Re-thinking Healthy Snacks: Crunchy & Salty

Re-thinking Healthy Snacks: Crunchy & Salty

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Good Morning! I woke up this morning on a mission to tackle a snack project and I’m dying to tell you about some changes going on in our household. A few months ago we had an annual physical and our doctor challenged us to eat EVEN healthier??? How could that be? Doesn’t he know we have lost over 215 pounds as a couple! Well let me explain…

First let’s clarify what the word healthy means to my doctor & now to us. “Healthy” is a buzz word all over the place and means something totally different based on the source, which I find totally annoying. In making our food healthier we are referring to increasing its nutritional muscle: i.e. nutrients, protein, fiber, and healthy oils. In addition we are also factoring in how processed the item is, are the ingredients recognizable, is it packed full of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). Of course as we are also in the process of losing weight so I am considering how these snacks will impact our weight loss and measure up to the Weight Watchers program.

We are probably just like you; we get in a rut, and can eat the same things over and over again. Our snacks had fallen into this rut and really weren’t satisfying our cravings either! SO a reformation is in motion. Here are a few snacks we HAD been eating frequently.  Keep in mind these are still great tasting and great options for weight loss.

Pre-reformation Healthy Snacks

Pre-reformation Healthy Snacks

Popcorn Indiana Chipins (white cheddar, sea salt, jalapeno ranch & other varieties)

Fat 4g, Carbs 21 g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 2g – WWP+ per 28g serving = 3

*gluten free, non-gmo, no preservatives


Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Whole Grain Cheddar

Fat 5g, Carbs 19g, Fiber 2g, Protein 4g – WWP+ per 30g serving = 4


Honey Maid Low Fat Honey Grahams

Fat 2g, Carbs 28g, Fiber 2g, Protein 2g – WWP+ per 35g (8 crackers) serving = 4

Next we have our go to snacks that we absolutely aren’t willing to compromise on! It is not a secret that the Pina family loves popcorn, kettle corn, & caramel corn! Here are 3 of our very favorites!

Must Have Popcorn!!!

Must Have Popcorn!!!


Popcorn Indiana Popcorn (movie theater, white cheddar, & other varieties)

Fat 12g, Carbs 13g, Fiber 3g, Protein 2g – WWP+ per 28g serving = 4

*gluten free, non-gmo, all natural ingredients, no preservatives


Colby’s Kettle Corn (salty sweet addiction, butter salt craving, cinnamon sugar sensation)

Fat 7g, Carbs 15g, Fiber 2g, Protein 2g – WWP+ per 28g serving = 3

*gluten free, non-gmo, all natural ingredients, no preservatives


Angie’s Delightfully Different (salted caramel & other varieties)

Fat 8g, Carbs 19g, Fiber 2g, Protein 1g  – WWP+ per 28g serving = 4

*gluten free, non-gmo, all natural ingredients, no preservatives

Snack bags, digital food scale, & bulk healthy snacks. Preparation IS everything!

Snack bags, digital food scale, & bulk healthy snacks. Preparation IS everything!

Branching out, being adventurous & trying lots of new things REQUIRES thinking outside the box and sometimes the continent! Some of my Asian friends introduced me to Edamame years ago but it never found its way into our regular routine…..until now! I dare you to spontaneously stop & ask me at ANY given moment and I’m very likely to be carrying a snack pack of Edamame (unless the bad is already empty;). Dry roasted Edamame is a crunchy & salty treat that packs a big nutritional punch. The 3 grams of fiber & 10 grams of protein keep me full longer. The large quantity you get with 28 grams keeps my hands busy and emotionally satisfied! I am absolutely in love.

Roasted peas, roasted corn original & chili lime, edamame, sunflower seeds & almonds! Yumminess!

Roasted peas, roasted corn original & chili lime, edamame, sunflower seeds & almonds! Yumminess!

Let’s face it; eating healthy does take work & creativity. We are always on the go and need our snacks to be convenient, portable, and not overly expensive. Plus they need to be pleasing to our taste buds, which is of course the ultimate test. Buying in bulk keeps the cost down and I can separate them into portion sizes that are suitable and ready to go when we need them. Here are some terrific options we have fallen in love with recently. We buy these in bulk at the local Sprouts Farmers Market but if you don’t live in the area and have access you can check any grocery store. I have even found several of these items at Big Lots!

Colorful snacks packing a large nutritional punch that are ready to go when we are!

Colorful snacks packing a large nutritional punch that are ready to go when we are!


Edamame- dry roasted & salted

Fat 4g, Carbs 10g, Fiber 3g, Protein 10g – WWP+ per 28g serving = 3

*two ingredients: soy bean & salt

*gluten free, non-gmo, all natural ingredients, no preservatives


Green Peas – dry roasted & salted

Fat 4g, Carbs 17g, Fiber 5g, Protein 8g – WWP+ per 34g serving = 3

*gluten free, no preservatives


Almonds (raw, roasted with cinnamon & sugar)

Fat 14g, Carbs 6g, Fiber 3g, Protein 6g – WWP+ per 28g serving = 5

*gluten free, non-gmo, all natural ingredients, no preservatives

Here is a wonderful & easy link to my favorite recipe for DIY Cinnamon & Sugar Roasted Almonds. *Note I cut the sugar back to 1/4 cup of each.


Pumpkins Seeds – salted in shell *nutritional facts for kernels only*

Fat 9g, Carbs 3g, Fiber 1g, Protein 6g – WWP+ per 19g/56 kernels serving = 3

*two ingredients: pumpkin seeds & salt

*gluten free, non-gmo, all natural ingredients, no preservatives


Toasted Corn (original, bbq, chili lime)

Fat 5g, Carbs 21g, Fiber 1g, Protein 2g – WWP+ per 28g serving = 3

*gluten free, *orginal has 2 ingredients and is non-gmo, all natural, no preservatives

*I’ll admit this one doesn’t have quite the nutritional impact of the above….but man are they good & a MUCH better alternative to fill the craving for tortilla chips, fritos, or doritos 😉

Now I’m all set and our snacks are ready to go for at least a month or more. It took me about 30 minutes to weigh & bag all those snacks. That was a 30 minutes well worth it let me tell you! Now when we are packing lunches, planning a day away from home, or even just craving crunchy & salty we are all set & ready to go! I hope you try & enjoy these healthy alternatives as much as we do!

