In this episode of The Motherly Podcast, Liz talks to Kelly LeVeque, a certified nutritionist and wellness expert. Her science-backed Fab four Method has helped so many people, especially busy moms, to stabilize their blood sugar with balanced meals that really help them—and their families—stay nourished throughout the day.

In this conversation, Kelly shares some nutritional tips for pregnant mothers and some easy tips for moms to set their kids up for lifelong healthy eating habits. Kelly also talks about the traumatic birth of her first child and what it taught her about expectations and the importance of community.

The following is a transcript of the conversation between host Liz Tenety and guest Kelly LeVeque for The Motherly Podcast.

Liz: I have been a vegetarian for 20 years. I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons and found a lot of other reasons along the way to enjoy being a vegetarian. But I started feeling really run down and started doing deeper research, talking to my doctors, seeing specialists and also doing more nutrition research. About six months ago, I just started reading more about my own protein needs as a pregnant woman and really came to the conclusion that I needed to begin eating meat. 

I would just say though, overall, the point and message is not you should eat meat or you should do any particular diet. It’s simply to call all of us as busy mothers to pay attention to the way that we are nourished. Research shows that mothers are the primary people who cook and prepare food in their families. I know it’s true in our case. But we put a lot of attention on what it is that we do to nourish our children. I don’t think we put enough attention on what it is that nourishes us. 

And so I hope this conversation today is a moment for you to think about what it is that fills your cup nutritionally, emotionally, psychologically—and maybe to be open to a new way of finding what you need to feel healthy and strong through this journey of motherhood.

Hey mama. Welcome to the Motherly Podcast where we have honest conversations about modern motherhood. I am Liz Tenety. I’m a co-founder here at Motherly, and I’m also a mom of four myself with one more baby on the way. We are back with another great season. I am so happy you decided to join us. 

Today’s guest is Kelly LeVeque. Kelly is a certified nutritionist and wellness expert. Her science-backed Fab Four Method has helped so many people, especially busy moms, to stabilize their blood sugar with balanced meals that really help them stay nourished throughout the day. Kelly has actually recently developed a pregnancy guide and a kids’ guide to help parents set their kids up for lifelong healthy eating habits and a positive relationship with food. 

In our conversation, she shares some stories from her own motherhood experience, which began with a difficult birth. Kelly breaks down the science behind her approach to nutrition in all stages of motherhood. And she shares some easy tips for moms who don’t have a lot of time, but want to make sure their kids are eating balanced meals.

Kelly LeVeque, welcome to The Motherly Podcast.

Kelly: Thanks, Liz. I feel like we’re best friends. We had a nice little chat before it even started.

Liz: I know this is gonna be a really good conversation. And I always like to start by asking our guests a question that kind of grounds us in the big theme here, which is motherhood and the transformation of motherhood. So, I’m curious: What surprised you about becoming a mom? 

Kelly: Well, I had a really beautiful pregnancy and then I had a really so shocking, rocking delivery with my first son, Sebastian. He was put in an ambulance with my husband and taken from me, from Santa Monica Hospital, and driven across town to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where they told us at the time we didn’t know if he would feed himself, if he would survive, that he would probably be diagnosed with a severe form of cerebral palsy. So for me, I’m surprised how my children bring me into the present moment and how trauma can make you have more gratitude than you could ever possibly imagine. 

I think we all have expectations and they don’t always go as planned and motherhood really teaches you that.

I always kind of felt invincible. And I feel like, for most of us, something’s gonna rock our world pretty hard at some point. For me it was motherhood and it was like the moment my first son was born. And I think grieving and having trauma in motherhood is really normal. I told my husband last night—because my son Sebastian actually just turned four yesterday—that four years ago right now was the worst day of my entire life. I was at a hospital without my child and I was just told by a nurse like, your milk may not come in, you’ve went through a really traumatic birth, it’s super normal. Please don’t put pressure on yourself. I was just a wreck. So I think we all have expectations and they don’t always go as planned and motherhood really teaches you that.

Liz: Can you tell us more about how you started to make sense of what you went through with Sebastian and how you maybe reintegrated or re-understood yourself, in the wake of that kind of trauma?

Kelly: Absolutely. Well, I’m the breadwinner in my family and the only income. So, I wasn’t for a long time. My husband is trained as an attorney, but it was something that was not making him happy in his life. Then when we had Sebastian, I at that point was the only income. So, I was like, I’ll take eight weeks, three months. And what I ended up doing was taking six months and dipping into savings. 

