Raise your hand if you love granola. Let's be real who doesn't?
Chicago blogger and baker - Ellie is known for her wholesome eats and sweet treats, especially her grain-free, guilt-free granola line - Hungry By Nature. Filled with nuts and seeds, her granola is naturally gluten free and seriously addicting. It's hot commodity in the big city. No worries, those living outside of the midwest can order a bag online.
Ellie sat down with me for a quick interview to share more about her autoimmune diseases (yes plural), her love of the whole30, and most importantly to talk granola. See the whole story for yourself below.
1. Tell me about your journey to finding out all your food allergies. When did you get diagnosed with each of them?
I’ve always been a seemingly healthy person. I ate pretty well, exercised semi-regularly, indulged at times and felt like I had achieved a good balance.
At age 17, I was diagnosed with my first autoimmune disease - isolated scleroderma. To be honest, it really had no effect on me other than the forever present scar on my abdomen. Then I went to college and the way I treated my body declined - I ate junk food, didn’t get enough sleep, and certainly indulged in desserts and drinks too often. Typical college living.
Sophomore year, I was diagnosed with my second autoimmune disease - Raynaud’s Phenomenon. Unfortunately, Raynaud’s had and still has a significant impact on my daily life. (If you want to learn more about Raynaud’s, click HERE.)
After college, I said goodbye to the way I was treating my body and decided to take control of my diet and lifestyle one step at a time. I joined a gym and started exercising regularly. Instead of telling myself I needed to work out everyday, I committing to hitting the gym three days a week. After 3 days a week became a habit, it upped it to 4 and then 5. Today, I average 4-5 workouts a week.
I also started eating healthier. Learning how to cook for myself for the first time was overwhelming, so I started with one thing - I committed to making one new healthy recipe each week.
Then at age 28, I was tested for Celiac Disease because it runs in the family and because of my other autoimmune issues, not because I was experiencing symptoms (because I didn't think I was!). But all the tests came back positive and needless to say, this diagnosis came as a total shock. So now I have 3 autoimmune diseases - Scleroderma, Raynaud’s and Celiacs. Woof. I knew there had to be something - anything to help make me feel better.
In January 2017 I completed my first Whole30 and it completely changed the way I felt and how I fuel my body. My food motto has not changed - eat healthy, whole, natural foods and always leave room for dessert. But the Whole30 opened up my eyes to what foods actually make me feel good, from the inside out.
The Whole30 taught me some very interesting things about my body and how I process food.
1. Dairy gives me headaches. Not day-of, but the second day.
2. Certain grains, even gluten free grains, make me feel sluggish and foggy.
So weird, I know. But SO COOL to be able to actually figure that out! I never knew how good healthy could feel. Because of this, I now follow a paleo diet and choose to fuel my body in a way that is best suited for me!
2. Tell me about your blog and your motivation to maintaining a clean, healthy diet.
Hungry by Nature is a a gluten free and paleo food blog dedicated to inspiring others to live a healthy and balanced life, starting in the kitchen! I initially started the blog as a way to save my recipes and practice food photography. But here's the deal: I love food. I love making it, baking it, eating it, sharing it, and talking about it. And a food blog was the perfect way to combine all of these passions!
My biggest motivation for maintaining a healthy diet is simple - my health. I have a lot of family members and friends who suffer from autoimmune diseases, who have passed away from cancer, and who just generally don't take care of their bodies. And I want to be around for awhile! I have a lot of hopes and dreams for my life and my future and I want to put my best foot forward every single day, and that means taking care of my body - eating well, drinking lots of water, and getting enough sleep.
3. When did you start making granola?
I've been making granola my whole life - it is one of my favorite things to bake! But after my Celiac diagnosis, I had eliminated all oats and began experimenting with grain free recipes - this was in early 2017. I came up with a great recipe, posted it on my blog, and people went crazy for it! In the summer of 2017 I decide to pursue selling this granola and starting a food business. The business officially launched in December 2017 and we have been growing ever since!
4. Tell me about your journey to transforming that passion and to turning it into a business.
After I was diagnosed with Celiacs and the completion of my first Whole30, I eliminated most grains from my diet, but specifically oats (yes, even gluten free oats!). I had tried several grain free granolas on the market and didn't like any of them... at all. Most grain free/paleo granolas tend to either be rock hard clusters or super soft cookie-like chunks and I didn't care for any of them. That's when I began experimenting. I came up with a great recipe, knew there was nothing else like this on the market, and saw an opening where I believed I could make an impact. And ever since then, I have been pursuing that dream every single day.
5. What's your favorite way to eat your granola?
6. Do you have any advice for aspiring entreprenuers?
My biggest advice is just to go for it! I didn't start my blog with the intention of growing it into a business and definitely didn't think it would lead me to start a food business either. Just go for it and follow your passions - you never know where they may take you.
7. Do you have any tips for those doing a whole30 for the first time?
YES! Oh my gosh, I could honestly talk about the Whole30 for a long time. My biggest advice is to read It Starts With Food before you start the Whole30. The book goes into the inception of the program and how to best prepare for it - there are testimonials, shopping lists, meal prep guides, and recipes too. I also have a ton of Whole30 approved recipes on Hungry by Nature and recaps/takeaways from my first Whole30. Lastly, make sure to do the reintroduction as outlined in the book. The whole purpose of the Whole30 is to identify what specific foods don't agree with your body and the reintroduction phase is key to figuring that out!
8. What's next for Hungry By Nature?
There are lots of things in the works for what is coming next! There will be a seasonal flavor for my granola coming out this fall as well as lots of new recipes posted each week to my site and fun collaborations with new brands and other recipe developers! I am also working very hard to grow Hungry by Nature so that I can run my food business and my blog full time!
9. How can readers get your hands on your granola?
The easiest way for people to try my granola is to order it directly off my site (https://hungrybynature.com/shop-granola/). Or for those who live in the Chicagoland area, it can be found at a variety of small grocers and coffee shop - all listed on my site as well!