Mar 012017

So, I set out with a strategic plan, that’s right people.  My spontaneous, right brained self was in a giving mood-it was time for the dormant logical, mathematical left brain (in which my husband uses every minute of the day) to have a turn in the driver’s seat.  Although this activity felt strange, I pushed through.  And I did have to verbally process it with someone or I am pretty sure my brain would explode.  And I digress.  All this to say, I came up with a Lenten season plan-No sugar or carbs (oh the joys of fasting-or as I call it, Getting rid of the thing which, if someone asked you to not incorporate this in your day or week, you get a little eye twitch because it doesn’t feel real fun or even possible.)  Ouch.  Since pretty much most of what I eat involves one of these (not really, but you get the point).

But in all seriousness, fasting is a spiritual discipline which only benefits us as it draws us closer to looking more like Jesus-submitting to the Father’s will and way and not our own in our day to day (and this ultimately is true life and freedom). I want to eat healthier, I want to “go to” my God for direction and comfort in the day and not have a looming donut dancing in my mind’s thoughts.

And now we get to today.  Today, some celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season.  6 weeks of preparation/a season of grief in remembering Christ’s death on the cross in anticipation of the end-the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter.  I have to admit, having not grown up in a church which partook in the Lenten season, or held an Ash Wednesday service for that matter, I was not quite sure what this day entailed.  So, I got pulled out all the spiritual stops and googled it (sorry to the Lenten scholars out there who are cringing and finding some flaws in my below summary) and here’s what I found:

The distinctive activity of Ash Wednesday services is the “imposition of ashes.” Ashes in the shape of a cross are placed on people’s foreheads as a reminder of our mortality and sinfulness.  The primary purpose of Ash Wednesday entails the biblical roots involving creation, sin, mortality, death, grace, and salvation.  It is also centered around the scriptures, “weep with those who weep” and  “confess your sins to one another.”

Pastor Mark D. Roberts says:

What I value most about Ash Wednesday is the chance for us all to openly acknowledge our frailty and sinfulness. In a world that often expects us to be perfect, Ash Wednesday gives us an opportunity to freely confess our imperfections. We can let down our pretenses and be truly honest with each other about who we are.  

So, in light of Pastor Roberts words, I confess to you my imperfections, on this Ash Wednesday: Because in spite of all my left brained efforts of carefully strategizing my no sugar/carbs fasting plan beginning today, I am drinking a Pumpkin Spice latte as I write this post.

You got it, a sugary sugar drink with extra sugar is what I ordered this morning at my favorite local coffee shop.  What a way to kick off the Lenten season as I forgot and failed right from day. 1.  Wow.  Pretty sure this 6 weeks is going.  to.  be.  long.  But I tell you this because our God is not up in heaven shaking His finger at me at this moment, because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, He is extending grace, grace and more grace mixed with some of His crazy love.

And so I encourage you to join me for the next 6 weeks and prayerfully consider something you could “let go of” in order to focus more on what God has for you in this season/year.  And if you aren’t perfect or you forget or you fail or fall to temptation, will you remember my  “failure from day 1”?  You are not alone and His promises of “His grace is sufficient for you” and “His mercies are new every morning” and “His love never fails” are for you, as they are for me today.  

And no matter whether you choose to incorporate a strategized fasting plan or not this Lenten season, will you promise me one thing?  Bask in the grace of our loving Father God and listen to this song by Hawk Nelson and “live like you’re loved” today-  Because we have life in His death.  No shame, no guilt, we are only more than enough as we walk in the freedom and love and identity as a child of God.  



© 2012 Standing on Peace

Jan 302013

Ok, I’ll admit it: I’ve always been a cereal girl. It’s been my post-race snack after high school cross country, comfort food in college and my favorite breakfast food. But while I was pregnant, I got unexpected news that would change not only my breakfast routine, but my perspective as well.

My relationship with food has not always been a good one. Being a perfectionist, I’ve spent much of my life reading nutrition labels and wanting to control every bite I took.

However, I was in a good place when I got pregnant. I finally had freedom, peace and enjoyment when it came to food. I’d embraced the idea that pregnancy would change my body, but I was determined to do everything I could to be the “perfect” pregnant woman.

To me, this meant I would enjoy “eating for two”, but I’d also work out like crazy so as to not gain much extra weight.

Until the halfway point of my pregnancy, everything was normal. My husband and I were thrilled when we learned that we were expecting a little girl.

Then, around the 20 week mark, I had to take a routine glucose tolerance test. After failing it, and a more extensive test
that followed, I got the less thrilling news that I had Gestational Diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes (GD) is a diagnosis of elevated blood glucose levels in pregnant women. The hormones in the placenta that help a baby develop can also block the insulin from doing its job: changing blood sugar into energy.

When I got the news of my GD, I was shocked and embarrassed. For someone who prided herself on eating healthy and being active, this was not what I expected. Didn’t overweight people get diabetes?

I was frustrated. After finally experiencing peace and enjoyment over food, I was going to have to analyze and read the labels of everything I ate to monitor the sugar content. I had to prick my finger three times a day to check my
glucose levels. The fun of “eating for two” was over.

