Reader Food Diary: Jessica’s Success Story

This is our 2019 Reader Diary series where we’re sharing success stories + what people ate for a week! Those who are featured receive $50 in groceries from Thrive Market, 2 of my cookbooks, and a free Prepear meal planning program membership for a year. 

My name is Jessica Flory, my husband’s name is Devin, and we have three little boys—Sam (age 4), Grant (age 3), and Owen (age 1). We live in St. Charles, Missouri. I have Sam to thank for starting our real food journey! When he was six months old, I began sharing what we ate, which made me start paying more attention to labels and what I was feeding my family. I was shocked! High fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient in a can of tomato soup? My baby’s mac n’ cheese is more maltodextrin than anything else? It’s been a long journey, and we are still progressing, but now I make pretty much everything we eat from scratch, and I love it! Real food tastes fantastic, and we all feel so much better!

Jessica Flory and Family

Success Story

I grew up eating a lot of boxed mac n’ cheese, hot dogs with packaged biscuits, canned tomato soup, and boxed cereal. My parents made sure we ate fruits and veggies and they cooked dinner most nights, but meals usually included processed food—white pasta, white rice, canned cream of chicken soup, bottled salad dressing, ketchup, etc.

In my teenage years, I struggled with low self-esteem and wanted to lose weight. I tried counting calories and limited myself to 1000 a day. I lost a few pounds but then plateaued and became frustrated. I was also struggling with depression and anxiety, and that drove me to become bulimic. Fortunately, my mom realized pretty quickly what was going on and was able to get me to therapy and get some help. After a while, I started to eat a “normal” diet again, but the anxiety and depression continued.

Fast forward a few years, to my early twenties, I was married and happier. I was still struggling with self-esteem and anxiety issues but my husband was able to help. Then I started having a lot of pain in my knee joints and saw several physical therapists to try to figure out what was going on, but nothing worked.

Once Sam started eating what we ate, I really woke up. I was putting barbecue sauce on his chicken one night and glanced at the label. High fructose corn syrup was the first ingredient! I started doing more research and following healthy food blogs (thank you, 100 Days of Real Food!), and very slowly we’ve adjusted our habits.

Healthy Changes

My joint pain is gone. Anxiety and depression—gone. These ailments that I struggled with for years and saw many doctors for are cured simply by changing my diet. I have learned to eat intuitively and respond to my body’s cravings because now I crave good things! The sugar-filled fake food I used to eat has zero appeal to my tastebuds now. I have the energy to care for and be with my children. I LOVE their faces when they eat my homemade food, and I know that I’m giving them a healthy foundation for the rest of their lives.

The funny thing is, I weigh more than I did when my self-esteem was so low that I starved myself. I have stretch marks and saggy skin from where I carried my babies, but I feel better about myself than I ever have! My body is nourished and strong, and I am at a healthy weight.

  • I’ve come to love meal planning and learning about nutrition.
  • I make all of our bread, including bagels, tortillas, and biscuits.
  • We no longer buy packaged cereal and instead, we have organic eggs, oatmeal, smoothies, or homemade whole grain pancakes topped with grass-fed butter and pure maple syrup.
  • I love trying new recipes for dinner, and we eat a mostly plant-based diet with some organic meat and dairy.
  • Real food tastes DELICIOUS! And my health and well-being have completely turned around.

I love what real food has done for me and my family!

Our Food Diary

Day 1

Breakfast – An orange and homemade granola on top of whole milk plain yogurt (sweetened with a touch of pure maple syrup). So good!

Lunch – Leftover pinto bean burger patty on top of salad greens with a homemade chipotle mustard salad dressing.

Snack –  Leftover broccoli cheese soup.

Dinner – Grass-fed ribeye steak (OH MY GOSH SO GOOD!), a baked potato with whole milk plain yogurt and cheese, and roasted brussels sprouts.

Dessert – Sunday is our treat day, so I also made some double chocolate chip cookies (sweetened with organic cane sugar) and ate two. Yum!

granola in a bowl and an orange

pinto bean burger patty on top of salad greens

Day 2

Breakfast – Pineapple banana green smoothie and a small bowl of granola and yogurt.

Lunch – Leftover chopped ham and cheese on top of a baked potato, alongside some peas.

Snack – A kiwi and a homemade hazelnut dark chocolate chip granola bar.

Dinner – Breakfast for dinner—eggs scrambled with roasted broccoli and chopped ham, and homemade whole wheat gingerbread pancakes.

Pineapple banana green smoothie

homemade hazelnut dark chocolate chip granola bar

Day 3

Breakfast –  A bowl of yogurt with frozen (and thawed) dark sweet cherries on top. Yum! I also made a batch of whole grain lemon blueberry muffins and ate two.

Lunch – Leftover broccoli scrambled eggs and gingerbread pancakes.

Snack – An apple and a hazelnut chocolate chip granola bar.

Dinner –  Loaded Mexican sweet potatoes with homemade guacamole, alongside a salad with homemade cumin-lime vinaigrette. So good!

