Note from Emma: I’m so excited to announce the beginning of Generation Real Food Interviews here at Real Food Renegades! Switching to a real food lifestyle provides lasting health and nourishment, but it can seem daunting at first, especially as a young person or a family with children. The truth is that there is no one diet that will work for everyone – it’s all about finding what works best for you. Our goal with this series is to encourage you in your journey, promote a holistic, balanced lifestyle, and show that though we may seem hidden, there are lots of young people like us hoping to inspire change in our own lives and the greater community!
Today I had the honour of catching up with Aya Tsintziras from A Healthy Story blog. Aya is a fellow Canadian and allergy-free foodie, and an all-around inspiring person! We met through Instagram and have a shared love of dairy-free, gluten-free food. Follow along with Aya’s health journey with her blog, Instagram, and Pinterest – I absolutely adore the sense of nostalgia she portrays with her beautiful food pics, recipes, and blog articles.
Tell us about yourself and your lifestyle!
I’m a 26-year-old freelance writer, editor, and food blogger living in Toronto. I like to say I live a super balanced lifestyle between being a couch potato/TV addict and eating healthy food, walking a lot and going to barre classes. I have a few different health issues (food allergies, Hashimoto’s, low blood sugar) so exercising and eating well is really, really important to me. I try my best not to stress and to make sure I get enough sleep and rest because I work 6 days a week.
How do you define “real food”? What does it look like for you?
To me “real food” is food that is pretty much the opposite of processed food and junk food: food in its normal state with pretty much one ingredient, like sweet potatoes, apples, avocados, strawberries, blueberries, etc. I eat pretty simple meals without a ton of ingredients.
How did you discover the “real food” way of eating?
Almost two years ago, I discovered I had food allergies and cut gluten, dairy, eggs for the most part (but I bake with them sometimes), and refined sugar out of my diet. I haven’t looked back since! Finding replacements for traditional stuff (swapping milk for almond milk, eating an apple and peanut butter for a snack instead of Greek yogurt, and oatmeal instead of white bread) automatically made my food choices healthier.
Was it difficult to change your diet?
Yes! A nutritionist put me on an elimination diet and I had awful symptoms the first 6 weeks: headaches, exhaustion, zero energy, etc. It was so hard go out with my friends and not be able to order nachos or whatever I wanted.
What benefits have you noticed from getting back to basics and eating fresh, whole foods?
I feel so, so much better. I have energy on a regular basis, and even when I’m really tired from work and life I still feel pretty good. I rarely have insomnia and I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my workouts/strength.
What are some staples that are must-haves for you?
Oatmeal, sunflower seed butter, almond butter, almond milk, blueberries, avocados, sweet potatoes, brown rice, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Vital Proteins collagen, almond flour, and coconut flour.
Do you have any advice for young people (or anyone, really!) for thriving on a real foods lifestyle?
My advice would be to find foods that you love to eat and that work for you. I know kale is super trendy but it doesn’t work for me and my digestion, so I steer clear. Food is such a personal thing and so finding your own groove is so important. Most of all, it sounds super cheesy, but don’t give up! If you want to be healthier and happier, real food can honestly change your life, and it’s always worth it in the end… even if you do miss nachos sometimes (like I do).
Thank you, Aya, for sharing! Check out her site and social media by clicking the links above.
Are you a young person living a real foods lifestyle? Has your family (including the kids!) transitioned to eating real food? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share your journey! I’d love to have you.