At first, it was this reaction of needing to be with him all the time—in kind of overreaction [because] he ended up being a very healthy little boy. We had to have multiple check-ins as he grew to make sure that everything was okay. But Sebastian is a miracle. And to think that like the moment he landed on my chest, he was not the right color. He was gray and whisked out of the room. 

What I ended up doing about six weeks after his birth was looking for therapists. I’ve seen therapists in the past at certain points in my life—after a really crazy breakup in college and thinking about changing careers. So I finally met with the right person and worked with her for about six months. And what I found for me was that this wasn’t going away. 

I ultimately ended up seeing Dr. Will Siu. He’s featured on my podcast, on the Goop podcast [and] he’s on the Netflix documentary as well. He’s trained in MAPS, which is in psychedelic medicine. He’s drained in trauma release. So the editor of Goop at the time, Elise, told me you should just go see Will and talk to him. I said, okay. I went into his office and it was a 75 or 90 minute session, and all it was meant to do was release my trauma. 

So what he said was, ‘A lot of times when people are in traumatic situations like your birth, we aren’t able to experience grieve, cry. We try to control.’ And so he asked me, ‘How was your response to the birth?’ And I actually was soothing Chris. I was like, it’s gonna be okay. Like he’s gonna be okay. And Chris looked like he was having a panic attack and I was like, calming everyone in the room. And when they left, I never had that cathartic, like wailing that I think I needed to have. 

He told me that most people just do exactly what you did. They try to control the situation and it lives in their body. And the trauma recirculates and it changes the way you parent. He said, I want you to tell me the entire story from when the contraction started at your house. And I had to tell that story to Will. 

I labored at home for 12 hours with a doula. I went to the hospital. The nurses were like clapping for me, turning on the baby warmer. You’re gonna have this baby! Four hours later—nothing. I’m shaking, vomiting, not in a good place. My doctor was like, if you want a vaginal delivery, get the epidural. And I was like get me the epidural. But it was way too long of a time. And when I finally was checked and my doctor was there to deliver my baby, it was three and a half hours of pushing. And he basically came out with hematomas all over his brain like around his skull. 

And I had to tell that story to Will again. But in the moments where I felt emotional, like when he hit my chest or when he was taken away, he was like, I need you to lean into your emotions. And I’ve never had an experience like that. I wouldn’t consider myself actually woo. I’m more science than woo. I can put myself back in his office and I was wailing, screaming, crying. I left that appointment and felt 80% better. 

I think we try to hold it together so much that we make no room for our emotions, no room for releasing how we felt, the things we went through, the disappointments. I know that this has been a theme with so many of my friends. They’re moms. They’re successful. They have a side hustle. They have all these things going on. And it’s like they were taken to an emergency C-section. They weren’t planning for that. They had a miscarriage. Their child has learning disabilities. Like we all as moms, as a collective, go through something and it’s just like, when is it gonna happen on your journey? And how are you gonna show up for your friends or your partner when that time comes? 

Every time his birthday rolls around, it’s like we just are reminded like we could be in a completely different situation in our life right now.

I was lucky that I have a community. And the plan when I was thinking about having a second child and I didn’t wanna take that energy into being pregnant for a second time because it comes with so much fear of what’s gonna happen. I actually think it energetically changed my physiology in a way that I was able to be really excited about having a second. And I let it go. I actually leaned on my OB the second time around. I didn’t have a printed out plan of what the wellness world expected of my delivery. I feel like that was the biggest teaching moment of my entire life. And it has allowed me to show up for my friends and my clients, in a completely different way. And it totally changed my parenting of Sebastian. 

People were like, ‘Oh, well my kid’s not crawling yet. My kid’s not walking yet. We gotta get the flashcards out.’ And I’m like, ‘Hi. My son feeds himself and he is smiling and he’s saying a few words.’ Every time his birthday rolls around, it’s like we just are reminded like we could be in a completely different situation in our life right now.

Liz: Thank you so much for sharing that story, which I know came from a place of a lot of pain and a lot of fear. I think a lot of people can definitely relate to that. You mentioned your clients. I do wanna talk more about your work as a nutritionist. Can you talk about growing up, what did you imagine your career was going to be? What was your family environment around food? And then how did you end up with this side-hustle turned full-time breadwinner within the nutrition and wellness world?

