Top 3 Building Blocks for Mom’s Nutrition Philosophy

Since I ranted about how nutrition is more of a philosophy than a science, I should probably share my philosophy with you!

It’s certainly still evolving (as, in my humble opinion, ever person’s philosophy should.), but I can divulge what seven years of study and personal attempts at wellness have taught me.

1. Eat Colorfully.

Nothing says bleh like a monotone meal- yellow, tan, and off-white don’t make for a nutritionally-balanced or visually appetizing meal. One of the easiest ways to eat healthfully is to eat things that have a variety of colors (NOT food coloring, of course, but natural colors). For example, yellow or orange often indicates Vitamin A. Purples, blues or reds often deliver a whole host of antioxidants. Greens usually deliver a dose of vitamin K. And most colorful foods mean a serving or three of fruits and veggies, which also tend to be high in fiber.  All important for keeping and feeling well.

2. Shake Things Up a Little.

If you eat a rotation of 4 or 5 different meals or if you find yourself buying the exact same grocery list every week, you’re likely not eating a balanced diet. I struggle with this because it is SO efficient when you know exactly what ingredients you need to have on hand, and you know exactly what shelf they are on in the grocery store (until they move everything around- but that’s another issue!).

Shoot for rotating at least 10 different meals and challenge yourself to try one new food a week. Fruits are an easy way to start adding new items to your diet! If you’re a banana and apples regular, try reaching for a kiwi or a melon instead. Grains are also an exceptional area for experimentation and adding a little spice to your family’s menu- have you tried quinoa yet? or wild rice? or buckwheat?

Variety is a great way to keep eating healthfully interesting.

3. Nature (Probably) Knows Best.

When it comes to demonizing processed foods, I’m not a big fan of the bandwagon.

However, it is unlikely that yellow #5, blue #1, red #40 and yellow #6 are providing ANY health benefit to me when added to my granola bar. It’s probably best to avoid “added.”  If it’s “added” we probably don’t need it- added coloring, added sugar (including High Fructose Corn Syrup), added fats (think: trans fats, saturated fats).

Now, let me just clarify- that does NOT mean that I don’t eat chocolate cake or ice cream or cheeseburgers.

I most definitely do.

These things just aren’t everyday occurences.

Color- Variety- Simple.

That’s my nutrition philosophy.

If you need some inspiration (Don’t we all!)- here’s a few great places to find new recipes for you and your family.

The Fresh Kitchen

Smitten Kitchen

The Whole Grains Council

Wow! And check out this list of food blogs- Best Healthy Cooking Blog of 2012

Nutrition Philosophy: Color, Variety, Simple

Nutrition Philosophy: Color, Variety, Simple


Apologetically Christian: A Blue Like Jazz Book Review

Blue Like Jazz is a must read for anyone who hates Christians.

Blue Like Jazz is the book that I wish I had written.

Blue Like Jazz is one of those moments in my life when so many thoughts and feelings finally converge into clarity and truth, bringing liberation and life.

Donald Miller somehow combines raw, real feeling and spiritual questioning into a masterpiece where Christians apologize to the “heathen” and Jesus’ true teachings are fully illuminated. Shelves could be filled with the books, seminars, messages from the pulpit, and writings defending Christianity, intellectually debating the legitimacy of scripture, and unapologetically proclaiming God.

Blue Like Jazz brings a brisk slap-in-the-face reality check, that perhaps Christians do need to do a little apologizing. Perhaps, laying down our defenses and loving unconditionally (no, really, unconditionally; not pretend “churchy” unconditionally) is just what this world needs to see the real Jesus. The real Jesus who was named a friend of tax collectors (the hated) and sinners (the despised). Blue Like Jazz challenged me to forgive myself for the times that I have failed to love, and to start now to love- unconditionally and apologetically.

Blue Like Jazz tells the story of so many of the kids who grew up in the church and had to leave when they found out that the “world” wasn’t full of demon-worshippers and hateful people. The kids who were confused at why the people outside the church were kinder than those who were in it. The kids who always felt like they were the red-headed-step-child, but found a place of belonging with the hippies in the woods (you’ll have to read it to understand that part 😉 ). The kids who desperately wanted to believe in Jesus, but got blinded along the way by His followers.  The kids who loved God, but didn’t want to be Republicans. Have you been there? Read this book.

Blue Like Jazz is the story of a kid like me. I wish I had written Blue Like Jazz.

