9 Foods to Think Twice About Over the Holidays

I am seriously not trying to be a holiday food "Debbie-downer". To be honest, I am often times guilty of enjoying overly fat and sugary indulgences this time of year just like anyone. This blog exists to encourage people (including myself) to a healthier and better life. After doing a little research into our culture's favorite holiday foods, I realized even though they taste great, they deceitfully wreck havoc on our body's systems specifically the heart. Don't just take my word for it, you can read more about heart disease in this article.

Knowledge is power.

This holiday season, I am pledging to think twice before I pick up food. We can all enjoy holiday eating, but with some slight adjustments. Like staying away from creamy vegetables, taking smaller portions of those sugary goodies, and basically avoiding some foods altogether.

So here is a list of foods (and what makes them so naughty ) you need to think twice about before devouring...

(The nutritional content are from just normal, average servings.)

1. Turkey skin

350 calories
44 g. fat
102 mg cholesterol

2. Cranberry sauce

400 calories
105 g. sugar
Read more about some interesting facts about high-sugar intake here.

3. Creamed vegetables (spinach, green beans, artichoke dip, etc)

284 calories
20 g. fat

4. Pecan pie a' la mode

810 calories
64 g. fat
55 g. sugar

5. Candied Yams

400 calories
76 g. sugar

6. Prime rib

750 calories
45 g. fat
450 mg cholesterol

7. Egg nog

350 calories
19 g. fat
22 g. sugar

8. Cheesecake

707 calories
29 g. fat
33 g. sugar

9. Starbuck's Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha

440 calories
10 g. fat
59 g. sugar

So take some of this knowledge with you as you enjoy time with your loved ones and be well!

I wish you many, many blessings this holiday season!


WB Meal Plan - Happy Thanksgiving!!

Are you getting excited for Thanksgiving in a few days? I definitely am. I am anxious to be with family, have my hubby off work for a few days and of course, enjoying some really good food. What would life be without food??

This week is a short one as far as making meals at home. But since I still need to have meals for part of the week, they are going to be blogged about :) And if you remember, we don't do red meat in our home. Sorry. We enjoy meatless meals along with ones made of ground turkey, chicken and fish.


Shepherd's Pie ~ I'm using ground turkey, roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Sweet Potato Graham Muffins


Zesty Slow-Cooker BBQ chicken on whole wheat buns
Healthy chopped slaw
Cubed pineapple


Whole Wheat Waffles with Blueberry Syrup
Breakfast turkey links
Sliced peaches

Happy Thanksgiving!!

(Here's what we're having for breakfast)
Cinnamon Rolls
Turkey Bacon
OJ & Coffee

Friday or Saturday (not sure if I'll be cooking on Friday):

Chicken Enchiladas from The Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Cookbook
Mexican Rice
Black beans


Don't Let the Holidays Ruin Your Health: Use This Plan of Attack

Photo Credit: Edel Rodriguez

"He who fails to plan is planning to fail."
- Churchill -

I will be the first to say, I love holiday foods. Maybe it's just me, but nothing says Turkey day like a buttery stack of stuffing mounded on my plate. I can down some sugared yams like no one's business too. But if I think back to why I have chosen a healthy lifestyle, not only for myself, but for my family, some decisions on what I eat automatically get easier to make.

The holidays bring many good things. Family, food, time off work, slowing down (a bit), and lots of fun. But the holidays can bring even more. According to a Weight Watchers report, the average American usually gains 7 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving to New Years. In my opinion, it doesn't have to be this way. With a little vigilance and a healthy plan of attack we can all enjoy a healthy, holiday season.

1. Eat a great breakfast. Sometimes we may think, "I know I'm going to eat a truckload today so I will just skip breakfast to save my calories for later". This is wrong thinking. Eat a nutritious breakfast so that later you are not starved and eat more calories than you would with breakfast combined. Chose something light like a whole-grain cereal with skim milk, toasted Ezekiel bread with natural peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg.

