten. B12 is produced by bacteria in the soil. Many moons ago we would have ingested B12 through fruits and vegetables. However, in our highly sanitized world, B12 is no longer readily available from the dirt leftover on your lettuce and strawberries.

So there you have it. 5 reasons a plant based diet is the most nutritious diet.

You don’t have to go plant based over night. You can make the transition slowly by replacing one or two meals each week with plant based options. Over time, those plant based meals will crowd out the animal and processed foods.

Transitions, Veganism

Top 5 Tips to Slowly Transition to Veganism

As I’ve shared more of my story, I’m approached by people who are interested in trying some new recipes and experimenting with a more plant-based diet. When I share recommendations based on my own research and experiences, the same thing always comes up: There’s no way I can be fully vegan.

Truth is, you can, but you don’t have to eat a 100% plant based diet. It’s okay to make slow changes towards eating more whole, plant foods. I personally believe that when you take the pressure off by removing the vegan label, it’s actually easier to eat more like a vegan. When you intentionally make plant-based choices and you take your time, you’re more likely to create maintainable habits.

There are some instances where an immediate transition to a plant-based diet is necessary. Your doctor may have recommended a dramatic change of your diet to help improve your health. Or maybe you’ve witnessed the realities of factory farming and slaughtering and are unable to eat animal products again.

But honestly, the rate at which you transition to a whole food plant based diet really depends on what you want and what you’re willing to do to change your habits.

That being said, if you choose to transition slowly, here are my top 5 recommendations:

  1. Focus on the things that you are adding to your diet, not the things you’re giving up. Try new foods. You may be surprised at how your tastebuds now enjoy foods you once thought you didn’t like.
  2. Try one new plant-based recipe per week. A quick Google search of your favorite recipe plus the word vegan will likely yield thousands of results. For example, search ‘vegan shepherd’s pie’ and you’ll find dozens of tasty recipes like this one and this one.
  3. Explore your local produce stand. I recently discovered that I love going to the little produce market next to my gym. They have the most beautiful produce, some of which isn’t carried in my grocery store. The prices are often much cheaper and there are likely to be more local choices. They also sell pantry staples, like oatmeal, flour, quinoa, beans, etc. It’s a great little one stop shop.
  4. Read and watch documentaries about veganism. The more you know, the easier the choice to eat more plant food becomes. If you’re transitioning because of health, read books like How Not to Die or The China Study. If you’re interested in the environmental side, try watching Cowspiracy. If you’re interested in the ethical side, watch Earthlings. There’s also a ridiculous amount of resources available on YouTube. Again, a quick search will yield more results than you can imagine.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up. If you’re craving a burger, eat the damn burger and jump back on the plant-train tomorrow (and tomorrow you can look up my black bean and sweet potato burger recipe for the next time you’re craving that burger). Making this change requires a huge shift in your thinking about food and it’s okay to not be 100% on point. Make the changes at a rate that’s sustainable for your life. Slowly crowd out the animal products with plant food and eventually you’ll get there.

Bonus tip:

  • Include satiating foods in your diet. Don’t think that you’ll be able to survive on just salads and apples. While eating your dark green leafy veggies and fruits are important if that’s all you eat, you will feel hungry! Try whole grains like, oats, whole wheat pasta and bread, brown rice, quinoa, etc. Legumes are another important addition to your diet. Some of my favorites include black beans, lentils, and cannellini beans. Starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn are also extremely satiating.

So that’s it. My top 5 (plus a bonus) tips for slowly adopting more of a plant based diet. If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments for others to read. 💚

Fitness, Transitions


Confidence is a fleeting feeling. Sometimes you get on a roll and confidence is limitless. Other times, confidence wavers.

In the last few years, my confidence has been pretty consistent. How did I build that? How do I regularly feel confident?

It’s because I keep the promises I make to myself.

If it sounds simple, it’s because it is simple.

Recently I was reading through all of the notes stored on my iPhone and found the goals I had written for 2017. The two big goals I made were to compete in 2 NPC shows and to buy a home on a nice lot and an open kitchen. I even had strategies for reaching those goal written down, which I did.

I accomplished both of those things in 2017. I busted my ass to keep those promises I made to myself.

It scared me to death to get back on that stage twice last year, but it was a goal I knew I wanted to accomplish, so I put in the work day in and day out and I did compete twice. Shoot, I even won an overall title.

