Monday, January 9, 2012

Effective use of PointsPlus values

Just how do you work it out so you have enough PointsPlus values remaining at the end of your day? 

For me, I plan my dinners FIRST!  I make sure I know exactly what I'm having for dinner each night, down to side dishes and toppings on my salads (different types of dressings have different PP values!).  I make sure to reserve those PP for dinner and adjust my breakfast and lunch accordingly.

Here's the planning document I use to plan my meals:  (I start my week on Saturday because I generally do my shopping on Friday)  It's just something I made in PowerPoint, nothing fancy...but if you'd like me to email you the Power Point let me know, I'd be happy to share!

The first thing I do is fill in my dinners for the week:
I figure out the PP values for my dinners for the week, then write the remaining balance for the day to the right.  (Sorry, I scratched some out before I remembered to take the picture).  I do this because dinner is the most important dinner of the day for me.  I want to eat the same thing that my family is eating.  I already refuse to make different meals for the kids, so why would I cook a special meal for myself?  Some of my recipes aren't necessarily "Weight Watchers friendly", but that's the whole point of Weight Watchers...eating what you want, just controlling your portions and being aware of what you're putting in your body.  I just have to adjust what I have for breakfast and lunch if I'm having a high PP value dinner.

After I have my dinners all figured out, I fill in the rest of my meal plan for the week:
It isn't pretty, but it gets the job done :)  I like having my entire week of meals planned out, including snacks, because it takes the guess work out of it.  If I'm feeling a little hungry in the afternoon and I want a snack, I'll just look at my meal plan instead of looking in the pantry!  I really do find that I do a better job staying on track when I do this. 

Now, of course there are times when I stray from "the plan", but I don't get all thrown off when I do.  I just make simple adjustments for the day and make sure I stick with the same number of PP values for my breakfast and lunch so I can still have the same dinner.  The best part of WW is the 49 Flex points you get every week!  So if I go over by 1 or 2 PP sometimes, it's not going to kill my week.

You may have noticed on Wednesday, I planned 3 PP for a beer.  I decided to go ahead and track the beer this week, but once I get into a good routine and feel back in control of my diet, I'll use flex points for my alcoholic beverages.  I'm not a big fan of using points for drinks, I like to save them for food!!  But, sometimes a girl just needs a drink :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Meal Planning 101

My biggest struggle is how to plan good, healthy meals that fit in well with Weight Watchers.  I have several WW cookbooks, but honestly I don't want to eat out of those three cookbooks every day.  Figuring out the PointsPlus values on your own recipes is no easy task.  Well, it's not that it's hard, it's just time consuming.  When I get recipes off of the internet sometimes they'll have the nutrition information so that makes it easy to use my WW PointsPlus Calculator to get the values for the meal.  Here's how to get the values for a recipe you like to make but have no nutrition information with it...

The recipe I'm going to use can be found here.  Stephanie O'Dea's Chicken Enchilada Chili.  One of our favorite, go to crockpot meals! 

Basically, what you want to do is figure out the PP value for each ingredient, not per serving, but for the entire recipe.  It looks like a lot of PP, but when you divide it down into servings it's obviously much more manageable!

1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts) I figured up to be 24 PP
1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce (2 cans) is 9 PP
2 chopped celery stalks is 0 PP
2 14.5 oz cans of tomatoes is 4 PP
2 15 oz cans of kidney beans is 25 PP
The rest of the ingredients are 0 PP

The total for this entire recipe is 62 PointsPlus values.  If this was a casserole I could easily cut it into even servings and divide the 62 by that.  Unfortunately this is chili.  So the first time I divided it out into even serving sizes (I decided I wanted to make this into 6 servings).  Simple enough...62 divided by 6 is about 10 PointsPlus values.  I just make sure to divide the full meal out into servings before we sit down to eat.  I serve up two servings (one for hubby, one for me), then I put one serving in a container for the fridge for leftovers the next day, then the other three servings I put right into freezer bags and put them in the freezer for later. 

I serve cornbread to go along with this almost every time and here's the breakdown for that:

1 c cornmeal (12)
1 c flour (11)
2 Tbsp sugar (2)
1 c skim milk (2)
1 egg (2)
1/4 c vegetable oil (14)

Total:  43 PointsPlus values.

The square baking dish is easily cut into 9 even pieces of cornbread, which divided out to about 5 PointsPlus values per piece of cornbread (totally worth every bit of it!!).

So, when I know I'm making this meal for dinner, I know I need to allot 15 of my 29 daily PP values.  Easy enough!

