How many ladies out there visited a fast food chain in the past week? Yes, Chick Fil-A and Chipotle count, unfortunately. For the moms, how many leftover chicken nuggets or mac'n'cheese do you consume on a daily basis without a second thought? Our bodies and our kids' bodies deserve better.
I don't think I've ever truly eaten healthy. I've always had an excuse, whether I was working 60+-hour weeks in PR and became a takeout queen or now when I'm often too lazy to meal prep and cook after feeding the kids meals and snacks all day. I justify this and keep my weight down by exercising more, but I know I'd feel much healthier if I could just get my nutrition under control once and for all. I'm sure I'm not alone in this sentiment.
Registered Dietician Nutritionist Molly Drew is here to help us...struggling moms, workaholic women or a mixture of the two. Molly recently left her job as the performance dietitian for a military special operations command where she worked with hundreds of soldiers to set them up for nutritional success at home and away on deployment. She is now a work-at-home-mom to her two young children with her own dietician consulting practice. An Enterprise, Alabama native, Molly's passion for clean eating began while she was a dancer for the Alabama Crimson Tide during her undergraduate years. Read our interview below to hear Molly's story and tips for you and your minis to stay on the healthy eating track this summer.
FTM: Tell us about your journey in becoming an RDN. What led you to the career field?
MD: I was a member of the college dance team at the University of Alabama. We performed and competed year-round. College is typically a time in someone's life where late night eating is a right of passage, but I was wearing spandex outfits, practicing, and cheering most days of the year so I quickly learned that accepting that kind of lifestyle could damage my aesthetic and performance.
I took a special interest in nutrition and how food/hydration enhances athletic performance. During my undergrad, I was a nutrition intern and consulted football players with making healthier choices during meal times. That’s when I realized that I loved the consulting component of sports nutrition. I honestly just loved talking about food and getting to know people.
That solidified my decision to continue my education in Sports Nutrition. Florida State University offers a M.S. in Food & Nutrition with a specialization in Sports Nutrition. It was the perfect fit...the school and the weather. How I loved the Florida sunshine (Take me back!).
I completed my M.S. and then completed the required year-long dietetic internship - which is hands-on experience in the main nutrition arenas: clinical, community, food service and then a specialization of your choosing - I wanted to stay in Florida soooo hello, Gainesville! I completed my sports nutrition rotation with the University of Florida. Believe it or not, I’m a die-hard Alabama fan; born and raised. But you probably wouldn’t know that judging how my education was all over the map.
After I completed my internship, I passed my Registered Dietitian Examination and received my licensure to practice in the state of TN. My husband finished his MBA at FSU while I was wrapping up my dietetic internship. We said whoever got the first job is where we would settle. He landed a job in Nashville so we moved here in 2012 and haven’t left.
FTM: I’d love to hear more about your transition from serving the special operations community to civilian families on your own.
MD: The job with special operations was my dream job that I never knew I wanted. I will always cherish my time working with that population. And I’m sure it will continue to be the highlight of my career.
During my 3.5 years at Ft. Campbell, I had two babies in two years (16 months apart). Both of my pregnancies were high risk and my 2nd baby was born 9-weeks early and spent 5 weeks in the NICU. That experience was tough and made the job of “being a mom” my top priority. I was commuting an hour from Nashville to Campbell and then back home. I was missing too much time with my babies and knew I would regret not soaking up these special moments.
Thus, I left a job I LOVED and started my new job as a stay-at-home mom. The learning curve was steep to say the least. Ha! I enjoyed every minute of the transition but realized I still had a passion for talking about food and meeting new people so I began dual roles: stay-at-home mom during the day and building my consulting business at night.
FTM: Moms are often eating on the go, and sometimes make it to the afternoon before eating ANYTHING, so it can be easy to snack on junk food. How do you suggest combating the busy mom dilemma as a nutritionist?
MD: Stock your pantry and fridge with convenient, healthy food items that you can throw in your diaper bag or package up quickly. Set yourself up for success so you can combat those hunger cravings with foods that are nutritious and have filling power to avoid snacking on poor quality foods.
