Nutritious Meals for New Moms: Podcast Episode #111
Alyssa talks with Kelsey, a dietician at Root Farmacy, about convenient ways to eat healthy and nutritious meals and promote healing after having a baby. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi. Welcome to Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa Veneklase, and today I’m super excited to talk with Kelsey. She is a dietician from Root Farmacy, which is a division of Root Functional Medicine. Hey, Kelsey.
Kelsey: Hey. Thank you for having me today.
Alyssa: Yeah! So we’ve had you guys talk before, but it’s been a while, and Root Farmacy wasn’t a thing. So let’s just kind of remind everyone what Root Functional Medicine is, and then maybe transition into how you started Root Farmacy.
Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely! So at Root Functional Medicine, we are a team of doctors and dieticians who solve health problems at the root cause using functional medicine, advanced testing, and food as medicine. And we really specialize in solving problems that otherwise go unsolved. We typically work with clients over a three- to six-month period of time to support them through the ups and downs of healing, and we specialize in PCOS, thyroid, fertility, and gut health. And in case some of you don’t even know what functional medicine is, I guess the way I would explain it is, functional medicine looks at how we can optimize functioning in the body rather than just throwing medicine at a system without addressing a root cause.
Alyssa: That’s a good way to put it, and I like that you explained it using the word “root” a couple times, because that makes me go, okay, I understand that even the name of your business, you’re saying that we want to get to the root of the problem, not just say – you know, I think about when I found out my daughter had food allergies, and it started with eczema. And I went to a dermatologist, and they said it’s eczema. Put a cream on it. But then I had to go to someone else to find the root cause, which was the food allergy creating the eczema. You know, I could still just be throwing the cortisone cream on her skin, but that wouldn’t have gotten to the root problem.
Kelsey: Yeah, so that would be kind of a band-aid. So we’re always asking, you know, why is that happening, and what can we do from a holistic perspective or a food is medicine perspective to potentially help that problem.
Alyssa: Right. So Root Farmacy and you make amazing meals. So in dealing with the gut and trying to get to the root problem, a lot of the times, I would imagine it’s diet?
Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of times when we’re working with clients, they do have food sensitivities that maybe they have already identified or maybe they have not. So a lot of times, the first piece of the puzzle is having them do a therapeutic elimination diet where they take out common food allergies and sensitivities for a period of time just to see if it helps improve their symptoms. And then we do a strategic reintroduction to kind of test that particular food to see if that is contributing to their symptoms.
Alyssa: So you have specific meals at the Farmacy, I noticed, that are elimination diet – do you call it friendly, or what’s the terminology for that? Like, if I’m not doing an elimination diet, would I even want to eat them? Do they taste good?
Kelsey: That is a wonderful question. So the first thing, I guess, I will say about that is, I don’t even think that the best part of our meals is that they are free of gluten, dairy, corn, peanut, shellfish, egg, and soy. That’s what they’re free of. But I think that the best thing about them is that they are balanced with protein, healthy fat, and fiber, and allow you to get a lot of different types of plants in your diet, as well, because diversity is huge for your gut microbiome, and 70% of your immune system is in your gut. So taking good care of your gut is really important to stay healthy. So the best part about them is just how balanced they are. And an added bonus is that they’re also free of all these sensitivities. And I personally think that they taste wonderful and that you’re not even going to notice that they’re free of those common allergens and sensitivities.
Alyssa: Does that mean all of your meals are elimination diet-friendly or there’s just specific ones that you would have a patient that’s working with you eat?
Kelsey: On our website, we have a tab for Farmacy, and we have seven choices per week for the Farmacy meals subscription. You can subscribe to either five or ten meals per week, and we do label at least five or six of them per week as free of gluten, dairy, corn, peanut, shellfish, egg, and soy. We also have another meal plan for PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome, one of our specialty areas. It’s a common metabolic hormonal disorder in women, and they benefit from having an anti-inflammatory nutrient-dense diet, too, and sometimes we do have egg and organic soy in those particular meals. But at least five or six per week are always going to be free of everything I mentioned.
Alyssa: So I think I fed my daughter a couple without even realizing – I mean, she has a gluten allergy, egg, and dairy, so she’s kind of eating that way anyway, but for a seven-year-old, it’s really hard to find things that they’re willing to eat. And when I came in and saw you, I think you suggested zucchini noodles with spaghetti sauce and some meat on top. She tore it up! Like, she ate it and asked for more, so I ordered more the next time. But she loved it, so I guess I answered my own question of if they taste good. They do, because I then unknowingly ate all these elimination diet foods, and they tasted great.
