Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, lover of delicious food, wife and mom to 2 young girls. She doesn’t love cooking but she does love creating tasty, nourishing and easy recipes for her family and yours. Her joy and passion is to empower women with nutrition knowledge, tasty recipes and simple strategies to live the healthy, active lives they envision, even while caring for a family. On a mission to help every mom love the woman in the mirror, she helps them break free from food guilt, end body shaming and figure out what’s for dinner tonight. As a Nutrition Coach, Jennifer helps clients cut through the diet noise and create healthful rhythms that allows them to feel and perform their best.
After becoming a mom in 2015, she realized how utterly difficult it was for moms to take care of their emotional and physical health among the unending demands of motherhood. It was then, in those moments of tears and frustration, running on coffee and cuddles, that she decided to create a business to help busy, stressed and exhausted women make healthy living simple and delicious.
Jennifer uses years of experience in outpatient and private practice work to help her clients get past ‘idealistic nutrition’ and instead find real life strategies that actually work. Her nutrition science education from Texas Christian University laid a solid foundation but motherhood has expanded her empathy, creative ideas and ability to connect with women. Not only does she work with amazing women, coaching them on their health journey but she has the privilege of writing the Good Health column for an online faith-based magazine. In need of some healthy inspiration? You can find that, yummy recipes and a huge dose of encourage on her website and in her weekly newsletter. On any given day, you may find her dancing with her girls in the living room, exploring food with her 3 year old (ie. making a mess) or escaping to go on a walk or jog listening to her favorite podcast.
Mathea Ford: [00:00:28] Hi there! It’s Mathea. Welcome back to the Nutrition Experts Podcast. The podcast featuring nutrition experts who are leading the way using food starts today right now with our next guest. It’s great to have Jennifer Hunt on the show today. Jennifer, welcome to Nutrition Experts.
Jennifer Hunt: [00:00:45] Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Mathea Ford: [00:00:49] I’m excited to have you on the show and share your expertise with my tribe because I think we’re going to talk about some really great exciting fun stuff today. So, tell my listeners a little more about you and what you do.
Jennifer Hunt: [00:01:03] Great! So I am a mommy to two very vibrant and active little girls and I am married to my handsome, sweet husband who we’ve been married for about 13 years. And actually he has given me the opportunity to learn very early on about meal planning and meal prep for selective eaters. So, even before kids I got to begin learning how to do this. So I used to work in an outpatient office and loved what I was doing but after having children decided to stay at home and really start working with women that were a part of kind of where my passion was. And so one of the things that I really hope to do and with every person that I work with is to make healthy living really simple and delicious. So, I love creating new recipes I’m giving talks doing food demos writing and doing nutrition coaching really to help my clients in making some simple but really effective changes and make it really yummy and delicious.
Mathea Ford: [00:02:21] Great! I think that perfectly explains kind of who we’re talking about a busy moms which there’s plenty of those around I myself included. So let’s talk about meal planning for a family. Do you have any quick ideas or quick thoughts that people can use to kind of get started?
Jennifer Hunt: [00:02:41] Yes. So, I think that one of the things that tends to be one of the biggest challenges when we’re meal planning is trying to please everyone and some of us might also have some food allergies in the family. So, one of the things that is just a really quick tip is to make a list. And I did this many years ago when I was feeling really stuck. I felt like we were just eating the same foods over and over and over again. And that was really frustrating me. And so what I did was I just sat down and I started thinking up what does my family actually like to eat. And at first you start with probably some of the maybe basics that you might think of like tacos or spaghetti or hamburgers. And then as I kept thinking I was actually writing down more and more. And so when I originally was kind of feeling like we were eating the same things every week, I found there was probably a list of about 20ish meals that we actually enjoyed together as a family. And that was really enlightening and encouraging because I was feeling so stuck. And so instead of having a week’s worth of meals that we were eating feeling like we’re eating every week we actually had probably several weeks of meals and I was just not remembering some of those other options that we actually liked. So that’s one idea I think maybe another idea is to think about if when we’re making meals that we really don’t have to please everyone with every single food that’s on the plate.
