The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – KIND

I love the combination of chocolate and nuts (In fact, I’m secretly snacking on chocolate-covered almonds while I write this.), and since I’ve had the dark chocolate and almond KIND bar before, I figured it would be a good idea to examine them more closely, especially since I had a large amount waiting to be shipped through Amazon’s Subscribe and Save.  I wanted to be sure that they fit into my new rules:

  1. whole grains, nuts, seeds
  2. low in saturated fat
  3. added sugars/sweeteners not listed as one of the first 3 ingredients

I actually found it a little difficult to find nutrition and ingredient information on their site.  When I clicked on ingredients, here’s what I got:


With labels pointing to the bar, saying “dark chocolate” and “whole nuts.”

However, I know there’s a sticky sweet something holding it together.

KIND – Nuts & Spices

Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt

I went into the store for the Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt pictured above, and still, I was surprised that the information wasn’t prominently displayed.  However, when I scrolled down far enough, I found both the ingredients and the nutritional information.

Technically, the sweet stuff is not within the first 3 listed ingredients, but the second ingredient, the chocolate flavored (?!?) coating, contains sugar.  Maybe we could get away with it on a technicality.  However, when I look at the rest of the list, there’s honey and glucose syrup (the sticky combination holding it together, no doubt) and even more sugar.  Add all of that up, and I’m sure it puts the sugar content in the top 3.

I truly appreciate that they added a note that 4g out of the 5g of sugars in the bar are from added sugars.  I can’t wait until all labels require this (coming soon!).

However, I believe that this disqualifies this particular KIND bar from being added to the snack rotation.  Bummer.  They have now been removed from Amazon cart and replaced with deodorant (so that I still have five items and can get my 15% subscribe and save discount!).  Definitely not as exciting.

Anyway, the Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt bar comes from their “Nuts & Spices” line.  I thought I’d check one of each of their other.


KIND – Fruit & Nut

Raspberry Cashew & Chia

Keep in mind that I’ve never tried this, but if I were to try any, this would likely be a flavor I’d enjoy.

Glucose syrup = ingredient number 2 = out

It has even more added sugar at 6g!

KIND – Healthy Grains Bars

Dark Chocolate Chunk

Okay…I have had these, and I once again blame Amazon Subscribe & Save.  There’s always coupons and deals on different types of bars, so I use the opportunity to give them a try.  These were awesome…and I have a pretty good suspicion I know why…

Okay, so I’m totally rethinking what I said about knowing how much added sugar is in something.    I can’t ignore that every single gram of sugar is added.  😦  I mean…look at it all.  There are all kinds of syrups, as well as honey, molasses, and sugar.  Geesh.

If you have nothing against sugar, though, these really are excellent, as are the Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt and the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate.  I got to sample all three of them in a variety pack from Amazon.

KIND – Plus

Almond Cashew with Flax + Omega 3

Again, these are ones I haven’t tried, but I figured I’d look at one more line…and it may have been worth it.

Look at that.  The first 3 ingredients are fruits and nuts, only 2 forms of sweetener, though they take the 4th and 5th spots.  After looking at some of the other bars, I am beginning to think that for now 4g of added sugar is fairly reasonable when it comes to snack bars.  Saturated fat is low, and there are no processed grains.  It looks like we have another possible transition bar as we wean ourselves from sweetened foods.  If I ever get around to trying them, I’ll let you know.  …maybe next month’s subscribe and save 🙂

Do you have a favorite KIND bar or snack?  Let me know!

**Note that the links (above) in this post are affiliate links.

Don’t forget to check out what I wrote about Nature Valley bars.


The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – Nature Valley

So my son was recently diagnosed with high-cholesterol.  This has motivated the whole family to eat healthier, hoping that he can control this mostly inherited problem at least enough to avoid needing medicine.

