August 2018: Julia

I met August’s guest contributor, Julia, just about two years ago when she was working as a barretender at my Pure Barre studio. Since then, Julia has come over to work with me at Domino’s and has become one of my best work friends. We bonded over our shared love of both Pure Barre and pizza. Check out Jullia’s story below:

Let me start this whole thing off by saying I love dairy. If you had asked me 5 years ago if I could ever become dairy free, I would have laughed in your face and then went and bought ice cream. All of my favorite foods contained dairy, I was living the life. Until one day I started having severe stomach issues, just no good, so bad, no fun at all stomach issues. After about a year of symptoms (way too long, I know) I finally went to the doctor and had an allergy test done. This is when my life changed forever (cue ominous music) my doctor called and told me I could no longer enjoy the amazingness that is dairy.

Now, I’ll admit it took me a long time to completely come to terms with it all. At first I only cut out very creamy things: Cream Cheese, that liquid nacho cheese stuff, and ice cream (yes I may have teared up remembering how awesome ice cream is as I write this). Once I cut out those there was significant improvement. I also stopped drinking actual milk and switched to lactaid, and I thought all my problems were solved. However, I was still eating hard cheeses, on pizza mostly. Pizza is just the best food ever isn’t it? It has a little something for everybody. I thought all was fine and dandy, until me and my hubby went on our 1 year wedding anniversary trip to Chicago. We were eating all our favorite foods; pizza on pizza, nachos, fried foods, lots of beer and I got extremely ill. We had to end our trip early, and I was shocked my body had reacted the way it had. I mean really, why would my body hate me for giving it all the things it can’t digest?

The Chicago trip was a complete wake up call, and that is when I decided it had to happen. I had to rip the band aid off and say good bye to dairy forever. It was a very sad day, and I will never say I don’t miss dairy because I do, but what I learned is that there are amazing substitutes that are better for you than actual dairy that you can buy at your local Kroger, Meijer, or any grocery store. You don’t even need to live near a Whole Foods or other health food store to find great products that work for you. Once I made this change in my life I really realized how dairy affected my body. I had way more energy, my bloat that I always seemed to be carrying disappeared, and results from my workouts increased. It was almost like my body was happy I stopped making it feel sick.

I did have to do some serious experimenting and trial and error to figure out what products worked for me to substitute for dairy and which ones did not. I have never been a picky eater, but being a huge lover of dairy made it hard to try to find similar products that did not actually have dairy in the ingredients. Basically I had to get the idea out of my head that anything was going to taste exactly like cheese without actually being cheese. Same thing with ice cream. When I did that, everything started making more sense. With cheeses I found that Daiya cheddar cheese will actually melt (hellllo nachos and omelet’s), and for salads or anything where the cheese isn’t melted there’s a vegan cheddar cheese at Meijer (it comes in a green bag and I think Meijer actually makes it) that has the same texture as cheese and tastes good “raw.” Daiya has helped a lot with mac n’ cheese as well, they sell a boxed mac n’ cheese (for those of us Kraft kids) and it is creamy and amazing. I switched to almond milk and because it has more protein it’s even given me more energy throughout the day. Trader Joe’s has the best vegan mozzarella (no seriously, I’m Italian and even got my some of my family to love this cheese.) It is gooey and amazing and melts so perfectly. I’m going to be honest though, I am very very picky about my ice cream, I LOVE ice cream, it has always been my favorite dessert. This one has taken me the longest to figure out. I enjoy coconut milk ice cream because it adds another flavor, but not my favorite. Until, the ice cream and vegan gods shined down on earth, and gave us all Ben & Jerry’s dairy free ice cream pints. I tried one that used almond milk, and I was skeptical, I thought I would be let down. However, it blew me away. It tasted just like what I remember ice cream tasting like. I cried tears of joy that day.

Now in conclusion, there is life after being diagnosed with a food allergy. A very yummy, delicious, fulfilling life. If I can do it anyone can. One last piece of advice for all my dairy free kindred spirits out there: Check yo food labels. Even if you don’t think there is any dairy, sometimes there is. I would rather be pouting in a store because I can’t eat something and I know it. Then to accidentally eat it and be out of commission for at least 24 hours. Be smart friends!

Thanks for sharing your story, Julia! What do you all think? Are you dairy free? What are your tricks to living a dairy-free lifestyle? I’d love to hear your comments below!

July 2018: Megan

After several months away to relax, stress, travel, GET ENGAGED, take an MBA course, stress some more, self-care a bit, etc. etc., I’M BACK!! We’re kicking off being back on the blog with July’s guest contributor: Megan.

Megan is hands down one of the best humans out there. She’s brilliant, hilarious, an amazing friend, and an even more incredible new MOMMY. Check out her motherhood journey below.

Being a parent is the most beautiful, emotional, and rewarding job on this planet. Being the middle of five children growing up, I always babysat my little brothers with ease. However, being a mother is quite the contrary.

