Latest Posts

A Hidden Gem in the Poconos: Akwabaa The Mansion at Noble Lane Review

IMG_8233Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on hospitality-related businesses across the nation as many were forced to close their doors to ensure the safety of staff and customers. Now that the case numbers were decreasing and hotels/inn were slowly reopening their doors, I knew that I wanted to take a short socially distanced getaway during my time off. An important part of my health journey, is taking out time to take care of myself. Therefore, I decided to stay at Akwabaa The Mansion at Noble Lane, a black-owned bed and breakfast in the Poconos Mountain Region as seen on Checked Inn on OWN. I also brought along my husband, sister, and her husband. 

Prior to booking the reservation, I visited Akwabaa’s site to see its Covid-19 procedures. The site detailed the many adjustments they have made to ensure the safety of their guests. Upon arrival to the Mansion, I was immediately impressed by the beauty of the grounds. The inside of the mansion had a rustic charm that showed its age and history but with some beautiful modern updates. We were greeted by Monique Greenwood at check-in, the owner of 5 black-owned bed and breakfasts. She gave us a private tour of the Mansion, detailing its history and unique architecture. We stayed on the third floor of the Mansion in their luxury rooms. Our room had a welcome snack basket with some games, which was a pleasant surprise. 

This area of the Poconos Region is truly a gem. Our itinerary for the getaway included horseback riding at Happy Trails Stable, hiking at Prompton State Park, Boat Tour of Lake Wallenpaupack, and a picnic in the park. Every morning at the Mansion, breakfast was served at 9AM and they were able to easily accommodate me and my sister’s vegetarian dietary restriction. The food was delicious and it was comforting to be surrounded by so much black excellence. Our second day was a rainy day so we stayed at the Mansion for the full day but there was more than enough there to keep us entertained. I went to the gym in the morning and we spent the evening splashing in the indoor heated pool. We even made a few friends along the way, who happened to also be from Maryland. 

All in all, I was extremely torn between writing this review or keeping this best kept secret all to myself. I decided that it would be better to spread the word about this awesome place to stay in the Poconos area for a quiet and relaxing time. I truly appreciated how invested Monique was in every customer, how she remembered all the names, and spent time talking to us about family and values. If you ever have a chance to visit the Poconos Mountain Region, I hope you consider staying at Akwabaa the Mansion at Noble Lane.  

 

The Top 5 Hidden Sugar Offenders

close up photo of sugar cubes in glass jar
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

When you think of sugars, most people think of birthday cake, ice cream, and candy! Many don’t realize that carbohydrates are actually digested and broken down into sugars prior to entering the bloodstream. Eating foods high in carbohydrates is almost synonymous to foods high in sugar.

Research studies show that excess sugar increases your risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Therefore reducing the amount of carbohydrates in your meals is essential to living a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, some processed foods and other seemingly healthier food options have a high sodium content, which is balanced out by adding hidden sugar. Foods you would assume are healthy are actually full of sugars in disguise, either as carbohydrates or added sugars.

Sugar reduction is a major component of the ketogenic lifestyle, which many including myself have attributed their significant weight loss to this method of eating. If you are transitioning to a low carbohydrate lifestyle, here are my top hidden sugar offenders to avoid:

1. Fruit Juices/Sports Drinks

Fruit juices and Sports Drinks are all carbohydrates with little to no fiber. One 20-ounce sports drink contains 34 grams of sugar! 100% Fruit Juices are in the same ballpark. Consider water, unsweetened tea or coffee as your main sources for hydration for expedited weight loss. 

2. Frozen Dinners

While frozen dinners are super convenient, they are not a healthy choice for reducing sugar. Preservatives like starch and corn syrup (which are made up of sugar) are added to keep these foods fresh, making the average carbohydrate level 30 grams or more. Sodium is also used as a preservative, which increases your cholesterol levels and increases your risk of high blood pressure. Thankfully some brands such as Atkins, Real Good Foods, Life/Lean Cuisine are providing low carbohydrate versions of frozen dinners. If you must have a frozen dinner, remember to check the nutrition facts to see if they are high in carbohydrates. 

3. Smoothies

When made the right way using vegetables as a base with some fruit for sweetness, smoothies can be a great healthy choice. However, most smoothie mixes that are sold in stores or juice bars are filled with added sugar. Fast food Smoothies also add liquid sweeteners to their blends. Your best way of avoiding hidden sugar smoothies is to make vegetable-based smoothies at home, using a handful of whole fresh berries.

