Alumna Combines Kraft-Foods Savvy and Whole-Food Nutrition

Teri Rose

As a former marketer at Kraft Foods, Teri Rose rubbed shoulders with the brand managers for Stove Top, Macaroni & Cheese and other multimillion-dollar brands. She admired how they anticipated the needs of busy parents trying to put dinner on the table — but she wanted to direct that focus to foods she could recommend personally. So she enrolled in Bastyr University's Master of Science in Nutrition program, which gave her the knowledge and confidence to design whole-food recipes for busy people, she says.

Now Rose, MS (’08), runs Perfectly Produce in Minneapolis, providing nutrition consultations and producing a line of seasonal meal-planning books. She’s also launched a line of breakfast bars, and last year Minnesota Monthly named her Best Nutritionist in the Twin Cities. She spoke to us about her approach and the satisfaction of helping clients.

Perfectly Produce has the tagline "redefining 'Western' diet." What do you mean by that?

In nutrition research, the Standard American Diet — the "SAD diet" — has such a negative connotation. It gets blamed for the worldwide spread of diabetes and obesity and other chronic disease. Yet we are also a country with a great abundance of diverse healthy foods. We’re an influential country, and we can lead in a different direction by redefining the Western diet to be not about disease risk but about whole foods and produce. I want to do my part in redefining what that term means.

What kinds of people do you work with, and what do you provide for them?

My main area of business is individual and family consultations. I’ve also created four seasonal recipe books and meal-planning kits. That comes from my past working at the Kraft Foods headquarters outside of Chicago. I helped publish Food & Family, a magazine that went to more than 12 million households in three languages. At Kraft I worked with brand managers for Stove Top and Macaroni & Cheese and other huge brands, and I learned how they focus on what their customers needed to help put dinner on the table. I fell in love with food marketing there, but I wanted to do it for foods I could personally recommend and use myself.

How did you get from Kraft to Bastyr?

I thought I would get an MBA and start my own food company. Then I realized I wanted enough knowledge to be able to trust my decisions on nutrition. I could hire someone to help with finances and such, but I wanted to be able to trust myself on how I was interpreting research.

I moved to Seattle when my husband took a job at Microsoft. I remember when I first looked up Bastyr I was at a coffee shop near Pike Place Market. When I read about whole-foods production and bioactive compounds and such, every cell in my body just lit up. It was the combination of a Master of Science and the kinds of foods I wanted to prepare. I went to visit campus and within two weeks I was taking chemistry prerequisites. There was no hesitation after that.

What did you learn here?

I learned so much science. To be honest, I came in thinking I mostly need the master’s to have the credential. I had some arrogance from working in the corporate world. I am so grateful for how humbling school was in awakening me to how vast health and the body are. Going to a graduate program forces you to learn about things you would ignore otherwise. It prevents you from self-selecting just the things you want to learn. It taught me to always read the other point of view and appreciate other perspectives. Bastyr has a large vegetarian community, for example, but we were never taught that it’s the only way to be healthy.

It was also good to study with future physicians and students in other disciplines. I have medical doctors as clients now, and I have the confidence to treat them because of the science foundation in my nutrition studies, and because I’m used to being in the classroom with doctors.

Now that you’ve been practicing for a while, what are biggest challenges in helping people improve their eating?

The gap between knowledge and action. On one side there is what you should eat, and why. We can educate people on that. There are books and websites and the news. But there’s so much information it can be paralyzing.

In my consultations, I find out what people’s days are like: their schedule, what they eat, how they plan and prepare meals. I focus on making my nutrition recommendations doable — helping them plan when and how they are going to prep the produce I’ve just told them to eat. I’ve learned to focus on two or three new things for them to implement in their daily life. They might have 10 to 15 things they need to work on, but they can’t do them all at first. You have to know what’s realistic for them.

So my meal planning kits include bulk cooking guides and tip sheets to help people get organized. The recipes are also designed to help stabilize blood glucose. I look at carbohydrates, protein and fat in each one. I also started a blog to talk about basic meal plans.

And you started making breakfast bars, too?

Last year I got my food manufacturing license and developed a breakfast bar called Wellies. It’s been really well-received in the Twin Cities, where they’re in coffee shops. They’re no-bake and preservative-free, and our pilot run identified some challenges, so now we’re modifying production. It’s a way to connect to the things I loved doing at Kraft.

What do you think of being named Minnesota Monthly’s Best Nutritionist in the Twin Cities?

Being so new to the area, it was tremendous to get an endorsement from such an established publication. It really helped my business.

What are you learning about yourself and what's important to you?

My work reminds me that I’m vulnerable to the same challenges my clients have. I have time constraints and stress like they do. I let them know we’re getting through this together — I don’t make it seem like I’m eating perfectly every day. I’m still professional, I don’t disclose a lot of personal information, but if I can apply things from my life to a blog post or a consultation and show there’s a sense of community ... I want them to know I’m doing this with them. And when I hold an informal class at my office and they start connecting with each other, that’s motivating to me. That’s the rewarding part.