Category Archives: Health

Healthy and Fast in a Snap: Snap Kitchen.

I discovered Snap Kitchen when it moved in across the street from my first apartment in Chicago. I was stoked because it looked healthy and quick and then I tried it…And it was. The first thing I tried was their healthy version of a Chicken Caesar Salad which remains my fave and then in the fall. I had their version of Pumpkin Pie. Here’s the thing. All this stuff is hand made and as healthy as possible with real ingredients.IMG_8044

Some days I would go into Snap Kitchen and they wouldn’t have my fave salad but it never upset me. The employees were super helpful and made sure I would have what I needed the next day because they could make what I needed. Nothing processed about this which is a huge plus to me and my health needs.

Snap is not just located in Chicago either. It’s in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Philly (with more opening all the time). They also deliver! So now that I moved away from that first apartment Snap comes to me and quickly too. I use their app which makes it super easy.IMG_8042

So look, yes, this is a sponsored post but one I am happy to write because I was already a fan of Snap Kitchen. The fact that I got to enjoy my favorite salad, healthy key lime pie, and then almond chicken fingers for a snack before dinner of “naked chicken?” Well, that’s just bonus.IMG_8034

I really prioritize my health and that means cooking for myself most of the time but the thing is, I don’t always have time. There are simply not a bunch of options when it comes to healthy delivery. Snap is changing that so I really encourage you to download the app.IMG_8035

P.S. It’s reasonably priced…I got two huge salads (full meals), a side of fruit, a breakfast burrito, almond chicken fingers (snack sized), and healthy Key Lime Pie all for just under $40.00. Healthy does not have to be expensive.IMG_8039

From my experiences (and they have fed me many times), I proudly stand behind Snap Kitchen.

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5 Serious Autumn Goals.

autumngoalsIn June I posted, Five Serious Summer Goals. The point was that if I had these five things to focus on, especially with the precariousness of my health, it was possible that I could do my part to improve my situation (and to be honest, the goals were prioritized). I’ve been evaluating those goals and I give myself a 2.45/5 and yet if the goals are weighted, I give myself a 4.75. I have never been so happy to not be perfect because no, I didn’t do a good job spending time with God everyday and no, I did not purge a third of my possessions. But I did the most important thing (and what I believe was the most God honoring thing at the time) and that was 1. I treated food as medicine in an intense and complete way that is putting my health back on track to my body’s version of its best and 2. I prioritized my health for the very same reasons.

The fact is, if I would not have prioritized those two things, I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything now. Physically, I was in such a place that so much was not possible. I have come so far and am very proud of myself (proud of myself in the way that the I had a huge wake up call that knocked me on metaphorical butt and things were so dire because I didn’t care for my illness for so long if you know what I am saying).

Things are still serious. Yes, I have come a long way but I can’t backslide. I have to keep trucking along. I believe that things are just as serious now as they were in June, even if the goals have shifted a bit.

So without further ado, my 5 Serious Autumn Goals

+continue to treat food as medicine

Like I said, in that post, this is about lifestyle changes. I am super radical right now because it is necessary in order to get my pain levels down but even after that, I truly do not want to ever get back to the place where I “forget” what the consequences can be and start eating Ben and Jerry’s when I need a pick me up. Some people can do that and still be healthy. I just cannot. I have tried to be that person so many times and every time I end up in same position so I expect, with the way things have been going, I will reevaluate exactly how radical I am in the wintertime but for now, it’s still serious.

+pray big things

I have realized I do not do this. I mean, my prayer life could always use some work, let’s be honest. But the fact is, I don’t ask for a lot of things and I think the reason is that I don’t believe they will actually happen. It’s mostly lack of faith in me…as in I don’t want to imagine certain things in case they don’t happen. But really when you dig deep, it’s a lack of faith in Him because he can do anything. And I am not “protecting” myself (which I believe is my mindset) by not dreaming and praying big. So this Autumn, God and I? We are dreaming and asking big.

+invest in where I live

This means a few things. I may need to move do to my rent increasing which seems really impossible with health still iffy and just the fact that I am so bad at moving. It seems so overwhelming. But it needs to be reevaluated and dealt with, Nina. It does. It also means finding a church and getting involved. It also means making new friends and being open. So it means a lot of things. Again, things have to be prioritized. I can’t do these things if I don’t continue to prioritize my health and also pray for the strength and help to do these things.

+purging one third of my possessions

So this just needs to happen. Period. End of story. And it is much more likely since my weight is settling and I can actually evaluate my clothing and what I have. But I mean, clothing is only part of the problem. The books are out of control.

+grow my business and be ambitious about writing

Again, there was an attitude (when it came to my writing) that I wanted so badly to be published or be writing but what if it didn’t happen? So I haven’t put myself out there. And I need to (kind of like dating. Am I right? Word).

So there it is. That’s where I am at and where I am going. When people ask me how I am I say, I am doing great but I have a long way to go and that’s basically the situation.

