I’ve heard dozens of medical practitioners say that in their school training, which as we know is rigorous and lengthy, they receive a mere handful of hours in the field of nutrition. Yet we go to our primary care doctor and listen to what they say when it comes to what we should eat! More training is the vital foundation, and then more time during appointments must be implemented so patients understand the gravity of the situation. Let’s look at just one factor contributing to disease — obesity. We know that statistically over 70% of American adults are considered obese or overweight, and what’s even more alarming is that one in three of our high school students now fall into that classification as well. It’s only going to get worse when those kids become adults since obesity contributes to Type 2 diabetes and is even correlative with cancer.
As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Katie Kimball, CSME. She’s a mom of 4 from Michigan and the voice of healthy kids cooking working to restore the health of our young generation, one kitchen at a time. She created a course to teach kids how to cook, Kids Cook Real Food, helping thousands of families get healthier and making her a trusted authority and advocate for children’s health, featured on media outlets like Fox, ABC, NBC, The Dr. Nandi Show, and First for Women magazine. As the founder and CEO of Kitchen Stewardship, busy moms look to Katie for honest, in-depth natural product reviews and thorough research, and she often partners with health experts and medical practitioners to stay on the cutting edge.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
All I ever wanted to be when I grew up was an elementary teacher. I didn’t learn to cook as a kid and was actually a pretty serious junk food addict. I thought Hamburger Helper and bagged salad was amazing home-cooking when I was a young wife and 3rd grade teacher! But as with many people, having children was a real wake-up call on health.
I found this new healthy living journey to have some tension, and other moms around me echoed the same. It was hard to balance eating healthy and running out of time, wanting to care for the environment and purchase organics but killing our grocery budgets. The educator in me began to ponder during all that cutting board time how I would teach what I was learning through experience and failure to other busy moms. Where are the intersections between health, time, and budget? The idea of Kitchen Stewardship, being stewards of all our resources AND finding a balance, began to form in my mind.
I thought I might write a book, but someone recommended I start a blog to see if there was an audience for my idea. It was 2008, and I had no idea what a blog was. Three months later, I jumped in with both feet and started sharing weekly Monday Missions with the Internet, wondering if anyone would ever read them.
Within six months, I was hooked. I had my first thousand subscribers, and not only was I certain that people needed this concept of grace in baby steps, but I no longer had any motivation to write a book. I loved the social part of blogging and the interaction with my new tribe. As I heard more and more stories from the moms who were following me from all around the world, the same theme kept coming up: “Katie, I really want to be healthy. But it’s so hard because I was never taught to cook. I don’t know my way around the kitchen at all.”
The day my oldest used a chef’s knife in front of his 4th grade class, I realized that I hadn’t been teaching my 4 kids very much about cooking either, and I was determined to change that. If I didn’t, in 20 years, my children would be saying the same thing: “I really want to get healthy. But it’s so hard because I was never taught to cook.”
After spending a summer teaching my older 3 kids basic cooking skills, I knew I could give other parents the roadmap and encouragement they needed as well. They could not only cook and serve healthy food for their families, but pass on the skills to their children so the next generation could start off even better than ours did.
As a child eating SpaghettiOs and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter squirted on my baked potatoes, I never would have expected to be teaching kids to cook. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur or business owner. And I certainly didn’t know I would be so passionate about kids’ health that I would make it my platform to inspire change in the healthcare industry. But here I am, making my own way, determined to uproot and redirect the prediction that our kids’ generation will be the first not to outlive their parents’.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
My husband and I both run our own companies and work at home…in one office…with 4 kids. So all of life is pretty much an adventure and much more “interesting” than what I thought adulthood would be like!
We leveled up our sense of adventure in the summer of 2019, heading off for a 6-week family trip with just our minivan, ten favorite meals we knew we could make with one grocery trip, and a hopeful wish that our journey wouldn’t become a disaster.
We traveled to nine states, stayed with two high school classmates of mine whom I’ve barely seen in 20 years, and twice crashed at a 3-bedroom house with five people already living there. (Did I mention we’re a family of 6?) We even stayed with another entre-family with whom we had interacted mostly through the screen, a further testament to the general eccentricity of online life. Our host’s mother said, alarmed, “WHO are these people? You’ve met them once? I’m coming over for dinner!”