Of course, we’ve cut out saturated fat by being careful about what meats and oils we cook with, but we’re also trying to exclusively eat whole grains instead of processed grains.  This has been challenging but not impossible.  Lots of healthy whole grain options are out there if you know where to look.  We’ve been relying a lot on Nature Valley crunch bars, with Larabars and KIND bars thrown in there when there are sales.  However, I would like to take our snacks in the next healthy direction, which is making sure that sugar and various forms of sweetener are not one of the main ingredients, which for now will mean they’re not listed as one of the top 3 ingredients.  Perhaps once we master that, we’ll be able to move sugar back beyond the 5th ingredient spots, but baby steps…

What I want to do is compare different brands and different bars within brands to see both the nutritional information, especially calories and saturated fat, and ingredients, focusing not only on the sugar content but also on whether or not the ingredients are mainly whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits.

Today, I’ll start with Nature Valley since their Crunchy Oats and Honey bars have been staples around here for awhile (even before we found out about the cholesterol issue).

Nature Valley – Crunchy

The crunchy bars below are by far our favorite, so I looked up their nutritional information from the Nature Valley website:

Oats ‘n Dark Chocolate


Oats ‘n Honey


Pecan Crunch


Love that whole grains are the first ingredient and that the pecan ones have actual nuts in them.  As you can see, though, sugar is the second ingredient.  Bummer.  Plus, there’s brown sugar syrup later in the list.  No wonder we love them so much!

Nature Valley – Protein

We’ve only ever had these two varieties, but based on the nutritional information, we might be switching over to these from the crunchy variety.

Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate


Peanut, Almond, & Dark Chocolate


Although these have more saturated fat, likely from the peanuts and almonds, they are full of healthy fats and have more protein and fiber than the crunchy versions.  Sugar is the 5th ingredient, so this bar would only be a temporary solution.  However, it should serve as a good transition.

Nature Valley – Sweet and Salty

Dark Chocolate, Peanut, and Almond

We’ve never tried these that I can remember, but they looked similar to the protein bars above, so I thought I’d check out their information to see if they would be an alternative.


Second ingredient is corn syrup.  Third ingredient is sugar.  I bet they’re delicious 🙂

Sadly, though, they don’t meet the criteria, so not an option.


Protein Bars are the way to go for now, as far as Nature Valley is concerned.  I like Nature Valley because I can find them in the regular granola bar isle and not the health food section, which makes them much more affordable!

I hope to have similar posts in the future feature different brands like Larabars, Luna Bars, KIND, Quaker, Clif, etc.

What’s your favorite healthy nut, seed, fruit, and whole grain bar?

God’s Will – and the next President of the United States

Over the past year or two, I’ve really been thinking more about God’s will for me.  I’m not sure I’m where I’m meant to be, and I’m not sure I’m headed in the right direction.  For now, I’m kind of floating along, looking for signs, waiting for an obvious push in the right direction, and in the meantime, living life day by day.

Of course, also on my mind right now is the election.  How can it not be?  The flow of shares on Facebook related to the candidates are endless, and NPR is constantly doing stories on each of the candidates, what the primary loss or win means, who’s still in the race, and who might be dropping out…not to mention what to do about Mr. Drumpf.

After a recent discussion with a coworker, as I lie in bed trying to take a much needed nap, a thought came to my head…

Why be so concerned about which candidate will win?  God will take care of it.  Whichever candidate wins is God’s will.

But I realized that’s not right.  What will happen will happen, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not meant to play a role in how it happens.

I’ve been reading Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality by Raymond Arroyo, and I’m currently in the chapter about God’s will (which is perhaps why it’s on my mind more than usual), and she proposes 3 questions to check if something might be God’s will or not.  So I thought to myself, which candidate is God’s will?  Well, what’s the test for it?  The first is “Is it consistent with the Bible?”*

I was overwhelmed for a moment thinking that it would take forever to go through the Bible and determine this, but I quickly knew that lovelove was the answer.  (It always is.)  The main message of the new testament is love.

So which candidate is most likely God’s will?  The candidate that most embodies love.

Which candidate is patient?  Which is kind?  Which candidate does not envy or boast?  Is not proud or rude?  Is not self-seeking or easily angered?  Which candidate does not delight in evil but instead rejoices with the truth?  Who protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres?

