This is our 2019 Reader Diary series where we’re sharing success stories + what people ate for a week! Those who are featured receive $50 in groceries from Thrive Market, 2 of my cookbooks, and a free Prepear meal planning program membership for a year.
My name is Jessica Flory, my husband’s name is Devin, and we have three little boys—Sam (age 4), Grant (age 3), and Owen (age 1). We live in St. Charles, Missouri. I have Sam to thank for starting our real food journey! When he was six months old, I began sharing what we ate, which made me start paying more attention to labels and what I was feeding my family. I was shocked! High fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient in a can of tomato soup? My baby’s mac n’ cheese is more maltodextrin than anything else? It’s been a long journey, and we are still progressing, but now I make pretty much everything we eat from scratch, and I love it! Real food tastes fantastic, and we all feel so much better!
I grew up eating a lot of boxed mac n’ cheese, hot dogs with packaged biscuits, canned tomato soup, and boxed cereal. My parents made sure we ate fruits and veggies and they cooked dinner most nights, but meals usually included processed food—white pasta, white rice, canned cream of chicken soup, bottled salad dressing, ketchup, etc.
In my teenage years, I struggled with low self-esteem and wanted to lose weight. I tried counting calories and limited myself to 1000 a day. I lost a few pounds but then plateaued and became frustrated. I was also struggling with depression and anxiety, and that drove me to become bulimic. Fortunately, my mom realized pretty quickly what was going on and was able to get me to therapy and get some help. After a while, I started to eat a “normal” diet again, but the anxiety and depression continued.
Fast forward a few years, to my early twenties, I was married and happier. I was still struggling with self-esteem and anxiety issues but my husband was able to help. Then I started having a lot of pain in my knee joints and saw several physical therapists to try to figure out what was going on, but nothing worked.
Once Sam started eating what we ate, I really woke up. I was putting barbecue sauce on his chicken one night and glanced at the label. High fructose corn syrup was the first ingredient! I started doing more research and following healthy food blogs (thank you, 100 Days of Real Food!), and very slowly we’ve adjusted our habits.
My joint pain is gone. Anxiety and depression—gone. These ailments that I struggled with for years and saw many doctors for are cured simply by changing my diet. I have learned to eat intuitively and respond to my body’s cravings because now I crave good things! The sugar-filled fake food I used to eat has zero appeal to my tastebuds now. I have the energy to care for and be with my children. I LOVE their faces when they eat my homemade food, and I know that I’m giving them a healthy foundation for the rest of their lives.
The funny thing is, I weigh more than I did when my self-esteem was so low that I starved myself. I have stretch marks and saggy skin from where I carried my babies, but I feel better about myself than I ever have! My body is nourished and strong, and I am at a healthy weight.
I love what real food has done for me and my family!
Breakfast – An orange and homemade granola on top of whole milk plain yogurt (sweetened with a touch of pure maple syrup). So good!
Lunch – Leftover pinto bean burger patty on top of salad greens with a homemade chipotle mustard salad dressing.
Snack – Leftover broccoli cheese soup.
Dinner – Grass-fed ribeye steak (OH MY GOSH SO GOOD!), a baked potato with whole milk plain yogurt and cheese, and roasted brussels sprouts.
Dessert – Sunday is our treat day, so I also made some double chocolate chip cookies (sweetened with organic cane sugar) and ate two. Yum!
Breakfast – Pineapple banana green smoothie and a small bowl of granola and yogurt.
Lunch – Leftover chopped ham and cheese on top of a baked potato, alongside some peas.
Snack – A kiwi and a homemade hazelnut dark chocolate chip granola bar.
Dinner – Breakfast for dinner—eggs scrambled with roasted broccoli and chopped ham, and homemade whole wheat gingerbread pancakes.
Breakfast – A bowl of yogurt with frozen (and thawed) dark sweet cherries on top. Yum! I also made a batch of whole grain lemon blueberry muffins and ate two.
Lunch – Leftover broccoli scrambled eggs and gingerbread pancakes.
Snack – An apple and a hazelnut chocolate chip granola bar.
Dinner – Loaded Mexican sweet potatoes with homemade guacamole, alongside a salad with homemade cumin-lime vinaigrette. So good!
Dessert – I also had one of those double chocolate chip cookies from Sunday for dessert. Shhh… 🙂
Breakfast – Tuesday night I soaked some steel-cut oats and cooked those up for Wednesday’s breakfast, served with homemade almond milk, raspberry compote (frozen raspberries heated with a dash of pure maple syrup, vanilla, and chia seeds), and cashew butter. Holy cow, amazing!
Lunch – Grass-fed beef tacos (leftover taco meat from the freezer), and homemade whole wheat tortillas. We only use Lisa’s recipe—it’s incredible!
Snack – Dried figs and some muffins.
Dinner – Marinara sauce with sauteed veggies over whole wheat pasta.
Dessert – Homemade date-sweetened chocolate mousse. It was INCREDIBLE.
Breakfast – A fried egg on top of buttered homemade whole wheat seed bread and a pear. Mid-morning I had a bowl of leftover oatmeal with raspberry compote and cashew butter.
Lunch – Leftover marinara veggie pasta and a salad.
Snack – Dried figs and a homemade chocolate pumpkin spice snack bar. Mmmm!
Dinner – Macadamia nut crusted salmon, peas, and roasted potatoes and carrots. Soooo good!
Dessert – I polished off another bowl of date-sweetened chocolate mousse. Yum!
Breakfast – Banana peach green smoothies and almond butter toast.
Lunch – Leftover salmon, potatoes and carrots, and peas.
Snack – Chocolate pumpkin spice snack bar and blueberries.
Dinner – Pinto bean burgers (the same ones from Sunday) with avocado on homemade whole wheat seed bread, and roasted brussels sprouts.
Dessert – A square of 90% dark chocolate. I love it!
Breakfast – A bowl of gingerbread granola with homemade almond milk.
Lunch – Pinto bean burger and brussels sprouts.
Snack – I made pumpkin spice snack balls—just dates, walnuts, and pumpkin pie spice! Sooooo good.
Dinner – Broccoli cheese soup (same one from Sunday).
Dessert – I made us cups of hot chocolate made from homemade coconut milk, raw cacao powder, pure maple syrup, and vanilla. Delicious!
As much as it may not seem like it, I have a life outside of the kitchen and three very busy little boys to care for. Yes, I make a lot of things homemade, but I didn’t get that way overnight, and I’ve learned a lot of little tricks to make it less daunting (like meal planning and batch cooking). I make most of our food in bulk and freeze some for later, which helps so much on a busy day!
What I’ve learned:
In case you didn’t notice, I believe it’s ok to treat yourself! Most of the time we indulge in healthy treats that help us feel good, but occasionally I do bake us a dessert that is completely, unapologetically, indulgent. (I used white flour. Gasp!) We eat healthy most of the time, and when I eat a treat I slow down and truly enjoy it, and I don’t feel guilty afterward.
My biggest piece of advice is to love yourself for where you are and the healthy changes you’re working on. You are worth so much more than the way you look or how much you weigh. Don’t focus on a specific number on the scale you want to get to or size you want to fit into. Make real food choices, listen to your body’s needs, and everything else will fall into place.
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