Kelly: I’m the oldest of three girls. My parents have been married for a long time. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and my dad was an entrepreneur, which meant that my dad wanted me to go and work for corporate America and not have the struggles he had as an entrepreneur. So I went to business school, and ultimately in my junior year of college called my dad in tears like, ‘I wanna be pre-med.’ Why am I in? That was my undergrad degree and then I got a concentration in nature of human health and disease and I was working in the medical field. 

I was a farmer rep for a year and then moved into medical devices and then ultimately spent the majority of those eight years in cancer and genetics. So I was working for a company that mapped tumor genes. Super interesting thing where they can actually tell you which genes are turned up and down and what’s feeding a specific cancer. It was part of my job to be able to distill down PubMed research, so I loved that. But every year I would think, ‘Ugh, I really wanna be working as a nutritionist or a dietician. I wanna be a functional MD. I wanna be a kinesiologist.’ 

I wanted to be working with people. My best friend from college was like, ‘All you do is talk about this stuff at parties. We live together. We’re all trying to have a good time.’ And she’s like, enough, like, go do what you’re meant to do. And, I wasn’t really sure. It was my money. So I’m like, I’ll do a short-term program, I’ll do a health-coaching program and I’ll start working with people and I’ll see if this is something that I love. Well, I ultimately loved it because I loved talking to people about health and food. I had always read about it. Growing up I loved getting Shape and Women’s Health and all those magazines to my house. Then I started reading diet books at a very young age, like Atkins, South Beach. I’d do it with a box of Costco goldfish open on the couch in my soccer uniform, probably smelling like sweat, reaching my hand in and reading about how carbs are gonna kill you… I was interested more in the science than the program. 

Then I would always try the program for a couple days and it would fail because I was in a home where there were frosted animal cookies and bagel bites and taquitos, and it was a free for all when it came to hype- palatable foods that are very hard to say no to. It’s kind of like this catch-22: You have access to all this stuff, so you don’t have a scarcity complex. But, at the same time, it also becomes something where your dad has a stressful day and dinner’s done, and he’s opening the pantry and you guys are all on the couch, watching TGIF or whatever it is back in the day and everyone’s self-soothing with food.

It’s an interesting relationship with food that I had where, yeah, I know that sweet foods and yummy foods make me feel good. I get that hit of dopamine, and I like being honest about that because I think a lot of people in my space, it’s this very like, oh, have no bad relationship food. I can control food. There’s no emotional relationship here. And I’m like, the cartoon with bugeye sticking outta my head. Like, wait, guys, come on? We all grew up in the eighties. Right?

Liz: Yeah. I mean, like Friday night growing up peak-living was my parents ordered a pizza and I also have a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. To me that was, that was like how we unwound on Friday night, so I totally relate. 

Kelly: That’s just how I was raised. As I continued to get excited about science, loving reading the books, and I loved moving into my own apartment actually because I was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go to Trader Joe’s and I’m gonna get this like multi-grain cracker bread thing and I’m gonna get all my veggies in a George Foreman grill with like no-fat chicken.’ But I did like that I wasn’t being screamed at by Pillsbury cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator that I knew I could just nuke in three minutes. 

For me, I figured it out at the end of college and in my twenties when I was living alone, like, okay, I understand blood sugar. And that was actually the class I took at USC. My nature of human health and disease class was all about metabolic disease, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, type-one diabetes, type-two diabetes, type-one is autoimmune… But it was type-two that I had to write my final paper on, present on. It really stuck with me because it wasn’t a pdf ‘eat do/not eat’ list. It wasn’t a diet book. It was like, Hey, this is what’s happening in your body every single day. [Did] you eat something that has sugar or starch? Your blood sugar’s gonna come up. Insulin, this hormone, is gonna be released from your pancreas. It’s gonna pick up that sugar and put it away in cells and that’s your blood sugar coming down. It’s gonna be put in your liver and put in your muscles. 

That kind of stuck with me because I was a soccer player and I’m like, oh, carb-loading. I got it. Blood sugar goes up, we put that sugar away in my muscles. I’m ready to play my tournament this weekend. But I didn’t realize at the time, but maybe you have five or six big spikes and crashes, like how depleting that is of energy. So I went to become a health coach and I was able to start seeing people on the weekends and at night around my corporate job. Helping friends of friends, like all my first clients were, my friend Todd’s dad who had heart disease and my friend Misha… I just wanted to help people and it was always through the lens of blood sugar because there’s no shame in blood sugar. 

