Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The World is Mine

My grandmother sent me an email today with a very encouraging poem. It rings a common message that we hear all the time: gratefulness. However, I thought it was simple and well-written. Plus, it's timely since Thanksgiving is near. Maybe it can encourage you today to simply be still. Remember that God cares about you and loves you. You are precious.

Today, upon a bus, I saw a very beautiful woman
And wished I were as beautiful.
When suddenly she rose to leave,
I saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and used a crutch.
But as she passed, she passed a smile.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two legs; the world is mine.

I stopped to buy some candy.
The lad who sold it had such charm.
I talked with him, he seemed so glad.
If I were late, it'd do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me,
"I thank you,
you've been so kind.
It's nice to talk with folks like you.
You see," he said, "I'm blind."
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes; the world is mine.

Later while walking down the street,
I saw a child I knew.
He stood and watched the others play,
but he did not know what to do.
I stopped a moment and then I said,
"Why don't you join them dear?"
He looked ahead without a word.
I forgot, he couldn't hear.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two ears; the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I'd go..
With eyes to see the sunset's glow.
With ears to hear what I'd know.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I've been blessed indeed, the world is mine.

— Author Unknown

Monday, October 22, 2012

Understanding Food Labels

It makes me so happy to see fellow grocery-shoppers stop and examine the labels on products before throwing it in their basket. For those of us trying to be healthy, understanding food labels is essential — especially when companies plant land mines on every aisle with buzz words like "All-Natural" or "Grown Locally."

I tried to think of the most commonly-used labels on items I see in stores and share a little insight on what exactly these labels mean. 


There seems to be quite the gluten-free craze going on right now, but just because something is gluten-free does not automatically make it healthy. In fact, "gluten-free" only specifies those products that do not contain gluten, which is the protein found in wheat. Past studies showed that people who have Celiac's disease are bothered by gluten. New studies suggest that there may be people who don't have the disease but have an intolerance to gluten as well. When these studies first came out, many lives were transformed by choosing a gluten-free diet, allowing them to have more energy, lose weight and feel better.

But, that doesn't mean going gluten-free is for everyone. Only about 10 percent of the U.S. population has shown some gluten-sensitivity. No matter if you're allergic or not, when choosing gluten-free products, you must still read the other labels. Consider the fat, calorie and sugar content.

Products I Trust:

  • Better 'N Peanut Butter (low-fat and low in calories too)
  • Rice Chex (my favorite is the cinnamon flavor)
  • Red Mill gluten-free oatmeal, raw oats and cereals


In general, the label "organic" refers to foods that have been grown without pesticides (fruit/veggies) or growth hormones (meats). Organic does not mean healthy. When it comes to weight loss, eating organically doesn't necessarily improve your chances. It's all about calories in being less than calories out. For example, if you eat a giant organic brownie packed with butter and oil, there's no way you could convince me that was a better choice than a FiberOne 90-calorie brownie. However, choosing organic foods and products makes it easier to follow a clean foods lifestyle, keeping your insides and outsides so fresh and so clean, clean.

Products I Trust:

  • Nature's Path organic oatmeal
  • Amy's Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque
  • Organic deli meat by Applegate
  • When I can afford it, I try to buy organic fruit and veggies (especially foods that don't have peeling I remove before eating like apples, salad, berries, etc)

Trans Fat-Free

If there's anything in food you should fear, it's trans fats. Along with saturated fats, trans fatty acids have been linked to heart disease. The biggest problem with trans fats is that it takes very little of them to cause serious health issues.

Studies show we shouldn't even ingest more than 2 grams of trans fats per day! And be careful — just because an item is marked as "trans fat-free," it might not be true. The FDA approves the trans fat-free label on any product that contains 0.5 grams or less in each serving. 

The only sure way to identify trans fats in foods is to read the ingredients list on any product. If you see the word "hydrogenated" anywhere, put that baby back. Hydrogenation refers to the process that the product went through to either gain some shelf life or add flavor. It goes against everything we try to do in "clean eating."