Finally, Don brings into focus so many questions and lays out beautifully the clarity that can be experienced in the midst of the questions. There’s no guilt that having faith means having doubts. There’s no lie, no wall built as if Christians have all of the answers.  There’s just faith and a belief that following Jesus means life, because Jesus frees us from ourselves.  His teachings illuminate the greatest lie and free us from it.  The greatest lie is that life is a story about me. That my needs, wants, and desires, when fulfilled, will bring me the greatest happiness.  The truth is found in the teaching of Jesus that whoever loses his life will find it. Serving others is the highest calling. Loving others is the most powerful tool.


I wish I could do Blue Like Jazz justice in a short book review. I can’t. You just have to read it.  If you’ve read it once already- read it again. I know I will. The pages are underlined and dog-eared, but now I need to find my highlighter. It’s just that good.


Peer Management: Stop the Mommy Wars

Becoming a mom automatically entered me into the largest sorority of sisters on the planet. I have never had more interaction at Target or the grocery store in my life, especially from adorable older women. And I love it. Liliana loves it. There is nothing sweeter than hearing compliments directed at your sweet baby.

Unfortunately there is also a dark side of the sorority that comes with the not-so-secret sisterhood!

Mommy wars.

Now, this isn’t really exclusive to moms and definitely occurs in the workplace as well. We all have the opportunity each day to build one another up or tear each other down. I propose, however, especially as moms- we need to lay down our weapons of people destruction and replace them with life-giving actions instead. Here are just a few of the biggies:


Judgement often sounds like “I can’t believe she…” or “I would never…”

Instead try to think and use words like “How is your day going?” or “I really like the way you talk to your kiddo. I hope I can communicate that well.”

Choose positivity over negativity.


We all do it. We all shouldn’t. Especially as women, we tend to rank ourselves on the social totem-pole based on exterior things- the way we lose the baby weight or don’t. The way we keep our house or don’t. The way our kids behave or don’t. The way we fill-in-the-blank or don’t. We get discouraged when we think someone else is more “super mom” than we are and we get an ego boost when we can say, “Well at least I am better this way or that.”

Comparison is defeating and deadly to self-confidence, both yours and the mom you’re comparing to. So stop! For heaven’s sake, stop. Compare yourself to yourself yesterday. Become a better you each day and don’t worry about other moms. This is even more difficult in today’s digital world because we get to choose what to share on our public profiles, leaving everyone else to believe that our lives must be perfect.


Quote Source:

No one’s life is as perfect as it may look from the outside. Realize that everyone struggles and everyone has outtakes. Be kind to yourself and gentle with others who may look like everything is perfect, but may be secretly struggling with something. Looking past someone’s perceived perfection may also open your eyes to another opportunity to be an encouragement.


Nothing kills friendships or relationships more quickly than talking behind someone’s back. If you talk to friend A about friend B, the. first. thought. that friend B is having is, “Wow, what do they say when I’m not around?” It is never a good idea to gossip.

Gossip sounds like, “Did you hear what [negative thing] she did?” or sometimes, “Wow, we really need to pray for friend B.”  Be careful what you share with others when you have been confided in.

Replace these with,”Did you hear what [positive thing] she did?” or “She is so great at party planning [or other positive attributes].”  People tend to rise to the occasion when they hear they have a positive reputation for something.

For example, I laugh awfully loudly. I realized this when I was younger, but did not realize until I was older that people really appreciate my laugh. When I realized that my laugh encouraged others to relax and laugh, I released the full potential of my laughter and never apologized for it again.

Or in the workplace, speaking positively of a colleague’s work in front of them will boost their confidence and their motivation to continue to work hard to maintain their positive reputation.

In the end, the mommy wars is something I don’t want to tolerate. We can do better, moms!

Take a challenge with me- tell one other mom today something that you noticed that they do great! It only takes a moment, but can bring life to someone else’s day. Happy Friday!

Know Nutrition? or No Nutrition?

As moms, we often bear the lion’s share of providing food for our family. We tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to provide the healthiest possible menu and/or lay guilt on ourselves when we think we don’t. As a mom with a Masters of Nutrition Science, let me help relieve some of your angst by letting you in on a little secret that the “nutrition establishment” may not want you to know.

Nutrition is more of a philosophy than a science.


Don’t believe me? Ask two graduates of the exact same program their opinion on high fructose corn syrup and you’re likely to get two (or more!) different answers.

Start a discussion on Facebook about what “healthy” means and you will get responses that vary considerably.

Is meat good or should I be a vegetarian?

Should I take a multivitamin or only get my nutrition from foods?

Are fruits and vegetables good for me? Or only vegetables?

Should I eat whole grains or is all wheat (gluten) bad for me?