4. Cereals/Granola

Granola Bars and Cereals are often advertised as a health food. However, they are essentially candy bars in disguise. With an ingredient list that includes dextrose, honey, fructose, sugar, and corn syrup, it is nearly impossible to find cereal or granolas that contains less than 10grams of carbohydrates per serving. Even the healthiest brands range from 20-30grams of carbohydrates. If you are craving a warm bowl of cereal, consider my Keto Porridge Recipe from my 7 Day Modified Keto Vegetarian Meal Plan

5. Ketchup/Barbecue Sauce

Ketchup contains 4 grams per tablespoon which can easily add up when placed on your food. Consider switching to yellow mustard, chipotle mayo, or any other cream based condiment to keep your carbohydrate levels low. 

Unfortunately, there are way more than 5 Hidden Sugar Offenders out there. Ultimately, the best way to avoid all hidden sugar offenders is to read nutrition facts prior to purchasing certain foods. Even if you think it’s healthy, you may be surprised by what you find!
IMG_4588

How to Stay Consistent with Health Goals Over the Weekend

IMG_5329

During the week, you’ve packed your lunch every day, ate all the meal prepped food you’ve cooked for the week for dinner, avoided fast food, and hit the gym three times. Now, it’s Friday and you feel ready to let loose! Then Monday morning comes along and you’ve realized you’ve regressed on your goals and start all over again. Sound familiar? The first few months of my lifestyle change I found that I wasn’t seeing the results I hoped for highly due to inconsistencies on the weekend. I’m not saying that there isn’t room for weekend indulgences. However, consistency especially at the beginning is essential to achieving your health goals. Here are my 5 best tips for remaining consistent with your health and wellness goals even on the weekend!

  • Wine over Mimosas

 

My favorite part about the weekend is Sunday Brunch. Just because you’ve started a new health goal doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself. Instead of bottomless mimosas, opt for glasses of dry wines instead. Orange juice is high in carbohydrates and it adds up quickly. Dry wines have approximately 5-6 carbs per glass. Splurging on a few glasses won’t do as much damage to your goals.

  • Don’t Skip Breakfast

 

When I knew I was going to eat out, I used to skip breakfast to create a calorie deficit. However, what it usually did was make me so hungry that I ate two meals worth of food at the restaurant. Eating a balanced meal according to your meal plan helps to kickstart your metabolism and helps to control your appetite throughout the day.

  • Choose Healthy Indulgences 

 

Do you crave ice cream on the weekends? Choose Carb Smart Ice Cream, add a tablespoon of peanut butter and top it with Whip Cream. Now you’ve gotten your Sundae fix without damaging your health goals.

  • Stay Active

 

Use the extra time on the weekend to do active activities outside of your usual workout routine. Some of my favorites are playing some basketball or badminton. Remember to invite your friends and family members. Sharing time with others in ways that benefit your health goals is a great way to stay consistent on the weekends.

  • Everything in Moderation

 

It’s okay to eat and enjoy your favorite foods every now and then. If you’re going to a birthday dinner, choose to eat the healthy choices for your meal but have cake for dessert if you want cake. Moderation is key.

Remember that every weekend won’t be perfect and you will have setbacks. Don’t just give up on the whole day due to one unhealthy meal. Choose a healthy option for your next meal and keep going!

Do you have trouble staying on track with health goals during the weekend? What are some of your favorite tips to stay consistent? Leave comments below!

Review: Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon

benevelent_bacon1

While grocery shopping at my local Giant food, I came across this vegetarian bacon that I have never seen before in the refrigerated aisles. Morningstar brand has always been my product of choice when it comes to vegetarian foods. However, I was delighted to try something new when I discovered the Sweet Earth Hickory and Sage Benevolent Bacon.

After trying Benevolent Bacon for the first time, I was actually pleasantly surprised. The smoked taste is savory and definitely gives it a more “meat-like” taste. The downside to this bacon is that even after pan-searing it with oil, it does not crisp up as much as the Morningstar brand veggie bacon or real meat. As with all vegetarian meats, you can expect a different texture than actual meat. Products that include bacon in their name often leads to misleading expectations, especially for those who are new to vegetarianism. However, as far as taste goes the benefits outweigh the negatives.

I will likely continue to encourage the use of Morningstar Brand Stripples, as mentioned in my 7-Day Modified Keto Vegetarian Meal Plan due to its carbohydrate amounts. Stripples contain 2 grams of net carbohydrates versus Benevolent Bacon, which has 5 grams of net carbohydrates. All in all, if you’re looking to incorporate more vegan/vegetarian food options to your meals, I would highly recommend this product. Rate: 8/10

Like this post and follow my page for more tips on health, wellness, and lifestyle.

IMG_4588

 

Done with Diets: Becoming the healthiest version of you

IMG_2788Honesty moment… I do not like the word diet. I’ve actually made a conscious attempt to remove this word from my vocabulary and willingly chose not to include this term in my 7-Day Modified Keto Vegetarian Meal Plan.