Jennifer Hunt: [00:04:30] One other thought is that if we’re sitting down to kind of create a meal plan, try to get at least two or three items at that meal that everyone is going to probably eat and instead of trying to make sure that everything at the meal is appealing to everyone. I know that when as a mom I want to create or I want to raise adventurous eaters and in order to do that I have to continue to expose them to different foods and unfamiliar foods and ones that maybe they declined months for you know for the last few months. But I have to continue to keep exposing them to them those foods or they probably aren’t going to actually eat those foods. So, when I think about kind of like making sure there’s a couple of things on the plate that pleases everyone but it doesn’t have to be that the entire meal pleases everyone every single week. And sometimes that also is as simple as making sure there’s maybe a fruit at the table if they like certain kinds of fruit and even milk because milk is such a nutrient dense food could even be considered one of those items on the tray. Another thing that I’ve also discovered is that kids seems like to kind of build their own types of meals when we maybe decompose certain meals and instead of let them kind of build it themselves they may not put everything into their on their plate or in their bowl that we would ideally want them to but it gives them a little sense of power and being able to kind of control and because otherwise they may have just said “No, I’m not into eating that meal at all.”
Jennifer Hunt: [00:06:23] I found that with little ones sometimes chili or soups or things that just have a lot of ingredients in them can feel kind of scary or overwhelming for them. And so when we start to think about making noodles that maybe are a little bit more have separate items or that they can build and create themselves. It can make the meal a little bit more appealing to everyone in the family.
Mathea Ford: [00:06:50] Well, I love that idea. My kids love going to Genghis Grill which I don’t know if you have that in South Carolina but basically you go down online and you pick your meat and you pick your vegetables and they love going to that because they get to pick and they get to assemble their own meal and they usually pick two or three vegetables and I’m happy that they get a little bit of variety but they like going there because they don’t have to pick off the menu. They know what they’re going to get. So that’s a great point.
Jennifer Hunt: [00:07:20] And you can do that you know with tacos or if you’re making quesadillas. You can even do that with things like spaghetti where you just keep it like the meat or the meatballs or the chicken separate from the sauce and the noodles and maybe you have broccoli that you could put into the bowl or spinach or something like that. And so there are a lot of meals with just a little bit of thought. We could probably keep some of those items separate so that they can then kind of build their own and kind of create their own little masterpiece instead of just being something that’s kind of served to them.
Mathea Ford: [00:07:53] That’s great! So, I understand you have like a quick walkthrough or a five minute meal plan. So will you tell us a little bit about that?
Jennifer Hunt: [00:08:00] Yes definitely! So, I think that meal planning does not have to be difficult or overwhelming. And I know that there are a lot of different ways that you can meal plan and there’s a lot of apps and programs but it really as is as simple as sitting down and writing down on a piece of paper a few different things. And I do have a handout on my website that I can share with your audience and can kind of guide them through this process. So, I believe that you can create a great healthy meal plan for your week and only about five minutes. The first thing that is really important and that I think that sometimes we skip is we need to look at our week or our calendar. What I was finding when I was working with a lot of individuals is that they were creating these idealistic meal plans but they weren’t necessarily in line in complimenting their week. And so if they had a crazy day but they were trying to make a new recipe or something or something that took just more than 20 minutes it was just not working. And then they were feeling like they just kind of failed. And so we don’t want to create meal plans that make us feel like we can’t do this. So, it’s really important to just spend one minute to review your calendar and certainly if you have a spouse to look at their calendar as well so that way you can anticipate you know if you’ve got kids that are in soccer or dance or if you know that you’ve got a work meeting that could potentially go late or if there’s anything that is going on during the week that you need to be aware of. Maybe you have some guests coming in at the end of the week. And so that way you can make sure that you’re creating a plan that revolves around what’s going on in your life.