2. Drink lots of water. (Preachin' to myself, here!) If we are dehydrated our bodies sometimes recognize this signal as hunger instead of thirst. Keep a container of water near you throughout the day to help feel more filled up. (I personally love these.) Drink several glasses of water well before your big meal then hold off drinking a lot during the big meal... this way your body will absorb more of the food's nutrients. (Also, I personally prefer to drink water instead of sodas especially during the holidays. I like the idea of saving the calories for the great foods instead of drinking them.)

3. Don't hang out around the food. This may seem silly, but if you are around the food, it's inevitable you are going to snack a lot more. A little bite here and a little there... the calories will add up. The holidays should not be an "all-you-can-eat-buffet" mindset. I like to search out a relative I haven't talked to for awhile, grab a cup of coffee and get caught up. Before you know it, your food is settling, you're feeling full and are more focused on the person than grabbing another piece of pie.

4. Keep portions in mind. It is fine to try samples of each of the foods you love. But keep it within reason. As a general rule for eating healthy during the holidays, fill your plate half with veggies, a quarter of lean meat (skinless, white-meat turkey is best choice) and the rest with a starch. Eat slowly and chew your food up very well. Enjoy every single bite. Think about what you are eating and do not scarf it down without realizing what you are eating.

5. Bring your own sides. This is really a great way to control what you eat. If you love a certain holiday food, then why not make a healthier version of it? If you love mashed potatoes, go to google and type in "healthy mashed potatoes recipe" ~ the internet is amazingly full of healthy recipes. I love cranberry sauce, but the average recipe for cranberry sauce can have up to 105 grams of sugar!!! So here is a healthier version which I plan to bring.

6. Go on a walk. After your food has digested and the turkey-day coma is beginning to set in, grab a buddy, your gloves and coat and set out on a 20 minute brisk walk. In just 20 minutes, the average person will burn up to 300-400 calories by walking. Walking also releases endorphins so not only will your midsection thank you, your mental state will be much better too.

So there you have it. Enjoy your holidays. Eat well. Savor every bite, but don't go anywhere without your own plan of attack.

Keep posted for the foods you must avoid during the holidays to stay healthy this week on the blog as well!


So I Have This Fear...

Gone are the days when I thought I was invincible. When all I cared about was where I was going with my friends on Friday nights after the game... the movies, Pizza Hut or back to a friends house to watch country music videos and talk about the boys we thought were cute. Life was so carefree then...

I never worried about anything. With school on the other side (the not-so-great side, that is) of town, I usually had to drive many miles every day then to some kind of practice 20 or so minutes another way then back home. I remember being careless and a show-off when I was driving. I almost enjoyed being a little dangerous. Even when I heard of tragedies, it didn't count... it was me - I was invincible.

Then I grew up. Growing up does something to steal the naivety away from you. Not sure which is better.

Now I am overly careful and will avoid danger at any cost.

With being a wife and mom to 4 boys, the rules have changed. My responsibilities have quadrupled from 20 years ago. Speed limit, observed. Seat belts, buckled. Slow down for lights, etc. These are all things I can control... within my own little world.

But there are some things you can't control. And then what? There are times when you are in the face of danger or the unknown. When you are forced to plunge into something that is beyond your measure of control that completely strikes fear into you, what are your initial thoughts? Where is God in all of this?

To be honest, I sometimes and maybe subconsciously think, "This is in my court", "I'm gonna find a way to deal with this on my own"... and as downright horrendous as this sounds, I find myself believing this lie... "God surely isn't big enough".

So there's this fear. It's beyond what I can control. I thought for many, many years I could avoid it, but it's coming to face me... and soon. Just when I thought I had life in my realm of control, now it's becoming not so. This fear may seem trivial to you. It may even be enjoyable to a few. But to me, it's so unimaginably scary, it sends me into complete anxiety.

So would you pray for me and this fear? I am a believer. I do know Christ. I know He is big enough to help me through. I just need to pass over this control to Him.


So what are your big fears? Can you take a guess what my fear is, by the way?


5 Ways to Keep Your Holidays Simple

Photo Credit: Keith Scott Morton

I often have a romanticized view of the holidays before they arrive. I picture my house immaculately cleaned, my family in our most beautifully, pressed Christmas outfits, a fire illuminating in the corner next to the glimmering and distinguished fur tree that is adorned beneath with presents wrapped weeks beforehand.