Also P.S. are you subscribed to my monthly newsletter? Basically you get an extra story (some writing) in your inbox and Nonna’s column where she answers questions you ask anonymously about anything. Seriously, she is crazy and amazing and this month she has got some great questions to answers. Sign up here. I keep it short, sweet, lovely, and funny (or try to).
I’m linking up with Darci, Christina, Natasha, April, KarliAmy.five on friday





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Food as Medicine.

foodasmedicinepinMy Story:

At the beginning of the summer, I made five serious goals. My number one priority was simple: treat food as medicine. Finally, I’m going to explain what this means to me, why I do it, and how it continues to change my body and how I nourish it. Please know that I am neither a doctor nor nutritionist. I am aware of this. I just know that as I have mentioned it, people have been curious. So I am sharing parts of my story.*

Why is this important to me? In 2008, I had a seizure due to a medication a doctor put me on. It was fluke, one time occurrence. Little did I (or anyone else) know but this fluke seizure actually messed up my body. It caused my chronic auto-immune disease that I live with now.*

Over the next year, my body began to slowly deteriorate. Doctors would diagnosis me and I would return home from college worse. Clearly this wasn’t sudden IBS or then mono. By spring, I could barely walk and more serious tests were done. When I cam home for the summer I could barely move; laying down hurt, as if my whole body was one pulse of pain. I was fortunate that my whole family–Mom, Dad, Stepmom–devoted themselves to my diagnosis and treatment.

Because I could barely move throughout that summer (and I still did not have a diagnosis), I gained a lot of weight. Before the previous year of health issues, my weight mattered a great deal to me. I had an emotional attachment to food. And then I lost a bunch of weight–and not in the healthiest of ways. I didn’t have an eating disorder but I definitely had a disordered view of food happening to get my body down to a size zero. But in the summer of 2009, praying for a diagnosis, in so much pain, my weight or vanity didn’t matter to me at all. I just wanted to be out of pain. That’s it.

Finally, a month before my senior year of school, I was diagnosed and two weeks after that we started to see improvement with medications. We also found a doctor who practiced as an MD and very much in the western style but also used some holistic methods. He brought up the “Candida Diet” which is not a diet. It’s a way of life. Basically we all have yeast in our bodies (and I know when I say yeast, what you automatically think…that can be a symptom but the yeast is everywhere) and the idea is that yeast causes any health issue to be worse and that we are healthier without. So the idea is to kill the yeast (which makes me think of that part in Beauty and the Beast where they sing: Kill the Beast!). How do you kill yeast? By cutting out all sugar, including natural sugars in fruit (once the yeast is dead, you can add in natural sugars). This is the book I followed if you are interested. But I was doing all this under doctor supervision.

A few weeks ago in present time, my dad mentioned to me this memory he had and got a little emotional: “I’ll never forget the call I got a few weeks into the semester where you said, ‘Dad, I’m walking to class!'” I was taking my medications and following the Candida free way.

I lost weight but again it was just a perk. I naturally leveled off and I consider that to my healthy size (and guess what? It’s not a zero). Meanwhile the food I was eating wast improving how I felt (any day on below a four on the pain scale was amazing and a month or two in I was having days at a two level). Plus this way of eating took emotion and vanity out of it: I desperately wanted to feel as healthy as possible for me, as low of a pain level as possible.

Fast forward to this February, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been for a number of reasons. I don’t mind sharing but this is long already. I was also in denial over how much pain I was in. Imagine carrying dumbbells that weighed 70 pounds plus your healthy body while grocery shopping, going to work, cleaning, even just sitting…basically living.

Finally, I spoke to my parents and admitted things I didn’t even realize until I said the words. I feared that I would never have a normal life, let alone a social life, that I always downplayed my pain to them, that I was the worst I’d ever been–practically back to that place before my diagnosis. I felt defeated. My mom said she would travel to help me. My dad encouraged me with this, that still sticks with me, after I said that there will never be a day for me without pain: “Aren’t your best days better than your worst days? Compare you to you.” It kicked me in the butt and I stopped feeling defeated.

Enter my plan to treat food as medicine. It’s not paleo (though there are a lot of similarities); it’s gluten free for two reasons–gluten affects my IBS and once gluten is in your body it doesn’t necessarily add nutrients (medicine to your body…just hold on and I’ll get there). But it’s so much more than that. It’s what works for my body and just my explanation for the people who have asked.

foodasmedicineguidelines1. It’s a lifestyle.

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Healthy and Easy Italian Chicken Strips.

Healthy and Easy Italian Chicken StripsThis is part of the Nonna’s Cookbook Remix–where I take family recipes and make them as healthy and as delicious as possible. But I have to give credit where credit is due. This recipe comes straight from my dad, a man who really values nutrition and is great at making things both nutritious and healthy.

As far as I know, he invented these healthy and easy Italian chicken strips. It’s not like you can go to Italy and order these and even though I am kind of anti Italian/American food (like let’s say Fettuccine Alfredo…you won’t find that or Chicken Parmesan in Italy…with all the Italian stuff, I am not trying to be snobby just authentic…Promise!). But this falls in a different category for me because I’ve never seen these anywhere before and the tastes and flavors (plus the lack of measurements) make them easily Italian.

