Going Gluten Free

Here are 5 tips on how to make your transition to a gluten-free diet easier!

I spent most of 2019 and all of 2020 fighting the fact that I needed to eat gluten-free. Even though I do not have celiac disease, I am very gluten sensitive. When I eat gluten, I get incredibly bloated, my stomach does not work right for days, and I have slight chest pains for days after.

My diet is 98% gluten-free right now, and both my parents eat gluten-free. This means I know a lot of the best gluten-free food in grocery stores, restaurants, and even some yummy recipes. I want to share some tips and tricks of going gluten-free because it honestly isn’t that bad. There are so many products and foods nowadays that make it pretty easy to follow a gluten-free diet.

I want to offer community and guidance about beginning your process of starting your gluten-free journey. It can be an overwhelming and daunting process. Even though it has become easier to be gluten-free in recent years, it can feel kind of isolating and time-consuming. Here are 5 tips on how to make your transition to a gluten-free diet easier!

  1. Understand different terminology used for gluten. An example, gluten is different from yeast, but many products that contain yeast also have gluten. Learning to read labels is crucial for your success. There are resources that can help you begin to understand how to find gluten in any product. Check this website out to begin to understand reading labels: https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-to-identify-gluten-on-food-labels-562666
  2. Think about and write down the food you regularly eat and identify where gluten could be present. Write down all your favorite foods and figure out which foods are not gluten-free. This will help you search for gluten-free alternatives for them! For example, if you love Italian food, you can search online “gluten-free Italian food near me.” This works for just about anything you can think of! There are always gluten-free alternatives, whether you have to make something yourself or find a restaurant that makes good gluten-free food.
  3. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 flour is the best! Don’t understate the power of good gluten-free flour. With 1 to 1 flour, you can make just about anything, and the food feels the most like regular gluten food. You can use this flour in baked goods, breakfast foods, use it as a thickener, or even coat something to bake or fry.
  4. Find a grocery store that carries gluten-free foods. Hopefully, you’ll have one near where you live, but if you don’t, many online grocery options carry gluten-free options like thrive market. Identifying a grocery store that carries many options allows you the opportunity to not worry about those times where you don’t want to think too much about being able to buy something without thinking about too much.
  5. Give yourself grace and time. It can be very emotional cutting out some of your favorite foods. You might not find an excellent alternative right away, and that can be very sad. Just know, you will work through this, and with time, the gluten-free diet gets easier.

I wish you the best of luck in your gluten-free journey! I hope to write more about good gluten-free foods, restaurants, recipes, etc., so keep an eye out if you like this article!

House Hunting in 2021

* this is a sponsored post *

Buying a house is no small feat, but in 2021, it’s nearly impossible to navigate with the housing market being so hot. I want to share my experience, tips in the buying process, and one of my deal breakers for a home. 

My significant other and I planned on starting our search slightly before the spring market. We thought that February 2021 would be an excellent time to begin our process. Funny enough, this coincided with the market becoming hot in our area. 

First, we found a realtor to help us on our journey. We are lucky enough to know a realtor in our region who recommended a fantastic realtor in the specific area we are looking for houses. Our realtor was able to walk us through what the market looks like, what to expect, and the next steps for getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Finding a knowledgeable realtor is an essential step in beginning your house buying journey. They will be able to help you navigate the market, understand potential issues with homes you are seeing, and making your offer on the house very attractive. 

Because of covid, getting pre-approved for a mortgage is encouraged and, in some cases, required before going to look at houses. Many sellers need to see pre-approvals before allowing people into their homes. We got pre-approved through a mortgage company that our realtor suggested. In the long run, this helps the process run smoother, and we luckily got a great rate from them. I have heard lots of advice about shopping around for mortgage rates at different banks, credit unions, and other mortgage lenders. We choose to stay with the lender our realtor suggested because we got a great rate, and the process of closing on a house we choose to get will run smoother since our realtor has worked with our lender many times, and they are super reliable. 

Once we were approved, we searched for houses for our realtor to show us! We were originally using realtor.com and Zillow to search for homes. We use realtor.com because we have heard they have very accurate listings. I like Zillow because you can see house cost history, and for duplexes, you can see what rent could be for a unit. 