Foods I Do NOT Trust (this way's easier):

  • Any fried foods (unless you do it yourself the healthier way)
  • Stick margarine
  • Microwave popcorn (I know, sad day)

Low-Fat or Fat-Free

For companies to claim their products are any percentage "fat-free," it must first be "low-fat," meaning it can only have 3 grams of fat or less per serving.

Products I Trust:

  • Skinny Cow ice cream treats
  • Cheeses like Kraft cheddar and mozzarella, the store brand cream cheese and cottage cheese, and the Laughing Cow wedges (all good for recipes as well)
  • Campbell's cream of chicken soup comes in 98% fat free (tastes just as good; good in casseroles)
  • Mission flour tortillas (varieties of low-fat, low-carb and fat-free versions)
  • Dannon Light & Fit yogurt (vanilla, blueberry and strawberry)
  • No Pudge fat-free brownie mix (just mix it with yogurt)


Ever wondered why sugar-free foods often still taste sweet, and sometimes are even sweeter than the normal stuff? Usually, they contain alternative sweeteners like Sucralose (Splenda), Erythritol (Nutrasweet/Equal), Stevia or sugar alcohols like Xylitol. Sugar alcohols are technically carbohydrates but are not digestible. They are similar to fiber, which is also non-digestible, meaning your body doesn't convert those calories to energy. That's why you'll often find that fiber-full foods are less in calories too. 
I typically opt for the sugar-free versions of foods, but I always check the ingredient label to find what exactly I'm putting into my body. Which "sugar impostor" am I ingesting? I'll also see if this sugar-free version is packing in more fat to make up for the flavor. Overall, it's important to try to keep both sugar and fat low. If you're sensitive to sugar alcohols or you're trying to avoid artificial sweeteners, be careful about choosing sugar-free stuff.

Products I Trust:

  • Nature's Own sugar-free bread or Sara Lee's 45-calorie bread
  • Hershey's sugar-free chocolate syrup
  • Almond Breeze sugar-free vanilla almond milk
  • Red Diamond sugar-free iced tea
  • Jell-O (any flavor) and instant pudding (white chocolate and vanilla)
  • Ice Breakers Sours (like candy)
Are there other labels that confuse you? Let me know in the comments. :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Peachy-Keen Cobbler

My husband has been begging me to make (or even just buy) peach cobbler since the first official day of fall passed last month. I told him I refuse to watch him stuff his face with the full-fat pre-packaged version, and I also refuse to slave in the kitchen over such a delicacy without being able to savor it myself. That's why I decided to try something on my own. Why not follow a recipe, you ask? Because it's so much more fun to throw things together and see how it turns out, duh!

My final product was actually very satisfying, to my own surprise. My husband and I both cleaned our plates and then passed them off to our dogs to finish the job. Good thing this Peachy-Keen Cobbler is both low-fat and low-sugar.

Peachy-Keen Cobbler


  • 2 15-oz cans of light peaches (no sugar added)
  • 1/2 box sugar-free or low-fat box of yellow cake mix or Angel Food cake mix
  • Some brown sugar
  • Some cinnamon
  • Some nuts (I used a mix of crushed peanuts and pecans)
  • Some sugar alternative (I used store brand Splenda)
  • 4 mini spoonfuls of light or reduced fat butter (I used Country Crock Light)
  • Some raw, unfiltered honey (optional)
  1. Pour all the peaches with the juice in the bottom of a 9x11 casserole dish or baking pan. Be sure you evenly spread them apart.
  2. Cut them up into smaller pieces (optional).
  3. Sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar alternative.
  4. Spread 1/2 the box of cake mix over the top of the peaches.
  5. Put a little dollup of light butter in four areas on top of this layer (so that when it melts, it will be evenly distributed).
  6. Sprinkle some brown sugar over the top for an even layer.
  7. Scatter some nuts on the top.
  8. Draw your favorite fall symbol on the top using the honey (optional).
Please let me know if you try this out on your own. Next time, I think I'll try using cherries and almonds, or maybe apples and walnuts. Instead of the cake mix, maybe I'll try some oats and flour. 