Storage is a snap!

Storage is a snap!

***Please NOTE: All nutrutional information is based on the packaging we have in our home on this date. Please make sure to ALWAYS refer to the packages on the products you buy before consumption. If you are a Weight Watcher please ALWAYS calculate Pointsplus values based on the nutritional info on your packages. I have listed this information as a point of reference and discussion only.***




Insights from a Marathoner

Insights from a Marathoner

February 7, 2013

Have you ever had a conversation with a perfect stranger that tremendously impacted your life? Well I did recently! I met a Marathoner about a week ago at a party we attended prior to the big game. Now I have met people here and there that have run a couple half or full marathons in the past. But this guy was the real thing, a real live Marathoner! I’m sure I’m going to get the numbers wrong but he had run something like 15-16 FULL marathons and 17-18 HALF marathons. Holy moly that’s amazing! This is the kind of guy that owns the title of Marathoner. He has mastered his skill, he has confidently triumphed through all the physical, emotional, and no doubt spiritual obstacles, and he has finished the task and completed his goal over and over and over again.

This gentleman was kind enough to allow me to pick his brain for about 10 minutes to which I stared in awe soaking up every tid bit of wisdom he had to offer. My relationship with exercise has progressed during this journey and over the last six months and I’ve toyed with setting a new personal fitness goal of completing a half marathon to start with and eventually a full marathon. So as we entered 2013 I declared to my husband (from my sick bed-seriously) that I wanted to train & completely a half marathon by the end of the year. To my delight the Lord brings a real live Marathoner across my path in the dawn of my strength returning and as I am permitted by doctors and family to continue in my exercise journey. Totally inspiring!

As I walked (3.1 miles) this morning and reflected back to that conversation I realized there are many significant parallels to running a marathon and my journey. Let me share with you some of the things I took away from our conversation and how they parallel to the feat of getting healthy physically, emotionally, spiritual, and losing over 110+ pounds! Getting healthy has been my mountain, but no matter what mountain we face in life I believe these truths are invaluable to success.

1. Visit a local running club and get connected with a team to train.

Why is connecting with a team so vitally important? God created us as relational beings and we need one another as we face challenges in this life. A team will be built of individuals at different stages of experience & expertise. Surrounding myself with people who know a lot more than I do about finishing a marathon sounds like a terrific place to start. When I have faced challenges on this journey to getting healthy I have surrounded myself with people who have had success, experts with experience, people who passionately care about this journey, and people who will cheer me on! I am on a team that is working together to get healthy and you are part of that team!

2. Start small & work your way up. Jog a 5K, then a 10K and so on.

As a counselor I would sometimes see people choking on their own issues. If a pizza represents all of the issues one faces I would see clients trying to stuff the whole pizza down their mouth at one time. When in reality to successfully work through issues we need to take one slice of pizza and then eat it one bite at a time. Starting small is manageable, it allows your body, mind, soul to adjust & grow without discouragement. If I went out today and tried to run a half marathon I would fail and probably never try it again.

3. Get the proper equipment you need such as good running shoes.

There are many tools available on the market today that can help you conquer a marathon. Everything from specially designed shoes, watches that record your pace & aid with training, compression pants, to belts that hold water bottles.  This equipment by itself does nothing to get you across that finish line BUT it does allow some level of comfort and direction in the training process. Finding & using the right equipment when we face a challenge is critical to success. In getting healthy I use a website to track my food and store recipes, I use a food scale to accurately determine the quantity of food before I consume it, and I use weights and a medicine ball when working out. These tools support my goal and keep my focused on the journey.

4. Train faithfully and expect your training to affect the lives of those around you.

Transforming into a Marathoner requires a day by day commitment to train. According to Brad Boughman’s “The secret to successful marathon training and half marathon training lies within staying supremely motivated, training smart & safe, and maintaining proper nutrition.” I hear a lot of commitment in that power packed statement. It is a slow progressive process of choices that lead to the ultimate goal. Daily choosing to stay focused and committed empowers each new day. Similarly our journey to health requires daily focus and commitment. We are in training and determined to finish the race!

Let’s be honest we don’t live in a box; ALL of our choices both positive and negative affect those around us. The family of a Marathoner sacrifices time, money, and energy for the goal. They walk through life with this person in training and see the transformation taking place. A legacy is being built through their sacrifices that will last a lifetime. A legacy of endurance, determination, willpower, strength, hope, and good health will certainly be passed on to the next generation. When we started this journey I had no idea how the changes we would make would affect the lives of our family & friends & many others. Somehow through our authentic transparency people have become inspired and encouraged toward honoring God through living a healthy lifestyle.  May a legacy of good health and a lifestyle that honors God be passed on to our future generations.

5. Don’t give up on your dream.

My dream to complete a marathon will not be achieved overnight. It will take time, determination, and a lot of work. I need to surround myself with a team of experts who are focused on the same goal. I need to start small and build on my successes. I need to get the tools that will support and encourage my goal. I need to faithfully train no matter what it takes and remained focused no matter what hurdle I face. Finally I need to never give up my dream to finish a marathon!

A phrase that has stuck with me throughout my journey to getting healthy is “This is a marathon, not a sprint”. Losing over 110 pounds does not happen overnight, it is not fast, it is not a perfect journey, it has its ups and down, and bumps & bruises along the way. The Marathoner I met last week left an impression with this statement: a marathon is not about speed it is about finishing the race. I plan to finish the race I am in and continue on to the next one. Whatever challenge, mountain, or race you find yourself in I pray that you are encouraged and inspired that you too CAN see your dream fulfilled and succeed!

Out of Control?

Out of Control?