Pregnancy was by far the most exhausting and exhilarating thing that my body has ever done. Once I got over that my size four jeans wouldn’t fit past my knee, I fully embraced it. Maternity jeans with the elastic waistband? Check. Soft and smooth skin? Check. Hair and nails growing like weeds due to my prenatal vitamins? Check and Check. I looked forward to every kick and every punch my baby boy would make in my stomach. I walked around my subdivision daily with my Weimaraner, and ate foods that were semi nutritious (besides my intense red meat cravings that made me end up at the Iowa Tap Room for Rubens and not beers.) I even tried to do light weights and walk on the treadmill for over an hour at my local Planet Fitness. I was, however, not expecting the post pregnancy feels.

Once I delivered my 9 lb. 5 oz. beautiful boy naturally, no one told me how to recover from such a procedure. I only saw Facebook and Instagram posts of babies after being delivered and recall saying in my head, “If she can do it, so can I!”

When the doctor was done stitching me up with +30 stitches, I came back to a recovery room full of hemorrhoids and sciatic pain. I have never felt so much discomfort in my entire life. Mind you, I JUST delivered my baby. I could barely walk, sit up, or move around when I was released from the hospital a few days later. Thoughts raced through my head: “How am I going to cook dinner? How will I get groceries? How can I have a balanced diet while providing enough milk for my baby, all while not moving?

Turns out, a lot can happen when you ask for help. For example, my husband just completed a Costco trip right before I was discharged from the hospital and bought a LOT of pre-made meals (enchiladas, stuffed peppers, rice), as well as frozen vegetables and meats. When I felt a bit light headed, Aussie Bites, cereal, and peanut butter rolled oats saved my life. They were easy to make, and I could eat them with one hand while breastfeeding with the other. Quick, semi-healthy foods were my lifeline in those first few weeks of being a new mom. Now that I have a somewhat pattern with our little guy, I try to include as many vegetables as possible into my diet. I can put him down to peel carrots, potatoes, onions, etc. I do not have any more food aversions, but am trying to cut back on my meat. Having a little one truly is a lifestyle change, and I am embracing all of it, every single day.

Megan Passman

It’s refreshing to know that not all new mommies are as it appears on Instagram. It’s important to realize that those photos or videos that we see on social media are snapshots in time and that those people are REAL and are experiencing REAL life just as we are. Those insta-mommies are just like us behind the scenes.

Thanks for sharing your mommy-hood journey with us, Megan! We’ll check back in with her soon to see how her self-care routines change as baby Carter grows up.

What have your experiences with new mommy-hood been like? Similar to Megan’s? Different? Let us know by commenting below!

April 2018: Bri

Many view traveling for business as a glamorous adventure on the Company’s dime. One of my best friends, Bri (the cutie above), shares that maybe traveling all the time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. See below for tips and tricks on how to maintain a healthy diet while on the road.

Eating Healthy While Traveling For Business

I travel a lot for work. I also feel sick a lot from food, so I’m not able to consistently cook for myself and eat food that won’t upset my stomach. I have gone to the gastroenterologist many times to try to figure out what causes my upset stomach. [Gastroenterology is the branch of medicine focused on the digestive system and its disorders.] After many tests, we still can’t determine the cause, but because of this, I have learned how to eat healthy while traveling for business.

  1. Stay hydrated and drink lots of water. One of the most important things I’ve learned from traveling a lot is to make sure I drink plenty of water (this is key on an airplane). Many people love to drink coffee, especially when they are tired from traveling, but coffee is dehydrating, so make sure to drink plenty of water as well. Also, try to avoid super sugary caffeinated drinks. If I need caffeine, I personally try to stick to tea for the other health benefits as well. Also, people like to drink wine or beer on an airplane, but this will make you feel much worse the next day.
  2. Stick to a schedule. If you normally eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a certain times at home, try to stick to the same times while you are traveling. A lot of my colleagues skip breakfast when they travel, but I can’t survive the morning without it, so I always build in enough time to grab breakfast, even if it is just a muffin and banana.
  3. Pack your own (healthy) snacks. I always travel with KIND bars or RX bars in my backpack when I travel for any instances where I can’t eat on time in accordance with my schedule. A lot of my client sites have vending machines or free snacks that are chips, candy bars, etc., so it’s nice to be able to have something healthy available.
  4. Don’t feel like you have to drink at happy hour. Some people live for happy hour and having free drinks on the Company. Just because drinks are free doesn’t mean that you need to have a bunch of drinks.
  5. Choose a light meal.  Another thing a lot of people do while traveling for business is eat a large meal since the Company is paying for it. I’ve learned that just because its free doesn’t mean I should always eat large meals. If everyone is ordering steaks and a bunch of sides, it is okay to order a soup and salad if that’s what you want to eat.

Thanks for sharing, Bri! I have a big trip coming up and will DEFINITELY be taking KIND and RxBars with me to 1) make sure I have something gluten-free with me and 2) save some cash. What tips will you be implementing into YOUR routine next time you travel? Let me know in the comments below!