There’s your candidate.

(I think mine passes the test.  Does yours?)

If you’re Christian and want to vote consistently with your faith, then vote for love.  Forget the lines of republican or democrat.  Forget liberal or conservative.  Forget self.  Love others, and love God.  Let that guide your decision.

And God bless.


*Note about the question above:  Actually, in the book, this is not the first question.  The first question is “Does it violate any of the Commandments?”  However, I was lying in bed and didn’t have the book with me, so I believe that I was drawing partly from what I remembered from another source.  The idea is the same, though–is it consistent with what we’re told in the Bible?  Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Love is always the answer.

The Willpower Challenge – 5 Things Learned

I found the Willpower Training 7-Day Challenge on Pinterest while I was searching for week-long challenges, and as I said in my previous post, I knew it would need to be the first challenge.  How could I succeed at losing weight and exercising if I didn’t have the willpower to ignore the temptations of staying up late, of sweets, of eating too much, of playing Candy Crush or watching TV instead of getting up and moving?

So once that I was back to falling asleep okay without feeling like I constantly needed to cough, I figured that it was time to get started.


The seven days of the challenge each add a different habit to help you curb temptations:

Day 1 – Sleep

Day 2 – Meal Planning

Day 3 – Meditation

Day 4 – Replacing TV time

Day 5 – Learning new skills

Day 6 – Limiting handheld devices

Day 7 – Exercising / Doing a Challenging Workout

Each habit, once introduced, is continued through the rest of the week so that the challenge is progressive.  Details about each step can be found at the link above if you’re interested in giving it a try, too!

5 Things Learned

  1. Kids, man.  Kids.  Let’s just say that I was glad I was going to bed earlier each night because my daughter was getting up for a couple hours in the middle of the night or waking up two hours early.  Turns out she was coming down with another cold (that she so nicely passed on to me so that I’m up late coughing again), but without that extra sleep, it would’ve been an even rougher week.  In the end, I learned that getting sleep in this house had less to do with my own bedtime routine and more to do with kids that could sleep peacefully through the night!
  2. I learned that I still hate meal planning.  For someone who likes to plan and organize, you’d think it’d be my favorite thing.  I just can’t figure it out and get it simplified to my liking.  It’s hard to plan within budget AND what everyone will be willing to eat based on preferences and diet, and it never works the way I want it to.  There are just too many days where I come home exhausted from work and just don’t want to cook…no matter what the meal plan says.
  3. Even with the previous statement, though, I also learned that meal planning and sticking to it can really make a difference.  There were times when I wanted a snack here and there, but it wasn’t written on the meal plan….so I skipped it or had one of the designated snacks for the day.  It really helped provide willpower:  I can’t put it in my mouth because it’s not on the meal plan.  But I would have to plan out every bite of every day, and I don’t think I have the time or energy to do that.  (If you would like to give meal planning a try but don’t have ideas for dinners, a meal planning site might help.  I’ve been using No More T0-Go this past month to get some new recipes and add variety, and there have really been some delicious dinners as a result.  Sausage Ragu or Chimichangas anyone?)
  4. I learned that meditation, in my case at least, is good for sleeping.   The first day that I did it, I was almost falling asleep sitting up, and I realized it’s because the method that I was using from Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind that I found after a little searching was one that I actually used at night when I was lying in bed and not able to easily calm my mind and fall asleep.  So I’ll be saving meditation for bedtime.
  5. I learned that when I’m working I actually don’t watch much TV and what little I watch I don’t want to replace with other stuff.  I mean I watch one 20-minute episode of something each night before bed, and I’m okay with that.