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Happy New Year to you! This is my first post of 2013 and some of you may know that I have had a series of medical issues for several months. So if I have or need an excuse for not writing more…it is due to my current health struggles. None the less I had something on my heart today to process & share.

Superbowl weekend. It may be the first big “Food Holiday” of 2013 and seems to be as fierce as ever. 2 years ago on this weekend I know doubt cooked and ate my fair share of 10,000 calories or more. 2 Years ago was of course before we started on this healthy journey. I love to entertain and food holidays provide a terrific outlet for the “hostess with the most-est” in me. 1 Year ago today I would have probably been having a panic attack at facing this food holiday. 1 Year ago I would have been on this journey for about 5 months. In the early part of this journey I struggled so much when we would go to people’s homes for parties or potlucks. I struggled emotionally with feeling out of control, or at least thinking I would be out of control around such a variety of unhealthy foods. I remember a distinct time we were driving on the way to a potluck dinner and due to circumstances I don’t even remember now, I didn’t know what food would be there and anxiety overshadowed me to the point that I literally had a panic attack. My sweet husband was driving nearly oblivious to the mountain of emotions raging inside my head which provoked this intense panic. We pulled the car over and he talked me down off the cliff I had built for myself emotionally.

That seems so long ago and yet the emotions still feel very real.  The feeling of being out of control has been a theme that comes up usually around food holidays for me. Why is that? Well in a normal week I will have purchased, cooked, and eaten all foods which have been 100% in my control. So approaching an occasion in which that percentage is significantly decreased tests the limits of my restraint. My self control around enormous amounts of high calorie, low nutrition, fatty, and sugar packed foods has over and over again been the determining factor for a backslide of whatever healthy eating plan I may be trying that day. Just typing those words rings with irony in my heart, why on earth would I have put for over 20 years those types of insignificant temporal items over my own health & well being???  That sounds like a blog for another day!

Today I am facing a major food holiday. This evening I will be attending a football trivia party where each guest brings a dish. Tomorrow I will head over to my Mother in Law’s home for a dinner in which I will be bringing a few items and we will enjoy the game with our family. Today I am armed with a lot more successful experiences and a plan. At this point I have survived many major food holidays and feel confident that I will face this one head on and come out alive & well. My perspective has changed which is my biggest asset. These events are NO longer about food, the power of food has been decreased, and these events are about the people. Getting to know people, meeting new people, sharing, loving & knowing people….isn’t that why we go to these parties? Well it wasn’t why I always did in the past…I went often to gorge myself on all the food I thought was so yummy.  Now my first priority is the people!

It’s not enough to just go there and focus on people. I have to have a plan to back me up. So here’s what I’ve done.

  1. For tonight’s party I am choosing to make an awesome but healthy dip and serve it with fresh cut veggies. My own dish is within my control and I am choosing to bring something I can feel good about eating.
  2. I have eaten normally all day and will eat a small dinner before going to the party. I have learned that going to these events starving does horrible things for my restraint. Eating a small dinner still allows me to nibble on a few items but also be able to maintain my self control.
  3. Position myself away from the food. I have no idea where the food will be at this home I have never been to BUT I know that if I sit hovering over my greatest temptations I WILL eventually give in. So I will position myself near people, packed full of conversation, and not directly over the food.
  4. Deprivation kills me every time. Did you notice in my plan that I am still planning to eat while there? It is NOT realistic and it is NOT emotionally healthy to think that I am going to go to this party and not eat anything at all, drink water all night, by the end of the party I’ll be binging in the corner with the greasiest item there! No, I have to plan to eat and enjoy myself.
  5. Choose wisely. At this point in my journey I value every calorie (point) I eat. So I may fill my plate with a few options, but then if I try something I don’t like I WON’T continue to eat it. I want to enjoy the foods I really really like and still stay in moderation.  I won’t put items on my plate that aren’t interesting or appealing to me. If I do eat something that isn’t wonderful I’ll politely set it aside and throw away later.
  6. Don’t beat myself up afterward. It doesn’t do me any good if I go over the calories (points) I planned on to hammer and hammer myself that night or the next day. Each new bite is a new chance to honor God with my body. So allowing me to be renewed and refocused with that truth is really helpful.
  7. Exercise. Let’s be honest this whole weight loss thing is all just a numbers game. So fitting in some exercise before and after this food filled weekend is a perfect way to combat any weight gain.
  8. Lastly to repeat my first point – making it about the people. Laugh, enjoy friends, and enjoy the game. I am not going to get so hung up on myself that I miss the opportunity to invest in relationships I cherish so much!

So before this big food holiday this is my perspective. I hope that it helped and encouraged many of you! Looking forward to an amazing 2013 together!

My Food for a Day!

My Food for a Day! – November 2, 2012

We have been on this journey long enough to endure lots of comments and feedback from well meaning friends and family. I’ve heard just about everything about healthy, fitness, and food but the one that always stands out as especially annoying and hilariously inaccurate is “You’re starving your body”. Hahahaha! It still cracks me up! Ok so once and for all I’m posting this to prove to the world that I probably eat more food in a day than most people and am still losing weight every week!

Our bodies are the most precious and amazing tool we will ever possess. This gift can be compared in its complexities to a machine such as an automobile. When we began this journey to getting physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy I would hear people say that I needed to listen to my body. Well I literally had NO idea what it meant to eat based on what my physical body needed since I have for YEARS made virtually all food choices based on emotions. I had to learn about this precious gift: my physical body and discover what it needed to not only function but thrive. This is the context to which I’ve also developed the concept of seeing food as fuel, such as gasoline for an automobile, rather than a way to process my emotions. Believe me that whole concept is a MAJOR work in progress and I do better on some days or weeks than others.

I discovered over time that my body likes fuel every few hours throughout the day. This is not necessarily part of the Weight Watchers program but my “machine” functions best when I do so. Eating this often allows me to never get a ravaging hunger that often leads to less self control and bad food choices. Having a plan also helps me manage my pointsplus (calories) and not exceed my limits each day. If you read my recent post “Top 10 Weight Loss Tips & Tricks” you may recall tip 10 which was “Have a Plan & Eat Often”. I outline in this post that I eat on the majority of days based on the following rough timeframe.