We will never forget the gift of living in other families’ homes for a few days. Who gets that opportunity in this day and age? We just hope our friends don’t regret tossing out the platitude, “Hey, come visit if you’re ever in our state!”
On the business side, I was able to continue to run the company from the road. It was mighty different from working at home! I had to delegate a lot to my amazing team and really trust them, and they served me (and our customers) well. I also had to very strictly prioritize my own tasks into an hour here and there, forcing me to improve on one of my many weaknesses.
Streamlining processes made a huge difference in my success keeping up on communication with readers as well. For example, we implemented dictation and machine transcription for newsletter and post writing, allowing me to “write” a 2600-word post while playing with my kids at a park in New Orleans. This continues to save me so much time!
I was also able to innovate on the road and make our travels a part of my business growth: I implemented a new “Healthy Travel Thursday” series, sharing non-toxic products we love enough to have packed, and statistics from that series have been invaluable to help me learn what resonates with my tribe. My kids and I did a live TV appearance in Cincinnati and filmed a video with a competitive barbecue team in Texas, and we held mini mastermind meetings with colleagues all over plus scheduled two half-day meetings with my business coach, creating goals lists for 6 months.
All of that while enjoying the best aquarium in the US, the longest caves, and the most beautiful beaches with my family, building memories and life experiences that continue to change us — and only eating out fewer than 20 times. My kids and I cooked at least one meal for everyone who generously hosted us. That’s “on brand” every step of the way!
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The Internet is full of noise including thousands of food blogs and hundreds of health and wellness blogs. Standing out requires being yourself and never going with the flow.
I regularly get messages from loyal readers who say they ditched the dozens of blogs in their feed or inbox, keeping only one or two. They always say the same thing about why they keep reading Kitchen Stewardship: they felt too much guilt with everyone else, like every decision had to be perfect for their family’s nutrition to be good enough.
In contrast, I authentically talk about failure and grace in the baby steps. In our over-scheduled, stressed-out culture, that’s what busy moms need.
I’m holding a handwritten thank you card right now from a giveaway winner. Mary took the time to use snail mail to thank someone she’s never met for making a difference in her family through these small baby steps, “practical and delicious” recipes, and being refreshingly relatable. Her kids are working through our eCourse and building confidence in their own skills.
That’s exactly why I’m here. I want to bring to the world something so lacking in almost every arena — balance.
In addition, many people seem to be in the online health space to cover the big problems, the ones that get a lot of press (and a lot of wallets opening up). I’m here for the love of the children, hope for families, and a strong belief that the root cause of most of those “squeaky wheel gets the grease” diseases is really the habits people form in childhood. I don’t sell a fancy solution, flashy promises, or supplements with 10x profit margins.
I’m the lonely person crying out for prevention. Telling people gently but urgently, using education and research, that we need to start our kids off on the right foot. We need to both feed them healthy foods and give them the capacity to continue those habits themselves as they become adults.
We need to turn back the clock to more basic conscientious parenting, responsible chores, and building life skills, particularly in the kitchen. I’m doing this unpopular thing that most other people don’t want to talk about because it’s hard. We live in a world where many of us prefer to take the easy, convenient way out. Instead I’m speaking up and pushing as hard as I can against the culture closing in on our kids.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
The status quo in the healthcare industry, quite simply, is that it is a sick-care industry. Medical professionals are fabulous at providing band-aids, prescriptions, and pain relievers when people are hurting. Currently they are not so fabulous at digging deep to the root cause and even worse at prevention.
If there is a pain point in our culture, it’s more and more people getting sick at greater rates and increasing severity. Most alarmingly to me, it’s happening at younger and younger ages.
Since when is it okay that 10% percent of our children are on at least one psychiatric prescription medication? How can we see 1 in 5 kids taking meds for a chronic disease before they’re old enough to vote (and more than half of our adults) and think that our healthcare industry does anything other than taking care of the sick?
I promote healthcare as preventative, as laying down the foundation of health so our kids never have to experience chronic disease or multiple daily prescriptions.
I had an incredible opportunity to speak to a few hundred healthcare practitioners in August 2019. I told them unequivocally that the children of today will be packing their waiting rooms in 20 years because of the habits that begin now. I encouraged them to look at every one of their adult patients and see a child with the same genetics, who on the same Standard American Diet will end up with all those chronic diseases and worse.