Many people- including dear friends of mine- deal with much more serious struggles during pregnancy. But as I look back on my months with GD, I realize that it wasn’t wasted. I did learn a few things about perfection, sacrifice, and of course, sugar.

  • Perfection is impossible. The definition of a perfect pregnancy wasn’t contingent on how cute I looked or how much weight I gained. Embracing the imperfection in my situation allowed me to connect with others and recognize my dependence on God. Letting go of the desire to be perfect is a skill I hope to pass along to my little girl.
  • Sacrifice is a cornerstone of parenthood. I experienced unique sacrifice early on as I had to give up many foods I loved (hello, cereal!) that weren’t good for my baby. Recognizing that I needed to prioritize my child was good “perspective shift” for my self-focused mentality.
  • I made healthy changes to my diet. I was careful to limit my sugar (carbohydrate) intake… especially in the morning. This meant exchanging my beloved cereal for a protein-rich breakfast of eggs; granola bars and crackers for almonds and Greek yogurt. Changes like this allowed me to manage my GD and also my pregnancy weight gain. I was able to gain only a moderate amount of weight and lose it quickly after delivery.

Though I would have loved a more simple pregnancy, I realize that it was still amazing because of the gift of my beautiful daughter and the things I learned along the way. And guess what I now crave in the morning for breakfast…. Eggs!

By guest writer Beth Cieminis: Beth is a stay at home mom to her little girl, Leah. She has a background in teaching physical education. She and her husband reside in Orange County.

Oct 302012

One of the most common questions I get asked as a nutritionist is, “What kinds of things do you avoid at the grocery store?”.  My mental “red flag list” has taken shape through education, trial and error.

Please, don’t read and process this through the eyes or ears of judgement. Some of you have experienced radical mama’s who won’t let their kids eat your kids’ snacks – if you know what I mean.  That’s not me.  This is NOT another diet or stifling list of do’s and don’ts.

Please note the links in each listing.  These will give you further information on the topic if you would like to know more.

My top 10 “red flag” list of items and ingredients to avoid:

  1. Sugar.  I wrote a few weeks ago how sugar has a toxic effect on our bodies.  As I am shopping, I try to keep in mind the sugar recommendation amount (men=under 35g; women=under 25g; kids=under 12g).  I aim to buy items with 10g of sugar per serving or less.  It definitely doesn’t work all the time, especially for special items, but when shopping for snacks, cereals, sauces, etc. it does help.  This sugar content criteria will steer you clear of many pre-packaged foods, as many of them don’t make the cut.
  2. Hydrogenated Oils.  Hydrogenated oils are the same thing as trans fats.  They include: palm, kernel, soybean, corn or coconut oils.  They can be partially hydrogenated or fully hydrogenated.  The process of hydrogenation is used to lengthen the shelf life of pre-packaged or processed food items.  Hydrogenated oils raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower your HDL (good) cholesterol and contribute to heart disease.  The best way to steer clear of them is to aim to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.
  3. The Dirty Dozen.  In reality, it is difficult for many of us to afford buying organic.  You want to do the best you can for your family, but it’s expensive.  When I have to choose, I rely on the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 to guide my grocery decisions.  This guide can help you choose which foods should be organic… and which ones do not need to be organic.  This list helps give insight as to why I always buy organic apples and why I never buy organic bananas.  When I was first learning these lists, it always helped me to remember: fruits and vegetables with an inedible exterior or peel, usually don’t have to be organic.  This guide also helped me “bring my husband along” in the organic conversation.  Choosing organic doesn’t have to be an all or nothing choice, as so many are led to believe.  There is also a printer friendly pocket guide to take with you in your wallet on your shopping adventures.

Stayed tuned until next Tuesday  to read the rest of my list.

Which one of these was the most helpful or insightful to you?



© 2012 Standing on Peace

Oct 162012

If you missed last week’s post on sugar, take a minute to read it and then watch this 60minutes segment on the toxic affect sugar has on our bodies.

After viewing it myself, I was on a mission to decrease our family’s sugar intake. I decided to gather all the sweets in the house.  Here’s the evidence.

Honestly, for being educated in nutrition… I was shocked to find SO much sugar in our house!

As I stood in my kitchen, staring at the pile of sugary treats, I realized a few things:

  • Our so called “treats” weren’t really treats anymore.  I was in the ritual of eating something sweet every night after dinner.  BUT if I objectively looked at my day… I’d have a Hershey’s kiss here, a licorice piece there.  My kids knew exactly where my hidden stashes were and would ask me multiple times a day!  I was tired of the constant battle.
  • My kids will NOT be deprived.   After all, everywhere we turn, sugar is offered to them: birthday parties, every holiday (Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc), the doctors office, grandma and grandpa’s house, after-game “snacks”, the list could go on and on.
  • God isn’t number one.  I realized how I often use sugar to calm my anxieties instead of turning to the Lord.  I often mask this tendency with thoughts like, “it’s been a hard day, I deserve a bowl of ice cream”.  Or I look forward to eating my “treat” more than spending time in the Word, praying or going to Bible study.  It never dawned on me that sugar was becoming number one.