6:30 am-Breakfast


12:00 pm-Lunch

3:00 pm-Snack

5:30 pm-Dinner


So let’s take a look at my food consumption on a typical day!

6:35am – Breakfast – Total Pointsplus=4

Sara Lee 90 Cal English Muffin (2 pp), 1 egg cooked on a nonstick pan with just a spray of oil (2 pp), 1 cup of tomato, ½ cup cucumber, 1 cup fresh pineapple, 12 oz herbal tea with 1 packet of Stevia, about 48 oz of water.

9:20am – Snack – Total Pointsplus=3

1 Large banana, 1 Oikos Plain Greek Yogurt (2 pp), 2 Stevia packets, Light Whipped Cream (1 pp), about 24 oz of water.


AFTER: Smashed banana, Stevia, Greek Yogurt, topped with Whipped Cream! YUMMINESS!

12:20pm – Lunch – Total Pointsplus=7

2 slices of Sprouts Honey Whole Wheat Bread (3 pp), 4 thin slices of ham (2 pp), 1 pc of Bordon 2% American cheese (1 pp), 10 sprays of I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Spray, ½ cup homemade applesauce (1 pp), 1 cup grape tomatoes, about 48 oz of water.


AFTER: Hot Ham & Cheese on Honey Whole Wheat! Yumminess!

3:00pm – Snack – Total Pointsplus=4

Quaker Carmel Corn Rice Snack (3 pp), 1 Light String Cheese (1 pp), 2 cups of frozen red grapes, about 24 oz of water.

5:45pm – Dinner – Total Pointsplus=8

2 cups cooked zucchini cut in ribbons, 1 tsp olive oil (1 pp), Homemade Beef Spaghetti Sauce (5 pp), 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese (1 pp), 1 cranberry orange angel food cupcakes (1 pp), 2 Tbsp Light Whipped Cream (*0 pp), about 48 oz of water.

7:20pm – Snack – Total Pointsplus=4

38 oz. Kettle Corn, 12 oz of herbal tea, 1 Stevia packet, about 24 oz of water.

Total Daily Pointsplus Used = 29 + 1 Weekly Pointsplus = 30 Pointsplus used!

WOWOWOWOWOW! That’s plenty of food right? Do you still think I’m starving? Thanks everyone for following along today! I’d love your comments and feedback below. See you again soon!

Top 10 Weight Loss Tips & Tricks

Top 10 Weight Loss Tips & Tricks – November 1, 2012

Welcome to my new web page! I hope you will enjoy the new format and find it easy to use! Note the pages on top to review My Story and Pictures of our journey! Also note the categories listed on the left side which are convenient for quick reference to previous posts with recipes, food tips, inspiration, my journey, and exercise. If you had previously received my blog via email you WILL need to re-establish your email in the box to the left to continue to receive direct emails. Please let me know if you have ANY questions!

When you’ve lost over 100 pounds you get countless people asking you for tricks & tips! Well that is a good thing and I’m more than happy to share what I’ve learned over the last 14 months. Plus it is a good refresher for me going into a busy holiday season. Here are my Official Top 10 Tricks& Tips to live by!

1. Pray about committing this area of your life to God. God does care about this area of your life and He desires that you involve Him in the process. Allow Him to create change in this area of your life. Pray daily for strength and self control. Pray often for continued direction. Pray. Pray. Pray!

2. If you have more than 50 pounds to lose based on guidelines that your primary care physician should discuss with you then I strongly suggest joining a healthy weight loss program. I say this because if those of us (myself included) who have 50 pounds or more to lose could do it on our own we would have already! Start with talking to your doctor and then find a program that works for you. My husband and I chose Weight Watchers because it provided the structure, flexibility, accountability, and group support that we needed. There are many healthy programs available but the important thing is committing to a system that will work for you! Don’t try to do this alone!

3. Get 7-8 hours of sleep at night. I know this may seem odd to have at such a high importance but stress management begins with getting enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is critical to decision making and exhibiting self control. Don’t underestimate how major this component is to your success. Doing this may require cutting back certain activities to give sleep a higher priority. If so, DO it!

4. Drink lots of water. New studies show we should be drinking 8 oz of water for every hour that we are awake. I drink about 140 oz of water each day and that makes my body really happy. So many times we eat when all our bodies need is water.

5. Get moving! Exercise is not an option it is a requirement for healthy living and certainly for weight loss. Explore new activities and seek out expert help. The best decision we ever made in this journey was hiring a personal trainer who taught us about what was best for our bodies. She educated on us muscles, taught us tons of activities, and gave me the courage to try new things. My self confidence with exercise soared through the help of our personal trainer.

6. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I have eaten an average of 5 fruits and 5 vegetables each day for the last 14 years. Our Weight Watchers plan allows us to eat as many fruits & veggies as we want without penalty. That many fruits don’t work for all people but my body seems to like it. I try to eat a fruit & veggie or two at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The healthiest way to absorb vitamins and nutrients our bodies need is through consuming healthy foods. They also fill you up with fewer calories than other foods. If you are fruit or veggie challenged, as you begin to change your habits you will adjust and eventually begin to crave fruits& veggies.

7. Eat at home more. I know eating out is popular in our fast paced culture. I’m not saying you can’t eat out at all but eating at home allows you to have absolute control over what you are putting into your body. Think about eating at home more meals than you eat out.

8. Keep track of everything you put into your mouth. Yes I’m talking everything. Coffee creamer, spray butter, no cal sweeteners, etc. No matter what plan you chose this is a helpful tip. I keep track of everything….even if it doesn’t cost me any calories. Self awareness is what we are trying to learn and writing it down helps keep you accountable and aware of your choices. It also helps you keep track of your hunger patterns and what your body needs.

9. Measure! Measure! Measure! Don’t rely on guessing or on your own estimation. Invest in a good digital food scale, measuring cups, and measuring spoons. Even after 14 months there is nothing that I eat without measuring. We weigh meat, potatoes, popcorn, chips, well just about anything on our digital food scale. Accuracy is critical to weight loss and in this day and age there is no need to guess at anything. Measure!