People often ask me if my diet is over now that I’ve achieved weight loss. My answer to that is I’ve never really been on one in the first place. I may not have realized this at the beginning of my journey but I do now. Weight loss was just a by-product to me becoming the healthiest version of myself. I encourage weight loss if it is something you need to do to improve your health. Excess weight can cause and/or make you at risk for a number of health issues including diabetes, heart disease, and much more. However, weight loss isn’t a necessity in the journey to becoming your best self for everyone. 

It’s important to remember that health is an individualized goal. Health looks different for everyone and the journey to health will look different for everyone. Everyone can be given and practice the same health techniques but everyones body may respond to it differently because we are all unique. So my question is “What does the best version of yourself look like to you? Why?” Do you feel like you need to lose weight for societal reasons or aesthetics? Does your body feel more energized or sluggish depending on what you fuel it with? Do you need help identifying what healthy looks like to you?

Comment and let me know your thoughts. 

Also, follow my page for more information about becoming the best version of yourself through health and wellness tips. 

 

Veggie Tots: The Tater Tot Alternative

broccoli and cheese tot pic

Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day and the one meal where I willingly eat the most carbs. Therefore, finding a low carbohydrate tater tot alternative at my local Giant food store was the best thing for me since sliced bread. Green Giant’s Veggie Tots Broccoli and Cheese have now become the new addition to my daily breakfast. At 9 net carbs per serving, I can enjoy this side to my breakfast omelette and not exceed my carb limit for breakfast. These tots when pan seared in oil are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Foods like these veggie tots make it much easier to sustain a low-carb lifestyle without giving up the indulgences you love. 

Green Giant offers other versions of the veggie tots, including broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet potato tots. The other types of tots definitely have smoother textures on the inside, especially the cauliflower tot. The broccoli and cheese version of the tots is by far my favorite out of the bunch. The addition of the cheese helps give the tot structure and texture. I would definitely recommend these tots as a healthy alternative to potato tater tots for those embarking on a low-carb lifestyle journey. Happy Eating! 

 

Low Carb & Oral Health: The Surprising Side Effect

woman holding orange mirror
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

In October of 2018 just prior to my wedding date, it was time to visit my lovely friend “the dentist”. I had planned out my teeth cleaning that way so that my teeth would be pearly white for my BIG day. That same day I found myself with 4 cavities that required fillings and two separate visits to complete it. I grew up as a lover of sweets, therefore, dentist visits were never fun for me. So on this past Thursday during my bi-yearly dentist appointment, I braced myself for the unsolicited shade from my Dentist about where there’s sensitivity in my teeth and about needing to floss more. However, this visit was MUCH different in a good way. 

female dentist with assistant treating patient in clinic
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Why do we all grow up understanding “don’t eat too much candy or it’ll ruin your teeth”? That’s because sugar fuels the bacteria to produce acid in the mouth, which leads to tooth decay. This process is called demineralization. Although not all carbs are created equal, sugars when broken down are essentially carbohydrates and have similar effects on the body. So when I decided to limit carbohydrate intake last year, it actually has since had an effect on my teeth! Not only does limiting carbohydrates minimize tooth decay, it is also beneficial for the prevention of gum disease. Low carb diets such as my Modified Keto Vegetarian diet will lead to healthier teeth and mouth, preventing tooth decay, cavities, and overall preventing extra visits to the dentist. Consider trying my meal plan today!

 

 

Keto Mac and Cheese Recipe

IMG_2710

Cauliflower is one of the most versatile ingredients for the Keto Diet. This time it is used for a creamy indulgent Mac ‘n’ cheese. Yes, I know it’s cauliflower but what is the best part of Mac ‘n’ cheese then the seasoning and the cheese cause?! I’ll wait… This healthy low carb Mac ‘n’ cheese recipe with only 5 net carbs per serving is a perfect side to any protein.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (steamed and cut into florets)
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp of garlic power
  • sprinkle of cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cup of Colby Jack Cheese
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375 and prepare a baking dish with Olive Oil Cooking Spray. Chop your cauliflower head in florets and steam them (with water that has been salted to taste) for approximately 6 minutes until they are tender. Strain the water from the cauliflower and pat them dry before putting it into the baking dish.