Unfortunately, the market has been hot, and we have put in offers on houses that weren’t accepted. When it’s time to put an offer in, I recommend thoroughly looking over the disclosure agreement. The disclosure agreement is something that the seller fills out about the house. Your realtor should provide you with the disclosure agreement. Anything that has happened to the house, like a water leak or electrical issues, would be noted on this disclosure agreement. This will help you navigate potential costs you may face in the near or far future. For example, if the roof is 20 years old and isn’t a long-lasting type of roof like a metal roof, you might need to factor in replacing a roof in the first 5-10 years of owning the home. Factoring these costs in when making an offer is essential, and you will need to make sure you can handle these additional costs down the road. 

With a good realtor, putting in an offer should be relatively easy. They will talk you through the process and prep the paperwork for you to sign. My biggest advice is knowing your budget, not getting into a bidding war you can’t afford, and not paying for a house that costs anywhere outside of your means. Don’t let anyone talk you into bidding more money than you have or an amount that’s out of your means. I know it can be tempting, and you will want the house so bad but, if you don’t get the house, it’s not meant to be. You will get a home when it is meant to be, and it fits into your budget. 

When looking for houses and figuring out what you like and don’t like, it’s important to know or learn your deal breakers. What are the things you cannot live with or without? 

For me, a healthy home that is free of water leaks and mold is crucial. I am incredibly sensitive to mold and do not want to buy a house that could already have a water leak and mold issues. We have seen some beautiful homes that we know we cannot buy once we get to the basement. Basements can hold moisture and water, which could lead to mold. I am a stickler for checking for how well the basement is cared for in a home. Once we find a house we love, I will be a stickler for getting the house tested for mold and then potentially treated for mold. 

Companies like Nash Everett are experts when it comes to identifying and removing mold in your home. What I like about Nash Everett is that their approach to eliminating molds. They have a remediation approach and clarify that not all mold remediation/ removal are created equal. They go the extra mile and take removing mold very seriously. They also note that any company you use for mold remediation should have certifications, licensing, and insurance. It’s crucial to find a company and a contractor that you trust! It has to do with the health of your home, after all! Not only does Nash Everett has services in New Jersey, but they also have mold removal in Durham PA

Buying a home can be a daunting task, and it will be the biggest purchase of your life! Don’t rush it! Take your time to plan your budget, put in the work to get pre-approved, find a good realtor you trust, and make that list of deal-breakers. 

Happy House Hunting! 

Working From Home

I feel incredibly blessed to be writing this right now. I am fortunate to be working my full-time hours from home right now. With working my full-time hours, it has been hard to keep up healthy habits and to form a routine with my new schedule.

These times are hard, and I highly suggest taking the time to relax and do what feels right, but I think some routine and structure can be good at a time like this.

I am challenging myself to incorporate a few things into I am challenging myself to incorporate a few things into each day to make them feel a bit more structure. I wanted to share what I am trying to do to hopefully help you spark some ideas if you are feeling like you need some structure.

Plan to take a walk or sit outside.

Walking almost every day has been a significant game-changer for me. I notice the days I do not get to walk, I feel much more blah. Getting outside and getting fresh air is very important since we are all stuck at home. If you can’t take a walk, go out on your porch or sit near an open window. I bet the fresh air every day will make you feel better.

Make sure to meal plan. 
Before I was at home all the time, I would plan meals only a few days out at most. I could go to the store whenever so I did not worry about planning a week’s worth of meals. I have found that planning my meals for an entire week has been super helpful. Since I grocery shop once a week and have all my meals picked out, I only have a small decision to make each day when dinner time comes around. The stress of buying and planning the meal is gone. This is super helpful on days where I am feeling off and do not want to do much after work. I can just choose an easy recipe from my shortlist, throw ingredients together from a save recipe, and cook! Meal planning ahead of time lets you incorporate fruits and veggies that will help to keep you healthy and boost your immune system. It also gives you something to look forward to all week!

Clean your work, living, and sleep spaces.
Clean spaces really change productivity and mood. A clean space can help clear your head and make work a little easier. I cleaned my room 2 weeks into being home full time, and it has made me so much happier. I have space in my brain to worry about other things. I also make sure to straighten up my workspace too. After a week of working in the same spot for hours and hours, your desk will be messy. Clean it up and start fresh Monday morning. Also, brighten your workspace in some way. I have a fun mouse pad and typically have a fun mug on my at-home desk at all times.