10. Have a Plan & Eat often! Breakfast, lunch and dinner are key meals and NONE of them should be skipped. It is preferable to eat those meals sitting down at a table rather than in the car on the go. You will be more fulfilled emotionally if you give each meal time the respect your body needs. If you are out and about during a meal or snack time, Plan ahead! Take a snack in your purse or car that will help you maintain control when the munchies come. There is no doubt that physical hunger is a reoccurring biological cycle, so plan ahead for a healthy choice for the next time you’ll be hungry. Here’s my meal schedule on an average day:

a. 6:30 am-Breakfast

b. 9:30am-Snack

c. 12:00 pm-Lunch

d. 3:00 pm-Snack

e. 5:30 pm-Dinner

f. 7:00pm-Snack

There are so many more things I could list but these are the top 10 because I feel they have really sustained me through the last 14 months. I hope you have found them to be helpful!

Holiday Confessions!

Holiday Confessions! – Originally posted January 19, 2012

Reposted on September 29, 2012

I do fully realize that Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, & my birthday (January 8) are now long gone and we would all like to move on with this New Year 2012. However I felt it would be remiss if I didn’t communicate some interesting things that I learned passing through this time of year about myself and about this journey to becoming healthy.

Going into Thanksgiving we had been on this journey for about 3 solid months and our home “environment” was very much changed. If you read my recent blog entry “Targeting for Change” I talked at length about the stages of change based on a graph from Weight Watchers (if you haven’t read it you have to check it out cuz it is my favorite blog entry so far!). Well environment is the first and easiest area to facilitate change. Regarding food we no longer had anything in our refrigerator or cabinets that would not be good for our body. House environment under control, check!

When going out to eat we by this point had developed the routine of choosing a restaurant ahead of time, looking at the menu and nutritional info on said restaurant’s website, and pre-choosing our meal in advance. In this day and age all restaurants no matter how small, yes even Berry’s in Norwalk, OH, has a menu on their website. Not all have nutritional info but we have found we make better informed food choices if we minimally look at the menu from home first and come up with a game plan before entering into the restaurant. You know they pay marketing people millions of dollars on jingles, commercials, & menu pictures to ignite your taste buds and tempt you into all kinds of delicacies that are not good for you or your wallet. So our restaurant environment was under control as well, check!

That said I have to be honest and tell you that going into this holiday season was overwhelming to me as much of the environment phase that we have mastered would be tested and challenged. Thanksgiving is spent every year with my husband’s grandmother who is an amazing cook. She has been cooking since she was seven years old and had to pull a stool up to the stove top (not kidding). We split the cooking duties and my husband and I make the turkey, several sides, and usually one dessert. She does the ham, the rest of the sides, and several yummy desserts. This Thanksgiving we were armed with a plan. We discussed in advance the entire menu with his grandmother. This helped us prepare in two major ways. We could then plan to bring at least one side and a dessert that we would feel good about putting into our body. This also helped us determine what dishes we didn’t want to sacrifice for and what dishes we wanted to factor into our points (caloric intake) for that day. For instance there is always a traditional pasta salad on hand at any of our family gatherings. Though I like it and have eaten it in the past many times, this isn’t a “special” dish that we only get this time of year. Whereas his grandmother makes “The Best” stuffing this side of heaven (please don’t be offended Ohio family but I’ve converted) and I had to eat at least a cup of stuffing. This delicacy is only offered at Thanksgiving and Christmas so it was prioritized in my plate that day.

Our plan for Thanksgiving survival also included the following:

-We started our planning in prayer to ask for God’s help in preparing and making choices that would honor him.

-We made sure to eat breakfast, small snack, and lunch as we would normally so as to not go to dinner completely starving.
-We drank plenty of water all day including all evening at the event.
-We got plenty of rest that week and prioritized sleep even with family in town.
-We pre-choose the items including quantities that we were going to put into our bodies that day. We enjoyed the foods that we love including dessert and did not deprive ourselves while being in control.
-We brought a measuring cup and measured the food items such as stuffing, rice, potatoes, etc. just like we would in our home environment.
-We positioned ourselves at the end of the table furthest from the food so that we were not visually looking at food all night. This also allowed us to connect with family and enjoy the conversation with Thanksgiving.
-I know a lot of his grandmother’s recipes and I pre-calculated the calories for some of the dishes ahead of time so that I could be informed on what the values would be.
-We planned ahead that we would not take any food home, and if pressured only items that we could fit within our healthy routine.
-We went to the gym and exercised good all week and then the following weekend as we normally would.
-We attended our WW support group meeting faithfully which fostered encouragement and camaraderie. This is not a journey that you can walk alone through, we need people.

Long story short we had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We were successful in our plan and even got more activity with my husband’s Latin family spontaneously broke out the salsa dancing later that evening. It was one of the most fun holidays we have ever had. At our WW weigh in the Saturday following we both actually lost weight that week. All this planning may seem ridiculous or exaggerated to you but you have to understand the power that food has over me & others. It is a powerful addition like any other. I have been “dieting” in the past countless times and the holiday season has completely thrown me overboard. One compromise leads to another, then another, which leads to shame, regret, & humiliation. It is a slippery slope and I never want to under estimate its power again.

Thanksgiving laid the framework for the rest of the holiday season. With its success we maintained a similar plan at Christmas, New Years & my birthday. We didn’t deprive ourselves but made choices that would honor God. We cooked a lot, we made informed decisions when going out to eat, we exercised daily, and we loved on and enjoyed family. For so many years of my life my mind over the holidays has been consumed with food and followed by a New Year that began with shame & guilt. It is amazing how God ministered to my heart this season as I have allowed him into this area. My time with family was so much richer, my connection with the meaning of the holiday was so much more vivid, and my joy was complete as we got on the scale at our WW meeting and in the end both lost weight through it all.

Questions for you….