What’s so cool about blood sugar? You can literally eat anything. And, yeah, some things are gonna take your blood sugar up really, really high. But your body has this mechanism to bring it down. You start to learn like, okay, if I had that treat, it’s not the end of the world. My blood sugar’s gonna go up and crash down, and I’m gonna be in a low place like maybe reactive hypoglycemia. Maybe you’re really low and you’re like, oh, I don’t feel good. I need to come back up. But you learn, okay, after maybe that event, I need to have something that’s protein rich and that’s gonna recalibrate and stabilize my blood sugar. Oh, and by the way, if I just walk for 10 or 15 minutes, I’m gonna use up some of that sugar in my bloodstream. Or if I have a little bit of apple cider vinegar and water after that meal, it’s gonna also bring my blood sugar down and blunt the spike of that starchier carbohydrate being broken down into blood sugar. 

So I always just think it’s for everyone: vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, paleo. I can meet my clients where they are with blood sugar and support them to understand how to eat the most nutrient-dense foods. It may be that I’m not saying this is what you have to do the whole day. Let’s just tweak breakfast for two weeks or three weeks and see how that feels…

Liz: That’s what I love about your book and your approach. I actually remember I found it from another friend who was posting about her smoothie. And I was a busy new mom, like so many kids. All I could do in the morning was blend my kids’ leftover breakfast. This is true. I would just dump their leftover fruit, a little bit of their oatmeal. It would add some spinach. So this idea of this Fab Four formula, it literally made sense to me because I ate breakfast in the car on the way to like taking them into preschool. 

I should point out you were really ahead of the curve talking about blood sugar. Now it’s more mainstream and as a way to satiate ourselves, and feel better in our bodies and has all these ripple effects down the line if we’re able to eat in a way that helps our blood sugar stay balanced. 

Tell us about this pretty simple formula that you’ve helped develop and then how that affects what you said about maybe just focusing on getting breakfast right.

Kelly: Well, I like an ‘eat’ list, not a ‘do not eat’ list. I like general categories and I want everyone to feel empowered by science, even when it’s difficult to understand. So what I did is I created the Fab Four and the Fab Four is: protein, fat, fiber and leafy greens or vegetables, deep in color. I called this the hit list and this Fab Four list. 

When you eat these things together, they support blood sugar balance. What I mean by blood sugar balance is they don’t allow your spike to go as high and they actually elongate your blood sugar curve so that you’re satisfied for longer. On average, back in the day when people would say you need to eat five to six small meals a day, they were trying to balance your blood sugar. But what they were actually doing was they were making you eat every three hours because when you have a high-carbohydrate, high-starchy type of a meal—like let’s say you had a waffle for breakfast, or even just oatmeal without any protein or fat in it—your blood sugar goes up for 90 minutes and on average it crashes for 90 minutes. So, at that crash point, which is three hours later, they would say, ‘Oh, no worries. Have a snack.’ Then you go up and crash down, it’s lunchtime, you go up and crash down. It’s afternoon snack time… and you see how that goes. 

You’re eating every three hours, but you’re really going up and down, up and down, up and down. And what they found was if you eat specific things—protein, fat, fiber—and then I add the leafy greens or vegetables deep in color because I’m like, ‘Hey, let’s put something colorful on our plate for the nutrition.’ What we can do is we can elongate your blood sugar curve for four to six hours. You’re not having that high spike because you’re not having as many processed and starchy carbohydrates. And if you are, you’re actually having the protein, fat and fiber that will slow down the digestion of that food. 

Let’s talk about protein: Protein breaks down to amino acids. It doesn’t break down to glucose or blood sugar. So that’s pretty easy. Protein is the most satisfying macronutrient. It’s gonna regulate over half of your hunger hormones. I have a chart in my first book that talks about eight of your hunger hormones. There are more than that, but it is normal that your body is screaming at you from every angle to be like, ‘Hey, you should eat something, Liz. Like, let’s eat. It’s always yelling at you to eat.’ 

Liz: It’s doing that right now. 

Kelly: Yes. And so protein is going to do the best job at regulating that. And protein makes not just your muscles, it makes your hormones, your neurotransmitters, all the things that make you feel happy and balanced. So it’s critically important. I love animal protein. I talk about why I do: It’s ounce-for-ounce. It is a multivitamin when it comes to fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K, when it comes to choline, when it comes to long-chain omega-3s, like EPA and DHA for brain health. When it comes to critical minerals that impact our cognitive development in utero as a child all the way through adulthood, so I’m a huge fan. 

