Nutrition has always been a big part of my life. But it's become a higher priority, as I've had to overcome an autoimmune disease and the debilitating pain and fatigue that were chronic symptoms. It took a long time for my doctors to figure out what was wrong with me, and then it took nearly as long to come up with effective treatments. There were days when it was hard to get out of bed. But I still wanted to compete on the tennis court. However, with my symptoms, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to perform at the level I knew I was capable of, so playing professionally was out of the question until the problem was solved.

When I was diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome back in 2011, I had to make some major lifestyle changes in order to put my health first. After trying everything the doctor suggested, I continued to experience muscle and joint pain, and constant fatigue. But when I started exploring a plant-based diet to help reduce my inflammation and support my immune system, I loved the way it made me feel, so I kept going.

I’ve stuck to a plant-based diet for over a decade now and have never felt better. It
gives me the energy to get perform my best throughout the day and keeps me feeling
at the top of my game because I make healthier choices all around.

Now, ten years later, I have finally discovered a healthy balance. I still eat mostly plant-based foods like vegetables and plant-based protein, but I'm not always perfect. It's important to treat yourself from time to time!

attachment-happy viking
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Here's what a typical day of eating looks like for me, featuring some of my favorite plant-based food brands. Also included is my own brand of healthy protein shakes, Happy Viking, which I created because I was having trouble finding the perfect protein shake to feel replenished after a hard workout. Now I use it throughout the day whenever I need a healthy boost of plant-based protein to rev up my energy level.

  • Breakfast: A protein-packed smoothie with berries or a cup of fruit
  • Lunch: Sweet potatoes with rice and one of my homemade ranch dressings
  • Snack: Kale chips, nuts, bars, a green smoothie
  • Dinner: Lentils over quinoa and vegetables or a veggie lentil-based burger with lettuce tomatoes onions and pickled vegetables
  • Dessert: Coconut Bliss' sweet cherry amaretto dairy-free ice cream, Hu Kitchen's cashew butter chocolate bar, or Lenny & Larry’s Complete Double
    Chocolate Cookie.

Breakfast: Mornings are tough for me because generally speaking, I'm not a big eater in the morning. I don't usually have a ton of time to make something because I'm rushing to practice or meetings. Sometimes I'll make a quick smoothie with fresh berries and a scoop of my Happy Viking protein powder, (probably the strawberry flavor, it's my favorite) and drink this on the go. If I'm craving something sweeter, I'll add two or three dates to the smoothie. I like to take it easy in the morning and don't want to feel rushed.

Lunch: Depending on how much time I have for lunch and what my schedule looks like, my midday meal can vary from sweet potatoes and rice to a green smoothie. It can either be a sit-down lunch at the office or an on-the-go power drink headed to see my physio. My lunch usually fills me up until dinner is ready, and I tend to eat pretty simple meals.

Sometimes I’ll go to one of my favorite vegan restaurants for lunch or a
quick snack in the middle of the day. I couldn’t live without Christopher’s Kitchen
strawberry milkshake, it’s the best!

Snacks: I spend a lot of time in Florida so I eat a lot of fresh oranges and citrus for a snack. I'm not the biggest snacker either but if I get hungry I will just eat whatever's around: Flavored nuts, sliced fruits, pickled green beans or cauliflower, and kale chips. I also love CLIF bar’s Crunchy Peanut Better flavor for a mid-day pick me up. It gives me an extra boost when I really need it! One other snack I love is Earth Balance White Cheddar Puffs. I'm getting better with healthy snacking because don't get me wrong...I love a piece of candy.

I'm trying to keep my body as alkaline as possible to avoid long-term health issues, so I stay away from acidic foods like sugar. I try to focus on eating real clean snacks and real ingredients so I always check the ingredients on the back of packages.

Sometimes I just look in my pantry for snacks and don't find anything, and realize I'm not even hungry. But lately, I've been making my own vegan condiments like vegan ranch buttermilk dressing, so sometimes I'll dip a bunch of sliced veggies in that. It's so good and super easy to make.

Dinner: For dinner, I usually whip up some lentils and I add those to a giant salad with quinoa or eat them over sautéed vegetables.

Whenever I cook, I aim for something quick yet tasty because I'm so tired at the end of the day, so I don't want to spend much time in the kitchen! But I do like to experiment with different plant-based foods. Sometimes I cook a veggie or lentil burger and season the patty with pink sea salt and garlic powder – two seasonings I can't live without. Or I throw whatever I have from the fridge on top of the burger such as lettuce, onions, and tomatoes, and pair my meal with a Happy Viking protein shake. I love to have the chocolate flavor at night because it tastes like dessert.

When it comes to sweets, I try not to eat too much sugar, so I'll have a few dates, natural granola with some berries, or cashew butter chocolate from Hu Kitchen which doesn't contain cane or refined sugar, or dairy. I always check ingredients to make sure my treats have natural sweeteners. I also allow myself to eat a Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookie or a bit of Coconut Bliss' sweet cherry amaretto dairy-free ice cream once or twice a week. Although the ice cream contains 17 grams of sugar it's totally plant-based and tastes really good. It's a fun treat!

Bottom Line: This is the fuel that gets me through the day feeling my best, but it’s different for everyone. Listen to your body! When you find the right balance in your nutrition, you’ll be able to feel the difference. Keep trying to eat your healthiest, and your body will thank you! You’ll feel better, stronger, and more energized to tackle whatever the day might bring.

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