Jennifer Hunt: [00:09:49] So, that is the first thing you want to do and just spend one minute. Take out your phone or your calendar however you do that and look at your calendar. A second minute you’re going to actually spend looking through your pantry and fridge. So you just want to get up, glance through what’s in your refrigerator maybe what’s in your freezer, what’s in your pantry. Certainly, if you have any produce or any meat that you’re wanting to use up and you don’t want to go bad that is what you’re kind of looking for. Also maybe pick things that you can throw together that you’ve just already got staples in your pantry. A couple of weeks ago we were going to be going out of town and we had bought some Brussel sprouts that were actually on the stock because my 3 year old thought that was so cool and I was going with it and we were going to you know cook those up and so that was something where I needed to use that up so that we didn’t go out of town and leave that. So just look for things like that. So, that’s a second minute. You just want to glance through your pantry fridge. From the third and fourth minute, you want to go ahead and choose your recipes. And this is where you can go back to that list that you’ve maybe already created that are some of the family favorites. And look at what are some of those recipes that you want to insert into your week. And so now that you know what’s going on with your calendar you can kind of look at how many days a week do we want to have leftovers. Is there a night or two that we’re going to be eating out? Is there a day that would be a better day for us to do a slow cooker meal? Or is there a day that we want to do a quick stir fry or use the things that are in our freezer? Or maybe you’ve already got something in your freezer that you just need to take out and defrost. So that allows you to kind of insert those recipes in. One thing that I do find is that most of us cannot commit to doing more than about one new recipe a week. And for some of us that still might be too much depending on your week. I encourage moms and whoever is doing the meal planning not to get too excited about adding new recipes and it is great to add some variety into our meal plan. And even if you just add one a week and over the course of a year that’s about 50 new recipes. And that is a whole lot of variety. But I do find that because new recipes take more time just are not we can’t go into autopilot and create those recipes easily. And then for the last minute what I think is really important is that we post it and for many years this was something that I just did not do consistently. And I found that our meal plan would kind of just fall apart and I’d be like “Oh yeah! What are we making?” And then when I don’t have that kind of already locked in my brain we would just look for another easy alternative and we all know it some easy alternatives can be. So, just literally posting it can also remind us if we’re needing to take something out of the freezer the night before or defrost something. And also if you do take a little bit of time on a day whether it’s a weekend or even an evening where we do a little extra meal prep, we can just glance at what’s coming up in the next week and determine “Oh! Hey! I’m ready in the kitchen. I’m making dinner tonight. I’m going to go ahead and make quinoa for two nights in the future” you know or “I’ll go ahead and chop that extra onion and just put it in a container so that it’s ready to go on Thursday” so it can really kind of help us also in looking ahead and kind of doing a little extra prep for ourselves if we have that time available.
Mathea Ford: [00:13:47] Like we have activities a couple of nights a week. And I know okay, if we’re going to end up having to eat out that night or know okay, if I make this type of thing we can take it with us. Somebody can eat it when they get home from school that type of thing and hosting it. Absolutely. Because my husband loves to ask someone for dinner and see that “say yes” like look on my face. Yeah, it avoids that a little bit. What are some of the struggles that you encounter or that your patients encounter that they might want to be aware of to prepare for?
Jennifer Hunt: [00:14:24] Yes. So one of the struggles that I hear a lot from some of the clients that I work with is just that they are wanting to make some healthful decisions for themselves and their bodies but they are finding that maybe not everyone in the family or maybe they have children and they’re just finding that not everyone is either on board with that. Maybe they’re used to doing it a different way. And so mom is maybe trying to make some some changes and it might produce a little bit of some tension or challenges. So, I think that that’s sometimes when I talk with individuals and they’re talking about how they’re making something different for their kids or they talk about how it’s their food and their kids food. And I think that’s one of the biggest challenges is trying to make it all meld together so that our family can eat together and eat some nourishing foods and not feel like mom is trying to do different things because we want our kids to be healthy too and they have growing bodies as well. And so making all of that kind of meld is I think one of the biggest challenges that I hear from moms. And I think one of the things that’s really important is to really have good communication. If you do if you are married and in kind of talking with your spouse about you know “what is some of our family’s health values? What do we value? What is important to us?” And that does not mean that we need to overhaul our families meals but it might mean that we can make some really small and simple changes to help direct all of us in in a past that is moving towards the health that we want, the energy that we want, you know feeling good and feeling really confident in our bodies. It could be as simple as in the rice. I will do this if I’m making maybe like brown rice. We can just add in some cauliflower rice and we can pretty much do half and half and it pretty much just kind of blends in. And most people probably wouldn’t even know that it’s in there you know. And so it’s just one simple little change that kind of helps get more veggies into our diets. So, it could be as simple as some of those small changes. It could be that we are making meat sauce for spaghetti and so maybe we use like half the amount of meat that we typically would. And we add in some cooked lentils and we’re you know just once again trying to boost some of the plant protein and get some still a good source of iron but get some beans in our diet if that’s something that maybe we struggle with. I also found when it comes to communicating with a spouse especially if they have some different preferences that’s sometimes what I found. So, my husband was not a huge fan of most fruits and vegetables when we got married and I was getting really frustrated.