Now, I do have a plant-based community that follows along and I talk all about that in my second book and like the best sources of plant-based proteins and how to make them more bioavailable in our body. But, anyways, protein is the most satisfying, right? Then you have fat. And when you think about fat, I want you to think about like a blanket, like it is going to coat the food that you eat and it’s gonna slow down the digestion. Protein slows down digestion too, but fat also makes us feel satisfied.

I always use the example of if you had tahini on a bowl or pesto on your chicken or almond butter on your apple, it’s a completely different experience than just being like, I had a grain or I had a protein or I had a fruit on its own. And what it does is it just slows down that digestion. 

So we think about all the healthy fats from olive oil to avocado oil, avocado itself, olives, nuts, seeds, all that good stuff. You’re gonna get fiber in a lot of those whole food fats as well, unless it’s an oil. But that’s also gonna elongate that curve and make your food last longer for you and slow the digestion to blunt the expression of that blood sugar curve. 

Then fiber and leafy green—this is your produce. [For] fiber in the smoothie, maybe chia and flax, but fiber and leafy greens. We can think of a plate. You’re gonna see cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, berries—bright, colorful things. Then what? Really encouraging my clients and my community to eat their plant foods to support their microbiome. But fiber does a phenomenal job again, of slowing down the digestion of your food and allowing for that blood sugar curve to be elongated. What’s also really cool about fiber that you’re not gonna get when you, say, are eating a mini protein bar or just a hard boiled egg, is the stretching of your stomach. You have stretch receptors in your stomach that regulate a hunger hormone called ghrelin. And ghrelin is really strong. You have a lot of it until your stomach is stretched and then it calms down. So what I always encourage my clients to do is to eat a real meal of food that stretches your stomach, that will last in your body four to six hours till your next meal, and not something where you’re spiking up and crashing down three hours later, white knuckling it to that lunch meal or to that dinner meal, but really figuring out how to feel satisfied and. How to support that blood sugar curve. And so that’s it.

I use the Fab Four for my kids’ plates. I have a course for pregnancy and I have a course for Fab Four under four. It’s for moms to be like, ‘Oh, geez, I didn’t realize I was serving berries and apple and a toaster waffle.’ And all three of those things are spike, spike, spike, your kid’s crashing down 90 minutes later and going snack, meltdown, tantrum. What we would do is we’d look at that plate and go through the carbohydrates. How do I add fat and fiber to this? Or how do I add protein to this? Can you add a piece of chicken sausage to the plate? They may not eat it. That’s okay. You tried your best. Can you slather a little amond butter on the waffle and have them sprinkle it with hemp hearts, for example. Like I did this apple nachos for my kids that I shared as a Reel, because kids love fruit. They’ll eat it. But I get my kids involved. I slice up the apples I put on the plate and then they drizzle the nut butter. And then I have bags of nibs and coconut flakes and hemp parts and slivered almonds. And they sprinkle everything on top and it’s like they’re getting protein, fat and fiber, and they think it’s really fun. 

But it can be an add, not a subtract. And that’s what I want the Fab Four to be for people as a way to look at your plate and go, what is it? Mostly, if it’s mostly carbohydrates and there’s no source of protein, fat, and fiber, you are guaranteed to be hungry in 90 minutes to three hours. And at the three-hour mark, you might be pretty ravenous and you might be in a place of, just feeling frustrated and irritable. So how can we control our emotions as a parent supporting our blood sugar? How do we help, support our kids and their learning and everything? It’s blood sugar balance. So the Fab Four is my friend

Liz: Yeah, it’s all of our friends. I was telling you before we officially started this podcast that during my pregnancy right now, I’m having a lot of low blood sugar incidents. I’m really, really focused on how I can apply this to my life. Because as you’ve told me, it’s actually harder when you’re pregnant. So can you talk about pregnancy and nutrition? Why is it so important for us to focus on nutrition when we’re pregnant? Like what is that science of mom-to-baby for that lifetime nutritional relationship? And then also any really drill-down tips on what we really need to keep top of mind, especially during pregnancy.

So I just wanna say, in that first trimester, do not beat yourself up if you’re a new mom or you’re newly pregnant and you’re dealing with a lot.

