Welcome to my interview series! I’ll be chatting with influencers, celebrities, and other inspiring & empowering women and I’m pretty excited to share it with you! We’ll sip water, tea, coffee, smoothies, wine (or your drink of choice) and talk about all things motherhood, parenting, business, health, fitness & everything in between — to act as a resource and reading pleasure… and eventual social outlet (hint, hint to what’s down the road). How fun?!
I recently had the honor of speaking with the lovely Catherine McCord, owner of Weelicious, a website providing a solution to parents’ hectic lives by showing them how to cook recipes that are kid-friendly, quick, and nutritious (with an aim on making cooking accessible using few, but fresh ingredients) – and you’ve likely seen one of her many appearances on Food Network. That’s not all. This former model & actress published two hugely resourceful cookbooks (Weelicious: One Family. One Meal, and Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Box), she’s the co-founder of One Potato: the first organic home meal delivery kit service focused specifically on the dinnertime needs of families, and in August 2010, People voted McCord one of the 50 most influential “Mommy Bloggers.” Needless to say, this woman inspires me (my spirit animal)… and the most friendly & chill person to talk with!
My focus was to soak up her tips, tricks and advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle as a mom (and business woman), while creating & maintaining healthy eating habits for children — especially the “picky toddlers” on a food strike. Which, Catherine has a very interesting perspective on… so, let’s start there:
Q: (Dilemma) “My toddler will only eat mac and cheese or chicken nuggets. He/she doesn’t like anything else!” – says many moms on most days.
Catherine made a great point when talking about “picky toddlers:”
We’re the adults. We have to be the ones to offer better choices for our kids. They don’t know better, they’re just kids! The ‘rule of 15’ – how it can take up to 15 times to try a food before they like it – is 100%. Take out 2 florets of broccoli every night, serve it in different ways with cheese, sauce, (anything) until it’s just part of the meal. Whether or not they try it, you’ve only spent $3 on a head of broccoli!
She went on to acknowledge that kids do go through phases with foods, and sometimes continually reject food well after the 15th try, and that’s OK. But the most important take away for me is not to cave into your child’s demands for food. You’re the boss, but you can be the cool boss! There are effective [fun] ways to make food enjoyable for kids (especially new foods), and Catherine has some approaches that are golden…
Q: In your book, Weelicious, you speak on the importance of giving your child a choice for mealtime without allowing them to call the shots in the kitchen (for example: demanding “mac and cheese” or “chicken nuggets” every meal). What’s the best way to present a “new” healthy meal to a child that they’ve never tried before?
Unless your little one has recently gotten his driver’s license or figured out how to hot-wire your car and make his way to the store, the foods you have a problem with them eating probably are the things you bought in the first place. Kids only eat what we give them. I made myself a salad the other day, and my 20-month old saw me enjoying it so I shared it with her. She loved it! You wouldn’t think to give your 20-month old salad, but it’s exposure. Who knows if she’ll like it at 3 or 4, but it helps – exposing it to them is easy. It’s a choice.
You can make things in different ways. Try to put out one general meal that everyone will eat and enjoy. My kids are the ages of 10, 8, and 1 – they have completely different preferences and eating habits and they all grew up the same the way with what I fed them. Always make meal time one thing. I’m not catering to multiple meals – but I can figure out to make one meal into something each of them would individually enjoy. DIY meals. Get the kids involved and make that one meal special to each of them.
This next tip is something I tried with my 3-year old the next day after speaking with Catherine, and it was an immediate success! It worked so well, that it’s becoming addicting and I’m getting my daughter to eat so many new things just over the course of a week — never mind the fun we’re having:
Get them involved in making their meal or snack, it gets them excited for what they’re about to eat and makes them feel more in control. My older kids enjoy sprinkling salt-free seasoning on their rice, and other snacks, and they love it! It gives them a sense of power while creating a healthy meal that they’ll enjoy.
“Popsicle, popsicle, popsicle… NO mom, I want a popsicle!” This was my 3-year old during snack time demanding the freezing sugar fix (which isn’t the worst snack) but I want to stay focused on a nutritious option since she’s been on somewhat of a “food strike” lately. I was making myself a brown rice & quinoa rice cake topped with avocado and offered to make her one. “No thank you! I want a popsicle.” Then my brain immediately switched into Weelicious-mode and I remembered Catherine’s tip about letting them sprinkle a little “seasoning” on the snack to entice them to try it. I handed her the pepper grinder and showed her how to turn the handle. Don’t worry, it’s really tough to grind. She turned the knob just a little and heard a crunch as 3 little grains of pepper fell onto the avocado. She squeaked with excitement and devoured the entire thing, asking for a second and a third! (No exaggeration). I went to the market that evening and picked up a few mild salt-free seasonings that she’s been using almost daily on broccoli, sweet potato… and tonight I’m hoping she’ll try some salmon! I’m pushing my luck.
