Moms – Do you ever wonder if you should be buying foods that are sweetened with low calorie sweeteners for your family?  Low-calorie sweeteners, like aspartame, (think Equal and NutraSweet) are in many foods, notably diet soda, but you can also buy them off the grocery shelf to add to your favorite recipes.  But should you nourish your family with these foods?

Pouring Diet Soda
While we try to make choices in our house that speak health, there is always room for a treat.  But I wanted to share the facts I’ve found on low-calorie sweeteners as a Calorie Control Council advisor so as moms we have the facts and can shed the worry.   Here’s a round up of answers on low-calorie sweeteners:
Are low-calorie sweeteners safe? Yep! 
They are thoroughly tested and reviewed for safety before they are approved.  And they are regulated for safety to ensure that foods are safe that contain them. Hundreds of well-designed studies from decades of research show that low-calorie sweeteners are safe as part of a balanced diet.  
How much low-calorie sweetener could my kids actually have while still being safe?   There’s an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) set for sweeteners based on the amount that can safely be consumed each day on a long term basis.  Plus there’s a 100 fold safety factor built in.  What does that mean for kids?  Here’s an example: A 50-pound child would have to drink 6 (12 ounce) cans of diet soda, or eat 32 packets of tabletop sweetener to reach the ADI.  Pretty high amounts not likely to be eaten by kids.
Do I need to be worried about low-calorie sweeteners causing cancer in my kids?  Over the past 30 years, repeated, well-designed studies and the National Cancer Institute agree.  Low-calorie sweeteners do not cause cancer.
What about kids with diabetes? Low-calorie sweeteners are a great tool for offering greater flexibility within a diabetic diet where carbohydrate counting rules.  Just think, if your child has diabetes and is at a birthday party where soda is being served, that can be 45 grams of carbohydrate which would send blood sugar right up.  Instead, a diet soda has 0 grams of carbohydrate and won’t raise blood sugar.  Carbs raise blood sugar and using low-calorie sweeteners lets kids with diabetes still be a part of the fun!  
Try out this recipe to celebrate Halloween!  It’s fun for the kids!
Healthier Root Beer Floats
Disclosure: As a Calorie Control Council advisor, I was compensated to write this post.  But all writing is my own.  See more resources and research on sweeteners on Food Insight, Best Food Facts, and the Calorie Control Council website.
Healthier Root Beer Floats
A makeover to the traditional root beer float, with less calories.
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  1. 4 cans of sugar-free diet root beer
  2. 4 (½ cup) scoops vanilla ice cream (recipe below)
  3. 4 chilled tall glasses
  1. Put ½ cup scoop of ice cream into each of the four tall glasses
  2. Pour root beer into the glass. The root beer will foam up as you pour it in, so do it slowly!
  3. Stir and enjoy!
Jen Haugen RD
Healthier Homemade Ice Cream
A fun and healthy way to make homemade ice cream! It tastes great and the kids will love it.
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  1. 1/2 cup granular no-calorie sweetener
  2. 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  3. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  4. 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  5. 1 cup half-and-half
  6. 1 egg yolk
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together granular no-calorie sweetener (like Equal), cornstarch and salt in a large heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk and half-and-half. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat.
  2. Whisk egg yolk until pale yellow and slightly thickened. While whisking constantly, slowly pour about a cup of the hot cream mixture into the yolk. You’re tempering the yolk so it doesn’t curdle, so go slowly. Add yolk mixture to remaining cream mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk in vanilla.
  3. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding any solids. Cool 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Place plastic wrap directly on cream mixture; chill in the fridge for at least 8 or overnight.
  4. Pour mixture into freezer container of a 1 1/2-qt. electric ice-cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Let stand at room temperature 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Jen Haugen RD


15 years + 3 months + 1 day ago.  That’s exactly how long ago my sister was in my wedding. She was 19, I was 21. My groom was 24. If that seems like a lifetime ago, it’s because it was. We have two kids now – they were in my sister’s wedding this past weekend. I was in my sister’s wedding this past weekend.  Time has flown by so quickly.  But I have to say, I was excited to be a part of this wedding and see how beautiful getting married in a barn could really be.  And it was.

barn in the morning

 barn ceremony set up

In the moment where I grabbed the arm of the best man to walk down the barn aisle, with the acoustic version of “Marry Me” in the background, I looked at her groom. I saw the happiness in his face, in his eyes, in his smile. It reminded me of my own wedding day when I saw my own soon-to-be husband. Okay, where’s the Kleenex?

 barn chandelier


barn table decor

I’m writing this for my sister and her new husband. It’s my toast to the both of them.