Kelly: Well, there was enough information to write an entire course on this, so I have a lot of tips for you. But let me say that when we talk about the first 1000 days, which is when the child is in utero all the way through their first 1000 days, it is critically important to have nutrient-dense foods as a pregnant woman. Now, I wanna put an asterisk on this, because what you do prior to pregnancy, which people are calling trimester zero, is equally as important because a lot of moms have nausea in the first trimester. They have food aversions. All they want are crackers or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or whatever it is. And it’s really hard to get food for what you did prior to your pregnancy. You have nutrient stores that your baby can draw from. So I just wanna say, in that first trimester, do not beat yourself up if you’re a new mom or you’re newly pregnant and you’re dealing with a lot.

Liz: I just survived this summer on like sourdough toast and butter. That was all I could really do for a long time. So thank you. I needed that.

Kelly: I wanna tell you that, conjugated linoleic acid, which is an amazing fat in butter and vitamin K2 also in butter is critically important for your child’s bone development. And so I wanna actually applaud that choice of putting butter on your toast and tell you that that is a high quality, fat soluble vitamin and fat for your child’s brain and body development. So I applaud you. Okay, now prior to getting pregnant, and in your second and third trimester, you wanna think about actually the things that come from animals, because that’s actually what we’re made up of too. So we want to have all our fat soluble vitamins, vitamin D, E, A and K. And you’ll hear people say that vitamin D is like a hormone in the body. It’s phenomenal for immunity. But it is a hormone in the body and acts like a hormone in building our bodies. And then you wanna think about omega-3s. So these are long-chain omegas, not short-chain from plant-based foods like seeds. You’ll see sometimes it’ll say on a flax or an omega-3, those are short chain omega-3s. That’s not what’s associated with cognitive development in children and adults. Your body has to convert that to a long-chain omega-3 and it’s not very good at it. So it’s actually better that we’re getting long-chain omega-3s from animal-based foods. And so that’s your EPA and DHA and your child’s brain is 75% DHA. And so DHA is an amazing fat, and we want your child to get those fats because that is setting him or her up for being able to have phenomenal brain health. 

Now, what’s also really, really important is that they’re getting choline because choline is the taxi that takes DHA to their brain. Choline is in things like eggs, so one of the things I tell moms, especially like maybe in their first trimester, could you maybe sneak in a scrambled egg? Or even just the yolk where all that choline, B vitamins and long-chain omega-3s are. That’s where to get it. And so we find ways to get those foods in. When you’re in your second and third trimester, I’m looking for nutrient-dense foods and ounce per ounce. Animal protein and like grass-fed beef and even some organ meats.

There was a long time where people say, don’t have liver when you’re pregnant because it’s too much vitamin A. But, in reality, none of us are eating enough organ meats. There’s a company called Force of Nature, and they do a ground bison or beef that contains 10 to 20% ground organ meat. And I may do one of those once a week and I’ll make it into a meat sauce or I’ll make it into a chili and you can’t taste it. All of those proteins are delivering also those critical minerals. 

Iron and zinc, it’s of national concern that there’s a deficiency between the ages of six months and 11 months. And when there’s iron deficiency in a baby, it’s irreversibly a cognitive decline. That’s unfortunate because it’s totally preventable. And so one of the things I would tell a mom when they’re pregnant if your doctor isn’t calling for your iron levels, vitamin D and iron levels are super important. If you don’t eat protein, you can’t get through it. Iron can be hard for people. It can be constipating. You can ask your doctor for an IV too. There are places where you can get an iron iv. You would get maybe one once every couple of months, but you’d wanna keep your iron levels at a specific level because iron is responsible for taking nutrients to every cell in your body. That’s also really important. So those are some of my favorite, most important nutrients. 

When we talk about iron in plants versus iron in animals, the absorption rate of iron from animals is 40%. The absorption of iron from plants is 10%. When you see that difference, you can’t compare apples to apples. It’s apples to oranges. And then when you look at the 10% of iron being absorbed from plants like lentils, you actually have to convert that non-heme iron to heme iron in your body. And that’s at a 50% rate. So if you get four grams of iron from lentils or something, then you’re absorbing two grams of it and you’re converting one. That can be a real big difference in how much nutrition you’re absorbing for your child. It’s funny because I am very open with my clients about whatever lifestyle that they wanna lead. I have a raw vegan client on my roster, and we do blood tests. I’m very serious about supplementation and we check in with how he’s feeling and all of his levels. I think when it comes to pregnancy, I am more of an advocate of considering how you may be able to get eggs on your plate, how you may be open to considering having a burger if it’s smashed between two buns once a week. Like, how can I get you that nutrition because the science is so clear to me that a lot of us are so depleted and people will blame it on the soil. Yes, our soils are depleted, but I think we’re eating less animal protein than we ever have before because we’re worried about climate change and we’re worried about the impact. But, in reality, when we look at regenerative farms, amazing regenerative farms, they sequester more carbon than omit, and we would do better by birth by investing in those farms than not. 