1. Can you relate to what I shared about feeling guilt and shame following a holiday?

2. What has been your biggest food struggle around the holidays?

3. What tips do you use to surviving the holiday?

4. What tips that I shared stood out to you that you might try?

5. Maybe you don’t have issues with food but you have friends or family that do. How can you use some of these tips to support them during your next get together?

Having Fun with Homemade Granola!

Having Fun with Homemade Granola! – August 22, 2012

I’ve mentioned to you in the past that I always get stuck when it comes to breakfast. Well one thing that I love is fruit, low fat yogurt, and homemade granola! Today I whipped up another batch 🙂 It is so quick and easy and lasts me several months. Here’s my recipe for today’s batch:

½ Cup Canola Oil

Canola Oil cooking spray

24 Oz. of Honey

1 Cup Molasses

2 ½ Cups Creamy Peanut Butter

2 Tablespoons of Salt

3 Tablespoons of Ground Cinnamon

2 Tablespoons of Ground Ginger

½ Tablespoon of Ground Cloves

3 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

42 oz container of Whole Oats *(NOT instant or quick Oats)*

3 Cups of Whole Almonds

½ Cup Chopped Pecans

½ Cup Dried Cranberries

1 Cup White Raisins

Preheat oven to 300* and spray two large cookie sheets with Canola Oil cooking spray. In LARGE pot heat oil, honey, molasses, peanut butter and stir often on medium heat. As it begins to melt add salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and vanilla extract. Once this mixture is completely melted and mixed well, turn off the heat and remove from the burner. Add in ½ of the Whole Oats and stir well. Add in almonds & pecans and stir well. Add the remaining ½ of the Whole Oats and stir until everything in the pot is covered. Pour and spread evenly onto the two cookie sheets. Cook at 300* for 10 minutes and stir, cook again for 10 minutes and stir, cook for another 10 minutes and stir well and remove from oven. The goal is to absorb a good about of the moisture in the cooking process but it will still be a little sticky when you remove it from the oven. Cool completely and then add Dried Cranberries and White Raisins.

*Very important to always add the dried fruit AFTER the cooking process because the fruit will dry up and harden in the oven and it is not good for your teeth or the flavor.*

This recipe makes two large gallon bags or 32 cups of granola. It freezes really well and is perfect for gifts! I eat this a few times a week and it will usually last us about 4 months. The beauty of homemade granola is that you can play with it and add what you like. I’ve decreased the honey in the past and added 1 cup of brown sugar. I’ve also added cocoa powder and cayenne powder which add a great flavor. I’ve used a bunch of other dried fruits and nuts in the past too. I’ve heard of people adding chocolate chips or marshmallows once it is cooled as well. I almost never make it the same way twice and always try to use up whatever I have in my home. Have fun with it and Enjoy!

Tips to add more Veggies to your Breakfast!

Tips to add more Veggies to your Breakfast! – April 18, 2012

I have been learning a lot about what my body needs to become physically healthy. It sounds ironic that I would be 35 years old and just now figuring this out. It took a total of 19 weeks of bed rest, June 2011 through January 2012, to cement in my thick skull how important it is to take care of my body. The way I see it healthy bodies are fueled by 4 things: eating healthy, regular exercise, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of sleep. I’m sure there are many of other factors that may contribute but these are the main four that I am working on. So packing our meals with fresh vegetables has been a trick I’ve been mastering over the last 8 months now and I wanted to share some tips with you.

Tip 1:

Try to be intentional about adding at least one serving of vegetables to every meal of the day including your snacks. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) with my age, gender, and level of activity I should be consuming 2 cups of fruit & 3 cups of vegetables everyday to promote good health. Use this calculator from the CDC to determine your daily needed intake, I guarantee you will be shocked as I was! Plus my husband’s suggested veggie intake was significantly higher than mine! Check out this link to read an interesting article on Benefits of Fruits & Vegetables and this link will give you visual examples of several veggies and what the serving size looks like Examples of 1 cup serving.

Tip 2:

I have learned that if you’re going to be intentional about packing the menu with veggies it is going to take some planning & preparation. First we find that shopping weekly and buying only what we will eat in that week will help ensure freshness and the best taste possible. This goes for fruits as well but fresh produce doesn’t tend to stay as fresh past a week. Nutritional speaking fresh is best, frozen is ok, canned is better than nothing. However in the Pina household fresh veggies weekly is the only way we roll!

Tip 3:

Next I’ve learned to stay creative and try new things. My husband really wouldn’t go for it if I added a salad to every meal, believe me I tried and failed! I experiment ALOT and we like about 3 out of 4 recipes and we have tons of fun with it. Pinterest is my new best friend and allows me to explore tons of new recipes. Click here to follow me on Pinterest!

Tip 4:

Load up some of your family’s favorite dishes with extra veggies. This will add a huge nutritional impact and they don’t even realize it! For instance in our favorite ground turkey spaghetti sauce I double the onions, green peppers, and mushrooms for that extra veggie power! I also load up all of our sandwiches with extra vegetables such as cucumber slices, tomato, and spinach.

Tip 5:

When in doubt stuff the veggies! I’ve been known to put my ground turkey meatloaf in bell peppers (any color), tuna or chicken salad in tomatoes, pizza sauce & cheese in zucchini, and wild rice in acorn squash. Limitless possibilities my friends!

I have to admit that I personally find breakfast to be one of the hardest to pack veggies into, BUT not impossible. For the sake of space & time I’m going to share 3 of my favorite veggie packed breakfast ideas. These are all ones that we love & eat regularly!

First I’ll start with a Loaded Bagel Thin, here’s how I make them.

You’ll need the following:

Bagel thin (I like everything, whole wheat or plain for this)

Ripe avocado

Medium yellow onion


Salt & pepper

Next thinly slice the tomato, thinly slice the yellow onion, and cut the avocado in half & remove the seed.

Next prepare a nonstick pan by spraying a few sprays of olive oil on medium high heat.

