Government Assistance Programs 101

Buzz words like "SNAP", "food stamps", and "WIC" are confusing, to say the least, especially when you're the navigating these services. Add to that the stresses one is under when they need these programs, and it's no wonder people despair. 

I'm here to help with that. I've come up with 2 clear and concise visuals for what the differences in these programs are. With this knowledge, I hope you find the confidence and courage to go out there and shop with your head high.  


WIC.png

As you can see, WIC has very little flexibility. They require grain and dairy consumption - as much as you're willing to cash in these checks, that is.

Since these are not Whole30 compliant, you wouldn't be able to do Whole30 solely on WIC. That said, when life gets tough and you have a family to feed, these are essential. Surviving < Whole30.


That brings us to... FOOD STAMPS!

DUN DUN DUN!

 

SNAP.png

Despite the rumors, the SNAP program is very flexible and easy to navigate in terms of healthy eating. The budget is smaller, but if you know how to prioritize your shopping, you can make your little bit of money go a very long way. 


If you find yourself on this Struggle Bus like us, stay strong. Remember that you are a child of God and no one can take away your dignity. NO ONE. 


Stay tuned for more information and recipes on how we eat healthy on a welfare budget!

Love,

amanda

High Stress, Low FODMAPS

My body is very sensitive to stress. Just before our wedding almost 7 years ago (has it been that long already?!), I woke up one morning and I couldn't swallow. It was really bizarre, not to mention terrifying. My doctor sent me in for an emergency endoscopy and it turns out I had a yeast infection in my throat. 

YUP. A yeast infection. In my THROAT. When I asked my doctor WTF??? (or something to that effect), she said it was all stress-induced. I was running myself ragged between grad school, wedding planning, and everything else in life. 

That was 7 years ago and stress still wreaks havoc on my body.

The biggest difference this time is that I have several years of Whole30 lifestyle under my belt. By "Whole30 Lifestyle" I don't mean restriction 24/7; rather, the idea that self-care is key to my future mental and physical health. 

My body's response to these stresses has been gradual. I tried to intervene early on but it just wasn't enough. So, here I am. This is a snapshot of my current issues: 

1. Bloating - big time. I look 6 months pregnant (I'm zero months pregnant). This is the most frustrating symptom by far. 

2. Headaches - my migraines have been under control for almost 5 years now. They're starting to rear their ugly heads again.

3. Changes in digestion - I'll leave it at that. You're welcome. 

4. Fatigue - I sleep relatively well (for having 3 toddlers) but sometimes I need a nap by 9am. 

5. Hormonal imbalances

This is a lot to tackle! I'm happy I came up with a plan with both my GI doctor and my local Registered Dietitian, Shelby (she's wonderful, check her out at www.thelunacenter.com

My Plan: 

1. Low FODMAPs diet for 6 weeks. Wondering what the heck that even means? This is a great website to see the list of foods to avoid and foods to enjoy. * 

2. Stress Management - I've talked about this before, but I need to dig deeper. We are all works in progress! I'm doing everything from deep breathing to dance parties. 

3. Lemon Water - I want to supplement this process as much as possible and hot water with lemon is a great way to kick start digestion, so I'm trying a cup before meals! So far, I only remember before dinner....giving myself grace! 

4. Prayer - I feel my best when I anchor myself in prayer for the day. I'm trying to find 5 minutes here and there throughout the day when I can stop and see God's presence in my life. Gratitude changes your attitude!

5. Exercise - walking more in nature, taking a couple of gym classes, getting my body moving as much as possible to sweat and get more energy. 

I'll post updates on my low FODMAPs journey on here and my social media pages, so be sure to follow me! 

-Amanda

* I've learned from my Whole30s that I should stay away from dairy and grain products. Low FODMAPs allows these foods, so I'm approaching them with caution. As much as possible, I will avoid them. I'm so happy to have this information from my Whole30s - it's saving me some potentially painful and stressful situations! 

Whole30, Resolutions, and Welfare

Instead of a resolution this year, I decided to do a Word of the Year after a Teachable Tuesday on Blessed is She. After lots of prayer, I came up with the word "SHARE." There are no specifics to it, all I have to do is share. It's easier said than done. 