Choose a protein every 3-4 hours : low-fat dairy, eggs, tuna or salmon packets, and low-sodium deli meat
Choose a grain/starch every 3-4 hours: whole-grain breads, cereals, oatmeal, waffles, granola bars, pretzels, tortilla chips
Choose a color (Fruit and/or veggie) every 3-4 hours: bananas, apples, oranges, berries, plums, pears, fruit cups packaged in juice or water, fruit/veggie pouches, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower, salsa
Remember, something is better than nothing. If the list above is overwhelming, start small. Pick a fruit and granola bar for breakfast. Snack on raw veggies mid-morning. Grab a yogurt and berries for a mid-afternoon snack, etc.
FTM: Busy, active moms especially need a healthy diet to fuel their bodies before and after workouts. What do you recommend for a quick, but nutritious breakfast?
MD: Eat 1-2 hours before workout begins (choose 1):
1 cup cooked oatmeal made with low-fat milk with ½ cup of berries
1 yogurt with 1⁄2 cup of berries and 3⁄4 cup high-fiber cereal (at least 3g of fiber/serving)
Small bowl of cereal with a banana
1 toasted waffle with 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter and fruit1⁄2 peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fruit
Homemade trail mix (1cup high-fiber cereal, 2 tablespoons dried fruit, 2 tablespoons nuts)
Make sure to hydrate with 16-20 ounces of water, too.
FTM: What are three recipes you are loving right now?
MD: My go-to when I’m craving chips! Zucchini Parmesan Crisps: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/zucchini-parmesan-crisps-recipe-1939866
My AM Pick-Me-Up
This is my weekend splurge when I have a craving for ice cream (the kids love it too): https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/fast-and-fruity-ice-cream-5534049 (I use low-fat greek yogurt)
FTM: When moms are ready to reach for the ice cream, oreos, etc. due to stress, what are some better foods that still satisfy a sweets craving?
MD: Often times when craving something sweet, your body may be trying to tell you it’s missing a key nutrient. Check your hydration level and drink 8-12 oz of water to see if that helps control the craving.
Grab a piece of fruit - nature’s perfect dessert! I keep frozen purple grapes stocked (only 80 calories per cup) as my go-to!
There’s also a couple of recipes that I have on rotation when needing something sweet but wanting it to be nutritiously balanced for me and my kiddos.
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies:
FTM: How do you feel about all these juice fasts and fad diets (like Paleo) when it comes to athletes doing them?
MD: Fasting results in:
Low energy levels leading to low performance
Drop in blood pressure and risk of fainting
Depletion of glycogen (energy stores) over time
Loss of lean tissue
Body adapts to burning fewer calories which sets the body up for weight gain
Poor focus, mood, and cognition
Eliminating or severely restricting carbohydrates results in:
Poor energy levels
Depletion of glycogen stores leading to fatigue
Increased injury risk
Increased risk of cramping
Poor focus, mood
Brain not properly fueled
FTM: You have two kids. Any tips on getting picky toddlers to eat healthier food?
MD: I try not to just focus on my kids eating healthy foods but mainly the exposure of healthier foods through sight, smell, and texture. My priority is that they know what a balanced, nutritious meal looks like (even if they don’t eat it).
Their plate contains:
Source of protein: lean meats, dairy, beans, eggs
Source of grain or starch: oatmeal, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans, peas, corn
Source of vegetable and/or fruit: I try to mix as many colors as possible.
Few examples of color blends:
1. Berry blend: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
2. Purple and green grapes
3. Melon blend: watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew
4. Asian medley: onions, mushrooms, red pepper, sugar snap peas
5. Squash saute: zucchini and yellow squash
The best tip I ever received was that children need to be offered a new food as many as 10-15 times before they will eat it. I always keep this in mind during meal time. Just because they won’t eat zucchini today doesn’t mean they will never eat it. Be consistent, focus on the exposure of different foods, and don’t take it personally if they throw it all on the floor (and then tell yourself “You are doing a great job!”).
FTM: What are some fun summertime snacks that could work for a day at the pool, beach, etc.?
MD: Several I recommend are:
Peanut butter crackers