Add onions to the pan and begin to soften & slightly caramelize on both sides

After 3 to 5 minutes the onions will be done and should look like this:

Scoop out avocado. Here is hint, if you carefully pre-slice prior to removing from the skin it will lay nice & clean on your bagel. *If you are watching your weight I highly recommend weighing the avocado on a food scale in grams. Often avocados vary in size and it makes a significant difference in calories or Weight Watcher PointsPlus*

Avocados are a great source of healthy oil but if you don’t like them I also recommend 1 oz of reduced fat cream cheese which is also really yummy! Next we build the bagel: First toasted bagel & add avocado. I doesn’t have to be perfect, I just lay the avocado out as evenly as possible.

Now time to add the onions & tomatoes.

 To finish salt & pepper to taste! Enjoy!

Topping bagel thins or English muffins with vegetables are a really great way to incorporate veggies into your day. The sky is the limit; roasted red peppers, grilled zucchini, or even sautéed mushrooms would also taste great!

The second favorite veggie packed breakfast in our home is the Green Smoothie! Ok I’ll admit I was slow to grab hold of the Green Smoothie trend but I’m totally on board over the last 2 months. Basically a green smoothie is a regular fruit smoothie that is loaded with tons of veggies – commonly with some green veggies such as raw spinach, kale or arugula. Believe it or not you SERIOUSLY can’t taste them at all. I want to caution you on this, as I’ve been researching green smoothie recipes some of them get really high in calorie count (or WWP+) so be careful what you put in these if you are watching your weight. *I also don’t choose to use this as a meal replacement but rather incorporate it into my daily points and the daily number of fruits I consume.*after tons of experimentation here is my favorite combination:

1 cup of ice cubes

2 cups raw spinach

1 large banana

1 cup strawberries

1/2 cup 1% milk (1 WWP+)

1 scoop protein powder (mine is 3 WWP+ but check your brand’s label because they all vary)

Load it all in the blender like so:

I blend it really well until it is smooth and creamy. Here is the final product!

Great way to pack in some great veggies. Have fun & experiment with all kinds of combinations of fruits & veggies. I also really like blueberries, oranges, and canned pumpkin!

Finally the last veggie packed breakfast I am going to share is my husband’s favorite. Basically any combination of sautéed, grilled, or roasted veggies & eggs. Adrian LOVES eggs for breakfast and could probably eat them every day. He has recently discovered egg whites in the container and loves how convenient they are to use. Here are some great combination ideas that could be made into an omelet, egg scramble, or a frittata.

Baby portabella mushrooms

Zucchini slices

Diced onion

1 clove minced garlic

1/2 cup of egg whites


Roasted red bell pepper

Roasted cauliflower

Diced red onion

1/2 cup of egg whites

This if the first of 4 blog posts with tips on packing veggies into our meals. I hope you were inspired to try some new things. I’d love to hear from you guys on what you find helps you eat more veggies. I’d love to hear some of your favorite breakfast recipes that are packed with veggies!

What is the Function of the Mirror?

What is the Function of the Mirror? – April 4, 2012

Our Teaching Co-Pastor, Chris Carroll, has been teaching an awesome sermon series from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) over the past few months. Check out this link to view recent messages if you’re interested in watching any of them I highly recommend it: Firewheel Bible Fellowship. Anyway as he concluded the series this week he began the sermon with a funny analogy about people looking into mirrors at the gym. Well that got my mind rolling, and I’ll admit with full disclosure my mind may have wondered off just a bit. Have you ever noticed all those mirrors at the gym and all those people looking in them? These days I’m at the gym 6 days a week about 2 hours each day. I remember when we first started and I was just beginning this journey to getting healthy. I was so uncomfortable and ashamed of my weight that I despised that there were so many mirrors at the gym. I barely looked in mirrors at home let alone wanting to have every wall covered in mirrors. Plus I thought it was arrogant and prideful that many people stared at themselves, flexing muscles, posing, gloating in their triumphs, or so I thought!

Interestingly as I got further & further along with exercise I learned that the mirrors actually do serve a purpose while working out. I have learned from my awesome trainer to use the mirrors to watch my movements while doing specific exercises in order to ensure I’m doing it correctly. For instance I often raise my shoulders in error when I’m working out my chest or arms. Without the mirror I would be unable to realize I am doing this movement incorrectly. In the mirror I notice the error and can make adjustments accordingly. I have found the mirrors useful as well in my Pilates & Zumba classes. The function of the mirror in the gym is to enable you to see what your body is actually doing and not what you perceive your body to be doing. Oh how that concept applies to the rest of my life and I didn’t even realize it! The mirror forces you to face and deal with reality, keeps you grounded, and allows growth and change to truly happen where needed.

As I continued to ponder this idea of mirrors, both literal and figurative, and their functions I recognized that at my heaviest weight I would rarely look in the mirror. Was I avoiding facing the inevitable? I definitely know that I was blind to how bad things had gotten with my weight & overall health, until I had a “Damascus Moment” (Acts 9) this summer and was lying on my back for 10 weeks with a fungus in my lungs. The function of the mirror in the physical is to reveal what we may not realize or truly want to see. Without looking in the mirror in my mind I considered myself to not have a problem, to be the same old Jen as I’ve always been, and to stay contained in my bubble of self deception. In a way avoiding the mirror physically allowed me to keep wearing a mask and tell myself & everyone else that everything was alright when it wasn’t!

Then there’s the whole emotional component of looking in the mirror. Let’s be honest I’m sure that there is not a human alive who has looked in the mirror at least once in their lives and not liked something about their bodies. Not looking in the mirror kept me in denial emotionally about my body image issues which resulted in the shame and guilt I was carrying around. How had I allowed myself to get so heavy? How had I become so out of control with food? I avoided these questions like the plague and sunk deeper & deeper into emotional denial. Looking in the mirror and truly facing yourself is a powerful component to change. It may be a literal mirror or a virtual mirror, but we all have to come to grips with where we are in life, how we got there, and how to get on the better path. No human being is perfect and I firmly believe we are all a work in process. We halt our own personal progress when we stay for a prolonged period in denial about our circumstances.