In a large saucepan, add heavy whipping cream, garlic power, onion powder, cayenne, salt and pepper to a simmering boil over medium heat. Add the Colby Jack cheese in to create a thickened cheese sauce. Pour in the cheese sauce over the cauliflower in the baking dish and then stir until the cheese is fully incorporated. Finish the top of the cauliflower with more Colby Jack cheese and the parmesan cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Top 5 Fast Food Options for the Vegetarian Keto Diet

image1-510 years ago I embarked on the journey of becoming vegetarian during my freshman year of college. Last year, I discovered the keto diet while attempting to slim down for my wedding and have been on/off it ever since. As a young adult and a registered nurse, I live a pretty fast paced life. With extremely long work hours and two jobs, just finding time to spend with my family, manage my small business, attend church regularly, sleep and travel can be a challenge. To make matters worse, being a vegetarian and keto usually isn’t something you can do on the whim. It’s something you need to plan for. Thankfully, there are some fast food options out there that can make a vegetarian keto diet easier when you’re on the go.

  1. Starbucks 

My favorite breakfast when I’m late to work is the Sous Vide Egg White & Red Pepper from Starbucks. I like to pair it with Grande Iced Coffee with a light splash of Heavy Whipping Cream and 4 Pumps of Sugar-Free Cinnamon Dolce for a total of 14 Carbs. This is a pretty heavy breakfast (carbohydrate wise) for someone trying to maintain under 35 carbs for the day. However, it is definitely possible with lower carb options for lunch and dinner.

  1. Smoothie King

Smoothie Kings smoothies that are fruit based and filled with sugar are not appropriate for the keto diet. However, The Gladiator Vanilla totals to 6 net carbs for 20 ounce drink and is quite filling due to the amount of protein.

  1. Chipotle

Chipotle gives you the option to build your own salad bowl, which can be made keto. Ask for a salad bowl with lettuce, easy (VERY EASY) on the beans, fajitas, cheese, mild or medium salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. Skip the rice and the vinaigrette because both are heavy in carbs. This meal can be under 10 carbs if you put just a sprinkle of beans or skip them altogether.

  1. Panera Bread

Since bread is in the name of this fast food restaurant, you already know that keto options may be limited. A Caesar salad without the croutons is one of the few keto-vegetarian friendly items on the menu. Adding a cup of their Ten Vegetable Soup is 8 net carbs.

  1. Noodles and Company

When you substitute regular pasta for Zoodles (zucchini noodles) in the Penne Rosa at Noodles and Company, it totals out to 9 Net Carbs. I live to add the seasoned tofu to mine, which increases the net carbs to 12. The Penne Rosa sauce is a red tomato-based sauce with a hint of spice, topped with feta or parmesan cheese. It’s a perfect vegetarian dinner for a keto-vegetarian on the go. Their Wisconsin Mac and Cheese with Zoodles is an even lower carb option and with tofu is also very delicious.

The Take Away…

Yes, being a keto-vegetarian takes planning! However, it doesn’t mean you can’t enough the luxury of stopping somewhere after work to pick up something quick to eat. I hope to see more options on the fast food menus as more people decide to choose the keto-vegetarian lifestyle.

 

Photo Source @FoodBeast

 

Why Birthdays Are Difficult for Creatives

image1

In just three days, I will be celebrating my 28th birthday. Despite all I have to be thankful for, I still find myself creeping into the birthday blues every year around April 26th. I find myself consumed with thoughts of “have I reached my maximum potential?” or “what more could I be doing?” So I’ve spent the past few weeks leading up to my birthday deeply immersing myself into activities to make me feel better about the fact that I’m not exactly where I want to be just yet. Birthdays are normally a cause for reflection and celebration but they can be difficult for the creative mind. Research shows that birthdays can cause disappointment and dissatisfaction due to not achieving expected accomplishments from the previous year. The deep reflection that particularly goes through the mind of creatives can make them wish they had done more to achieve their goals for the year.
This year I decided to make a conscious effort to combat my birthday blues using these tips:

1. Talk nice to yourself

The words you speak over yourself have power. Do not criticize yourself for what you have yet to achieve but praise yourself for what you have already accomplished. Look in the mirror and say something nice about what you see.

2. Confront your negative feelings

While you shouldn’t talk down to yourself, it is okay to acknowledge the feelings you have and why you’re feeling that way. Give yourself space to mourn over what you felt you could have done better but don’t dwell in it. Once you’ve addressed and made peace with those feelings, move forward in a more positive mindset.

3. Manage your expectations

Don’t let your expectations control you. Remember the journey that it took to get you to where you are. Reflect on how far you’ve come over the years. Realize that where you’re at now was once a goal. Let your thoughts be a motivating force that drives you to achieve more of your goals for next year.

4. Spend your birthday with the ones you love

Spending your birthday with your people you love doing an activity you love is a great way to cope with birthday depression. It also serves as a reminder of all the people who continue to root for you and your success.

Conclusion…

Creatives should avoid using their birthday as a measuring tool for success but as a celebration of life and progression. Time is one of the most valuable assets to a creative. Therefore, every day you wake up alive is not only more time but another opportunity to take a step or a leap towards reaching your goals.