I could go on and on and on and on… because everyone has their own philosophy.

Why is nutrition so tricky?  Why, after having studied nutrition for 6 years (B.S. and M.S. Nutrition Science), do I know that we have more questions than answers? Here’s a bit of the inside scoop on why nutrition is so confusing and controversial.

1. Most nutrition research is based on observational, rather than intervention studies.

There are several different types of research studies. Each type offers a different level of “certainty” that can be stated from the conclusions. For example, a researcher performs a clinical trial investigating the effects of a new pharmaceutical drug that may lower blood pressures.  They recruit 50 participants suffering from high blood pressure into the study and they divide them into two groups. One group is given the intervention (the pharmaceutical drug); The other group is given a placebo (a sugar pill, essentially, that looks similar to the intervention but has no actual medicine in it). The results are that the intervention group see a reduction in their blood pressure over the duration of the study.  This is the “gold standard” of research – a clinical trial that can (for the most part, but still with a few caveats) prove causation of an action. Participant has high blood pressure- takes pill- reduces blood pressure.

VERY FEW-almost NO nutrition knowledge is based on straightforward clinical trial research studies. Instead, most nutrition knowledge is based on observational studies or epidemiological studies. In this type of study, a group of people (usually in the tens of thousands (20,000; 40,000; 50,000 etc) ) are recruited to participate in research via filling out a survey every ten years OR data is mined from large databases or other studies such as the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey). These data can be used to draw correlations, but not causation. For example, this group of 3,000 participants consumed more whole grains and experienced lower rates of cardiovascular disease. That is interesting, perhaps whole grains lower the risk of heart disease.

There are many great reasons why most nutrition knowledge is gathered this way, but that is another whole topic! Suffice it to say for now, that it is difficult to make “for sure” statements in the world of nutrition research.

2. Nutrition is intricate.

Oh yes, I’m going to go there– let’s look at High Fructose Corn Syrup for a minute. Do a web search for HFCS and you will find everything from “5 reasons HFCS will kill you” to “High-Fructose Corn Syrup Is Bad For Everything: It Might Be Killing The Bees.”

Let’s get detailed.

What is the difference between sugar (sucrose) and High Fructose Corn Syrup?

One chemical bond.

Both sugar and HFCS are made up of roughly the same ratio of two molecules- glucose and fructose. Sugar is a perfect 50:50 mix and the glucose and fructose molecules are bonded together through one carbon linkage. HFCS is usually a 55% fructose and 42% glucose mix in foods like soft drinks or about 42% fructose and 53% glucose in foods like baked goods. (You can see the name HIGH Fructose Corn Syrup can be slightly misleading. Fructose may be higher or glucose may be higher.) But a major difference lies in the fact that the fructose and glucose molecules are NOT linked together.

So, how do we determine whether or not HFCS is as evil as activists would like us to believe? We feed it to rats. We feed it to humans. We watch and try to draw conclusions.  The problem here is that HFCS has only been around since the 1950’s and we’ve only been doing research on it for even less time. This means that the body of evidence (all of the research related to HFCS consumption and health) is extremely young, inconclusive, and changing every day. This article is a good example of the contradictory nature of research because of variations in study design and other factors: Sucrose, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, and Fructose, Their Metabolism and Potential Health Effects: What Do We Really Know? This article demonstrates why it is important to use logic and common sense in the short-term while science tries to piece together answers. Logically, it is more likely that any added sugar (HFCS or sugar) will contribute to negative health impacts, rather than HFCS being an evil, manmade death bullet.  And the better approach to staying healthy is to try to reduce added sugars whenever possible.

But the jury is still out? …

3. Food is more than Nutrition.

Lastly, why do we eat? We eat to nourish our bodies, yes, but we also

eat for enjoyment.

We eat for celebration.

We eat because we’re bored.

We eat a certain way to identify with a certain crowd.

We eat to fit in.

We eat to define our status.

We eat what is available.

We eat what is popular in our culture.

We eat what we grow.

We eat because someone offered us food.

We eat to remember.

We eat to forget.

There are a million, bijillion different reasons that we eat, which is why I can have all of the nutrition knowledge in the world, and still choose to eat cake. When it comes to nutrition, our knowledge frequently outweighs our practice.

But I hope this blog has helped to alleviate the idea that one nutrition philosophy is superior to all. I hope you trust yourself more and question the experts more.  I hope you doubt yourself less and take the latest research fad with a grain of salt (:pun intended!). It is important as we raise our families not to make our children afraid of food, but to celebrate food for all of the things that it is in our lives. Food is tradition. Food is a blessing! Food makes us stronger. Trust your judgement when it comes to your family’s nutrition and enjoy. your. food!