I love reading your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Peanut Butter Blues?

If you're following a diet or just trying to eat healthy, you're probably aware of the insane amount of fat and calories in peanut butter. The creamy (or crunchy) spread may be loaded with protein and healthy mono-unsaturated fats, but the other kind of fat and sugar still add up. Most dietitians would advise you to limit how much or how often you eat it.

Thankfully, there are some healthy alternatives out there. One of my favorites is called Better'n'Peanut Butter. It comes in regular, chocolate and banana flavors. Personally, I stick to the normal peanut flavor.  With 2 grams of fat and 100 calories in each 2 Tablespoon serving, you're cutting out nearly 85 percent of the fat and calories.

I recently discovered a new alternative, and I'm afraid it might sweep in and become my go-to lunch and/or breakfast and/or anytime I'm hungry choice. It's called PB2 powdered peanut butter. Now, don't turn up your nose just yet. All you do is mix 2 Tablespoons of this powdery substance with 1 Tablespoon of water. It's got 45 calories and 1.5 grams of fat in 2 Tablespoons. As far as I know, that's as low as you're going to get!

I've been able to use these two products just like I'd use regular peanut butter. I can eat it with a spoon (which I do pretty often), on a sandwich, or in a recipe. Here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate this yummy sandwich spread in my diet.

PBB & Chocolate Shake
  • 2 T peanut butter alternative
  • 1/4 C fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 banana
  • 2 T Sugar-free chocolate syrup
  • 1 Dash of cinnamon
  • 2-3 Packets of sugar alternative (Stevia or Splenda)
  • 1/2 C of sugar-free vanilla or chocolate almond milk 
  • *1 Scoop Vanilla/Chocolate whey protein mix (if you're using this as a meal replacement)
  1. Add all ingredients to a blender.
  2. Blend on high until smooth.
  3. Add water if the blender gets hung up or it's too chunky.
Thai-Inspired Peanut Sauce
  • 3-4 T peanut butter alternative
  • 1/2 C soy sauce
  • 1 C water
  • 1 T garlic (or garlic salt)
  • 2-3 T brown sugar
  1. First of all, remember I don't follow recipes very well, so those numbers up above may be off.
  2. Mix these ingredients in a sauce pan on the stove on low heat.
  3. Add just a little bit of the soy sauce and garlic because you can always add more.
  4. Let the peanut butter melt and simmer. Taste to see the flavor and add different ingredients according to your preference.
  5. Use the sauce over chicken and veggies or as a dressing for an Asian salad.
  • 2 T peanut butter alternative
  • 2 Slices of low-calorie bread (Sara Lee 45 calorie whole wheat)
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 T raw, unfiltered honey
  1. I think you can figure this one out on your own. ;)
Let me know in the comments if you try these out, or if you come up with other ways to use peanut butter alternatives. I'd also love to know if you've found anything else comparable to Better'n'Peanut Butter or PB2. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Difference Between Cowgirls 'N Angels [Movie Review]

If you have a little girl (or you’ve ever been a little girl), you must sit down and watch Cowgirls ‘N Angels, a heart-warming movie about self-discovery and hope. While I’m inclined to note that girls will probably enjoy the movie more than boys, the entire family can enjoy watching it. Just tell the boys they can pick the next one for family movie night. ;)

Ida (Bailee Moreland), a carefree and often stubborn 12-year old girl, lives with her mom in a rodeo town in Oklahoma. Since her parents split up before Ida knew her father, her mom survives by working long hours in several jobs, Consequently, Ida spends much of her time alone — often getting herself in trouble.

Ida dreams about finding her dad, a rodeo rider, of whom her mother refuses to talk about. Until Ida discovers an old post card in her mom’s closet with his signature, the only thing Ida was sure of about her dad is that he hurt her mother when they separated. Now, she finally has a name for her him: Walker.