Jennifer Hunt: [00:17:48] I was actually still finishing school and so here I am wanting to make all of these different kinds of foods and meals. And he was not necessarily onboard with all of this new stuff and this variety. And so when I was feeling really stuck I started printing off a couple of recipes that I was really interested in trying and that I thought that maybe he might possibly go for. And so I presented like two or three of them to him and said “Which of these would you be most likely willing to try if I were to make it this week?” And so he would choose the one that appealed to him the most. And then of that we would go through the recipe and he would kind of communicate like “Yeah! Do you think you could do this a little differently or could you leave out the onion or could we shred the onion so it’s not in big chunks or something like that?” And so as we were able to talk about that it really opened up some better dialogue and helped me learn a little bit more about why he did or did not like certain foods and what it was whether it was a taste or maybe a texture thing. And that was a very helpful strategy for me since he was not necessarily into doing to eating all of the things that I was excited about eating. So, those are a few of the quick things that we can do to kind of open up some of that dialogue and help whether it’s with our kids or a spouse to kind of keep the communication flowing and really learn about why they may not be on board with some of the things we want to do and then when we have that knowledge really helps us in kind of guiding us into “hmm. Maybe I could do this a little differently and they would like it or they would at least try it or consider it.”
Mathea Ford: [00:19:44] That makes a lot of sense. It’s the consensus kind of you know family thing instead of like my father for example lives with us and he’ll eat anything I set in front of him because that’s how he grew up. You eat what your mom sets in front of you but like for example but mom’s busy moms you don’t want to end up as a short order cook. So, having to do three different meals or three different things to make everybody happy doesn’t help you want to do more meal planning. So those are great. Yeah.
Mathea Ford: [00:20:17] So, can you talk a little bit more about how families you’ve talked about some examples of how to make the meals healthier. Any other examples of how families can use meal time to make healthier meals to be healthier?
Jennifer Hunt: [00:20:29] Especially when it comes to kids, I think that also depending on their ages inviting them to maybe be a little part of helping to make some decisions in the meal can also help in terms of some buy in when it comes to eating foods. So, it might be that you ask your four year old “hey! We have broccoli and we have carrots and we have salad this week. Which one of those would you like tonight?” And in maybe kind of giving them a few choices maybe not too many but a couple of options and seeing if they would say “hey! Okay. How about make the broccoli but I want some cheese on it or something like that?” And so it might be also that in giving them a few options. Not a lot again but a few that they will be a little bit more interested and that little bit can kind of helped in them potentially eating or enjoying even that meal more. I think it’s also just you know thinking about like the rainbow you know you might think about how can we make our plate a little bit more colorful and maybe talking about that with your kids you know just kind of we don’t have to get into details but the idea that we want to eat different colors because there are different nutrients in those variety of foods and kind of saying “Hey! How could we get a more colorful plate tonight? We’re having chicken and brown rice. But what are some other colors we could add to make this plate look this meal look more appealing?” And see if they can you know they might say blueberries or whatever. And so I started this fall teaching this preschool cooking class and it just started as something that I was doing for some of my mommy friends and for their kids. And so one of the meals that we made when they came over were these rainbow pizzas. And so you know we have kids that might traditionally just want a cheese pizza or pepperoni. But the goal here was to make them super colorful so we had chopped up orange and yellow bell pepper,, we had some black olives we had the white cheese, we had spinach, we had the red sauce and so the idea was is we wanted to make these colorful rainbow pizzas. And so there was a lot more excitement about adding some of these different foods onto their pizza just because it was this idea of making you know creating a rainbow. So, I think that can also be just a helpful strategy to kind of think about and once again asking them if they would be interested in choosing for the family what we’re having tonight. And of course older kids might even be interested in helping do more planning. But when it’s younger kids it can be helpful just to let them choose like one type of food.