Let me know if you have any questions!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Getting back on track

Every year I'm sure thousands and thousands of people resolve to "get back on track" or "lose weight" or "get back to a certain size".  Fundamentally we all know exactly what we need to do to achieve those goals.  The problem is we make excuses to ourselves as to what we haven't done it.  Here are some of my favorites...

~I don't like to waste food (eating our kids' leftovers)
~I just don't have the energy
~I'm at home with the kids all day
~I don't have time
~I can't afford to eat healthy
~I've tried on my own, but I need help
~"insert your best excuse here"

I'm guilty of using some of these excuses.  I'm a stay at home mom, with little to no energy and some days I feel like I don't have the time to dedicate to leading a healthy lifestyle.  I've tried on my own in the past and have failed.  I've also tried on my own in the past and succeeded!  The difference?  I had the drive to do it.  I really want to be healthy.  I want to teach my girls by doing, not by saying.  If I show them by example that you don't have to "diet" your entire life, they will grow up to be more confident and they will KNOW how to feed their own families one day.  I struggle so much with my diet because I didn't grow up in a household where we naturally ate healthy.  We had very few fresh fruits in the house and at over-cooked, boiled vegetables.  When we had the occasional fresh salad we loved it!  Now, don't take that as I grew up in a house eating fast food all the time or the worst foods ever.  That isn't the case either, I just think my mom didn't know...also, we really couldn't afford fresh fruit and all the veggies came from PapPa's garden.  PapPa also had a small beef farm where we got our beef from and raised pigs for pork.  So, there you have it...we ate a lot of beef and pork!

We all KNOW how to lose weight.  Burn more calories than you take in.  Simple, right?  In theory.  But why do we all have such a hard time just doing it??  Why can't I just put in my mouth the foods that are good for me and avoid the foods that are bad for me?  It drives me crazy!

This year I'm getting back on track (again).  I'm done having kids so it's time to get my body where I want it to be, get back to cooking healthy meals and stop giving my kids convenience items.  My girls love fresh chicken nuggets, why do I keep buying the overprocessed ones??  Because it's easy...It's time to start leading my family by example and doing what's best for all of us.  Get us into healthy habits that will last a lifetime and stop serving foods just because they're "kid foods".  Who says good, healthy dinners aren't "kid food"?  My girls will eat almost anything I give them, so why do I keep giving them mac & cheese and frozen fish sticks?  Ugh...

Through this blog I'll be posting the meals I'm feeding my family.  I'll post recipes (or links to recipes) and give you the Weight Watchers PointsPlus values I've figured up for them.  Now, as a disclaimer, the points I'll figure up will be according to the specific brands of foods I'm using and weights of meats I'm using.  If you want EXACT numbers for your meal, then please figure them up on your own.  Or feel free to use my number as figure it as "close enough"...  :)

Please give me some feedback if you make any of the recipes and let me know how you (and your kids!) like them.  I'll work on getting some pictures of my meals too...but don't expect professional quality, I'm just an amateur and generally use my iPhone to take pictures!  :)

Chicken Thighs with Spinach and Mushrooms

And another Weight Watchers recipe to share with you.  I LOVE this one and so do my girls!  We eat a lot of chicken thighs in our house because a) they're cheaper than breasts and b) the PointsPlus value is the same as breasts for one serving!  Oh, and they're super yummy and moist!

1 (8-ounce) package no-yolk wide egg noodles
1 lb skinless bonelss chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 (8-ounce) package white mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1/4 lb plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I leave the seeds in...who has time to take them out??)
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (I use my homemade broth, but don't know how it affects the PP value, I don't make any adjustments)
1 bunch baby spinach  (The recipe doesn't specify, but I like to do a coarse chop on the spinach so we don't have big pieces in the meal)
1/4 c low-fat (1%) milk (I use skim because that's what we keep on hand)
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook egg noodles according to package directions, omitting salt if desired; drain.  Keep warm.
2.  Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp of pepper.  Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and cook, turning, until browned.  Transfer to plate.
3.  Add mushrooms and onion to skillet; cook, stirring, until mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes.  Return chicken to skillet.  Stir in tomatoes, broth, and remaining 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper; bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
4.  Stir in spinach, milk and Parmesan into chicken mixture.  Cook, stirring, until spinach is wilted.  Serve over noodles.