Limit your media consumption during the workday.
This one, I had to learn the hard way. The first 2 weeks I was home, I viewed every news alert and update that came to my phone about the pandemic. I would hear something that was starting, and that would throw me off my work game. I recommend waiting until after work to see what is up in the world. It is easier to digest when you aren’t worried about answering work emails and dealing with work things.

Don’t be afraid to change your workspace location.
Sometimes I feel a bit blah during my workday. When this happens, I decide to take my work to another location in the house. Sitting at my kitchen table instead of my desk makes me feel more at easy some mornings. Also, making calls from my bedroom is the best place since we have a few adults working from home at my house. Do not be stuck in one location, you can find spots that work for different tasks you need to accomplish.

Schedule lunch FaceTime sessions with friends.
Having a virtual lunch with friends has definitely been a saving grace for me. For an hour, I get to eat lunch and chat with a friend just like if we were to get lunch during a typical workday. It is a great way to vent and rejuvenate. I am an extrovert, so the communication from these FaceTime sessions makes me productive in the afternoon.

Plan a consistent weekly activity or two. 
I recommend this even when we are not stuck at home, but it has really helped with marking time during the week. Every week, we FaceTime family to watch Harry Potter. We started from the first movie and are working through the series. We also have a movie night every Friday with friends when life was normal, and we have moved that virtually. We spend a few hours every Friday chatting, catching up, and venting about our weeks. Also, our grocery day is Saturday. These weekly activities help me remember what day of the week it is. They give me checkpoints and things to look forward to. I challenge you to plan something you can look forward to every week.

Get “ready” for work every day. 
I do not mean actually doing the whole getting ready routine every. I try to change out of my pajamas, though. I make sure to put my Fitbit on and brush my hair and teeth first thing in the morning.

Find a hobby or two to focus your spare time.
You finally have some extra time to do some things you love! I have made sure to spend my time reading, blogging, making coffee, and being creative!

Go to bed at a reasonable hour.
You will thank yourself in the morning. 

Do not pressure yourself into accomplishing anything super productive while you are at home. This is time to take care of yourself, mentally and physically.

I read a quote a while back that said something along the line of We are not working from home. We are at home during a pandemic trying to work.

This quote really described what it is like to be working at home right now. It is A LOT, and that is okay. Take care of yourself and incorporate as little or as much structure as you need in your daily life.

Stay safe and healthy out there, everyone! ❤

April 2020 Book Recommendations

Anyone else looking for a good book while we are at home?
I have been spending my new free time reading some books! I have had some books on my to-read list for a long time, and I am excited to finally read them! I have read 2 books that have really stood out to me this month and needed to share. Here they are!

Girl Wash Your Face
This book by Rachel Hollis is incredibly inspiring. She made me feel not alone and motivated to set goals and accomplish them. Even though not every aspect of the book was directly relevant to this phase in my life, I found it comforting knowing that some else has been through things I have, am, and will go through.

Paper Girls (vol. 6)
I love love love these graphic novels. I have read 1-6 and highly recommend all of them. They have some vintage Stranger Things vibes mixed with Back to the Future vibes. It is definitely its own thing, though! The colors and art in these graphic novels are stunning. They have a captivating storyline with unique graphics that take these graphic novels to the next level.

What have you been reading? Drop your favorite books in the comments below!

Healthy Shepard’s Pie

I love cooking some cozy and delicious recipes. My favorite thing about this recipe is that it’s cozy yet healthy!

This recipe typically makes 5-6ish large servings.

*I use Whole 30 compliant ingredients for this recipe.

– 3 lb Ground Turkey
– Kitchen Basics Chicken Bone Broth (Original)
– About 2 cups of Celery, Onion, Carrot Mirepoix ( I typically buy the premade ones at the store in the produce section – just check to make sure they don’t have any added ingredients)
– 5 lb bag of yellow potatoes
– salt and pepper to taste


1. preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

2. cut potatoes and boil them until they are super tender

3. while the potatoes are boiling, begin to brown the ground turkey

4. once the ground turkey starts turning brown, add the Mirepoix and the bone broth. Let the ground turkey finish browning and absorb the bone broth

5. once the potatoes are super tender, strain and mash (do not add anything to the potatoes)

6. once the ground turkey is brown, Mirepoix tender, and bone broth mostly absorbed, add to a deep baking dish.