It scared me to death to sign those mortgage documents, but it was a goal I knew was right for my husband and me. So we saved like crazy, moved in with my parents for a few months, and made our dream a reality.

The confidence I’ve built is a result of the promises I’ve made to myself and I’ve kept regardless of any excuses I could come up with.

Does the confidence sometimes still waver? Of course it does. But I know the choices I need to make to feel that limitless confidence and am self-aware enough to know when I haven’t been making them.

Do you want that kind of confidence? Make some promises to yourself and do the little and big things it takes every day to keep those promises.

Fitness, Recipes, Transitions, Veganism

Cold weather meals ~ Vegan Jambalaya

I live in Florida. I love living in Florida. Especially when it’s literally freezing everywhere else and it’s in the 70s here. I do not love cold weather. I do not love the layers and the constant battle against the frozen nose and toes. I do however, enjoy stews, chili, and jambalaya which this ridiculously cold Florida weather (lows in the 30s) is perfect for.

Because of our recent cold-snap, I’ve decided to share my veganized twist on jambalaya. I initially made this recipe based on this one that is from The Plant Pure Nation Cookbook and was shared on . This meal has become a staple in our house for rainy or chilly days. Enjoy!

The key to any great jambalaya is the base ~The Holy Trinity of Cajun cooking~ equal parts of onion, bell peppers, and celery. Roughly chop these three veggies and steam sautĂ© in your favorite veggie broth. This time, I also had some bell peppers from my parents’ garden, so I was able to use those tasty little peppers. If you’re a garlic lover, you can add a clove or two of minced garlic 3-5 minutes into sautĂ©ing.

Once the onions become translucent, you can add in a large can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, 2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste, liquid smoke, frozen okra, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. Allow those to simmer over low heat, while stirring occasionally for at least 30 minutes, but an hour or more is best. Really let those flavors come together.

While the jambalaya is simmering, cook up a pot of rice. I usually serve jambalaya with regular old brown rice, but lately I’ve been loving the Royal Blend from Rice Select. It’s got white, brown, wild, and red rice in it. Again, this part is totally up to you!

After the jambalaya has simmered long enough, add in whatever meaty substitute you desire. For the healthiest version, add in cubed tempeh – as much or as little as you like. Some people recommend pre-cooking the tempeh to get rid of the bitter taste, but I’ve never done that and have had no problems. I’ve also used the Field Roast sausage links in this recipe before. While it’s not the healthiest option, it certainly is tasty. You can also add beans at this point if you like. Although, when you add beans, does that technically make this a chili or a gumbo?

Once you’ve added in your meaty alternative, allow the jambalaya to continue simmering until everything is heated through.

Serve up your veganized jambalaya with the cooked rice on the side or you can choose to mix the rice you’ve already cooked right into the jambalaya.

I wasn’t totally sure what the difference between jambalaya, gumbo, and chili is so, I got on the ole Google machine to find out. I was curious, so I know someone reading this is probably curious too!

Jambalaya is more of a rice based dish typically with andouille sausage and shrimp or other shellfish. Gumbo is a roux-thickened stew with poultry, sausage, and/or shellfish that is typically served over rice. Chili is made from tomatoes, meat, and a source of heat (ie. chili powder). Funny, no beans mentioned in the jambalaya or gumbo, but the jury is still out regarding beans in chili. So it’s tough to say that this recipe is truly a jambalaya or a gumbo or a chili. All I know is that it is delicious and warms me right up on a chilly Florida night.

Vegan Jambalaya

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A hearty veganized version of jambalaya sure to warm you up on a chili night.


  • 1/2 cup of vegetable broth
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 T. tomato paste
  • 1 t. Liquid smoke
  • 1/2 c. Frozen okra (optional)
  • 1 T. Dried parsley
  • 1 t. Dried Thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Your choice of rice, cooked according to package directions.
  • Your choice of meat substitutes such as, tempeh, Field Roast Vegan Sausage Links, etc.


  1. Roughly chop the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Mince the garlic and set aside.
  2. In a large stock pot, bring vegetable broth to a simmer and add the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Steam sauté for 3-5 minutes.
  3. When onion is translucent, add in minced garlic and sauté form2-4 minutes longer.
  4. Add in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, liquid smoke, okra (if using), parsley, thyme, and bay leaf. Stir well and allow to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.
  5. While jambalaya is simmer, prepare rice in a separate pot or a rice cooker.
  6. Just before serving, add in meat substitute and allow to simmer long enough to heat through.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve with prepared rice.