Long-time rodeo legend Terrance Parker (James Cromwell) takes a liking to Ida, after catching her steal a ride on one of the rodeo horses late at night. Mr. Parker sees her natural talent for trick-riding and convinces the “Sweethearts of the Rodeo” to allow Ida to join their female rodeo team, seeing it as an opportunity to teach Ida about discipline and hard work. Ida enthusiastically joins, seeing it as an opportunity to search for the father she’s never met.

Through training with the Sweethearts and traveling to other rodeos, Ida faces a few more troubling trials. However, she learns what trust really means as she makes new friends and practices dangerous tricks on her new horse. The other Sweethearts find out about Ida’s father and make it their own mission to help find him.

Cowgirls ‘N Angels combines the action of the rodeo (they do some pretty sweet riding tricks) and the heartfelt drama of mending one’s father wound. Watching this young girl finally meet her father is more than moving. It encourages us as Christ-followers to never stop seeking our Heavenly Father — that if we surrender our stubbornness and self-reliance to him, we can find true happiness. Cowgirls ‘N Angels conveys the redemptive themes of faith, prayer and never giving up.

So grab a box of tissues and saddle up for a ride with the Sweethearts, who believe the only difference between cowgirls and angels is that “angels can’t ride as good.”

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Cowgirls 'N Angels for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How I Lost 50 Pounds in Less Than 5 Months

Guest Post by Brandon Riney

Ever finding yourself thinking about what it would be like to lose that extra weight you’ve been dying to get rid of? Are you always thinking, “Man I wish I had his/her body” or “Why can’t I look like that?” These questions ran through my mind all throughout my school years, but I just really didn’t know what to do!

One day I stumbled across some websites that claimed they know exactly how to lose those dreadful extra pounds, and I thought to myself, “Why don’t I take some information from each of these guides and put it into my own strategy?” Let’s face it, dieting plans are a pain in the butt, can be very expensive, and some of them don’t even work!

When I first started my own tactics, I weighed a whopping 200 pounds at the age of 16. When you’re 5’9’’ and weigh that much, that’s not a good sign. So after pondering the dreams of actually becoming fit and the person I wanted to be, I came up with my own little plan:
  • Keep track of how many calories you eat a day. Find out about how many calories are necessary for your body, and eat at least 500 less a day. This does NOT mean you should eat 1 cheeseburger that has 1200 calories and that’s it, which brings me to my next point. 
  • Think of some foods you truly like and that your taste-buds won’t regurgitate upon the very touch of your tongue that are actually HEALTHY for you! This might include tuna fish, grilled chicken, salad, fruit, vegetables, or anything else. If you actually think and research some foods, there are a lot of delicacies out there that you can love to eat and still shred the pounds.
  • All I do is check the nutritional information on every item of food that goes into my stomach, and I keep a mental track of how many calories I consume a day. 
  • Also, try to cut down on foods with high grams of fat, saturated fat, sugars, and all that other stuff that your body doesn’t really need! It’s as simple as that!
  • Another important factor to losing the weight is good exercise. Go for a one mile jog every once in a while, go to the gym at least 3x a week, do whatever cardio workout you can think of! That’s the key – cardio. While lifting weights and building muscle is great, cardio is the #1 way to make the fat vanish.
Believe me, if you keep a simple routine like the one stated above, I guarantee you’ll be looking and feeling better in no time. After four and a half months of healthy habits, I was able to lose 50 pounds! I’ve been able to do things that would’ve killed me due to lack of breath. Trust me, as long as you stick to a healthy dieting plan and keep a routine full of exercising, you will become the person you’ve always dreamed about being.

Brandon Riney is a Junior at Coppell High School. After dropping 50 pounds in less than 5 months, he became very interested in healthy living. Aside from working out and counting calories, Brandon gets excited about computer gaming and fresh pineapple. Consider him guest posting on your site by emailing him.

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