Since January, I've challenged myself to share everything from my breakfasts with my husband to sharing my space on the couch with my kids. It's all meant to challenge and change me for the better, and maybe reach people who need to know they're not alone. 

In this spirit of growth and commitment to sharing, I share this hard news with you...

Government.png

Nine weeks ago, my husband lost his job. 

We have a young family, a house, tuition, car payments, mouths to feed...all the adult things. Oh, and I don't have a full-time job. 

There are good and bad days. Days when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, or a friend sends a loving text and you just know the world is a better place because of it, or you pat yourself on the back for staying present. 

The bad days are almost unbearable. The weight of it all, managing everyone's emotions, keeping the faith, trying not to bicker and lash out at each other. It's all so exhausting. These are the days I go back to basics: deep breathing and deep prayer with my Lord.  

Today was a particularly bad day. I finalized all of our government assistance programs like WIC and Food Stamps/ SNAP benefits. When I left the building, I could hardly process it all. 

How did this happen? We have master's degrees and careers. This isn't how it's supposed to be. WHY?

Whole30 and Welfare (1).png

I don't any of these answers. This is what I do know though: 

1. I'm so grateful and blessed for all of the help we can get

2. I believe in redemptive suffering, not in suffering for the sake of suffering. I will make the best of this and hope to share these new inspirations with you in the weeks and months to come. 

3. I'm not entirely sure what's propelling me to share this news with the world, but it's pushing my boundaries and that's good. If I can help just one struggling family know they're not alone, my job is done. 

4. The world is full of incredibly generous and sweet people. Tough time always reveal that.

5. SNAP and WIC have surprisingly healthy choices. I'm eager to see how I can stay as close to Whole30 as possible within their guidelines. 

6. I like a challenge, so this turns my frown upside down! 

I'm going to take you on this journey with me and my family. I plan on posting what I buy with our assistance and how I navigate my personal food choices with the strict guidelines of government programs that are different than what we normally eat. 

Thank you all for your kind words and support. They mean more to me than you'll ever know. 

love,

amanda 

BIG LIFE CHANGE

Remember my last blog post on stress? Well, here's an update on the score: 

Stress: 589483904

Amanda: 0 

Chronic stress plus a round of antibiotics killed my gut bacteria over the last few weeks. Add to that the grains I ate during our trips and it's no surprise my body isn't happy. 

I'm not a quitter, so I'm taking back my body and telling these bad bacteria to go somewhere else.

I wasn't sure where to start in this battle strategy so I asked my good friend, Katie, for some advice. She is studying to be a health coach (follow her journey at https://www.katiesemro.com/). Katie has had quite a journey to healing and recovery, especially with her gut, I feel blessed to have someone to talk to about these issues who I can trust. 

She said I needed to really focus on balancing my gut. But it's not as easy as taking probiotics. There's more to it. I need to cut out some foods and add others. This is also a lifestyle change (sound familiar? #whole30). I need to find better ways of managing stress. Easier said than done. 

So, what's my plan? 

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Stress Management: 

  • turn off phone at 8pm 
  • social media fast one day a week
  • pray more
  • get back to my afternoon relaxing time while the boys nap/relax

Food Changes

  • reduce cruciferous vegetables
  • cut out seltzer (*sad face*)
  • NO EGGS

I EAT A LOT OF EGGS. At least 3, if not more, a day. I'm one of those weird people who never get sick of eggs on Whole30. My whole family eats eggs - we go through 4 dozen eggs in a week. IT'S CRAZY. 

Now I have to completely re-do my mornings. It's scary and stressful, but I've been through this before, so I'm taking deep breaths and remembering that I. Got. This. 

Strategy

This weekend, I'm batch cooking a delicious chicken sausage/veggie bake and maybe experimenting with some sweet potato toast. I usually only have eggs for breakfast so I'm hoping it won't be as hard as I think - or maybe it will be. Either way, I'm up for the challenge because I've committed to making my body better. 