Considering the above, I decided to toss our “stash” in the garbage.  It was time our family took a stand against sugar.

It is recommended for:

  • Men to eat less than 37 grams of sugar per day
  • Women to eat less than 25 grams of sugar per day
  • Children to eat less than 12 grams of sugar per day.

Once you start keeping track, you may find it difficult to keep it under these recommendations.  Here are five ideas and a few resources to get you started:

  1. Start Reading Labels.  Begin getting into the habit of noting the grams of sugar on the nutrition facts label of each product.  The grams listed on the labels are per serving (so be careful).  Also look at the ingredient list.  Ingredients are listed in descending order.  If sugar or a sugar product is near the top, it probably contains too much sugar.  A good rule of thumb: words ending in -ose usually indicate it is a form of sugar.
  2. Don’t Confuse Your Sugars.  There is such thing as a “healthful” sugar.  These are found in whole fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and complex carbohydrates (found in whole grains such as oats, wheat germ, barley, brown rice, whole wheat bread, pasta, etc.).  The sugars you want to limit are those found in cakes, cookies, fruit juices, sodas, certain kinds of yogurts and flavored milk, cereals, etc.
  3. Be Your Own Detective.  Look critically at the foods you eat.  What are your sugary culprits?  Typical culprits include: soda, juice, coffee creamer, baked goods, many pre-packaged snack items, condiments and sauces (like ketchup and barbecue sauce), etc.
  4. Stay Open to Fresh Ideas.  It can be difficult trying to come up with alternatives or introducing new foods to your family.  Try buying ketchup and peanut butter with less sugar or use agave nectar on pancakes instead of syrup (it is 10x as sweet as syrup so it requires less).  Be adventurous in trying new fruits and vegetables.  Practice preparing them in different ways.  Also, remember it could take exposing your kids to a new food with persistence.  It often can take about 10 times before they may regularly eat it!
  5. Stay Committed to NOT Maintain Your Stash.  I love sweets too.  Believe me.  But I am learning I don’t have to keep a stash in my house to enjoy sugar every once in a while.  A treat will soon be a treat again.

Take a peek in your kitchen… what kinds of sugary foods are hiding in there?  If you took a picture, like I did, what would your picture look like???  

Please share yours with me via *Twitter: @TheAudiSwift  *Email: or *Facebook:



© 2012 Standing on Peace

Oct 092012

Words like “toxic”, “disease contributor” and “drug” are not usually the first to come to mind when I sit down to eat something containing sugar.

I have always been a huge advocate of eating most everything in moderation and eating a plant-based diet.  Some people could misinterpret my “moderation” policy to be an excuse to eat bad food, more often.

I would argue.

Allowing myself to eat most everything in moderation frees me of the guilt and food obsessions our culture is neck-high in.  I choose whole, real food 95% of the time… the other 5%, I give myself room to have fun.

I have not climbed on board that trendy train of cutting out entire food groups from my diet.

Even though I’m a proponent of eating most everything in moderation.  I recently began to wonder if sugar should have a place in that discussion? Remember, I’m not talking about avoiding certain foods because of a “fad diet”.  I’m encouraging you to look at what you eat in regards to the nutrient density and the health implications is may carry.

Our culture is obsessed with sugar.  It is literally everywhere we turn.  At the checkout stand in the grocery store.  At the doctors office.  Front and center in the window cases in the coffee shop.  Not to mention the square-footage of shelves in grocery stores devoted to processed foods PACKED with sugar.

My husband and I recorded a 60minutes segment on the toxic affects of sugar.  It talks about what Doctors, researchers and scientists are finding in regards to the negative effects sugar has on the body and why this is turning into an epidemic in today’s society.

Some of the information I already knew:

  • Disease contributor.  Sugar is a huge contributor to conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.  About 75% of these conditions are preventable.
  • How Many Pounds?  On Average, the typical American eats 130 pounds of sugar each year.  That breaks down to eating about one-third pound of sugar every day!
  • Acts Like a Drug.  Neuroscientists have seen that sugar is more addicting to the brain than originally thought, causing it to respond as it would to cocaine or alcohol.
  • Numbing Effect.  Sugar acts like drugs or alcohol in regard to the response of the brain’s reward region.  The more you eat it, the less you feel the reward or pleasure from eating it… you can build up an intolerance to it’s effect.  Therefore, you have to start eating more sugar over time, to get the same reward or pleasure response.

Other pieces of information were new to me:

  • Cancer Promotor?  Cancer researchers are finding that certain cancers/tumors (such as breast and colon cancers) have insulin-receptor sites – which in layman terms, means that the cancer takes up glucose (the energy from the food we eat) and causes itself to grow, yes grow.
  • Bad News for Your Cholesterol.  Nutritional biologists are finding strong evidence that sugar (especially sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup) in the diet is proving to increase the LDL (bad or unwanted) cholesterol in the blood, which increases a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke.  The LDL forms in dangerous “clusters” called small dense LDL, which leads to plaque build up in the blood vessels and is associated with heart-attacks.

Take a minute to watch the video… What piece of information did you find most interesting about sugar?



© 2012 Standing on Peace