If you feel overwhelmed by that decision, there are some amazing places I would love to send you to: I’d watch the documentary Kiss the Ground. I’d check out the Savory Institute. I would look at Force of Nature. I would look at the Regenerative Farming Conference. I spent three days in Austin learning from farmers about how they’re regenerating land. There’s no run-off, it’s not a dust bowl. I mean, we have grasses going deeper than ever before. It’s just really empowering to get in, to educate yourself in that space and feel really good about your choices there.

Liz: We’ve talked a lot about how we can optimize our nutrition within realistic guidelines when we’re pregnant. Then I’m thinking about my life of trying to put together a dinner after all my kids are home from school, after I’m done from work when people are yelling and fighting and there’s just so much going on. Any tips for mothers who are listening who are like, ‘Okay, I want to apply this to my life. My life as a mom is so hectic and busy. It feels really far from the ideal.’ Any tips for busy families wanting to make some micro improvements in their real world, maybe even tonight?

Kelly: I think breakfast are pretty easy because I pretty much do smoothies for my family or easy, toaster-oven style sausages. I throw sausages on a pan and a toaster oven, or I do an egg scramble of some sort. So I feel like breakfasts are pretty easy. Let’s let you fend for yourself at lunch. But when it comes to dinner, you wanna think about what cooks the fastest. 

Liz: Mm-hmm, that’s the right question.

Kelly: Yeah, ground proteins are really, really easy for a quick weeknight meal. There is no shame in buying the thinly sliced chicken breasts or slicing or dicing your protein prior to cooking it. I think we get excited about, oh, there’s this huge chicken breast or there’s this steak. Like, there is nothing wrong with dicing that steak and making it like a teriyaki stir-fry in your pan. 

If you’re looking to make a big protein, those can be made in a slow cooker, a dutch oven or a pressure cooker very quickly. I always think I don’t want the protein to take a long time. So how do I do that? And you either can pre-make it right. Some people like to meal prep. I personally don’t like to spend my weekends meal prepping. 

Liz: I don’t either. Thank you. I feel like every nutritional advice is [to] spend Sunday cooking all your food. I’m like, ‘Do you know what my Sunday is like around here?’

Kelly: Yeah, no one wants to do that… By the time Thursday rolls around and you made the food on Sunday, you’re kind of like, ah, takeout. Like you don’t even wanna eat it at that point. So I always think fast. So when it comes to ground proteins, I love a skillet burger. I’ll make burgers—turkey, beef, chicken—really thin, and I’ll skillet fry them. Those are ready. In six minutes, I’ll make a ground meat into a meat sauce, and I will take zucchinis and carrots and I will grate the zucchini and carrots into my meat sauce. And then I’m getting my kids the veggie there, and I didn’t have to wait for that veggie to roast. So that’s super easy. And I love a chicken curry. So chicken curry, if you’re plant-based, you could do like a can of garbanzo beans into something like that. But curries are super easy. 

Mike’s Organics, no affiliation, they make what you would make if you made it from scratch with no fillers, no emulsifiers, no added sugar. You just add Mike’s Organics and a can of coconut milk to your pan after your protein’s cooked. But the smaller you dice it, the faster it cooks. And then premade seasonings are great. Daniel Walker has burnt broccoli seasoning that literally makes your roasted veggies taste like you got ’em at a restaurant. Nom Nom Paleo has a mushroom blend that gives it umami flavor. A slow-cooked thing that I’ll do is a pork butt or a pork shoulder to make carnitas. And that’s really easy because you rub it in her mushroom blend. Then I just sear all sides and throw it in a slow cooker by itself all day. Doesn’t matter when I pull it out, shred it, little squeeze of a tangerine or like a tablespoon or two of orange juice. Little pan fry. Good to go. Like where the protein should take 45 minutes or an hour… None of us wanna be cooking for 45 minutes an hour for our kids to eat for 10 to 15 minutes, for us to have to clean up for 45 minutes. We’re like, what?

Liz: You get me.