I'm also going to incorporate more fatty fish (read: salmon) into my meal plans. To make it easy, I'm going to eat it every day for lunch - it helps me plan my meals better and also helps to budget if I'm buying the same thing. 

STAY TUNED!

I'll keep you all posted on my healing journey. Please say prayers that my gut gets better soon! 

RECIPE: Instant Pot Green Beans with Shallot Butter

If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don't, you should :) @seacoastwhole30coach), you know that I post my weekly meal plan and pictures of how they turn out. 

This week, I tried this AMAZING recipe by one of my favorite bloggers. Jenn is hilarious and gets that #momlife, so her recipes are easy, delicious, budget friendly, and family friendly. 

For a side to this yummy dish, I made some Instant Pot green beans with shallot butter and it was divine! This recipe is for the IP, but you can easily adapt it for the stove top. Just steam the beans whoever you normally do, make the shallot butter in a frying pan, then toss to combine in the pan. 

SO GOOD! SO WHOLE30 ;)&nbsp;

SO GOOD! SO WHOLE30 ;) 

Instant Pot Green Beans with Shallot Butter

Ingredients: 

1lb. green beans (or however many you like!)

1-2tbsp ghee, depending on how many beans you make 

1 shallot, diced

kosher salt & pepper

sliced almonds for garnish (optional)

Directions: 

1. Trim and wash green beans. Put into IP with 1 cup water. Click "Manual" and set for 1 minute. Quick release at the end of the cooking cycle. 

2. Drain green beans and water. Put green beans in a bowl and set aside. 

3. Put IP bowl back in and hit "Saute". When it says "HOT", put in the ghee and shallots and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until translucent and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir constantly to avoid burning. 

4. Put green beans back into IP and toss to coat with the shallot butter. 

5. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with sliced almonds. 

6. Enjoy! 

If you make this, post on here or tag me so I can see how it turns out! I'm sure yours will looks prettier than mine :)  

Trips & Treats

One of the major ways my life changed after Whole30 was that I learned to focus more on the inherent wonder and beauty of special events and not solely focus on the food available during those events. This came in handy during our recent trip to visit family. 

My husband and I packed our minivan - AKA The Swagger Wagon - with our 3 kids, lots of snacks, and plenty of coffee, and hit the road for an epic swing across the Mid-Atlantic. Our route was New Hampshire ---> New Jersey ---> Maryland ---> Virginia ---> NJ ---> Connecticut ---> HOME!

Whew! I get tired just writing that out. I can't believe we actually did that! But we did and it was fabulous <3 

Did some fun girly stuff with my fun, talented, and beautiful niece - love her so much &lt;3&nbsp;

Did some fun girly stuff with my fun, talented, and beautiful niece - love her so much <3 

 

We were surrounded by the loving family we are so very blessed with and ate those home cooked meals that you just can't get anywhere but back home. For me, that's plenty of my dad's good ol' Puerto Rican cooking - rice, bean stews, and fried plantains - DROOOOOL!!!!!!!

However, even these meals have changed over the past year since my parent's did their first Whole30! Breakfasts were no longer cookies with coffee. It was eggs, spinach, Aidell's chicken sausage, some plantains. My dad made yummy veggie tacos one night. 

Even without the grains, sweets, and processed carbs, we had a delicious and loving dinner together as family. The truth is, we didn't drive all that way to sit down and stuff our faces with foods we can technically buy and recreate ourselves. We wanted FAMILY. Yes, family around food. But FAMILY is the focus. I have learned to take a step back from my plate, physically and emotionally, and focus on the people around me. 

Just the way Whole30 has taught me to step back from food and step into the family, my Food Freedom has also taught me to enjoy foods because they're delicious and special. 

I enjoyed some pretty special foods, like this amazing soy latte from Mom & Pop in Fairfax. It was more coffee than milk and the milk was pure, not too sweet - so good! We also ate a flourless German Chocolate Cake and I had red enchiladas - like, the tortilla was red. MMMM!

All of these foods were local and special and fit into my food freedom (no dairy or gluten, a little of everything else). EXCEPT FOR....THIS. 