I want to redefine a patient visit as a family visit, one where practitioners teach healing diets, habits of exercise, outside time, and stress mastery to the whole family instead of just a prescription written for whomever feels sick at the time. This would disrupt everything about the medical system: the length of appointments, the training medical doctors receive, and even the framework through which patients are seen.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Hire for passion, not experience. I’ve always hired from my audience, because it’s vitally important to me that my team be on board with the mission of changing the health of the young generation and connecting families around healthy food. As long as someone knows how to learn, you can teach the programs and the skills, but you can’t teach the passion.
- Ask your potential customers to put their money on the line before investing in a new project. I created a huge package for sale a while back to help people host a natural “spa party” at home. It was super fun…but no one wanted it. Ouch. Market research lesson learned. When I launched our kids cooking course, I used Kickstarter to make sure I wouldn’t make that mistake again! Even if you have an idea you’re sure fits what your audience is looking for, it’s still vital to ask them and most effective to ask them to pre-pay in some way.
- Always double time and money estimates. I’m still trying to learn that if I think something will take 45 minutes, I need at least 2 hours, and if I estimate a contractor job to be $500, it will be $1000
- No one really knows what they’re doing — just act like a professional until it’s true. I made a lot of headway with online colleagues, traditional media, and brands simply by having chutzpah. I wrote emails like I had done something before, and “playing a CEO on the Internet” worked incredibly well. Don’t lie; speak and write with confidence you might not believe — yet.
- When you do a task your team could have done, you hurt everyone. Business gurus tell you to delegate what you don’t like to do and lean into your strengths, but it’s also really important to let your team keep what you’ve delegated. It’s tempting to just quickly do something myself (or redo work done slightly incorrectly), but to become the best manager of a well-oiled machine team, I have to make myself do a screencast with my feedback instead. The team breaks down if the CEO does too many little tasks.
Ironically, I teach parents some of these lessons as well! Cooking with kids needs twice as long, and parents can teach them even if they hardly know what they’re doing in the kitchen themselves.
The most important lesson for parents and CEOs is to let the kids/team fail. It’s always easier to clean a toilet, edit a photo, revise an outreach email, or pour milk on oatmeal yourself. But if you do all the work, no one else gets to do the learning, and nobody wins.
Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
I’m not shocked at all. As an unconventional consumer of healthcare and careful observer, I see many flaws.
- Not catching disease before it hits. We are pouring more people into the system who don’t need to be sick in the first place. If conventional medicine would expand their perspective of disease to catch markers of impending disease like functional medicine does, we would be able to help people dig out of their problems a lot sooner, when the problems are smaller.
- Prevention is key. Better yet, as I will say over and over, we need to start at the beginning and look at how to build health rather than how to reverse illness. Prevention is better than reversal every time. That prevention can’t start when a 60-year-old pre-diabetic walks into their primary care provider’s office. It starts even before conception, helping new moms and dads get their bodies in the best possible health before a child is even conceived. And once they’re born and exploring the world, I can help with the next critical step.
- Our kids are too disconnected from their food. We encourage parents to get kids in the kitchen as early as possible: watching, learning, experiencing, tasting, and smelling even as infants, and then participating in the work of the family as soon as possible. Parents can start formally teaching cooking skills as early as age two! I have pictures of my oldest cutting up cooked potatoes with a cheese slicer when he was just 20 months old. Now he wields a chef’s knife with confidence and will be releasing a cookbook “by kids, for kids” in May of 2020. Investing some of our health care funds in teaching kids to cook and eat a balanced diet would go a long way to improving the United States’ standings. But it’s a long game, something that won’t make a difference for a few decades, and lack of time and foresight brings me to my next point.
- Insurance hurts the doctor-patient relationship. Because of the complexity of American insurance and all the hassles with diagnostic coding, administration increases the cost of each appointment and decreases the time a practitioner can spend with a patient. The practitioner is then forced to focus only on the problem at hand and literally doesn’t have the minutes to spare to look at the whole person and examine what the root cause could be and how the systems are all working together. These dreadfully short appointments result in many of the poor outcomes on which the U.S. ranked so low. I’m fortunate to consider a number of pediatric healthcare practitioners my colleagues, and many of them are innovating through direct primary care practices or subscription memberships. Both models allow the MDs to spend an extraordinary amount of time with each patient, truly investing their own expertise in the patient’s overall health and wellbeing. The results are phenomenal! They incorporate important foundations like diet and nutrition and have the time to train families on how to implement successfully. Implementation and convenience brings me to my final point.