Healthy and Easy Italian Chicken Strips 1

Healthy and Easy Italian Chicken Strips


  • Chicken Breasts
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic Powder
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. Start to prepare the Grill
  2. Cut the chicken breasts into the shapes of chicken strips/chicken fingers
  3. Brush both sides of each pieces with olive oil
  4. Season liberally with Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Rosemary, Sage
  5. or
  6. Place the cut Chicken Strips into a bowl
  7. Pour in Olive Oil
  8. Use your hands to get them coated
  9. Season liberally with Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Rosemary, Sage
  10. Use your hands to get the spices coated onto the uncooked strips (as you can see in the picture, there are plenty of spices
  11. Grill until they are crispy looking

When the grill isn’t possible, you can definitely bake them too.

Healthy and Easy Italian Chicken Strips 3In the summertime, I’m often at my dad’s to visit my sis and also because there is a pool. And also, can I just tell you that everyone/a lot of people have summertime birthdays in my famiglia? Plus the fourth. In fact, today is my stepmom’s birthday so buon compleanno/auguri to her! Anyway, my dad tends to make these when I come over which I appreciate so much.

When I visited friends, I made this recipe for them (it’s so easy it’s ridiculous) and they loved it. So it’s easy and doable…I promise.

Will you try these healthy things? Tomorrow I am going to tell you all about the Food as Medicine thing I’ve been doing.

Buon Appetito!


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That Burden is Light.

I’ve grown used to my arms aching in airports.

Before technology caught up with my insatiable reading habits, as a young girl, I’d pack at least seven books for a week long vacation. I carried them on because I wanted to read them and because well, they added more weight to the suitcase I checked which was almost always on the verge, if not over the 50 pound maximum, much to my parent’s chagrin and consternation.

My arms still ache in airports, my back too.

I carry on at least one real book with my iPad (and Kindle App), my camera, my computer, possibly a second lens, my various chargers, my meds (if I can fit them), and other things I don’t trust to put in my carry on. All this goes into a tote. A backpack would be easier on my body but the tote can double as an extremely large purse or beach bag for wherever I am going. So it all makes sense. Really, it does. Cross my heart.

That Burden is Light

Someone recently asked me to type up this letter of God’s promises to us as a favor. If I told you how many times I’ve learned this lesson (over and over again, like a dog that keeps going through the electric fence), the number may be as high as the number of emails in my inbox. Instead, I am trying to show myself grace, and the same gentleness I felt from God as he very kindly reminded me how little my spirit and soul should ache from the weight he puts on my shoulder (aka they should not ache at all).

Can it really be that easy? Can I know such lightness?

The truth is as He says. His burden is light, his yoke easy.

So what am I doing, what am I morphing it into to make it so dang heavy?

That Burden is Light 1

Well, you know. There’s that guilt thing. Oh, I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to upset her. Or, I have to do this because it will upset him if I don’t. There’s that shame thing. And that embarrassment thing. There are things born out of faux duty and with the appearance of intensity. There’s that perfectionist thing. There’s that trying to be someone I am not issue too. I could go on. But one thing I know is that none of these things are from God.

They make the burden on my shoulders quite heavy and I already have issues with chronic pain so something has got to give. Something always has to give. Thus, God teaching me this lesson approximately 3,500 times:

Look, Nina, this is not from me or of me. Because my burden? Oh Baby, that burden is light. And my yoke? Oh Baby, it’s easy. Look I’ve promised You and I keep my promises. 

So though I am not her greatest fan, I must look to Taylor Swift and her sage advice. When I feel the heaviness and the weight, I must shake it off. It’s not the easiest thing to do. You see, I have the type of personality that just loves adding weight to the burden and difficulty to that yoke. It requires gut checks from me on the regular. Sometimes I go so long carrying all the non-God given stuff that I am so used to the weight and the pain of it.

How uncool is that?

But the wonderful, marvelous thing is the truth: I can lay down every burden not from him and shake off all the extra yokes I seem to have put on myself. I can hand these things over to him. Because he wants me to do so. Because he wants his burden to be easy and his yoke to be light and because those are the only things I should be carrying or wearing.

That Burden is Light 2

Right now, a lot of my guilt (and therefore, burden) comes from my health. I often times feel like I am letting people down because I can’t fully participate in all things. Either I feel guilty for this or I feel awful and pressured when I push my body past its current limits. It’s frustrating. Instead of letting that frustration go and redirecting my energy towards getting better (which is going very well…perhaps that is part of the reason I have little patience for my body’s issues lately…I’ve seen improvement and I just want to be all the way there while I do have a long way to go), it just becomes this weight I can sometimes actually feel on my back. This guilt and pressure is a yoke I can be led by and it is self inflicted.

Well, here we are again–learning the same lesson all over again and all the better for it.

Have you ever felt like this? What are you learning right now?


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