March 2018: Casey

As I mentioned in February’s guest contributor series, it’s so important to me that I expand this blog to include other opinions besides my own.

March’s guest contributor series, written by my brilliant friend Casey, just proves how passionate of a human she is. Check out her thoughts below:


Feed the resistance!

Hi all! My name is Casey and I LOVE to eat. Food to me is a microcosm of the community, a means for connection, comfort and love.  And hell, it’s 2018 – so let’s add activism to that plate.

Like the goddess Lena Dunhum said, “whether you’re preparing meals for activists, bringing people together in your home, or cooking for yourself as a meaningful act of self-care, being in the kitchen is a tangible and effective way to literally feed the resistance.”

For me this means not eating meat. As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future—deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.

If the environment doesn’t concern you (*EYE ROLL*) maybe the treatment of the animals you eat – including what they eat does….Like “Big Pharma” there is also “Big Meat.” A cartel of corporations that have devoured family farms and continue to house animals in horrific prisons that carry-out daily animal abuse. These “Big Meat” companies are held to zero standards, watch any animal rights documentary and you will understand the horror these animals endure from birth to death.

Although meat may taste good, it is not sustainable. By giving ourselves these boundaries we actually create the space for a healthier future.

My favorite meat alternatives:

  • Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe’s
  • Jackfruit (canned, no brine)
  • Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower from Trader Joes

February 2018: Kristie

When I started my blog, I wanted to make a point to include other voices besides my own. I’m not the only one out there who is struggling with a love/hate relationship with food. I think it’s important to not only share MY story with you guys, but also let others use this outlet to express their learnings. What surprised me most in this process is how many of my friends are working through similar dietary restrictions as mine. The Guest Contributor Series in Against The Grain will include these friends (and possibly some of you!) sharing their journey and some recommendations for you all! 

I’m so happy to share one of my closest friend’s story with you today – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Here’s Kristie: 


To Cheese, or Not to Cheese, That is the Question

Kristie here. First time guest blogger, and so incredibly honored to type here. Much like Amanda I live a life with a diet that requires restriction. Unfortunately, my frenemy is cheese. This begs the question, who doesn’t love cheese? There are so many kinds that pair great with crackers, wine and conversation; however, cheese does not love me.

I discovered my affliction for cheese later in life, after my college graduation. I guess I always felt discomfort from the golden dairy goodness but it took my desire to begin a healthy post college lifestyle to discover a true sensitivity. I cut cheese from my diet temporarily, among many other things, like gluten, in order to get in shape. Once I began incorporating the omitted food back into my diet, I began to get sick. It took nearly 1 year to realize my illness stemmed from cheese.

Now, 6 years later, I am cheese free, but not completely dairy free. This may sound confusing but I somehow managed to develop this sensitivity through my restrictive diet to only cheese. It certainly perplexes any server who discovers my cheese, but not necessarily dairy free, ordering habits; however, I have learned to live with it. So today my contribution to Against the Grain will be my go to favorite dishes from various local restaurants. As a disclaimer, I don’t dash for cheese substitutes when I dine (I think this is mainly because I remember what the real thing tastes like). Instead, I go for dishes that come without cheese or are easy to order without it. As a result, a majority of the dishes I recommend are not completely dairy free. So order wisely if you are dairy free!

1. This first one is a recommendation I should have made to everyone about 1 month ago. The mushroom vegetarian dish from Craftwork Restaurant in West Village Detroit.  Unfortunately this dish is no longer on the menu; however, it is my absolute favorite. It is filled with mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes and covered in a creamy, hearty, red sauce that tasted like it had mozzarella cheese in it. Seriously I had to ask my server like 10 times if she was sure there wasn’t cheese in it! It even comes with a grilled slice of baguette bread for dipping into the savory, pretending to be cheesy, sauce. Craftwork constantly changes their menu, including their vegetarian entrée, and it never seems to disappoint. This place is vegan and GF friendly.

2. The Caesar Salad from GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale. It includes almond parmesan “cheese” on top and it is a vegan and completely dairy free dish! GreenSpace is the only spot that truly understands how to re-create the cheese taste. Really anything from this place is amazing for those who are vegan, gluten free, nut free, and even soy free.

3. The Marinara Pizza from Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina in Royal Oak. I just call this place Biga. It is cheese free with Oregano and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I like to add chili flakes for an extra kick. You can even get GF crust. They also have other locations in Ann Arbor, Southfield, and a traveling food truck.

4. The grits with a fried egg, chives and omit the cheese from Public House in Ferndale. The grits are creamy and delicious without the cheese and they add sriracha sauce for a kick. This place is great for brunch, dinner, cocktails and beer.

5. The wok fired brussel sprouts and seaweed salad from Peterboro in Detroit. The brussel sprouts are filled with garlic and some spicy heat, while the seaweed salad has crispy quinoa, chilies and pickled mushrooms. This is a Chinese spot, which means there’s basically zero cheese in their dishes. Hooray!

I could go on for days with all of my cheese free recommendations, but hopefully this is a good start to provide your taste buds with as much happiness as mine!