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(Image: Courtesy of Christina Conrad)

Seattle food coach simplifies life with thoughtful menu planning

Food coach Christina Conrad creates meal plans that are designed to flex with people's busy schedules. She lives by the following quote from author James Clear: "Your life is essentially a sum of your habits."

Conrad launched her blog Foodie with a Life ten years ago, to help busy people like herself eat nurturing, whole foods without spending hours in the kitchen each day. Friends and colleagues began asking for help since they were feeling depleted from constant cooking or living on takeout, yet they didn't have the tools to act differently.

"The blog grew into a coaching business, and now I teach clients how to create flexible meal plans, remix leftovers and reduce food waste," Conrad said.

In 2011, Conrad was teaching yoga and working for a local grocery chain, leading their catering business and recipe development.

"I had to filter recipes through the lens of 'Does this work in a deli?' Which encompasses to-go, hot bar, salad bar items that are prepared in advance. I also trained deli and bakery staff, so directions and ingredients had to be straightforward."

She says working in a grocery environment allowed for real-time feedback from customers and staff, which taught her how to create recipes people loved while simplifying cooking directions for new staff. Conrad says she still uses this valuable knowledge today when creating recipes and working with clients.

The core of her mission? "Quality of life," she said. All this insider food service knowledge allows her to spend less time cooking, but still eat well.

"I do think food matters in that eating real, whole foods will nurture you from the inside out," she said. "When you eat food that serves you, the result is more energy and a better mood, but it's bigger than food. It's about grinding less so we can have the space to be more selective with how we spend our time and energy."

"The reality is that your life will never fall into that grid of a menu plan," she explains. "But by slowly integrating strategies over four weeks to reinvent habits, suddenly meals aren't so hard. My 4-week menu plan starts by working with a client's unique needs and goals. Through coaching implementation calls, we address roadblocks and help keep clients accountable."

Her virtual cooking classes also help develop new cooking skills and time-saving tricks. Clients receive a customized menu plan with weekly grocery lists that complement their food preferences — while encouraging new flavors and ingredients. Clients graduate the program with a framework of how to create a weekly menu plan and the tactical habits to do so. (Registration for the February and March program is now open.)

When it comes to clients who have benefitted from Conrad's services, she recalls Celina, a mom of two young children who found herself as the family's primary cook, a role her husband historically had played. She felt exhausted and overwhelmed cooking each day, which led to her family eating takeout seven days a week. After working together, Celina learned a sustainable approach to cooking and now only orders in food on the weekends.

"The weekly meal plans have helped me build a toolkit of recipes that I can easily whip together but are still delicious and feel special," she said. "I have never felt more nourished in my life."

It's not only families that Conrad works with.

"Many clients are also busy professionals trying to feed themselves and or a partner," she says.

"One client, Kaitlin, was promoted to a new role and found herself feeling chaotic looking for lunch during a busy workday. Both she and her husband felt confident cooking but didn't grocery shop with a plan, which resulted in a lot of food waste and scrambling to make dinner each night. After working together, Kaitlin said, 'The biggest win was that we divided the mental load. One week I was too busy to cook, but we had a plan, and my husband took over. That would never have happened before this program.'"

Conrad reveals that the most rewarding part of her job is hearing clients talk about how much better they feel. They are dividing the labor with their partner, eating better and feeling more in control of their time.

"It's also been a happy surprise to learn that clients are reducing food waste," she says. "It's inspiring to see how small actions create a wide ripple effect."

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