Fitness, Transitions, Veganism

Why does going vegan seem so hard?

I was recently approached by a gym friend about the fact that I’m vegan. He had no idea that I was until he saw my Instagram page (which makes sense since we usually just have the cordial, ‘Hey! How’s it going?’ chat). As we were talking, he kept mentioning how hard it must be to be vegan and I kept reassuring him that it eventually became my new normal and it’s really not that difficult. But the conversation got me thinking, why does it seem so hard to be vegan?

Like most changes we make, it may seem daunting when you first consider going vegan. If you’re like me, then you grew up eating meat, dairy, and eggs. What the hell are you going to eat if you aren’t going to eat those things? It took me an entire year of being flexible with my diet and indulging in meat and dairy (mostly dairy) before I felt confident enough to eliminate animal products completely. The key for me was actually not placing that ‘vegan’ label on myself until I felt completely ready. And even still, I don’t feel guilty about a tiny bit of dairy creeping into my meal if Kyle and I choose to eat dinner anywhere but at home.

Another thing that helped to make the change easier was having a purpose beyond just losing weight. Yes, the weight loss was an amazing bonus, but I was truly focused on regaining my health. I mean, at 24 years old my doctor was talking to me about having high blood pressure. She even reassured me that it was to be expected since I have a family history of high blood pressure. That’s not normal for any healthy 24 year old. My blood pressure is now 108/73 in case you’re wondering. But I digress. If you’re truly interested in eating a plant based diet, you need to have a purpose that is meaningful to you for making such a dramatic shift.

For me it was my health. I witnessed my Papa suffer for the last few years of his life with poor health. I also saw how that impacted our entire family and how it still does to this day, 10 years after his passing. I just do not want to ever have to endure the doctors visits, treatments, and surgeries that he went through.

The three most common reasons people begin a plant based journey are: health, environment and ethics. There are numerous documentaries widely available that address all three of these reasons for switching to a plant based diet. Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy, and Earthlings are just a few I would recommend.

So back to my original question, why does it seem so difficult to go vegan? I honestly think that it’s the fact that you are going to do something so different from what you grew up doing and likely so different from what your friends and family are currently doing that it feels impossible. But I promise, it’s not.

Have the courage to be different, give yourself some room for trial and error, and be open minded about how eating a plant based diet can improve the quality of your life. đŸŒ±

Fitness, Transitions, Veganism

Setting Big Goals and Making Small Decisions 

I’ve really been enjoying listening to podcasts lately. After my last competition in July, I had been feeling a bit uninspired by music in general at the gym. I tried training without music and it was uncomfortable and not in the way that helps you to improve. At about the same time I was seeing more and more mention of listening to podcasts in my social media feed. So I started with The MFCEO Project with Andy Frisella. I’ve been hooked ever since. I love the way Andy delivers a no nonsense message. He owns his opinion completely, even if it’s controversial. I love listening to inspiring speakers during my training sessions.

So, what does this have to do with goal setting?

That’s something talked about a lot on The MFCEO Project and has really left an impression on me.

The MFCEO Project Podcast

In regards to wanting more (whether with fitness, success, family, etc.), you honestly need to set a big goal. Dream big. Put it out into the universe. Visualize having the things you want.

When you really put that goal out there, making the small decisions every day will be easier because you’ll be able to make those choices with the big goal in mind.

If your goal is to have better health, maybe more specifically to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, then the actions you take every day need to lend themselves to that goal. When you grocery shop, choose foods that are going to help you reach your goal, not sabotage your efforts. Instead of watching anther episode on Netflix, go for a walk around the neighborhood. Choose water over soda. Again, all of your choices should reflect your goals.

As you make these decisions, people will notice and people will make comments. Some supportive, many judgmental.

Who cares what other people think? Those people’s reaction to the changes you are making reflect their level of comfort (or in many cases, discomfort) with themselves.
Who cares if it seems unrealistic? You’ll never know if you can achieve your goals unless you set them big and WORK toward them.

Fitness, Transitions

How fitness has changed my life… for the better

We all know that exercise is a good thing for us. But how can getting up for that walk our doctors recommend really, truly, and practically impact our lives?

Before I get started, I want you to realize that I’m speaking here from first hand experience. In my short life, I’ve gained and lost over 50 pounds. 

No really. Over 50 pounds. 