BONUS Lesson

Although each day of the willpower challenge had good ideas, I learned that when I’m working, I am entirely too busy to implement them all.  I just couldn’t fit them into my day while working, cooking, and taking care of kids.  So I have to admit, I gave up at the end.  Once I started back to work and my cough came back, all bets were off.  I managed to get to bed early–I had to considering how exhausted I was, but that’s about the only day of the challenge that I was able to keep up the whole time and will continue.  It’s actually one of my goals for the year–develop the habit of going to bed 8 1/2 hours before wake time–so I think that was more of a motivator than this challenge was.  In the end, I had to do a lot of searching online and finding my own ways to implement each day of the challenge.  I would’ve been nice if the challenge addressed a little more of the practical side.


If you would like to give the 7-Day Willpower Training Challenge a try for yourself, you can use the checklist below (click the picture to get access and download the Word document) to help motivate you.  I printed one off and had it hanging up as a reminder of everything I had to do each day.  If you try it, don’t forget to comment below with your own experiences and progress!


And though I know the Bible verse that I quoted above is intended for more serious temptations, I think keeping it in mind is important.  Even with every day basic things, or maybe especially with the basics, I know I can avoid temptation if I set my mind to it because God created me with the ability to overcome anything that is thrown my way.  The rest of the verse says,

“But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.”

It’s a good reminder to trust Him in all things….even the small things.


The Willpower Challenge-False Starts

Tired.  Headache.  Don’t feel like cooking.  Especially don’t feel like cooking what’s on the meal plan tonight–roasted pork.  “I have enough points for Taco Bell,” I tell my husband.  He agrees that it sounds good.

Two nights ago, it was Pizza Hut.

Even before New Year’s when I was planning my goals for the year (while downing fudge and other goodies) and deciding what challenge would be the first challenge, I knew that the Willpower Challenge should be first.  Willpower is the basis for everything, and as I looked at each day for the challenge, I knew it was onto something.  It hits on the main things like lack of sleep, lack of planning, too much screen time, etc. that often make us lose our willpower and feel like “What the heck?  Screw ____.  I’ll get back on track tomorrow.”

And that’s where I am right now.  I was supposed to start this challenge on January 2nd.  It’s written on my calendar:  Willpower Day 1.  I developed a horrible cough on January 1st.  Instead of going to midnight on the 1st like I had been used to doing for the last week or so, I went to bed early in order to prepare for the first day of the challenge which focuses on going to bed 8 1/2 hours before you need to wake up.  I went up at 11:00, laid in bed for over an hour, fighting the urge to cough, trying not to wake up my daughter, before I finally got out of bed, went downstairs, and played Candy Crush hoping the cough would go away.  I had taken Mucinex earlier like I had been for the last couple weeks of being sick, but it hadn’t helped the cough.  I eventually decided that I had to search online and see if I could take an antihistamine with it, and thankfully, I could.   I took it, and I fell asleep…but not until around 1:00.  So much for going to bed earlier.

The next several nights were similar, though I now knew to take the antihistamine instead of Mucinex at night.  I finally decided that I just needed to wait until I got over this cough.  I waited and waited.  On the 6th, I saw a doctor online who said it’s probably bronchitis and prescribed antibiotics.  Based on my previous experience with Augmenti,n I figured that by the weekend, I’d be feeling much better, so again on my calendar, Saturday, January 9th, I wrote “Willpower Day 1.”  I was ready to get this started.


Here I am, Sunday, January 10th.  I was up late again last night.  No medicine was helping.  I had to stay up until I was too tired to stay up any longer before going to bed.  (I had gone to bed but had to come down again because I was back to fighting the urge to cough.  All the more important since my daughter woke up at 5:00 the morning before, and the day before that was up between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m.  I wasn’t going to dare waking her up and being up for two hours again!)

So I’m tired.  Tired of coughing.  Tired of not sleeping when I want to sleep, and therefore, I have no willpower to start the Willpower Challenge (or to do a lot of other things I want to do).  It will just have to wait until the cough subsides.

On the bright side, I’m still drinking my glass of water every morning. I still do some pilates/yoga in the morning, and I’m still working through each day of the declutter calender…so I haven’t been completely useless.