Q: For some moms who don’t currently practice a healthy-lifestyle, it can feel intimidating to get started when there’s a lot to learn and your pantry lacks the nutritious foods. What are a few easy steps (or advice) you can give to moms new to the game that’ll help them transition smoothly and seamlessly?
Go to the nutritious foods that you already like and you already buy. Think about what you do like and slowly move out the non-nutritious foods. Buy things that are affordable, like frozen fruits and frozen vegetables (more affordable but also easy to keep on hand with a high shelf-life). Make one organic choice a week.
Q: I’ve spoken to several moms who’s household income doesn’t open the door wide enough to buy primarily organic foods or speciality items that are essential in a healthy lifestyle. Do you have any tips on how to integrate nutritious eating for a family with a lower budget?
If your pocket book doesn’t want to make a major change – buy something in season so it’s less expensive and will taste so much better. For example: buying strawberries in season are so much more delicious… and less expensive! There are so many stores that are carrying (and trying to carry more) organic foods, like Trader Joes and Walmart.
Our options for organic foods (as well as gluten free, lactose free, nut free) are becoming very wide-spread and so much more accessible than they used to be. Today, majority of the markets carry these healthy items, just keep an eye on prices, sales, coupons and prime seasons for produce so you can get the most bang for your buck! A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to break the bank, it just takes a little more investment of your time to figure out how to buy cost effectively given that time of year, where you live, and which market will provide the best options for you based on your budget.
Q: For some of us moms with strong-minded children, what do you do when your child completely rejects anything you’re offering them, even when you’re giving them a few options to make their opinion count? Do you believe in the philosophy: when they’re hungry, they’ll eat – or – is there a better way to approach that rejection?
Now that I have 3 kids spread over different ages, my opinion has changed. I don’t think one thing works for everyone. Learn your individual child’s preference and try different things until something works. Our job is to give our child nutritious food. Be patient, you make a meal — your child is not eating it — you don’t want your child to go to bed hungry — you’re going to have two choices. I’m really big on the “two choices” which is actually a parenting method for kids that are really outfought. For example: you can have a banana or a yogurt. Which would like? Pick a whole food that’ll fill their belly. You’re still giving them a choice, but it’s what you know is good for them. “Two choice” is a good thing at dinner – you can try the broccoli or the potatoes. You’re giving them choice, and making them feel like “I have the power” but ultimately you’re the one giving them the choices.
Q: Sitting together for dinner. This sounds obvious, but I find myself off track several nights of the week. Any advice on how to get the entire family on the same eating schedule, particularly for dinner, so we can all sit together and enjoy the same foods / allow my daughters to experiment with what my husband and I are eating? Sometimes my toddlers are hungry at 4:00pm just as I start cooking a meal, so they’ll eat something completely different – by the time dinner is ready they’re full, tired of sitting and want to go play…
All of our families are so different with work schedules, what time children go to bed, etc. My 8 and 10 year olds get home starving at 4-5pm — so I put out hummus and raw veggies or salad dressing. This is the time to bring them closer to eating those healthy foods when they’re really hungry (no matter what time). As if saying: here’s your buffet – keep the healthy options ready to go, and pick something nutritious (yogurt, cheese stick). We deal with this all the time at home.
I’ve gotten so much better over the years that now I know in the morning what’s for dinner that night, so I don’t have to be like OMG its 5:15pm and I haven’t thought about it or started it! I think it’s OK if you feed your kids earlier, then let them have a popsicle while you’re eating dinner – ideally a child under 5 years-old… as long as they eat something they’re happy! Our kids have to sit at dinner time, it’s the most important time of the day to catch-up. We play a “machine game” – we have to think of clues (for example: it makes a big sound, we have one in the kitchen) It keeps them super engaged and wanting to be there. (Another example: whats you’re favorite color on the plate?) This works best for children between 3-8 years-old. We put so much focus and pressure on “eat your food” when we should forget about it and allow them to ENJOY being at the dinner table. This game is great because they’re so engaged on other fun things. Kids just want to play all… the… time.
