To me, cooking isn't about following a recipe. However, I find it flattering when a friend or family member asks me for one. Not a Cheat Meal was created for just that reason—a place where my friends and family can find the recipes I love to make, and any tips I have for living a healthier lifestyle while being a busy human. If you're someone I don't know, then awesome! This place is for you too.

Why the name "Not a Cheat Meal"? Well, for about 2 years I tended to stick mostly to a paleo diet. I prioritized meats and veggies with some fruits, nuts, and healthy fats. I stayed away from anything with added sugar, grains, legumes (beans!), and dairy as much as I possibly could. Was I perfect at it? Nope. C'mon, I LOVE me some cheese. Chips and salsa is probably one of my favorite food combinations. In the summer of 2018, I decided to ask myself, “why?”. Why was I restricting myself of the foods I loved so very much? I have no allergies or bad reactions to gluten, dairy, or legumes. In fact, when I created this blog, I intended for the “Not a Cheat Meal” name to MEAN restriction (while still tasting delicious). Mostly paleo foods. I have evolved and so has this blog. While I still use paleo as a baseline for making sure I get my micronutrient intake, I no longer limit myself so much. The truth is, restricting myself from the foods I loved wasn’t sustainable.

So what did I change? I started tracking what I was eating. Yes, “counting my macros" as they say. Now, I know this is a bit controversial. It’s also not sustainable to track everything you eat forever. However, I had no idea how many calories I was eating in a day. I had no clue what my ratio breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates (the three macronutrients that make up your entire diet) was. Was I getting enough protein? Probably not. I decided to start tracking to figure out a baseline of where I was at. Over time, I adjusted in order to reach my own personal goals. I saw results like I had never seen before in the way I looked, felt, and how I performed at the gym. It took patience, and a bit of trial and error, but I finally felt like I had a handle on my nutrition.

When I was eating strictly paleo, I already had a strong meal prep game. I was always the girl who brought her lunch to work, and I still am. When it comes to tracking, it only takes a few more seconds to weigh out what I’m taking to work. It’s not a time suck like people may think. It has become second nature and is sustainable to me. I’m able to “fit in” things that I want to eat in a given day, whether it’s a bag of chips, some cheese and crackers, or ice cream. It’s not about restriction anymore. It’s about balance. And speaking of balance, if I want to eat out for lunch one day, go to a dinner with my friends, or indulge a bit on the weekend, that’s okay. Do I count macros on vacation? Heck. No. I live my life, have fun, and track when there’s nothing exciting going on which is most days of the week. On days or occasions when I don’t track, I don’t got NUTS on calorically dense foods unless they are absolutely worth it to me. And if I do go a little crazy, I just get right back to my normal routine afterwards. I don’t punish myself with a double day at the gym, eat only salad for the next week, etc. That’s not a healthy mentality, and I don’t encourage anyone to ever do that.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, for those of you that may not know me, hi! I’m Ashley, originally from the Raleigh, North Carolina area. I moved to San Francisco in 2010 and lived in the heart of the city for 9 years. I recently moved back to my hometown in the spring of 2019. I work in marketing in the tech industry for a San Francisco based company, and absolutely love my job. I married my husband, Michael, in the spring of 2018 and we are the best of friends. I train at a CrossFit gym 5 days a week and have been since 2016. Going to the gym is one of my biggest passions aside from cooking—I absolutely love it. Here are some more quick facts about me:

  • Top 5 Favorite Foods: Potatoes (in any form), fish tacos, chips with salsa, ice cream, and cheese

  • Least Favorite Food: Goat’s cheese is the bane of my existence

  • Last Meal: The fish tacos at Leilani’s Beachside Grill in Maui, HI with extra guac

  • Most Memorable Meal: The Mill House in Maui HI — the most beautiful restaurant overlooking the tropical plantation in Maui, the food is all locally sourced from the plantation and prepared that day

  • Favorite Fast Food: Taco Bell or Chick-Fil-A

  • Favorite CrossFit Movement: My best movement is the Deadlift, but my favorite… Power Clean and Jerk

Here at Not a Cheat Meal, you probably won't find lengthy stories on the background of each dish. I'm sorry if you like that kind of thing. But to be honest, the recipes I make all have a similar story—it's good and good for you. Don't worry, if I have important notes about a dish, I'll be sure to tell you! What you will find here is simple, tasty, and most importantly healthy recipes that I love to cook on a regular weekday basis. You will also find tips for living a healthier lifestyle (think: meal planning, eating leftovers for breakfast, EATING breakfast in general) while still keeping a busy schedule. I truly hope you enjoy, and if you do, I encourage you to share Not a Cheat Meal with your friends, and make sure to follow me on some or all the social medias. Cheers!