 

LIFE MOTTO

LIFE MOTTO

DUN_DUN_DUN

Is that McDonald's?! Yes, it is. It's a huge chain restaurant, I'm sure you've heard of it. 

When my husband saw me eating these fries and coffee with milk & sugar, he said,

"OHHHH look at you, CHEATING!"

"Babe, I don't CHEAT. I make CHOICES." **mic drop**

That's the bottom line right there. McDonald's isn't a fancy or special place. Quite frankly, it's gross. But I wanted their french fries and a coffee with milk and sugar. So, I had them because I wanted to. No other explanations necessary, no guilt afterwards. I know that this picture doesn't define me as a person. 

I made a choice. I dealt with the consequences. And I lived to tell the tale :)

So, where are you with your healthy choices? How do you react to your less healthy choices? Hope you can find a way to disconnect from anxiety and guilt and find a way to be happy with your food choices! 

Whole30 and Stress

Sorry for "ghosting" these past few weeks. Life threw us a curve ball and I'm just now coming to and getting back to reality. We're all ok, don't worry. And no, I'm not pregnant! I know you thought it :)

In the midst of your suffering and stresses, what do you run to? Most of us run to food. At least, I used to. I knew I was in a bad place when I found myself eating handfuls of Cheerios straight from the box and drinking more than 1 glass of wine at night. Oh, and I would eat ice cream like it was going out of style. AND bread. OH BREAD! It's bad when I'm toasting bagels. For real. 

Stress eating looks different for each person but it's all rooted in the same hole : STRESS. That nasty thing that creeps into your brain and turns your reason inside out, clogs your ears and blinds your eyes. It takes over your senses. To me, it feels like a monster following me every minute of the day. 

 Not this time, silly monster. 

This time, I had enough awareness and practice in self-care to take a deep breath and say, NO, this time will be different. On the night that our world was turned upside down, I could have easily said, I'm ordering a bleep-ing pizza and drinking some bleep-ing beers. Instead, I made this simple meal of frozen cauliflower rice, frozen broccoli, and frozen shrimp. It was all from my freezer and took 20 minutes to make. I forgot to add salt. That didn't matter. 

What mattered? 

I knew that eating ice cream, beer, Cheerios, bread, or anything else that makes me feel like crap - NONE of those foods would solve my situation.

Instead, I chose to fuel my body in the easiest way that I could because I knew that I had a battle ahead of me. Like a warrior, I chose my best armor. 

I continue to cling to my Whole30 choices now more than ever because I know the alternative - binge eating bad food and indulging other unhealthy habits - will only add guilt, unbalanced hormones, and MORE stress to my life.

No, thank you!

Healthy eating won't take away my problems but it definitely won't add to them. It gives me the fuel to confront this monster head on. 

Whatever stresses you have right now, dig deep and see how you can arm yourself with self-care and healthy eating. Just a little bit goes a long way. I'm with you on this journey! 

Lent Whole40 - Week 4

The finish line is in sight! It's still a ways off - another week - but the exhilaration is there nonetheless. 

Seeing the end is always bittersweet. On one hand, you're ready to take off the restrictions and eat and shop without rules; on the other hand, you find comfort in the rules and are afraid to go back to your old ways. 

For me, I look forward to digging deeper into my relationship with food during the reintroduction. That might be my favorite part - reintro. Each time I think "I'm already gluten- and dairy-free, what else I need to cut out?!" and each time I'm surprised at what I learn. 

I've stopped framing it as "what else can't I eat?" and focus on "when I eat these foods, I feel like this." It's less emotional, more factual, and very helpful in my Food Freedom when I ask myself whether or not something is "worth it." I know what "it" is. That is KEY in a healthy lifestyle. What exactly is at risk when I eat something less healthy for me? 

My husband's birthday was this week and it was full of superheroes, enchiladas, and carrot cake. I made a compliant enchilada filling and served mine with cauliflower rice and made theirs with corn tortillas and cheese. I love when meals are easy like that. 