One serving is about 1 1/2 cups and is 8 PointsPlus values.  Not too shabby!  The only problem with this yummy recipe is sticking to only one serving!!  (Sometimes I'll allot 16 points for my dinner just so I can have a second helping)  :)

Weight Watchers Baked Ziti

Here's another Weight Watchers recipe we'll be enjoying later this month.  The portion size on this recipe is smaller than I would normally eat, but I serve it with a piece of garlic bread (Texas Toast) for 4 points plus, and a salad (however big I feel I need...) for 2-3 points, depending on toppings, and it makes a really big, satisfying meal.

Weight Watchers Baked Ziti

3 sprays cooking spray
1 pound uncooked pasta, rigatoni or penne
3/4 pound part-skim ricotta cheese (I've substituted cottage cheese)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese, divided
4 c store-bought marinara sauce, divided*
1/2 pound shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 c basil, cut into ribbons, for garnish (I leave this off or will add some dried basil to the sauce for flavor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat bottom and sides of a lasagna pan with cooking spray.  Cook pasta according to package directions; rinse with cool water and drain.

While pasta is cooking, in a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, red pepper flakes, 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese and 1/3 c marinara sauce.

To assemble ziti, spoon 1/2 c sauce on bottom or prepared pan; top with half of pasta in an even layer.  Evenly spread pasta with ricotta mixture; cover with half of remaining sauce. Top with remaining pasta and spoon remaining sauce over top; sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining Tbsp Parmesan.  Bake until cheese melts and is browned, about 20 to 30 minutes.  Allow zitit to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing into 12 pieces.  Yields 1 piece per serving.

*If you don't have a store-bought sauce on hand, you can use fire-roasted diced tomatoes instead (could affect PointsPlus value).

You could also add any kind of lean meat to this recipe, just be sure to add in the PointsPlus value for the meat!!)

Smothered Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

4 (6-oz) bone-in pork loin chips, trimmed  (I use boneless most of the time)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
1/4 c water
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1 c reduced-sodium beef broth
1 tsp whole-grain Dijon mustard  (I use whatever spicy brown mustard I happen to have on hand)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme  (I use about a tsp of dried)

1.  Sprinkle the chops with the salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chops and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.
2.  Add the onions and water to the skillet; bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very tender, 12-15 minutes.
3.  Sprinkle the onions with the flour; cook, stirring constantly 1 minute.  Add the broth, mustard, and thyme; bring to a boil, stirring until the sauce bubbles and thickens.  Return the chops and any accumulated juices to the skillet.  Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chops are heated through, 2-3 minutes.

6 WW points plus values for 1 chop and 1/4 cup of sauce!!  Not bad for a delicious dinner!

This is what's for dinner tonight!  It's one of our favorites, even our 3 1/2 year old and 16 month old like to eat it.  I usually just leave the extra sauce off of theirs and try to keep the onions off of their plates.  Tonight I'm serving this meal with some kind of pasta and canned green beans.

I'll be posting more of my favorite Weight Watchers recipes soon, so stay tuned!

Monday, January 2, 2012

What's Cooking?

It's a new year!!  What are you cooking this week?

Here's our menu for the week...

Monday:  Make-ahead Manicotti (can be found on
Tuesday:  Homemade Turkey Potpie (made with leftover Christmas turkey, homemade broth and I'm even going to go crazy and make the pie crusts!!)
Wednesday:  Leftovers (Hey, momma needs a break sometimes!!)
Thursday:  Smothered Pork Chops (a Weight Watchers recipe that is one of my favorites)
Friday:  Asian-Inspired Salmon (a recipe I found on the website YEARS ago that I still love to make)
Saturday:  Fettuccini Carbonara (can also be found on

I'm trying to have some "regular" meals to make my meal planning easier.  Monday is meatless meals (saves on our budget).  Tuesdays will be chicken (the cheapest meat I can find).  Wednesdays will be a crockpot meal or leftovers (We go to play after school on Wednesdays so I need an easy meal night).  Thursdays will be beef or pork. Fridays will be seafood night.  Saturdays will be the night to try a new recipe or to have leftovers if I'm not feeling ambitious enough to try a new recipe!

By categorizing each day of the week, it made it super easy to go ahead and plan out dinners for the entire month of January.  Yay!  Now I have a list of all the meats or other items I don't generally keep on hand so I can watch the sales flyers from our local stores to see when something goes on sale.  Then I can pick it up when it's on sale and SAVE MONEY!!  The only downside to planning the whole month at once is that I'm sure hubby will come to me at some point and say, "We haven't had chicken fajitas in a while.  Any chance we could have them TONIGHT?"  :)  I'll just have to tell him they'll go on the menu the first Tuesday in February.  Ha!

Happy New Year and Happy Cooking!!!