Anyway, try to be patient with me.  No challenges to report on yet, but hopefully by the end of the month, I’ll be able to try one and report back.  And for some of them, I’ll have a bonus freebie like a checklist so that you can try the challenge, too, if you want.  Here’s hoping your New Year is starting off better than mine…at least in the health department!


Happy New Year! …and Setting Goals

This is me.  20 pounds lighter than I was last January 1st.  My house is just a little more organized and a little less cluttered (at least in theory–all the incoming Christmas presents make our house, once again, feel cluttered).  Our finances are a little more in order, and this blog is a little more populated with posts from the previous year.  And this is all because at the end of 2014, I set some goals for 2015, and though I didn’t achieve all of them 100%, I did enough of each one to know which I’d like to try again and which I’m done with…at least for this point in my life.

This enabled me to make some goals for 2016.  Some are health related and about developing and maintaining healthy habits (like drinking water, starting my day with yoga/pilates, getting enough sleep).  Some are spiritual.  Some are house and organization related.  (Yes, I’m going to do the declutter missions again!)  Some are business related (like adapting my business and helping Raf start his), and others are family and relationship related.  I actually have a lot of goals this year.  I don’t expect to achieve them all 100%, but I’ll do what I can do.  And I know from this past year that even doing all them of at least a little feels like a big accomplishment.

I’ll be completing challenges (usually 5- or 7-day ones) that I find online and elsewhere every few weeks to improve all these different areas, and then I’ll be blogging about them here afterwards so that you know if you want to give them a try.

For now, try setting some goals for 2016, even if they’re just a couple.  (My husband has 2 goals.) Write them down and hang them up so that you can look at them throughout the year.  It’s easy to remember them now, but in July, how likely will it be that you can remember exactly what you wanted to do?  (For me, not likely.)  Writing them down also allows you to check them off as you achieve them, which is satisfying and acts like receiving a reward, which in turn is motivating and encourages you to continue improving yourself and working toward becoming the you that you want to be.

So, Happy New Year!  If 2015 was good to you, I hope that 2016 is even better and that you will actively work towards making it your best year yet.  If 2015 was a difficult year for you, I pray that 2016 gives you rest and peace and that you give yourself permission to not take on so much.  Good luck this year, and God bless!



Someone I know recently shared the following post on Facebook:

We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated…

Posted by Merih Büyükcivelek on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I encourage you to read the whole thing.  It actually contains a lovely sentiment, though I think it’s somewhat misguided.  At the end, it contains these fairly famous lines:

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Work like you don’t need money,

Love like you’ve never been hurt,

And dance like no one’s watching.

Although I understand the idea behind “work like you don’t need money,” the problem is that we actually do need it.  I am major financial support for my family.  I am the health insurance that will keep us from going bankrupt in the case of a medical emergency.  I have to work and think about the money.  Of course, we all wish we didn’t have to, but that’s the world we have created and that we have to live in.

So one problem with this advice is that for most people, it’s not doable.  The other problem is that when we look at the other ideas for happiness, they’re just so abstract.  And maybe that’s good in some ways because it makes it more applicable to more people, but how about some concrete ideas for improving happiness?  Well, another person on Facebook shared an article called “Researcher reveals 4 rituals that will make you happier.”  It’s definitely worth reading when you have a moment.  For this post, I want to focus on this tidbit:

“Research shows getting five hugs a day for four weeks increases happiness big time.”

Big time.  Hugs.  How simple.    According to the article, physically touching people reduces pain, and it’s not just hugs.  It’s really any meaningful contact.  The article even says, “Don’t have anyone to hug right now? […] Neuroscience says you should go get a massage.”  (Great excuse to book one today, right?) So any kind of physical human contact will do.

December is starting very soon, and I’ve decided to name it Hugcember.  My goal will be to get five hugs and to make sure that each person in my family receives five hugs.  And don’t be afraid to hug me when you see me.  I know it’s Hugcember.  You know it’s Hugcember.  Let’s try to spread a little happiness this month in a tangible way that costs no money and benefits everyone involved.  I can’t think of a better time of year to give this a try.   



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