7. cover the ground turkey evenly with the mashed potatoes 

8. let cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes at least

9. you will know it’s ready once the mashed potatoes start to turn slightly brown in some places. 

10. take out of the oven and enjoy!

Pro Tip: we love to leave a little of the mashed potatoes out and add a bit extra mashed potato to our bowls!

Maria Does Whole 30

Not to be dramatic, but Whole 30 has changed my life.

I am gearing up to do my 3rd round on April 13th with the Whole 30 community for Whole 30 at home.
It is wild the amount you learn about food and yourself during a Whole 30 journey.

You are probably wondering how has Whole 30 changed my life. I have spent my entire life with many food and environmental allergies and sensitivities. This has always made navigating life more difficult. I worry about the foods I eat when I cannot read the ingredients. I worry about air fresheners and perfumes while I am out and about because I know they can make me feel sick. The more I am exposed to things I am sensitive to, the less I can tolerate them. Many foods that you don’t eat during Whole 30 are actually foods I am allergic and sensitive to. This is one of the reasons it was a good fit for me.

Whole 30 is meant to be a food experiment. You don’t eat foods that could cause allergic reactions or cause an inflammatory response. After 30 days of eating real food, you reintroduce all the other foods you avoided for 30 days. This allows you to see how your body reacts to these foods.

During my reintroduction, I learned about my gluten intolerance, that sugar makes me feel gross and triggers migraines, and that my stomach does not like corn! I also found out that I can have dairy in small quantities without having a reaction. I for sure thought dairy would have been bad for me.

I have a degree in nutrition and love the fact I got to experiment with food and my body to see what it likes and dislikes. I also really enjoy cooking and trying new foods, so I made sure to do both of those to make the 30 days easier.

By far, my favorite thing about Whole 30 is that it is not meant to be just another weight loss diet. It’s actually against the Whole 30 rules to step on a scale and measure yourself during Whole 30.
I wanted to eat healthily and develop strong, healthy eating habits, and Whole 30 did that for me. Can you lose weight in the process? Yes. But is that why you should do it? No.

I want to be healthy. I want to walk farther, dance longer, perform better at work, and show up more present in my life. Whole 30 did all of this for me. It keeps my brain sharp and gives me the endurance to get through long days. It has taught me to not eat because I am bored or emotional. I use to do both A LOT!

Something else I love about Whole 30 is the founder, Melissa Urban. She is such a role model. She is raw, all the time. She is honest, all the time. She shows up, apologetically herself on social media, in her books, and really anywhere. I love being able to see a real person going through life, good and bad times. She is really inspiring. Through her books, emails, and social media pages, she is a great coach and is what you need to get through a Whole 30. After reading so much of her material, she feels like a friend that you can relate to and comfort you.

I found this especially true while reading her book Food Freedom Forever. Food Freedom is that place where you can say no to foods you don’t want to eat without guilt while eating foods you do want without quilty too. Food Freedom understanding what your body likes and dislikes and using that knowledge to make yourself feel good. It is the empowerment you have knowing you are eating food that makes you feel good, even if that means eating a piece of cake you super want! There is no such thing as a perfect Whole 30. Also, after working hard to to find your Food Freedom, you will move back to unhealthy routines. Heck, after my first Whole 30, after a few months, I went right back to my old habits to eating sooo many baked goods and drinking sooo many sugary Starbucks drinks. And as I said before, gluten and sugar are not my friends, so this was definitely bad for me.

I am currently working on my Food Freedom, and it’s hard. I have spent 3-4 days in a row eating sugary foods when I don’t even really want to eat because it is so easy to fall into my old habits. That’s kind of why I want to do another round. To reset and introduce some of the foods, I haven’t and remind myself how good I feel without sugar.

Whole 30 may not be the right fit for you, but if you’re looking to learn about food and your body, I would consider it. There are so many free resources and people who will help you through it.

If you are interested in learning more about Whole 30, please check out their website here: https://whole30.com/

If you have questions for me about my experience or any cool Whole 30 recipes, please feel free to reach out!