- Prescription-based healthcare will never have the best results. It’s far too easy and far too encouraged for doctors to simply write a prescription. (Remember that over 55% of us are on at least one a day!) It’s something most patients will successfully implement, because it’s a lot easier than changing one’s diet and lifestyle. It’s the American way to take the fast and easy path, to embrace convenience and time saving strategies! This works well for the economy, but it’s disastrous for healthcare. There are no shortcuts to good outcomes when it comes to a human body’s health. Rather than all these prescriptions (which also increase the cost of healthcare, where I see the Americans have soundly trounced the other countries), we need to invest the doctor’s time in empowering people to take control of their own health with effective home remedies and preventative diet and lifestyle strategies. It will always be easier to make a doctor’s appointment and pop a pill, but it won’t always be the most effective in the long run if we truly want to care for our nation’s health.
You are a “healthcare insider”. Can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
Let’s imagine what a better and more effective healthcare system looks like. How about one with fewer chronically ill people?
To begin to achieve this, changes must include a wider, integrated view of the whole person, more training and coaching in nutrition and lifestyle, and then a particular focus on children and prevention by empowering kids to take agency in their health.
1. Integrative Philosophy.
In the world of functional medicine, practitioners are taught to look at the whole person, to gather as many statistics and lab tests as possible to try to dig down to the root cause of any symptom that a patient or client may suffer with. This means if your hair is thinning and you have an itchy spot on your lower right side, you may end up addressing parasites in the gut and heavy metal toxicity. That’s not just an example — it’s something I’m literally in the middle of right now and never would have discovered on my own with a half-hour physical in an MD’s office.
Functional medicine would also look at weight gain in another way, perhaps by looking at gut dysbiosis or hormone imbalance, rather than simply diet and exercise. When people are already experiencing symptoms, we need to look at the whole person, and diet and lifestyle is just one piece of the solution.
Conventional medicine would do well to lean in to the idea that all the parts of the body affect one another and there’s never one isolated problem or solution.
2. Nutrition Training for Practitioners to Effect Prevention over Prescriptions.
I’ve heard dozens of medical practitioners say that in their school training, which as we know is rigorous and lengthy, they receive a mere handful of hours in the field of nutrition. Yet we go to our primary care doctor and listen to what they say when it comes to what we should eat!
More training is the vital foundation, and then more time during appointments must be implemented so patients understand the gravity of the situation.
Let’s look at just one factor contributing to disease — obesity. We know that statistically over 70% of American adults are considered obese or overweight, and what’s even more alarming is that one in three of our high school students now fall into that classification as well. It’s only going to get worse when those kids become adults since obesity contributes to Type 2 diabetes and is even correlative with cancer.
Every time the calendar flips, Americans run in droves to the nearest gym, Weightwatchers, or diet plan to try to reverse something negative that’s already begun. Why are people carrying more weight than they want?
Theories and research vary, but I think everyone can agree that there are some if not many elements of diet and lifestyle choices which contribute to weight gain. Any conscientious person can see that preventing weight gain in the first place is a lot easier than reversing the problem.
Therefore, preventative medicine comes down to building those good lifestyle habits in children.
I just have a hunch that our American tradition of cupcakes with two-inch-thick blue frosting for every child’s birthday in school classrooms is probably not the way to form the best habits, and that’s just around celebrations. We Americans have all sorts of terrible eating habits and traditions that need changing, and it will require a grassroots movement, not something doctors can “prescribe” to the American people.
3. Shift Cultural Habits to Support Health.
How can pediatricians, and even obstetricians before the child is born, work with families to encourage good habits?
It can’t be done. A pediatrician alone can’t change a child’s health.
It takes an entire culture of education and information shifting in the direction of health and longevity. Children need to learn that celebrations don’t require sweets (or food at all); that we eat when we’re hungry, not bored/tired/sad/stressed; that the scale is only a number, but what we eat can affect how we feel in so many ways; that we should eat mindfully, not distracted; that movement is a normal part of daily life that must be incorporated to feel our best; and that real food that we want to eat grows in the ground or eats things that grow in the ground (for starters!).