Q: My 3 year-old used to eat everything I served her up until she was 2 1/2 years-old. One week, I figured she was under the weather as she started rejecting chicken, and eggs. We eat a lot of fish, which she still refuses to try a bite of, even though I offer it to her every single time with a few pieces in her plate. Aside from smoothies and yogurt, I feel she’s lacking the good proteins. Any advice on how to supplement protein into her diet? Any other tips or tricks to make chicken or fish appealing to her again?
Come up with a list with her – tell her what protein is – how it helps her body and her brain. “This is a list of protein. Which one do you like? Lets come up with things you’re going to like!” My 8 year old is a vegetarian, and he’s very thin, so it’s a daily priority to make sure he’s getting enough protein. Good alternatives are a handful of nuts, or yogurt or grilled cheese – something to supplement the protein. Also, brazil nuts, walnuts, hemp seeds (everyday) and chia seeds for the Omega — I’m super conscious of what goes into his smoothie. My son also eats eggs five days a week, and he likes tofu, so there are a lot of options to try!
Q: Needless to say, you’re a very busy mom – what’s your philosophy on finding that happy balance between your children, your husband, self-care and work? What’s your advice for the moms who feel overwhelmed with limited time, not feeling able to give their best-version of themselves towards motherhood, marriage and work?
When I finally realized that I couldn’t have it all, that’s when it clicked. We’re such over achievers — friends, exercise, relationships, children… one day I realized I couldn’t have it all so I had to find some sort of contentment with that. There’s always going to be something missing. I haven’t exercised in forever, I just play with my kids. I don’t get to see my friends as much but I’ve realized the time I do spend with them I need to make it worthy. My husband and I try to have a date night once a week. That doesn’t always work, and it may not be ideal for everyone, but our philosophy is “you’re the only one to stick around forever” so we invest our time in our relationship.
Can you see why I’m so inspired by her? She’s real. Says it how it is.
My philosophy behind grace + clatter is similar: with contentment & bliss comes chaos & disarray, but it’s my mission to strive for a realistic balance between the facets of life that are important to me and that keep me healthy and feeling good. The journey is the most important part. Take the unsettling emotions when you’re feeling on tilt to motivate you the next day and inch closer to a healthy balance. How can I even this out a little better? What can I do different tomorrow that’ll make me feel good? How can I smooth out any rough edges? What haven’t I done in a while that I could schedule into my agenda? Healthy happy mom — health happy family.
Q: What’s your guilty pleasure (if you have one)?
Ice cream! That’s my breaking point. Today is my birthday (actually) — can I have ice cream for cake? haha. I love sweets. My mother had no sweets in her house, so I think that’s why I want it so much all the time. There was really no junk in my house growing up. I allow my kids have a “special treat” at night, sometimes its yogurt and nuts… other times is a cookie!
Q: What’s an important piece of advice or philosophy you’d like to relay to all of the moms out there striving for that healthy happy balance in life?
Stay positive and upbeat instead of looking at the glass half empty. Nothing is going to be perfect you just have to focus on the things you do have, not the things that are missing. There’s always going to be something missing. It’s a mindset. Filter out all of the noise. The noise can really hammer your creativity. Especially in this day in age of social media – if you’re not following people that make you feel good about yourself then turn it off. Nothing is perfect.
Q: From a bloggers perspective, what advice do you have for bloggers (whether they’re just starting a new blog, or have been trying to grow their following for a few years)? Are there any practices you feel are essential in establishing a successful blog?
You can’t be everything to everyone – keep your focus narrow and really authentic. Don’t try to be something that you’re not. The most successful people are the ones being who they are, not manufactured — followers and friends appreciate that. Your imperfections are what make a blog so beautiful!
Amen, mama! It’s clear to see our conversation was nothing short of resourceful with no bull sh*t alongside her enthusiastic, fun and warm personality. (Never mind she scheduled this talk on her actual birthday!) She may be one year older, but she looks 20 years younger. Catherine is a role model of mine for many reasons — and I’m confident once you learn more about her and read her books you’ll feel the same way. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Weelicious: One Family. One Meal if you need inspiration and guidance on how to successfully create a healthy lifestyle & eating habits for your children, and Weelicious Lunches for incredibly easy, fun and healthy ideas on how to pack lunches for your little growing cuties. One more thing, if you’re not following her on Instagram you’re missing out on some awesome “healthy motherhood” content, recipes, and photos of some epic lunches she packs her kids!
Thanks for tuning in friends, until next time… Cheers!