Getting into a fitness routine is hard.  When you haven’t been active in a while, the thought of getting up and exerting yourself physically is not appealing. You might feel embarrassed to get out and go for that walk or dare I say it, step foot into the gym. 

Seriously though, don’t be embarrassed. When I see someone in the gym who isn’t in great shape, but they are there and working, all I can think is, ‘Hell yeah! You got this!’

So back to how fitness has changed my life. Below are the top 5 ways my life has changed for the better because of fitness. (Being a very concrete-sequential thinker, I figured the easiest way to outline the changes would be a brief, bulleted list. You’re welcome.)

  1. Strength – I know physically I’m the strongest I’ve ever been and I will continue to develop that. Mentally, I know that I can push myself in all areas of life. When you can go into the gym and push yourself to do a few more reps when your arms feel like falling off, you know that you can literally do anything in any area of your life. 
  2. Confidence – this goes along with strength, but I really do feel more confident than I ever have. Knowing I have this physical and mental  strength makes me confident in my abilities in all other areas of life. 
  3. Energy – I have so much energy! I wake up feeling like a I can conquer the world (most days). 
  4. Sleep – along with having a lot of energy, my sleep has improved immensely. I sleep soundly through the night and on the rare occasion I do wake up in the middle of the night, I’m able to get back to sleep. 
  5. Relationships – I take care of myself first which allows me to care for the people in my life. 

I could go on and on about how exercise has changed my life for the better, but I feel like these areas have been the most profoundly impacted by my exercise routine. 

So go tie up those laces. Go for that walk. Use that gym membership you’ve been paying for. Get some of these benefits in your own life. 

Recipes, Transitions, Veganism

Small changes

This week I decided it’s time to make a few more small changes. Since my show, I’ve been steadily gaining weight which is a good thing. The leanness achieved for the stage is not maintainable. As much as I love the cuts and being able to see the vascularity, I don’t feel healthy and nourished being that lean. 

I’ve gotten to a point in my ‘reverse diet’ where I know I’m at a healthy, maintainable weight. I feel physically strong, especially during my training. Now knowing that, I’m making small changes to be able to keep this weight. 

While thinking about my own small changes, I’ve been talking with family and friends about them making small changes. I’ve kind of had to take a step back. I’m promoting this plant based lifestyle because I know the benefits but I’ve been a bit impatient, especially with my own family.  I’ve forgotten how long it took Kyle and I to get to the point we are at with our diets. I realize that making this change for most people is not quick or simple. 

Making small, consistent changes will leave a lasting impact. 

I want to encourage anyone who is open to it to make small changes toward a plant based diet. But where to start?? Below are my top tips for making small changes toward transitioning to a plant based diet. 

  1. Try one new, completely plant-based recipe each week. As you try new recipes, you’ll find meals that you love (and don’t love) that will push out some of the meat based meals. 
  2. Try replacing milk or coffee creamer with plant based options. I love unsweetened cashew milk and So Delicious French Vanilla Coffee Creamer. 
  3. Stop looking at the nutritional label and start looking at the ingredient list. If  you are going to buy a packaged product, make sure you know what the ingredients actually are. If there is anything you can’t pronounce, you probably shouldn’t eat it. 
  4. Meal prep. Take one day each week to plan what meals you’ll be cooking and prepare anything you can ahead of time on that day. I typically do this on Sunday. I plan out a menu for the week, write a list, grocery shop, wash all of my produce, and prep anything I can to make week night cooking easier. 
  5. Try to use less oil. If you are sautĂ©ing vegetables, try sautĂ©ing them in water or vegetable broth. It’s not quite the same as using oil, but it gets the job done and you won’t be adding hundreds of extra calories from fat to your diet. 
  6. Try snacking on raw fruits and veggies. If you’ve become accustomed to eating more processed snacks like chips and Little Debbie snacks, it will take some time for your taste buds to adjust. Raw veggies will taste bland because they’re not doused in oil and salt and fruit won’t taste sweet since it’s got natural sugar instead of refined sugar. I promise though, your taste buds will adjust and you’ll come to love unprocessed snacks and you won’t be able to tolerate the chips and Little Debbie’s. 
  7. Drink water, tea, and coffee. But, mostly water. Add a lemon or other fruit to your water if you’re not into the plain taste of water. 

These are just a few of many tips. Like any new habit, transitioning to a plant based diet won’t be easy at first and it will take time. But, making small, consistent changes will leave a lasting impact.