Mathea Ford: [00:23:29] So, I love that you talked about the preschool cooking class because one of my other questions I wanted to ask you is how can we get our children to learn more about nutrition as they grow up? What are some good tasks to start with in the kitchen?
Jennifer Hunt: [00:23:43] Sometimes we think they need to be older but they can start super young because there are just little things that they can do. When my little girl was just even two, she loved to like put the muffin wrappers in the muffin tin and then I could help her maybe mash the banana if we were making some banana walnut muffins. Another idea is like decorating the salads. Young kids are very good at like taking the items and then decorating our salads, putting different vegetables and avocado and whatever we want to put on those salads and that can be once again there a little piece of kind of helping out with that. As they get a little bit older, measuring ingredients can be something that they can do whether they’re measuring wholegrain flour so that we could make some muffins, learning to crack an egg and kind of do that and you know stirring things up. I think it’s also important for parents to realize that getting them in the kitchen does not mean they need to make the entire recipe or an entire meal. So, depending on their age, young kids might just want to come in and shake up the salad dressing in the mason jar that we made. Right? Or they might want to just decorate the salad and they’re good. They’ve had their little hand in helping. And then as they are getting older whether 5, 6, 7 and older they may have more interest in helping and obviously their attention span will grow and they’re able to participate a little bit more. So, those are a few things and then I do believe that you know depending on your child when you feel like they’re ready. Teaching them really good knife skills is helpful. And it might even be finding a class that is like a mommy in kid class or parent-kid class to go to so that they can learn some of those skills and like how to actually properly chop and use a knife. It can be incredibly empowering. And it’s one skill that I think that a lot of us maybe did not learn early on and we’ve either had to learn or we’re just struggling through some of the chopping. And that actually can slow things down in the kitchen. But I encourage every parent to get their kids in the kitchen and it maybe just once a week. Don’t don’t overwhelm yourself. But even when I do bring my 3 year old into the kitchen, my 1 year old she might be in the kitchen too and I might give her just a few measuring spoons to kind of play with. So, we’re all still kind of in there and we’re doing things and kind of just a part of the process.
Mathea Ford: [00:26:31] I think that’s great because it leads to them being more comfortable in the kitchen and not being afraid to cook. Like not being afraid to try.
Jennifer Hunt: [00:26:40] I also I would add one other thing is that when they’re cooking or helping you bake or do something in the kitchen it’s a very non-threatening environment. We were at the dinner table and they see you know peas on their plate and they have not been like in some peas. They can have a little bit more angst or anxiety about having to eat something that maybe is not appealing to them but when they’re in the kitchen just helping us do things there’s no expectation that they have to eat this at this time. And so that means that they’re going to be involved with all of their senses, they might be touching the food smelling of food, they might want to taste something but they’re able to kind of get in there and do something and get involved and become more familiar with certain foods without there being any expectation of having to put it in their mouth. And that can be a very helpful thing.
Mathea Ford: [00:27:38] That makes a lot of sense. So, I know you mentioned you work with busy moms and we’ve talked a lot about meal planning. What are some of the other big issues that you help patients deal with as busy moms?