Dessert – I also had one of those double chocolate chip cookies from Sunday for dessert. Shhh… :)

whole grain lemon blueberry muffins

Loaded Mexican sweet potatoes with homemade guacamole

Day 4

Breakfast – Tuesday night I soaked some steel-cut oats and cooked those up for Wednesday’s breakfast, served with homemade almond milk, raspberry compote (frozen raspberries heated with a dash of pure maple syrup, vanilla, and chia seeds), and cashew butter. Holy cow, amazing!

Lunch – Grass-fed beef tacos (leftover taco meat from the freezer), and homemade whole wheat tortillas. We only use Lisa’s recipe—it’s incredible!

Snack – Dried figs and some muffins.

Dinner – Marinara sauce with sauteed veggies over whole wheat pasta.

Dessert – Homemade date-sweetened chocolate mousse. It was INCREDIBLE.

steel-cut oats with raspberry sauce

Homemade date-sweetened chocolate mousse

Day 5

Breakfast – A fried egg on top of buttered homemade whole wheat seed bread and a pear. Mid-morning I had a bowl of leftover oatmeal with raspberry compote and cashew butter.

Lunch – Leftover marinara veggie pasta and a salad.

Snack –  Dried figs and a homemade chocolate pumpkin spice snack bar. Mmmm!

Dinner – Macadamia nut crusted salmon, peas, and roasted potatoes and carrots. Soooo good!

Dessert – I polished off another bowl of date-sweetened chocolate mousse. Yum!

Macadamia nut crusted salmon, peas, and roasted potatoes and carrots

Day 6

Breakfast – Banana peach green smoothies and almond butter toast.

Lunch – Leftover salmon, potatoes and carrots, and peas.

Snack – Chocolate pumpkin spice snack bar and blueberries.

Dinner – Pinto bean burgers (the same ones from Sunday) with avocado on homemade whole wheat seed bread, and roasted brussels sprouts.

Dessert – A square of 90% dark chocolate. I love it!

Chocolate pumpkin spice snack bar and blueberries

Pinto bean burgers with avocado on homemade whole wheat seed bread, and roasted brussels sprouts

Day 7

Breakfast – A bowl of gingerbread granola with homemade almond milk.

Lunch – Pinto bean burger and brussels sprouts.

Snack –  I made pumpkin spice snack balls—just dates, walnuts, and pumpkin pie spice! Sooooo good.

Dinner – Broccoli cheese soup (same one from Sunday).

Dessert –  I made us cups of hot chocolate made from homemade coconut milk, raw cacao powder, pure maple syrup, and vanilla. Delicious!

pumpkin spice snack balls

Final Thoughts

As much as it may not seem like it, I have a life outside of the kitchen and three very busy little boys to care for. Yes, I make a lot of things homemade, but I didn’t get that way overnight, and I’ve learned a lot of little tricks to make it less daunting (like meal planning and batch cooking). I make most of our food in bulk and freeze some for later, which helps so much on a busy day!

What I’ve learned:

  • Don’t compare yourself or feel down because you’re not at the same level that someone else is.
  • We’re all on a journey to overcome a very negative food culture and it’s not easy!
  • What matters is that you’re doing your best.

In case you didn’t notice, I believe it’s ok to treat yourself! Most of the time we indulge in healthy treats that help us feel good, but occasionally I do bake us a dessert that is completely, unapologetically, indulgent. (I used white flour. Gasp!) We eat healthy most of the time, and when I eat a treat I slow down and truly enjoy it, and I don’t feel guilty afterward.

My biggest piece of advice is to love yourself for where you are and the healthy changes you’re working on. You are worth so much more than the way you look or how much you weigh. Don’t focus on a specific number on the scale you want to get to or size you want to fit into. Make real food choices, listen to your body’s needs, and everything else will fall into place.

Jessica and family photo

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8 thoughts on “Reader Food Diary: Jessica’s Success Story”

  1. Thank you so much for all the kind comments, everyone! It means so much to me :) And YES to chocolate haha!! Some other blogs I follow and love are Minimalist Baker, Ambitious Kitchen, Oh She Glows, Cookie and Kate, and Detoxinista. I bookmark what looks good when they post and incorporate recipes into my meal plan. We never get bored with food around here :) Hope that helps!

  2. This is one of my favorites from all of the Reader Food Diaries — thank you so much for sharing your story, Jessica! It was very inspiring — especially the encouragement at the end — and all of your food looks delicious.

  3. Jessica, Thank you for sharing your story. I love how you include snacks and dessert into your meal plan. As a chocolate lover, I love seeing how to include it into a healthy lifestyle.

  4. Loved the feature, and your encouraging advice! I know you must get a lot of recipes and advice right here on “100 Days of Real Food” blog. Could you share some of the other blogs/cookbooks/resources you use to find recipes and help with meal planning?
    Thank you! :)

  5. I am with you on baby food. I have 3 girls and my wake up call was when buying yo-baby organic yogurt for my then 9 month old only to realize it contained added sugar, what? So many baby/kid foods look healthy until you carefully read labels. For that reason, I too make most everything from scratch. I try to make ahead to stock my freezer, but is definitely a commitment. I love to see you eat real sugar dessert once a week. We cheat with dessert of the week too. My oldest is now 12 and it is a constant balancing act between having my girls eat healthy and restricting them so much they feel deprived when out with their friends.

  6. I love all of this so, so much! Your story is almost like you are talking about me— right down to the three boys! Thank you for sharing this encouraging and positive story :)

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