To my sister and her new husband:

bride and groom
You are both beautiful people and so obviously meant for each other. As the Pastor described in the ceremony, there were just too many odds stacked against you both to even meet in the first place. Yet, you did. And here you are. I am so happy I was able to be a part of your wedding as Matron of Honor. Next to my own wedding, it was the most beautiful wedding I have ever been at or been a part of. So for that, I thank you for the beautiful memories and letting us (including my husband, son and daughter) be a part of it.

my family

In 1994, I copied a poem into my spiral bound notebook from a poster in Language Arts class. I don’t know why, I just knew I liked it. I liked the simplicity of the words and how they made so much sense. I liked that life could be boiled down into what we learn we are five years old. Some people doodle in class, I guess I wrote about what I saw on the wall. When I thought about what I wanted to share with the two of you, I knew I wanted to share this poem. I know that it really just includes thoughts on how to live and treat people, but as I read through it again, I couldn’t help but think how much sense it really made for marriage too.

bridal barn


bridal barn suite

All I Ever Needed to Know About Life Marriage, I Learned in Kindergarten

barn wedding

These are the things I learned:

1. Share everything – with each other. Stories, conversation, secrets, experiences, it all matters and brings you closer.
2. Play fair – all the time. How you spend your time, how you work through a disagreement, think about what’s fair first.
3. Don’t hit people – i.e. each other. Yeah, this better not happen!
4. Put each other’s things back where you found them. Great advice to avoid frustration!
5. Clean up your own mess. This can apply to lots of situations, but really just own up to what’s yours. Claim it, take responsibility, clean it up and move on.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. (See number 1).
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT each other. This one speaks for itself – and will get you a loooonnnnnggggg way.
8. Wash your hands before you eat. Nobody likes dirty hands!
9. Flush. It can make a big difference!
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Bake them for each other and eat them together.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some. There are some great date ideas in this one, use them! Plan monthly dates!
12. Take a nap every afternoon. Or at least when you can – and naps are more fun together.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. I love this one.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Wonder about the future, dream together. Life is more fun and more meaningful when it’s shared.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we. Make the most of every minute.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – “look”. Remember to look at each other, really look at each other, every single day.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere, from the Golden Rule to love to basic sanitation.

And it is true no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Adapted from:
― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

I can honestly say if you do all of these things, your days will be brighter, your smiles will be wider and your life will be happier.

The night before the wedding the pastor shared that you both said at different times to him, you didn’t know a love like this was possible. Here’s to a life full of love you never knew existed but now have…and all that comes with it.

bridal bouquet circle


wedding sign


It’s Monday – MomDay! Last week, I shared some pictures and highlights from my time at Blog Brulee (a partially sponsored conference I attended). I’m piggybacking on that post to share some wisdom from EA Stewart (The Spicy RD).  EA gave some brilliant advice that was based on how to build a virtual community online.   And, I think we can apply that to whatever type of community – or anything – we want to build.  Whatever you might dream up as a mom!


Here’s EA’s advice:

Work Hard – Set goals for yourself, but be realistic about those goals.  I love this goal setting worksheet my friend, Betsy, sent me. 

Play Hard – Disconnect FOR family.  Put the phone down and look up – look up at your husband, your kids and what is going on around you.  Give them your time.  They will notice. 

Star Gaze – Who do you look up to?  Who do you aspire to be? Learn from that person.  (But don’t be a stalker!)

Toot Your Own Horn – We all have an expertise, how can it be used?  Ask friends what they notice you are good at if you can’t figure it out on your own.  Knowing your talents is the key to figuring out your purpose. 

Choose Companions Wisely – Find friends that have similar interests and values.  Find friends that encourage you and keep you uplifted.  Keep those friends in your circle.

Express Yourself – Be yourself and share.  I’m a people pleaser by nature and what gets in the way sometimes of me sharing is “what will others think?” I think the key to being okay with being ourselves is to stop giving others so much power.  Sharing actually connects us more powerfully.

Give Thanks – Manners matter.  Live by the golden rule.  And think of the 80/20 rule when promoting/posting in social media.  Less of ourselves, more of others.  Every 8 posts out of 10 should be sharing other people’s content.

Learn Something New – What’s on your bucket list?  Some things I would love to learn?  How to sew, speak Spanish and take better photographs.  I’m working on it!

Thanks EA for sharing your wisdom. (She based her points on the book “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book”.)

Which point do you identify with the most?


A while back, I had the opportunity to be a part of a honey tasting. Right in my own kitchen.  Thanks to the folks at the National Honey Board, I was sent samples of four types of honey to coordinate with an online presentation to learn more about honey not only as an ingredient, but how it can provide balance to any dish and enhance flavors.  So of course, I wanted to include my kids in on the fun.   When it was time to taste the honey, I invited them to grab the cute little spoons that came with the kit and take a dip.

We tasted:

Honey Tasting

Avocado Honey – yep – from the avocado blossoms from the avocado trees primarily from California.  It definitely had a rich, buttery flavor.  Its color was reminiscent of molasses, and I would say the three of us all agreed that the flavor was robust.   It’s best used in sauces and marinades.