But in reality, those things never happen... to me, at least. I'm usually super uptight and feeling somewhat out-of-control. But, over the last year and a half, I have come to a place where I am beginning to see that less is more and being simple in life, truly is richer.

After recently experiencing the death of my sweet mother-in-law, the preciousness of life has unfolded before me. Material things have lost their appeal. Things I once got irritated over, now seem trivial and silly. Through this loss I'm learning what it means to embrace a simple and more meaningful life, especially when it comes to Christmas.

Here are a few ways I've learned to simplify the holidays.

1. Learn to let go. Let's let go of expectations or what we think we "need" and get ourselves to the point of living with what is really important. Does your child really need the newest toy on the shelves? Do we really need to spend hundreds of dollars on those Christmas outfits, cards and table decor? Let go of thinking material possessions bring happiness and enjoy what is already around you... mostly your relationships.

"Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity."
- Henry David Thoreau -

2. Spend time with people you love, not stores. Whether this means shopping online after your kids are in bed or making homemade gifts together as a family, decide now that family comes first. If you must go out to grab a few things, make a list and stick to it. And if you're a parent, remember that to a child, love is spelled t-i-m-e.
"The only gift is a portion of thyself."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson -

3. Don't over-do it. Somehow we have found ourselves in a society of complete excess... we are over-committed, over-worked, over-entertained, overweight and so on. We have lost our ability to enjoy and find real peace in the little things in life, you know, the things that really bring meaning to our lives. Be selective in your commitments this holiday season. Slow down and don't buy into the idea that more is better.

"There is more to life than simply increasing its speed."
- Gandhi -

4. Observe Advent. Advent is the 4-week period before Christmas. It is a quiet anticipation, a season of prayer and reformation in our hearts. We tend to be busy in our preparations for Christmas and all the while we are actually missing the most important part: the coming of Christ. To help keep you and your family focused during this special time, consider putting together a Jesse tree like the one here. I also recommend using this devotional to read to your kids.

"The Word who found a dwelling in Mary’s womb comes to knock
on the heart of every person with singular intensity this Christmas."
- Pope John Paul II -

5. Think outwardly. Another great way to simply embrace Christmas is to think of one thing you (your family) can do share God's love with others who are in need. This can be anything you feel God leading you to do. Whether it is serving dinner at a local soup kitchen, taking cookies to residents in a nursing home, or maybe using part of the money you would use on gifts for your family to give to a relief organization such as Compassion, World Vision, World Concern and Samaritan's Purse.

"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."
- Mother Teresa -

I truly wish you a holiday season full of joy, peace and simple, yet beautiful things.


The Benefits of 30 Days of Green Smoothies

- Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle -

The green smoothie challenge ended a few days ago and I must say I am a little sad about it. For me, it was definitely a challenge, but I enjoy a challenge. Having some great friends along for the ride made it even easier.

I guess the older you get, the wiser you start to become. I am to the point where I am I realizing the importance of eating foods that really aid in the overall health of my body. That isn't to say it is easy to eat a carrot over a piece of cheesecake... no, it is usually a battle for us all. We know the things that are good for us, but deciding to choose them is really the key.

It is never too late to do your own 30-day (or 10 or 20-day) green smoothie challenge. I would encourage you to go back and read this post on how to do one and why your body needs this challenge. And remember, I am here for you! I love to encourage other people to live and eat well. I have seen and know the benefits of eating well over not. So know that this blog exists to encourage YOU!

Here are just a few snippets of the benefits I saw while doing the GSC.

1. No signs of irritability/moodiness. I guess you could say this was the best benefit I experienced soon into the challenge. I can be a little "up and down" as far as moods go. But I can honestly say, I was very chipper during the 30-day challenge. Now to be honest... I did skip 2 days where we were gone most of the day and I just did not get my smoothie and crazy enough, my moods were wacky those days. Call it coincidental, but it was obviously true! Next day back on the smoothie challenge, things were definitely better.