Jennifer Hunt: [00:27:50] I think that one of the other obstacles that I’ve heard from a lot of moms is that sometimes it feels like every meal we’re still on and it is hard to be able just to sit down and be mindful and to eat our food and eat until we’re satisfied. A lot of times we find that we are… Even if we’re at the dinner table we’re taking a few bites, we’re trying to help a child or teaching table manners or maybe getting more milk for a child and it can be very busy. It can be very kind of scattered and chaotic. And in this especially for those that are stay at home moms this might happen for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it can feel very frustrating for them because they are trying to make sure that they’re nourishing their bodies and in eating until they’re satisfied and being mindful of their bodies signals. But there’s a lot else going on in that particular environments. And actually what I have found in working with women is that that bedtime kind of snacking and eating is is very common. And that’s partly because it’s finally our time to sit down and enjoy something that we actually want to eat you know and into actually kind of feel like you know we’ve worked hard and we’ve done a good job for the day and it’s finally kind of our time to sit down but if we’re not careful then that’s also a time when we’re not being as mindful because we’re wanting to maybe zone out and that is just something that I have found that is a common obstacle for a lot of women is kind of that late evening snacking maybe after we’ve put kids to bed and such. And that is something that I have found personally is that I get frustrated that I can’t always sit down and just enjoy a meal and then eat until I’m satisfied and that I’m going in a lot of different directions reconnecting with our bodies and learning to be more mindful, it is a process but I do find that that is something that I work a lot with individuals in kind of understanding what that looks like. What does it really look like and feel like when I’m satisfied and how do I go about doing that. So, yes. So, I think that that is a big obstacle but learning to kind of stop and take a few deep breaths and ask ourselves some questions and just also get curious. A lot of us have maybe a habit or behavior that we’re not thrilled about. And it’s easy to feel guilt or shame about that particular habit. But if we kind of take a step back and just get a little bit curious about maybe why something keeps happening or why we find that we’re going to the same thing over and over again. It can be really helpful and enlightening and help us identify if there’s maybe an emotion that’s tied to that or some anger or resentment that’s tied to that because I think a lot of times we use restriction and diets to help transform those habits that we do not like a lot or that we’re not thrilled about but if we have not really identified the why.
Jennifer Hunt: [00:31:30] We haven’t really gotten curious and understood maybe why we’re doing this again and again then we really can’t transform that habit. We might be able to restrict ourselves for a time but that’s really not an effective method for really getting free and and feeling good about our health.
Mathea Ford: [00:31:51] That’s something that I didn’t even think of but that’s a perfect example. Speaking of eating mindfully and eating food what is your favorite food?
Jennifer Hunt: [00:32:02] Oh! That is a hard question and I think probably depending on when you ask I might say something different but something that I am loving right now is I have a recipe for these chocolate chip Blondie bars on my website and they are delicious. I did a talk and a cooking demo at a local gym the other day and so I shared and made the recipe to share with them and then I demoed how to make the recipe, came home and cooked it in my own oven again. And so I got to enjoy it and it was so good. And the great thing is that they’re actually fairly low in sugar and added sugar because we use dates. We puree dates and use that as the primary sweetener. And then of course there’s some chocolate chips that have some sugar in them and the base of them is actually made from chickpeas or garbanzo beans. But I guarantee you would never know if I did not tell you. And so they are gluten free for those that need to follow gluten free diet but they are absolutely delicious and they are great warm out of the oven and it’s amazing. Also cold because it tastes like cookie dough. So, that is probably a recipe that I am loving right now. But if you ask me on another day I might have told you salmon because that is probably one of my favorite foods and recently I was really craving beets. So, we got some of those at the store recently as well to roast up. Those are a few of my favorites.
Mathea Ford: [00:33:40] I think we’ll all be heading over to your website shortly after this podcast to get that recipe for those chocolate chip cookies. So, Jennifer, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It was a pleasure to have you on the show. I know my listeners learned a lot about meal planning and especially with a busy family and activities. So, if listeners want to connect with you what’s the best way to do that?
Jennifer Hunt: [00:34:02] Yes. So thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it, Mathea and I love sharing with your audience. If they want to find me they can find me at my website which is healthy-inspiration.com. They’re welcome to e-mail me at JHunt.firstname.lastname@example.org. And then of course they can find me on Instagram and Facebook and that’s @JenniferHuntNutrition. So, I would love to connect with them and hear more about some of their challenges and continue to just encourage and inspire them on their health journey.
Mathea Ford: [00:34:40] Well guys this has been another great episode of the Nutrition Experts Podcast. The podcast is all about learning more so you can do more with nutrition in your life.