Inside Columbia


Prepped For Success: How Meal Plans Can Help Your Health

By Inside Columbia

Photos by L.G. Patterson

Kimber DeanEverywhere I go I meet people who want to improve their health. Whether it’s a loved one, a yoga student or a stranger at the grocery store, everyone has something they want to improve. Better sleep, improved nutrition, more movement, meditation, staying hydrated, grounding and connecting with nature are all things I hear. Luckily, I have been blessed to follow my career in the culinary world by combining nutrition with my meals. So, what makes a meal healthy? This is a complex question, and I hope to shine a light on this with my years of experience.

I have learned that a person’s dietary restrictions are never the same as another human’s, just like our bodies in yoga. No body is anatomically or biologically the same as another, as we have all walked individual paths of healing, environmental toxins, injuries, sleep patterns, trauma, nutrition, malnutrition and more. The way I can help people heal with nutrition? The quickest is when I take their food allergy list and specific dietary protocols from their medical professionals. If I can communicate with the client’s medical professional personally, that helps immensely because I then can ask specific questions about the individual’s dietary protocols based on all their tests. Vitamin, mineral and hormone are all examples of extra testing that helps me make the best recipes.

The way I can create the right meal plan for people is key. I want to respect people’s time and budget, so I try to make them as efficient as possible. I want to know which meals people struggle with the most — breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks or desserts. Then, we focus on those meals. I always want to keep recipes seasonal because I have learned that seasonal ingredients are the most powerful for our healing. Since we are getting into spring, I would ask if they like things like soups, salads, pasta salads, roasted vegetables, meats or specialty bowls. Based on their food allergies, dietary protocols and ingredients they actually enjoy eating, I can create traditional or new-aged recipes that are going to be the most anti-inflammatory and healing for them.

Most people get overwhelmed easily by the thought of cooking this much or preparing ahead of time to stay consistent with their goals. So, I like to always include tips, tricks and specialty information on things like essential oils, yoga sequences, meditations, breathwork, supplements or anything else they may need help with. Sorting through all the research out there can lead to people struggling to know what is scientifically correct. Luckily, I have done this for so long that it is usually easy for me to send an accredited published medical article. If I haven’t worked with something specific, I can always direct people to integrative medical professionals to help them further. I always ask if my client has more freedom with time to grocery shop or cook. Or, if they have more financial freedom and they would like to buy their meals and know the best food brands to buy. My prepared meal company, Happy Food, can create the most nutrient-dense meals for my local clients, and day by day we see more high- quality retailers making food products to buy nationwide.

I am absolutely grateful for helping people live their healthiest lives. Some medical professionals are starting to release dietary protocols and cookbooks on their specialty disease diets, which I love to see! The culinary knowledge I have with my healing journey for 17 years, without any resources, along with running Nourish Cafe & Market, as well as — for the last 6 years — writing close to 1,000 meal plans, has given me an edge to hear and see all the challenges people are facing, and how I can help them. I have had the opportunity to teach a plant-based cooking class to the OBGYN department of Women’s and Children’s Hospital. I have had the opportunity to speak to over 800 medical professionals at the Integrative Dermatology Symposium. I have written meal plans on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Hashimoto’s disease with Dr. Jennifer Roelands, and plans on dermatology and Ayurveda with Dr. Raja Sivamani. Right now, I am working with Fountain Life and a metabolic cancer coach on a brain health diet for brain cancer. So, as we head into spring, remember to give yourself compassion on your healing journey. You are your best doctor. Start believing in the power of healing.

Kimber Dean is the founder of Happiness Drinks, and the author of Happy Food and Happy Baking and Desserts. She is trained in both culinary arts and personal nutrition.

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