This week, I'm focusing on finishing strong, maybe with a new recipe or new food to try, just to mix things up! I need to add a little sunshine to my days since this New England weather is *thumbs down emoji* right now. 

I'll be back next week! 

amanda 

1. Traditional enchiladas for the boys, a clean, Whole30 enchilada stuffing and plantains for me. I think they were a little jealous of my plate ;) 2. Be yourself unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman. 3. Snow day fun/desperation led us to make a Whole30 nightmare tower: wheat spaghetti and marshmallows! Gross, but fun to play with. 4. My egg-free breakfast last Saturday because I didn't feel like cooking so leftovers it was - salmon, plantains, salad with Primal Kitchen Cesar (I'm OBSESSED with this dressing. )

1. Traditional enchiladas for the boys, a clean, Whole30 enchilada stuffing and plantains for me. I think they were a little jealous of my plate ;) 2. Be yourself unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman. 3. Snow day fun/desperation led us to make a Whole30 nightmare tower: wheat spaghetti and marshmallows! Gross, but fun to play with. 4. My egg-free breakfast last Saturday because I didn't feel like cooking so leftovers it was - salmon, plantains, salad with Primal Kitchen Cesar (I'm OBSESSED with this dressing. )

Lent Whole40 - Week 3

HEEEEEEY! What's up?! 

I'm salsa-dancing-girl all over this 3rd week of Whole30! 

My greatest NSV this week is that I used a curling iron and didn't need even 1 bandage! I'm more focused and careful, thanks to my squeaky clean diet. My fingertips, ears, and scalp are thankful. 

I stumbled upon an easy and delicious new batch cooking recipe. Cold veggie salad! It's like a potato salad but with lots of veggies and a super simple dressing. It's so versatile. It's perfect for my lunch when I have 3 other humans to feed at the same time. I need something I can literally plop on my plate and shove into my mouth. Bonus points if it's as heavenly as this salad.

Ingredients: 

Any veggies you want - stay away from ones that get soggy, like tomato.  I like sweet potatoes, green beans, onions, and broccoli. Have fun with this!

Cooking fat

Salt & pepper

Tessemae's Lemon Garlic Dressing & Marinade

Whole30 compliant mayo

Whole30 compliant dijon mustard (or regular yellow mustard) 

Directions
1. Heat cooking oil in a skillet and cook all veggies together until cooked through. You want them slightly crispy on the outside, so be sure your pan is hot when you put them in. Let them brown for a few minutes, then lower heat and cover pan while they cook for 5-8 minutes. 

2. Towards the end of the cooking, add salt, pepper, and pour 1/4c. of the Tessemae's dressing into the pan to deglaze. Scrape off all the brown bits!

3. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. You can put the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes or leave on the counter for an hour or so. If the veggies are piping hot when you pour the dressing, it will just melt. 

4. When the veggies are cool enough, add the mayo and mustard - as much or as little as you like! I like about 1/4c. mayo and 2-3 tbls. of mustard. But you do you. Season to taste. 

5. Cover with plastic wrap and enjoy throughout the week! The salad will last about 5 days. 

Enjoy! 

Here's my week in pictures...

Set up again at the Newmarket farmer's market, this time with a  Primal Kitchen  giveaway ; holding hands with my little Lucas ; my morning coffee after the gym is always THE BEST ; Lucas found the markers ; Agustin found the selfie button on my phone ; frittatas are my favorite   

Set up again at the Newmarket farmer's market, this time with a Primal Kitchen giveaway ; holding hands with my little Lucas ; my morning coffee after the gym is always THE BEST ; Lucas found the markers ; Agustin found the selfie button on my phone ; frittatas are my favorite

 

On the prayer front, I'm chugging along there too. It's hard to enjoy the silence when I feel like I have too much of it. Don't get me wrong, my days are LOUD with these boys, but I'm realizing how much noise social media also blared in my face, and the silence in the wake of that is unsettling. It's easy to feel lonely without social media, so I give it 1 point for that. However, I need to remind myself that I'm never truly alone because God is always in my heart <3 

Take care,

amanda