Kelsey: Yeah. So our chef, Jen, is a registered dietician as well, and she is very skilled in making foods taste good just with using a lot of fresh herbs and spices rather than using, like, butter and cheese.
Alyssa: I love that there’s not a ton of butter. Whenever we go out to dinner and then you have leftovers and you heat up, like, a pasta dish the next day, the amount of butter in a pasta and sauce – I almost can’t eat it. It makes me sick to know how much butter I ate the night before at that restaurant. And then we wonder why we feel so bloated the next day. So I think with your meals, I didn’t feel bloated, and I don’t feel overly full. It’s just right. That feeling of, I just ate enough, and I feel good.
Kelsey: Yeah. The process of developing the recipes, too, like Chef Jen comes up with the recipe and then Amy and myself – Amy is another dietician at Root – we all look at the recipe together, and we make tweaks to make sure that everything ends up looking good on the label from, like, the calorie, protein, fat, fiber standpoint. And with bringing up the butter, too, that is a great point. Like, I find that avoiding dairy at restaurants is more challenging than avoiding gluten because there’s just hidden butter and fake Parmesan in everything.
Alyssa: Right. So let’s talk about breastfeeding moms because a lot of them may decide to eliminate dairy from their diet while breastfeeding. And like you said, butter and cheese are hidden in everything, so these meals could potentially be a great choice for moms who are trying to just eliminate dairy.
Kelsey: Yeah. That’s a really great point. With both of my daughters – I have a two- and a five-year old who I breastfed, and I had to do at least an experimentation with eliminating dairy with both of them. And if that’s not something you’re used to, if you’re used to just kind of including dairy in most of your meals throughout the day, it can be a major change. Adding the stress of taking care of a newborn on top of trying to navigate a new dietary change makes it even more challenging. So all of our meals, 100% of them, are actually always free of dairy. Once in a while in something we have at the deli we’ll have, like, ghee in it, but not very often. But all of our Farmacy meals are free of dairy. So it can be a very convenient way to help a mother successfully eliminate dairy from her diet to see if that helps improve her baby’s fussiness when nursing.
Alyssa: And I’m remembering back to being newly postpartum, and especially if you’re breastfeeding, you’re so hungry all the time. But I feel like a lot of my meals were snacks and one-handed snacks because you’re holding a baby in one arm because you’re breastfeeding, and you have one hand free. So I’m trying to grab whatever I can that’s maybe healthy: a banana or nuts or, you know, some sort of snack mix. But it’s just not enough for our bodies which are going through so many changes and breastfeeding on top of it. I think having a meal service like this, where it’s already prepared and all you have to do is heat it up, and you’ve done all the hard work of making sure it’s nutrient-dense enough – it’s just a really, really good option for new parents.
Kelsey: Absolutely. A lot of times when we have a baby and when we’re parents in general, we tend to put ourselves last. We feed everyone else, but then we don’t take care of ourselves, and it’s not always easy to make a balanced lunch when you’re holding a baby. So to be able to just keep up and eat a balanced meal that actually fills you up for three to four hours is a really wonderful thing. Otherwise, what happens is we end up in the snack cabinet. We end up eating crackers or just grabbing random things out of the fridge, and every hour we’re just kind of eating something, grazing all day long. So we might not be getting the protein, the fat, the fiber, the nutrients we really need for healing.
Alyssa: Yeah. I know that when I snack all day, which I’ve always been kind of grazer, so I just eat, like, little bits all the time. But when I do that, I don’t eat enough protein, and I get headaches, and those headaches can last for a full day or two. And it’s not a migraine, but it will put a damper on my day, and I know full well that I just need to take the time to sit down and eat. Make some tuna or make something substantial instead of snacking. But it’s so, so hard unless I have a meal like this in my fridge just ready to go.
Kelsey: Yeah. And I’m right there with you. Like, I have the same struggles as everyone else, and I do this for my job. I have a two-year-old, and watching a two-year-old is no joke. They’re just trying to get into everything, trying to kill themselves when you go to the kitchen to try to heat up your meal. So I have some days where I don’t end up eating lunch, and I find myself just snacking all day long and never truly feeling satisfied.
Alyssa: Have your kids tried your meals? Or are they still in the too-picky stage?
Kelsey: Well, that’s a great question. My five-year-old really likes salmon, so she will eat that meal. And they will eat certain things but not all. So it’s kind of a work in progress. I’m hoping I’ll get there soon, though.
Alyssa: Yeah. My daughter is fairly adventurous, but I think because she has so many food allergies, she’d be stuck in a rut if she just ate the same three things all the time. So she wants to have new things to eat, so I was really, really happy when she ate that zucchini spaghetti from your kitchen, and she begged for it again.