Kelly: But I have to remind parents exposure and modeling are critical for your child’s acceptance of healthy foods. I teach that in the course, too. If you are in a home where there’s a mother and a father, the father’s eating behaviors have a stronger influence on your kids than even the mom. So Chris likes to eat a Chipotle bowl after our kids are sleeping. Like it doesn’t matter what I’ve made for dinner, he has a second dinner and maybe delivered to the door and a brown bag. Because he likes to eat without our children. He wants to self-soothe with food. And I get that and that’s cool. But the thing I make him plate every single time is the veggies that I made. If there’s a side salad, if there’s like a veggie that I’ve cooked, I just say plate it. I don’t care if it’s on a dinner plate or a salad plate, but I need these kids to see you eat the veggies. And then, that gets him veggies that he wouldn’t actually normally get. And we made that compromise. 

I think finding things that make it easier to be a home chef. I’m a home cook. I’m looking for efficiencies. I’m looking for the most nutrient-dense foods for my kids. So that’s how I do it. 

Liz: Those are really good. I haven’t heard any of those before. I feel like if Kelly was gonna tell me meal prep all day Sunday, like, I’m gonna have to throw my computer because like, it’s just not happening. These are really realistic. I really like that. Thank you.

Kelly: You’re welcome. One more thing that makes your life easier. Two things. One, I call it meal prep light. All it means is when you get home from the grocery store, rinse and chop your veggies and put ’em glass Pyrex. If your broccoli is ready to be thrown on a sheet pan, you’ll put it on a sheet pan. If it looks like two huge trees in your veggie drawer, you might be like, who wants sliced cucumber for your veggie? Speaking of which, frozen broccoli comes washed, and when it’s frozen, the nutrition is locked into that broccoli and it’s already in the florets. Now you think, ‘Ew, frozen broccoli. Do I steam them? My kids aren’t gonna eat that.’ Here’s what you do, and I have to give Liz Moody a shout-out—who’s a food blogger—she taught me this trick a few years ago and I’ve been using it ever since: Broccoli on a sheet pan. Don’t put anything on it. Put it in your oven at 350 to 400 for 10 to 15 minutes. What you’ll see is the water will evaporate. Then you pull the tray out, drizzle it with olive oil, throw your seasonings on and put it in. It tastes like fresh roasted broccoli, but you have to evaporate the water out. It’ll change your life.

So now I buy frozen cauliflower, frozen broccoli, frozen butternut squash, sweet potato, whatever it is, and I have no excuse now. No fresh veggies left in the fridge. You’re not getting something like I have that option and it goes so quick and actually faster than fresh. Cause I don’t even have to chop it. 

Liz: Okay, thank you. That’s gonna save me a lot of time. So we’re gonna use that one, too. Okay. So, at Motherly we like to talk about superpowers and I happen to think your superpower—one of them—is making healthy, nutrient dense, eating accessible. But I’m wondering about your own sense of your superpowers in motherhood in general, right. That the idea that motherhood brings things out of us that we didn’t even know were there, or transforms us in ways that we never thought we’d be transformed. So, I’m curious, what do you see as your superpower?

Kelly: I would say probably my superpower is patience. And I don’t know why I’m like this. It might have been from Sebastian’s birth. It might be that my dad was this way with me growing up. But, for me it’s like the toddler whining or the toddler tantrum that will send shivers up my husband’s spine to the point where he’s like, ‘I have to tap out. I can’t, it’s nails on a chalkboard.’ It’s like I don’t hear them.

Liz: Mm-hmm. 

Kelly: I will say I have a pretty long fuse and I don’t know where it came from, but I’m really thankful for it. So, yeah, I think that’s my superpower. 

Liz: Is definitely a superpower. Kelly LeVeque, thank you so much for joining us on the Motherly Podcast.

Kelly: This is really fun Liz. Thanks for having me.

Liz: Okay, that’s it for this week’s episode. Kelly, thank you so much for joining us, and thanks to our listeners for tuning into this week’s podcast. We will be back with another amazing guest next week. You don’t wanna miss it. As always, we would love it if you spread the word about this podcast. If you can leave us a review on Apple Podcast, which takes 30 seconds, but really helps other people discover our show, and I read all of your feedback. The motherly podcast is produced by Jennifer Bassett with audio editing from Anthony Lemos. Our associate producer is Olivia Henrickson. Our music is from the blue dot sessions. I’m your host, Liz Tenety. Thank you so much for listening.

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