We parents work so hard to raise healthy, smart kids, and there’s such comparison in our world I almost hate to ask parents to be thinking of one more thing, forming these healthy habits for their children starting as early as possible.
Life would be a lot easier for parents if our well-meaning teachers, librarians, and bank tellers weren’t giving our kids sweets at every turn!
I’ve crunched the numbers from my kids’ school and determined that your average American school child probably consumes about two pounds of added sugar just in classroom celebrations. That’s the amount an American adult would have consumed 150 years ago in an entire year at all meals and snacks combined!
We’ve seen a dangerous cultural shift in the way we interact with food and have taught an entire generation (or two) poor eating habits. Many adults in my generation, the parents of today, are struggling to reverse habits ingrained in them for decades. That’s why I firmly believe we need to go back to our roots and start with our kids.
Let’s teach them what it’s like to eat real whole foods, not rely on sweets for every celebration, and develop a sense of self-control in a culture that will probably continue to offer them sugar often, at least until we can make an entire cultural shift reality.
4. Teach Kids to Cook.
It’s not enough for parents just to feed their kids well. They need to train them in good habits and the capacity to feed themselves later when those kids grow into the next generation of adults.
I started teaching my kids to cook simply because I thought they needed those life skills to carry them off to college. And quite frankly, I needed a little help around the house as well, so responsibility and competence in the kitchen seemed like the way to go. But I learned that teaching kids to cook supports health in a myriad of ways beyond nutrition.
In the last four years working with over 11,000 families from around the world, I’ve seen such benefits: connection in families, confidence in kids, and creativity so often lacking in this digital age. Mental and emotional health improve with cooking skills right along with the quality of the food kids choose to eat.
My own daughter gained so much confidence that as a shy fifth-grader, she was bold enough to apply for class officer. In her speech to her class, Leah talked about how proud she was of her kitchen skills. She knows feeding people is a genuine need, and it’s something most kids can’t do.
I got to see that confidence and creativity one day when I left for my volunteer job, made possible because my kids cook dinner once a week. They had no plan for a meal but some thawed ground pork, and at 5 p.m. heading out the door, I totally expected them to fail. When I arrived back at eight, Leah met me at the door, bubbling over with enthusiasm.
She said, “Mom, we made breakfast burritos and we just made up the recipe! We put some homemade sausage and peppers and onions in a pan, rolled out homemade tortillas, and Mom, everyone loved them…but there’s none left for you!”
That’s my vision for American kids — that they bubble over with enthusiasm through connection to their food, with confidence in their own abilities, and creativity to forge their own future. I want there to be “none left” in the doctors’ waiting rooms and plenty of real food confidently served at the table.
5. Group Visits to Reduce Costs.
Since you asked for five, I’ll say that to make healthcare more affordable, implementing group visits in doctors’ offices would be a novel innovation that could make a huge difference.
Imagine one doctor, practitioner, or coach, working with a large group of people struggling with the same issue or disease. They get coached in how to care for themselves, how to make changes in their diet and lifestyle, and how to implement habits successfully without the failure of overwhelm. Group visits cost far less, and research actually shows greater success because of the strong bonds of community and the support patients give to one another. For more on this, see James Maskell.
Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
- Individuals need to embrace the idea of kids learning life skills and begin to change the culture’s view of both hard work and failure as being undesirable. Families need to support healthy eating and give kids ample opportunities in the kitchen to spread their wings, try new things, and build competence in basic cooking skills.
- Corporations could fund meal planning resources and family cooking classes as employee benefits and sponsor healthy celebrations in schools. Restaurants need to stop supporting the picky eating movement and make it easier for parents to establish wide palates and adventurous eating in their kids. Kids’ menus should offer smaller portions of adult meals or “taster plates” so kids can try new things without parents spending an arm and a leg.
- I’d love to see more (affordable) cooking classes in communities, healthy (non food) celebration policies in schools, and WIC funding for whole foods (not the conglomerate, the produce section), just for starters when it comes to communities and leaders making true healthcare a reality.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
I’ve had the honor to interview Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure, and Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult. These books unequivocally should be required reading for all parents and pediatricians in America because they address one of the root causes of some of the mess in our country’s health: enablement and not allowing our kids to mature through trials.
I learn a great deal about health and the industry from podcasts such as the Broken Brain, Healthy Moms from Wellness Mama, and Freakonomics.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!