Joy to Wellness Blog

Let this blog be your guide for a healthier and happier life. Check in for delicious and healthy recipes, product reviews and tips to help you be well.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one food, what would it be?

What would your answer to this question be: “If you were stranded on an desert island and could only have one food, what would it be?” My answer to this question used to be “cereal”. In fact, my life used to be one big bowl of cereal. I’d have it for breakfast, for snacks, and even for dinner some nights, especially the nights my husband was out of town and I didn’t feel like cooking.

My stock of cereal always included a variety – from shredded wheat to cheerios to frosted flakes. Cereal was my favorite “food” and I couldn’t have imagined my life without it. And it always tasted great, but little did I know it was wreaking havoc on my system.. The common ingredient to most cereals – wheat (which contains gluten) – was a food I needed to ELIMINATE from my routine (versus eating it everyday!) Realizing and understanding this took time and patience and motivation. I fell off the wagon many times until one day I decided I’d had enough of not feeling well.

I started with baby steps. I didn’t give up cereal in general – I just found cereals that didn’t contain gluten. At first, I thought this would be an impossible tasks, but to my surprise, it wasn’t that difficult. Gluten-free cereals (and foods) are everywhere today. Some popular brands that now offer gone gluten free options include Chex and Rice Krispies. You can find a list of even more gluten free cereals here.

Removing gluten made a world of difference for my health. I regained energy and shed GI discomfort that I’d been dealing with for almost 14 years. And as I started to feel better, eliminating other not-so-healthy foods became much easier – trust me when I say feeling well is all it takes! What seemed like an impossible step – eliminating gluten – ended up being what empowered me to commit to a healthy lifestyle. The continuum of my journey led to me choosing to removing other foods that didn’t work for my body including dairy, and yeast from my diet. Today I’m happy, healthy and amazingly cereal-free! Are you ready to eliminate gluten or another inflammatory food? Consider working with me, your health coach, to help you achieve your own wellness! Check out my menu of health coaching services!


Happy [Gluten-Free] Birthday!

I don’t indulge in sweets very often…my health depends on me maintaining a whole foods diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and seeds. Yet when it comes to my birthday, I prefer to have my cake and eat it too. And with my 35th birthday coming up, I thought I’d post some of my favorite recipes for Gluten-Free treats, including a delicious cupcake recipe that you can easily make without refined sugar or dairy with just a few simple substitutions!

Almond-Cashew Butter Fudge: Great for dinner parties (everyone loves something sweet at the end of the meal) or as an after-school snack for the kids. It’s not too sweet and has a touch of saltiness.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites: These are gluten-free and grain free!  And if you use vegan chocolate chips, they are dairy free too! You may be turned off by the main ingredient – but don’t be! These really do taste like little chocolate chip cookies.

Dairy-Free GF Cupcakes: Replace the 2 cups of sugar with a little less than 1/3 cup of raw honey. Oven temperature should be 325 (instead of 350). Use store-bought GF/DF frosting or make your favorite homemade version (in this, substitute your favorite dairy-free  milk).




Dairy Free Banana Milkshake

Enjoy this dairy-free milkshake as an alternative to your fast-food go-to shake.  It’s a great treat for the kids too. Play around with the ingredients too – add cocoa when you feel like a chocolate treat!

1 13.5 oz can light coconut milk
1 banana
3 tbsp almond butter
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 pitted and finely chopped dates
Handful of ice
Optional: 1/4 c of your favorite berries for a fruiter shake

Combine all ingredients in a blender and enjoy! Serves 2.


Myth: Gluten-free is for Celiac patients only

The choice to go gluten-free is personal and one that I’ve found generally comes out of medical necessity for most people. The majority of people I’ve met who are GF eliminated gluten after receiving a diagnosis of Celiac Disease. And though GF lifestyles are becoming more common, it appears Celiac diagnoses are still relatively infrequent. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, 85% of people with Celiac Disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions, and the average time it takes for a person to be accurately diagnosed is 6-10 years!

If you’ve noticed, gluten-free foods are showing up even in mainstream grocery stores and even some restaurants are now offering gluten-free menus. Thanks to organizations like the Association for Celiac Awareness, many restaurants (including some Chicagoland establishments) have trained their staff to ensure the gluten-free meals they serve are free from cross-contact with foods that contain gluten. Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer their customers GF resources and label many of their gluten-free foods in their stores, suggesting the GF customer base is on the rise. This past summer an all gluten-free bakery (Cookie Bar) popped up two blocks from my house.

So why are gluten-free diets so popular today when diagnosed cases are often slow to occur? My guess – which comes mostly from being a part of this gluten-free movement and talking to many, many gluten-free individuals – is that people are starting to take matters into their own hands by simply eliminating gluten and self-determining that this ingredient is the culprit for their symptoms. Symptoms associated with both Celiac and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity can vary  and may include digestive issues, joint pain, fatigue, eczema, headaches and fogginess, and the list goes on and on and on….

I’ve personally never received a diagnosis for Celiac but my reactions to foods that contain gluten have made it quite clear that it does NOT belong in my body! You name the symptom, I’ve experienced it – depression, eczema, chronic joint pain, severe irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, nausea, fibromyalgia and migraines.  My husband jokes that through my 20’s all I ever wanted to do was take a nap – and he’s just about right.  I had difficulty staying awake during the day even after getting upwards of 12 hours of sleep the night before. My symptoms plagued me from my early teens through my 20’s yet I had no apparent health conditions – on paper I was healthy. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that a healthcare provider suggested that I try eliminating some foods, including those that contained gluten, to see if my symptoms improved. And so I did and I figured out rather quickly that when on a gluten-free diet, my symptoms significantly improved. Whenever I’ve re-introduced gluten to check if it really is toxic to my body, the symptoms re-appear.

Moral of the story: You don’t always need a diagnosis to move forward in healing yourself. If you suspect a food like gluten is causing or contributing to your health problems, take it upon yourself to eliminate it. If you feel better – congratulations! – this likely means you’ve unlocked at least one way to contribute to your overall health! In my case, gluten-free living did not require a Celiac Disease diagnosis…rather just my willingness to pay attention to how I felt with and without gluten in my diet.


New staples for your gluten-free pantry

When you’re first attempting a gluten-free lifestyle, the process of clearing out foods that contain gluten can feel like an overwhelming endeavor. But with a little time and organization, it’s much easier than it sounds. And once you get your kitchen in order, it’s a breeze from there.

The first step is to consider the foods you eat regularly and how to replace them with equally tasty gluten-free options – these will become your new (and improved) staples.  Some of these foods might include cereal, bread, wheat pasta and couscous. Here’s a list of replacements that you can find at any grocery store near you.

 Gluten Free Staple Foods

Remember: Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley and their derivatives. Gluten is a common ingredient in many packaged foods, even those that you would never expect to contain it, so be sure to ALWAYS read food labels. And if you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or a Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, it’s always safe to live by this motto — IF IN DOUBT, GO WITHOUT.