Tupelo Honey – the agreed on favorite – comes from the tupelo trees found in the wetlands of Florida and Georgia.  It has a buttery, bright taste with of course that sweet taste we think of when we think honey.  Its light in color and is definitely used as a table honey for putting on muffins and cornbread.

Alfalfa Honey is – you guessed it – from the purple flower of the alfalfa plants found throughout the U.S. and Canada.  It’s mild in flavor and pairs well with creamy foods, chicken and fish. 

Buckwheat Honey – found in my home state, Minnesota – is thick and rich and even has some malty flavor to it.  It pairs well with gingerbread, sweet potatoes and winter squash. 

Trying honey this way was a first for all of us. We dipped and smelled, we tasted and let the honey sit on our tongue.  Slowing down and really tasting our food = mindful eating. I encourage you to try this technique while you are cooking together. Cooking together often leads to tasting!

Strawberry Apple Fruit Roll Up

So in the spirit of honey, I whipped up a recipe for Healthy Fruit Roll Ups. It’s Recipe ReDux blog link up day and the goal this month was to create a recipe by dehydrating fruits or veggies.  Let me tell you, making your own fruit roll ups at home is a cinch, it’s budget friendly and healthy.  And while they dry out low and slow in the oven, your kids will be wondering what that sweet smell is! 

Homemade Strawberry Apple Fruit Roll-Ups
With fresh fruit and a touch of honey, you will have your kids asking if they can have more!
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  1. 8-10 strawberries, left whole, hulled* (about 8 ounces)
  2. 2 small apples, peeled and cut into slices*
  3. Juice from half of a lemon
  4. 1 tablespoon honey (or more to taste depending on sweetness of fruit)
  5. *Total fresh fruit should be approximately 2 1/2 cups.
  1. Place strawberries, apples and lemon juice into food processor. Process by pulsing for 20-30 seconds or until liquefied.
  2. Remove lid and add honey, briefly pulse again to stir.
  3. Pour fruit mixture onto parchment paper placed into a shallow, rimmed pan. Be sure to spread to even thickness of 1/4 inch or less.
  4. Put into heated oven (170 degrees) and let dry for 3-6 hours. You will know when it's ready to remove from the oven when it feels just slightly tacky (not wet).
  5. Let cool and cut into strips. Roll up and eat!
Jen Haugen RD
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Hello to all of you!

I’m excited to launch this new series – I’m calling Family Fridays – on the blog today. It’s a space where I’ll post ideas on cooking with your kids, family activities and more.  Why Friday? Because I’m hoping the weekend leaves you a little more time to spend some extra time together as a family! 

Family Recipe of the Week:

The Best Meatballs from Kraft Food & Family Magazine

One night, my daughter started flipping through the Kraft mag for an idea to cook for dinner. (Hint – that’s a great way to get your kids more interested in cooking). She came upon these (the picture sold it and she loves meatballs).  So we made them.  It was a hit.  What kid wouldn’t love mixing up meatballs with their hands and forming them into bite size bits? 

Quick tip: Add some extra vegetables into the meatball mix. Finely shredded carrots or diced onions complement the flavor well.  And for an easy sauce, mix one part barbecue sauce to one part peach jalapeño jam  and pour over after meatballs have finished cooking. Yum!

As we made the recipe, my kids were using all sorts of skills. We talked about why it’s important to make the meatballs the same size (“same mass” was applied from science class), they read the recipe (great practice), and they used their math skills by figuring out how many meatballs were on the pan (multiplication) as well as working on fractions from recipe reading. 

Meatballs Jen Haugen

I also love these reasons shared by iMom on why family dinners are worth the effort.  

Family Activity to Do Right Now:

Fall Bucket List


Make a Fall Bucket List together. There’s all kinds of these on Pinterest, I’m including a link (just click the picture) to one that is simple and not overwhelming.  We really enjoyed doing this last year and I since I love chalkboards, we chalked up our favorite activities as a constant visual reminder of what we wanted to do.  Makes our memories intentional!

I especially love the way this blogger (How to Nest for Less) puts it in a frame, front and center, for all the family to see.

Family Blogger of the week:

If you read my post about Blog Brulee in Vermont, you probably know I met some amazing people. And, since I started blogging, I’ve always looked up to the Meal Makeover Moms.  I was able to spend some time with them at this conference and let me tell you, they are brilliant, funny and just overall great to be around.  I have learned so much from them!  Check out their website for fabulous recipes and I love their podcast - Cooking with the Moms. 

Meal Makeover Moms + Jen Haugen

Here are a few of my favorite recipes from their site:

Chicken Pot Pie Bundles

Pulled Pork Primavera

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


That’s all for now til next Friday!  Tell me what you think! 

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