Kelsey: Oh, my gosh. I’m really glad to hear that she liked that! It’s one of my favorite meals, too. I’ve been eating that – that was on our original menu, so I’ve been eating that for about eight months now.
Alyssa: Yeah. She loved it, and then I think I got, like, a muffin or something that she loved. Oh, and we tried that chia – she didn’t like the texture, so I ended up eating that. I knew it would probably be a weird texture thing for her, with the chocolate chia pudding.
Kelsey: Oh, yeah. Chia pudding is one thing that we’re always going to have on the menu because it’s actually one of the foods that we use a lot in food as medicine, because chia pudding is really great for constipation, so it can be a great food to eat on a daily basis if you’re having some trouble keeping your bowels moving, which I know can be a common problem post-childbirth.
Alyssa: Right. So what is in the chia? Is it filled with fiber, or is it just because it’s a seed and it kind of helps things move through?
Kelsey: Yeah, it’s because of the fiber and the way it absorbs water. It just helps keep the bowels moving. And then it soaks in almond milk overnight, too, so that extra fluid just helps keep things going.
Alyssa: That’s awesome. Yeah, I feel like a lot of women don’t talk about their bowel movements enough, and I didn’t realize until I was an adult how important gut health and going to the bathroom regularly is.
Kelsey: Yeah. We actually talk about it every single day with our clients because, you’re right. If you’re constipated or if you’re not going daily, you’re going to be more likely to have hormonal imbalances, too, because we absorb hormones when we’re not having a bowel movement every day.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s one of those weird things that people don’t want to talk about, but it’s probably one of the most important.
Kelsey: For sure. So, yeah, we talk about that a lot, and a lot of the food that we have at our café are great for gut health, like I mentioned.
Alyssa: Yeah. So I’ve ordered, I think, one week so far, and the nice thing about your meals is you can do it on and off. So I did it one week, but then it was Christmas and I knew I’d have a bunch of leftover food, because even though it was just my family of three, I bought a gigantic ham from a local butcher. So, okay, I have all this food. But then if I want it again next week, all I have to do is get back online, go into my account, order another week. And then I also have the option of just walking into your storefront. So for those of you that are local to West Michigan, they’re in the old Marie Catrib’s kitchen side, so it’s a really nice space. And you can just kind of go in, grab some meals, and walk out. Now, the actual deli has specific hours, right? Or are you there every day?
Kelsey: Yeah. So on Mondays and Tuesdays, we are currently only open for subscribers to pick up. So by subscriber, we’re talking about, like, if you were to order on our website and subscribe to the five or ten meals per week, and like you said, if you subscribe for one week, you’re not roped in forever. You just have to cancel on a week to week basis, and you decide what weeks you do want to get the meals. So you have to either order or cancel by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday evening. You have to cancel by then or you have to order by then for pickup the next Monday or Tuesday. So on Monday and Tuesday, our chefs are cooking the meals for the subscribers, and then on Wednesday through Saturday, we are open to the public where we sell extra Farmacy meals that we have leftover, and we also have a deli case where we have things like chicken salad, homemade hummus, potato salad, roasted vegetables, things like that.
Alyssa: So I guess to end, why don’t you tell everyone – I know you said the website earlier, but maybe say it again and then any other topics that we didn’t touch on that you wanted to.
Kelsey: Yeah. So to subscribe to the meal plan, you can go to the website. Or if you just want to check out our café menu, we have that website where you can see our menu, and our menu actually is not going to be the same every single week because we try to use local produce whenever we can, so a lot of times the chefs are cooking what is dropped off to them. So depending on what they have that week, our menu will be different, but we post on Tuesday nights, usually, what we’re going to have for the menu the rest of the week.
Alyssa: And that’s in the deli? So on Tuesday, I could check the deli menu, and then come in and see what I want from the deli menu?
Kelsey: Yeah. And another thing I forgot to mention is that we do have smoothies, as well, that were dietician-formulated, and they’re all balanced with protein, fat, and fiber, and they all include protein powder in them. At a lot of different places, you have to pay extra to add the protein powder, but we have either pumpkin seed protein or collagen already included in all of our smoothies to keep them balanced and fill you up for a few hours.
Alyssa: I haven’t seen those on the weekly menu. Is that something that you go into the deli, and you make it right there? Or is it a bring home and make yourself in the blender thing?
Kelsey: We make it for you.
Alyssa: Cool. I have to remember that next time we go in.
Kelsey: Yeah. They’re pretty good. We spent a lot of time formulating them, so we’re pretty proud of them!
Alyssa: Thank you for listening to Ask the Doulas!