If you STILL don’t believe me that nutrition is a matter of interpretation and philosophy, just ask Bill Cosby…

Four Steps to Life after Fulfilled Dreams

The man. The ring. The dress. The degree. The career. The dogs. The kids. Still waiting for a white picket fence….but it struck me the other day that so many of my childhood dreams have been fulfilled and it made me wonder- what am I dreaming for these days? Am I dreaming big enough? Am I even dreaming? This post is a pep talk for myself and all of us moms to keep on dreaming and a few steps for helping others if you’ve also been so blessed!

While growing up, I wished for. Prayed for. Dreamed for the days that I now find myself living. It’s so easy to get comfortable and find myself living in a daze, so impatient that I miss today by living in my checklist. Here are four steps that I find necessary to ground myself and keep reaching for the stars even while living in fulfilled dreams.

1. Be Thankful.

Sometimes I forget how many blessings are already staring me in the face every day. I find it so much easier to dwell on the problems

(The man– relational pains and stinky laundry. The ring– actually, that’s perfect :). The dress– I bet it doesn’t fit anymore! The degree– maybe I should have gone for journalism instead?!? The career– my work is meaningless. The dogs– there is hair EVERYWHERE! The kid– feed. clean. sleep. repeat.)

that come with my fulfilled dreams rather than celebrate the joys

(The man– best friend and love. The ring– still perfect. The dress– thankful for my health. The degree– thankful for the ability to write and know how to eat healthful foods. The career– great consulting gig lets me stay home with my little one. The dogs– their ridiculous, unconditional love. The kid– my heart overflows at her smile.).

So many times, a perspective shift towards my now is all that it takes to free my heart to dream new possibilities for my future.

Also, I am challenging myself to actually BE thankful. I didn’t get to where I am today on my own. Others helped me get here. Tell people that you are thankful for their influence in your life. And most importantly, tell the Giver of all good gifts. James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

2. Help Someone Else Fulfill Their Dreams.

Let’s face it- we all screw up along the way. Some of us fall harder or further, but no one doesn’t fall.  Dreaming big means risking failure and one of the best ways to make all those bruises worth while is to help others avoid the pitfalls that swallowed us up. Posting warning signs on others’ path to fulfilled dreams makes the journey worth the cost.

Besides avoiding failure, you may have learned a trick or two along the way that may provide insight on how others can get to their dreams faster or better. Find opportunities to tell them! Seek out mentees and be open when they are looking for you. Seek out mentors and be open to what they have to teach you. Mentorship is not a new idea, but it’s a great one. The early church was commanded to practice mentorship! And it is just as applicable for the workplace and our homes. Titus 2:3-4 “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children.”

3. Dream On.

Don’t stop dreaming- ever. for ANY reason. If anything, as an adult, there is even more to dream for. The world is bigger. The stakes are higher. And more resources are within my reach. I dream for myself. I dream for my husband. I dream for my friends, and now I dream for my daughter.

Dream in pictures. Dream in words. Tell others about your dreams. My husband knows that I dream of a house where I can see either the sunrise or the sunset, doesn’t matter which one, but it’s a dream for our future home. Dream in sync (No, not about *NSYNC- all you Children of the 90’s moms!). I mean in sync with God. Psalm 37:4 says that when we submit our desires to God, He will align our dreams to His. The best dreams (and really the only ones worth dreaming!) are those that place us in the center of God’s will for our lives. Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

4. Get It in Writing.

The man. The dogs. The kids. The career. The house- all those wonderfully fulfilled dreams are now vying for my every minute.  The only way that I find myself continuing to move my new dreams forward is if I write. it. down. Don’t be afraid to step out and do what scares you. The first date was awkward. Labor was intimidating and a lot of work. The interview was nervewracking. Every dream has an uncertain beginning. Writing down your goal will increase the likelihood that you will risk the rejection, failure, and fear in order to obtain it. Sketch a plan for getting to where you want to be- one step at a time. Be intentional about your actions.


As kids, we didn’t have to be reminded to dream. We knew we had so much to look forward to. Join me this week as I remind myself to be intentional about putting my head in the clouds and keep dreaming toward my future and what God wants me to be.



My name is Denise,

and I’m a non-fiction addict.

[Ok, so I know that Al-Anon is for the families of addicts and not the addicts themselves, but it made for a better title. Bear with me. I have a confession.]

I don’t read fiction.

Isn’t that weird?