2. Increased energy. Even on the days that were gloomy and dark out, I was feeling good. I had the energy and motivation to do the things I don't normally want to do. I had the energy to go out for a walk with my toddler and not be dragging later on in the day. The most radical times I was aware of this was in the morning. I woke up feeling very rested and ready to go and this is not normally the case with me.

3. No aches and pains. Sometimes I suffer from joint pain. From my history and doing a few food (allergy) challenges, I have recognized I am gluten/wheat sensitive. I know if I have had a lot of that in my diet, I tend to get very sore joints and sugar usually exacerbates it even more. When I was on the GSC, I had absolutely no aches and pains... anywhere. It was amazing.

4. No sugar cravings. It's really hard to believe this until you have experienced it. No. Sugar. Cravings... seriously. When you are putting into your body the things it truly craves and properly uses, the junk food cravings completely diminish. If you can get past the first 3 or so days, you will start to see what I mean. I was actually wanting a salad, carrots, nuts and apples.

5. No headaches. I do not enjoy drinking water. I know it is so good for me, but it is a huge chore for me to actually consume it. I know I am borderline dehydrated most days. One of the biggest signs your body sends you to say it is dehydrated is headaches. So I tend to suffer from headaches several times a week. Well, on the challenge, I had zero headaches. I know I was well hydrated because my smoothies were no smaller than a quart every day.

6. No bloating. I love salt. And consuming salt brings on water retention and bloating. On the challenge since I was craving mostly fruits and vegetables, I was not eating as much salty foods. Also, the amount of water in all the fruits that I was adding to the smoothie definitely made my fluid intake much, much higher which acted as a diuretic in itself. My rings were quite loose and the numbers of the scale went down as well.

7. Sense of well-being. I just felt well on this challenge. You know when you are on a cycle of eating well it just naturally filters into other areas of your life... it just makes you feel good. I didn't have a brain-fog that I sometimes suffer from and life seemed more optimistic from all angles. I could directly feel the benefits of eating healthy and it usually continued throughout the day.

So there you have it. If you are on the fence about trying a 10, 20 or 30-day challenge, I would encourage you to go for it. Remember that anything worth trying takes some discipline... and remember that nothing worthwhile rarely comes easy. Great health does not come easily, it takes hard work, a focused mindset and a determined will.

If you were along for the ride with me, please share what benefits of the green smoothie challenge you experienced too!


Wedded Bliss

Yesterday I celebrated 15 years of marriage. It was a normal, hectic day as a mom of 4 boys. But in my heart, I was beaming...

Well, it didn't start off that way. Rewind 15 years back. Two young kids, straight out of college... pretty self-centered... and a whole lot of maturing to be done.

Sometimes and especially for me, we look for someone whether it be a friend, a spouse, a parent or a child to fulfill parts of us that haven't been filled. Whether it be from a past of neglect, abuse, hurts and so on. Maybe it has been filled and we are too selfish to know it. Regardless, I went into marriage thinking "he" needed to fill me up. And he didn't. Or so I thought.

After the "honeymoon" phase wore off and we were settling into our jobs and seminary, it hit. He wasn't doing "this". He wasn't saying "that". It wasn't this "picture perfect" life I had waited my whole 23 years of life for. So I complained. I whined. I cried. A lot.

But then, God broke in and revealed almost more than I could handle. Thankfully through a young-marrieds class at church, I learned about the 5 love languages. For once, I realized that marriage is really about serving. About giving, not always receiving. Being Christ to our partner.
I also learned that I was wanting filled up with something humanly which would never bring true satisfaction. I wanted this man, my sweet husband, to fill me up and make me happy in ways that only God can. I realized that only in Christ can we really live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28). And the verse, "the joy of the Lord is my strength" became real to me.

I finally, truly understood that when I am "in Christ", there, I am most satisfied.
We have come a long way in our marriage. I can honestly say it is "wedded bliss". We are not perfect. But we have grown in our love for each other, but more so in our knowledge and love for Christ. That's what brings about a great marriage.

*Linked up Women Living Well Wednesdays