Have you ever locked God out of an area of your life? I did for many years when it comes to my health, my food obsession, and honoring God with my body. In this case I see the Bible as a spiritual mirror. The Bible is God’s word and in it we learn about His character, His standard of righteousness, and His plan and purpose for our lives. This spiritual mirror must be allowed to penetrate the deepest parts of our heart in order to produce life and transformation. This spiritual mirror allows us to see ourselves through Christ’s eyes, it allows Him to produce healing in our hearts, and good or bad it prompts action on our part. As I spent time in God’s word I would gloss over places where He was clearly addressing this weakness in my life. I am learned to stay still, focus in, and allow the Bible to be the spiritual mirror it was designed to be. I am learning to embrace the change, growth, and molding of the Potter’s Hand!

So whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual change that needs to take place in my life or yours we need to allow the mirror to function for the purpose it was designed. Physically the function of the mirror is to bring us face to face with reality. Emotionally the function of the mirror is to reveal the depths of our heart in order for change, healing, and wholeness to take place. Spiritually God’s word functions to guide, direct, encourage, correct, and ultimately mold us according to His righteous standard. May our eyes be unveiled in these areas and may we have the courage to allow the mirrors in our lives to do their jobs!

Healthy Roasted Veggie Lasagna

Healthy Roasted Veggie Lasagna – March 20, 2012

Prep time: Up to 90 minutes

Cook time: 60 minutes, cool time 10 minutes

This recipe is my creation derived from some recipes I found from The Pioneer Woman & Martha Stewart. I made them healthier but choosing leaner cheese, using less cheese, and cutting the oil in at least half. I also tripled the veggies from the recipes I found. This means it is more vitamin packed, however it also means it added about 30 minutes into the prep time. This makes 8 large portions that I have calculated to be 11 WWP+ per serving. If you are a WW please make sure to recalculate the recipe based on the brands you choose as the pointsplus values can change. So let’s get started.

Ingredient List

1 Eggplant, peeled and cut into ½” rounds

2 zucchini

1 yellow squash

1 red bell pepper

1 head of cauliflower

1 large red bell pepper

1 large yellow onion, cut into large dice

8oz package of Baby Bella mushrooms

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

2 Tablespoons of garlic powder, divided

3 teaspoon of garlic salt, divided

2 Tablespoons of Italian herbs, divided

1 cup parts skim ricotta cheese

2 large eggs, raw

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided

1 2/3 cups finely shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Olive oil cooking spray

36 oz of Classico’s Traditional Sweet Basil pasta sauce (which is 1 1/2 jars or whatever kind you enjoy), divided

1 box of oven ready lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 425* and spray two large cookie sheets. We will begin by prepping all the veggies for roasting. Roasting these veggies will take more time but it adds a tremendous amount of flavor and it is totally worth it!

*Very important when prepping the veggie to try to cut them around the same depth so that they will roast evenly. *

Starting with the eggplant cut the ends off and peeled it with a potato peeler.

Then cut the eggplant into ½” circles (rather than long strips) See the picture below.

Next I tackled the zucchini and yellow squash. In order to maintain the same depth for even roasting I cut in half length and depth, then in ½” thick slices. See pictures below.


The red bell pepper I cored and cut into 2” cubes.

Deconstruct the cauliflower and cut into bite sized pieces. Spray olive oil cooking spray on two large cookie sheets. Add the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, and cauliflower. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of garlic salt to each cookie sheet. Mix well and spread out evenly. Place on center racks in the preheated 425* oven for approximately 60 minutes.

Flip or mix every 15 minutes and rotate pans for even roasting. This photo was after 30 minutes; notice the browning on the eggplant. This color shows the added flavor that you are looking for in roasting veggies.

Cut a large onion in a large dice. Clean & cut 8 oz. of baby bella mushrooms into 1/2″ thick pieces. You can use any mushroom, I like the depth of flavor of baby bellas. Spray a large nonstick pan with olive oil cooking spray. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and heat to medium high. Add 1 teaspoon of garlic salt and sauté onion and mushroom mixture until lightly caramelized and tender. *You could probably also roast the onion and mushroom in the oven I just didn’t have any more room in my oven*

As all the veggies are cooking mix the cheesy combination: 1 cup of part skim ricotta, 1/3 cup of finely shredded mozzarella, 1/4 cup of grated parmesan, 2 eggs, 2 Tablespoons of Italian Herbs, 2 Tablespoons of garlic powder. Mix well and set aside.

Once the veggies are all complete begin building the lasagna by spraying olive oil cooking spray in a large & deep baking dish. Place 2 Tablespoons of pasta sauce and spread evenly.

Then place the first layer of pasta in the bottom of the baking dish. *Note* If you choose to use “oven ready” lasagna noodles as I did you will notice that they absorb ALOT of sauce and continue to do that each time you reheat the meal. So if you like a lot of sauce and choose to use this noodle I recommend adding at least an extra 1/2 cup of sauce to each layer.*

Before I continued building the lasagna I mixed all the roasted veggies together with the onions and mushrooms EXCEPT the eggplant that I kept separate. Here is how I built the layers from the bottom up:

Olive oil cooking spray

2 Tablespoons of pasta sauce

Oven ready lasagna noodles, even layer

Pasta sauce, even layer

1/2 of roasted eggplant pieces

1/2 of veggie mixture

1/3 cup of finely shredded mozzarella

Oven ready lasagna noodles, even layer

Pasta sauce, even layer

1/2 of roasted eggplant pieces

1/2 of veggie mixture

All of the cheesy ricotta mixture

1/3 cup of finely shredded mozzarella

Oven ready lasagna noodles, even layer

Pasta sauce, even layer

1/4 cup of grated parmesan

2/3 cup finely shredded mozzarella

Here’s what is looks like all built up! Looking good so far 🙂

Next wrap really tightly with foil. Place in preheated 425* oven for 60 minutes or until noodles are cooked completely through. After taking it out of the oven allow it to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting into it. Cut into at least 8 pieces, serve & enjoy! Here is the final product when cut, super yummy!