With the exception of a few of the classics and the Little House series, I find it hard to devote much time to reading fiction. I think it started somewhere around community college with my first copy (yes, I said first copy) of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

That is why you will find that my book reviews are primarily of the non-fiction variety.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Phew.

However, I AM interested in any recommendations for great reads- either fiction OR nonfiction. I’m looking forward to reading more as I stay home during this chapter of my life.

So, how about it? What good books have you read lately?

It started young- Thomas Edison's biography!

It started young- Thomas Edison’s biography!

Never Eat Alone (As if Moms Have a Choice): A Book Review

Moms-We’re lucky if we eat warm food, let alone eat alone. Here’s why that may be a good thing!

Since I’m home with an infant the majority of my time these days, I find a certain amount of comfort in reading books written by adults. I do love me some good Dr. Seuss and have already started reading it to my girl.  However, when I’m wandering around the pages of a good, made-for-adults book, it’s like I’m getting more adult conversation than I actually am.

A recent “conversation” I had was with Mr. Keith Ferrazzi  through “Never Eat Alone: and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.”


I would not hesitate to label this book the Bible of networking skills. It is clear that Mr. Ferrazzi has a passion and talent for networking. This is obviously relevant to someone’s career, but for moms provides a dual benefit to both the workplace and the home. The following are just a few of the many tips that I walked away with from this read.

Put People First– Do you ever feel torn between housework, work, your kids, your friendships, and a zillion other to-dos on your to-do list? Ferrazzi urges everyone to implement an important lesson. The sooner this lesson is learned, the more colleagues you will add to your network:

Deadlines second, people first.

Additionally, Ferrazzi reminds us of a simple lesson that your mom would be proud if you followed- respect everyone, not just the bigwigs. He highlights the importance in the business world of respecting the ‘gatekeeper’ or administrative/executive assistants for people who have those. For moms this may translate respecting other moms or people who may be down a rung or two on the social ladder.

Don’t Be Afraid to Have an Opinion– Ferrazzi dubs this section as “Be Interesting.” Often (especially in Minnesota!), we sugarcoat our opinion or don’t speak out loud about our accomplishments.  As long as these conversational tinders are couched in respect and humility, they are the neccessary fuel to keep the relational flame burning.  If you do not have anything interesting to say, the small talk will end at “what do you do?” and “here is my card.”  Another great question to ask yourself, would you want to invite yourself to a lunch date? I found that this is especially true for young professionals. Once you can get past the initial self-talk that tells you that you do not have as much experience of others in the room and believe that your opinion matters,  you find that your voice (as a young person and/or as a woman) brings new insights to the conversation that will not be there if you do not share. Check out this article for more on women and the need to speak up- In Business, Act Like a Gentleman, Behave Like a Lady)

Practical Tips– Some of the advice is just practical information that is great to know. For instance, Thursdays are a great night for dinner parties. Remember birthdays. Call people. Email people. Write people. Ferrazzi calls this “pinging.” Present yourself well and always, always remember names (so. hard. to. do!).

Conference Fishing– I’ve seen it work and it definitely has power. Being involved at large events whether that is the P.T.A., a conference, or even a kid’s birthday party, offers moms and professionals the opportunity to meet new people. The process is simple- know who’s coming, identify the people you’d like to meet and/or bump into, be sincere in your conversation, and secure their intention to meet again, preferrably in person. The last and most important step to conference fishing is to follow-up. Immediately. Don’t wait a day or two. Send a follow-up note, email, or card immediately. One conference caution that I appreciated the most is don’t act like you’re actually there for the agenda; be there for the people.

Although I highly recommend Never Eat Alone as a primer for those looking to make the most of relationships and stay connected despite a busy schedule, one point in which I disagreed with Mr. Ferrazzi was a chapter about work-life balance. He states that balance is not something that one should strive to find because as he treats his business relationships with the amount of sincerity as his family relationships he could “spend my birthday at a business conference and be surrounded with warmth and wonderful friends or I could be at home with equally close friends to celebrate (pg. 287).”  While I appreciate what he is trying to say and the level to which he is trying to bring his professional relationships, I wonder if (hypothetically) a significant other and/or children would feel happy about him being gone on special days. On the flip side, a point I particularly enjoyed in the same chapter was the idea that we all need more “refigerator rights relationships”- friends who can walk into your home and feel comfortable digging through the fridge. In our ever digitally-connected-age, it is easy to lose the art of personal and close relationships IRL (In Real Life).

Mr. Ferrazzi eloquently instructs the reader on the art of networking in Never Eat Alone- do you have any relationship building tips that you have found to be important in your life- whether with other moms, your spouse, or your kids?